Happy publication day Django Wexler, and congrats on finishing The Shadow Campaigns with your fifth and final installment, The Infernal Battalion. To celebrate I thought I would write a review (possibly thanks to the lovely advanced copy I got from netgalley in exchange for an honest review). The Shadow Campaigns has been a very difficult series for me to holistically rate. It has had both intense highs (with every action scene gripping my heart) and unfortunate lows (I don’t care how realistic it is, the logistics of moving an army through winter is not exciting). It is a series that seems to take two steps forward, one step back, for me and has alternated books I love with books I am neutral on. I wasn’t crazy about the fourth book in the series, The Guns of Empire, but The Infernal Battalion has reignited my love for this series like a demonic manifestation in an oil reservoir. If you are unfamiliar with The Shadow Campaigns, you should go pick up a copy of the first book, The Thousand Names, and come back to this once you have read the first four books. The following will have some mild spoilers, so turn back now.
For those of you still around, let’s talk. I have worried since the end of book one that the finale of this series might be a let down. I feel like almost all protagonists who have a magic power that “cancels other magic” have the same ending – everyone buys time to give them a window to punch the magic villain who is overpowered as all hell. Winter certainly felt like she was going to fall into that category going into The Infernal Battalion, especially given how strong The Beast is. I am happy to say that while there is a little bit of the trope in Battalion, Wexler knew how to make things feel fresh and new. The strength of this series has always been more on its character development and action than its plot, but the ending of the story certainly wasn’t bad.
Speaking of great character development, Battalion completes the character arcs of every character in wonderfully fulfilling ways. The large and colorful cast all get interesting, unexpected, and satisfying endings. I was so worried how Jane’s story was going to end, because I assumed it had to go a certain way, and Wexler subverted my expectations completely and I loved it. Janus’s story is finally revealed in Battalion, and it lived up to my enormous expectations. All the love interests of the various cast panned out in satisfactory ways, and I got to the final pages and just wanted to pull everyone in for a massive team hug.
Additionally, the action in Battalion (something that has always been steller in the series) continues to meet the lofty bar established in The Thousand Names, with some really exciting solo fights as well. Wexler has a real talent for magical combat and one of my major complaints for the series is that there wasn’t more of it because the small snippets had me cheering aloud as I read them. Wexler’s dedication to historical accuracy of large battles is much more fun in a book like Battalion where there are large scale conflicts every few pages, compared to The Guns of Empire – a book that felt like it was mostly about the logistics of not dying to winter. I am super curious to see what Wexler will do next, because with his action scene skills I feel like just writing a story of a giant magical battle tournament would be incredible.
All in all, The Infernal Battalion ends The Shadow Campaigns on a really high note. It is a series with amazing characters and great action that will keep you up at night. While there were occasional pacing problems that really hurt the flow of the series, overall I think it is a fantastic read. Wexler clearly has an incredible talent for writing and historical accuracy, and I cannot wait to see where he goes next.
Rating: The Infernal Battalion – 8.0/10
Rating: The Shadow Campaigns – 7.5/10