Book Review: The Shadow Throne
Book Review: The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler, The Shadow Campaigns #2
The King of Vordan is dying, and his daughter, Raesinia, is destined to become the first Queen in centuries.
But politics knows no loyalties, especially for Duke Orlanko, Minister of Information and spymaster of the empire. The most feared man in the Vordan will bow his knee to no Queen, unless she is firmly under his influence.
Freshly returned from their recent victories in the colonies, Colonel Janus, Marcus and Winter must play a new and far deadlier game than the open warfare of the front, using all their talents, earthly or supernatural.
Last year Django Wexler was one of the authors to lead the flintlock fantasy campaign together with Brian McClellan. In The Thousand Names, the first book in The Shadow Campaigns, Django Wexler showed that he was one of the debuting authors to watch out for. The Thousand Names had a lot of cool things working in its favor that brought you from the first page onwards to the edge of your seat. From the military aspects, fighting scenes and campaigning down to the different characters and back to the supernatural elements, Django Wexler managed to hit all the right snares. it was a solid debut that left the story on a great premise to be picked up, which he does greatly (and that is kindly understated) with The Shadow Throne. This is must read fantasy!
The Shadow Throne picks up directly from where The Thousand Names left off. In The Thousand Names, we were introduced to Janus, Marcus and Winter who fought in the war in Khandar, which they won by some ingenious plotting and awesome fighting. With having won the war, they are set to return to the city of Ohnlei, where they are received as heroes. I do want to emphasize an important bit. In the first book, The Thousand Names the story took mostly place in an desert surrounding and you followed the campainging of Janus, Marcus and Winter in detail with their highs and lows. Now Django Wexler takes us to the confines of the city of Ohnlei, thereby changing the surroundings completely and thus providing a change in his story, BUT not for the worse, this change is definitively for the better. When I am presented with such a strong first book in a series I also wonder how an author will continue his story, here Django Wexler shows a great continuation of the story, showing a strong and dangerous political game played in the city of Ohnlei and yes there is still enough fighting taking place to create to rapid explosive moment you have gotten to know from the first book.
Ok but back to the story. Marcus, Janus and Winter return full of praise to the city of Ohnlei but in contrast to their good news with winning the war is the bad news that the King of Vordan is lying on his deathbed. The heir to the throne is the daughter of the King, Princess Raesinia. She features a lot in the story and from her point of view you see the unfolding of a tight web of political intrigue. This later part is provided by Duke Orlanko, also the minister of Information and one of the best spymasters for the King. Orlanko sees the chance to put stir his finger in the pot and influence Raesinia in way that he will be able to take that step up and become ruler of the Empire. Yes there is a big however, because Raesinia is far from the innocent Princess to be stirred in any direction that Orlanko wants. Raesinia is secretly building her own plans to start a revolution. Added to this something that makes Raesinia's character much much more than you would have guessed on the first introduction, it's something above the natural laws...
Besides the new introduction of Raesinia, out three heroes also have their own parts to play in the story of The Shadow Throne. Janus bet Valnich is appointed Minister of Justice on the deathbed of the King, the King feels that action is required and who better than Janus? Janus immediately jumps to the occasion and appoints Captain Marcus d'Ivoire as head of the policing force know as the Armsmen, whose job it is to see just what the concordat of Orlanko is up to. The Concordat is best seen as the secret police of the Duke, they are to do the dirty jobs in the name of Orlanko. Janus sends Winter Ihernglass to infiltrate a group of of dangerous women who are marked as a criminal group. As you can see all the storylines and points-of-view from Raesinia, Janus, Marcus and winter offer, in this change of scenery a completely new challenge for all of them. In each of the storylines there are some big reveals, I already hinted towards one in Raesinia's storyline but in those of Janus, Marcus and Winter there are also a few. With this Django Wexler keeps his story fresh and exciting and you never, ever will know what happens next to your favorite character.
One thing that I do have to emphasise about the general story of The Shadow Throne is that the focus is on the female character cast, the most "screen" time is seen from the perspectives of Raesinia and Winter. Like I have said with the change of scenery it isn't at all a bad point, might take some getting used to though. I was used to the strong leads of Janus and Marcus and reading about Raesinia was a bit different but once you get to know Raesinia more and more she will proofs to be just as an amazing characters as the ones that you had already gotten to know in the first book. Also, The Shadow Campaigns is set to be a five book series, so introducing some new perspectives and directions of the story is more than normal. To be honest, Django Wexler does this with the utmost skill, and this change taking it from the desert to the confines of the city creates a much more grander feeling with all the political intrigue going on and when you find out the links between The Thousand Names and what Raesinia is. Just spot on. The word: falter is abscent from Django Wexler's dictionary. It's spot on.
Just as what I have learned from The Thousand Names Django Wexler knows how to paint his world and the surrounding in bold and bright colours as well as in dim and dark ones. The desert surrounding felt like the sand was blowing in your face, with the city of Ohnlei, Django Wexler created another perfect place for his story to take place. He describes the surroundings in utter detail and really embodies a feeling of a quasi Middle Eastern - French city. The city is especially explored in more detail by the storylines of Winter and Marcus. In the story itself, mostly the revoltionary parts that take place it felt like they were extrapolated from the French revolution, this was a really cool feat and in describing these events it was as if you were really there leading the charge and rioting.
The Thousand Names was a terrific debut but the transformation of the story seen in The Shadow Throne makes his series that much better. I did have a few reservations when I read such a strong debut when it comes down to continuing the series, but I had none to worry, Django Wexler shows that he knows what he is doing and does it in an awesome way. He further builds the world of The Shadow Campaigns; the world itself felt vibrant and alive, the characters that inhabit the world are just as alive, they are greatly fleshed out and every character is given it's own personality and has their own vices and virtues that will make you either root for them or hate them. I was full of praise for The Thousand Names and am so once again for The Shadow Throne, obligatory fantasy right here. Managing to create such strong start and building upon it requires skill. I can only imagine what Django Wexler will show next. MUST READ