The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler
The Shadow Throne is the second book in the Shadow Campaign series, with (if I remember correctly) five books planned. I’d been convinced by the first book, the Thousand Names(Review), and had waited impatiently for the sequel. I can reveal already that I love the second book too. While it doesn’t have the same focus on the military aspects as the first book, it builds a believable world in a similar setting as the time of the French Revolution. The book’s similarity to our own world history is endearing and executed very well.
This book starts off with a new character, Raesinia Orboan, the princess of Vordan. Her magic ability is presented in a literally face-crushing experience when she tumbles down a tower. On purpose. The book starts off with a bang and gripped me from the start. The action of the princess didn’t miss her mark and shook me up quite a bit, but that might simply be because I have a big fear of height.
The story shifts from the desert heat into the heart of Vordan, the capital. With the death of the king only a matter of time and Raesinia a perceived weak woman, emotions in the city are boiling over. Especially since the Last Duke is thought to take advantage of a young queen and rule in her stead with an iron fist. The people of Vordan have no liking for the Duke and his secret police. Tempers are stirring with the populace getting abused by foreign banks holding the permission to collect taxes.
In this boiling pot our heroes come back, with Janus bet Vhalnich tasked by the dying king to help the young princess. But she’s not half as weak as everyone thinks and has matter well inside her hands. She plays a dangerous game when she goes into the city incognito and meets with a small group of like-minded men and women. Their small conspiracy becomes a raging storm when they find a half-wit with the gift to sweep along any crowd with the power of his voice. But not everything goes according to plan and the lack of fighting in the first part of the book gets remedied in the later parts with the promise of all-out war in the next books.
This book manages to capture the feeling of a revolution very well and you can see where it gets its inspirations from, the French Revolution for example. The book even has something similar to the storming of the Bastille. It does start a bit slower though, especially in regard to the military aspects I liked so much in the first book. The introduction of the new character works very well and the series now features mostly women as POV-characters, with Captain Marcus d’Ivoire taking a back seat.
Overall the emancipation of women in the world plays a role and not only do they have a major part in the resistance and the revolution, they even march side by side with the male soldiers to meet the enemies of the Vordan people.
The series is easily on the same quality of the first book and carries on the story without losing the reader’s interest for a moment. I found it very easy to become invested in both story and characters and finished it quite fast for such a big book. The flow simply works and the plot is engaging enough to make you go back to it whenever you have the time.
Even a book as good as this has some minor weaknesses though. This time I couldn’t agree with the tactical side of the military aspect of the book. Janus bet Vhalnich decision in how to meet the enemy doesn’t seem quite as effective as what we are used to from the last book. I’m by no means an expert on early-firearm warfare, but I can’t see his tactic working so well. I was left with a tinge of regret because of the way the last battle progressed. I hope the following Campaigns will not ask me to suspend my disbelief in a similar fashion.
I’m a bit sad that the magic system still isn’t quite clear yet and I would’ve liked some more explanations in that regard. Same goes for Janus bet Vhalnich’s plans and his reasons for the war against the Black Priests. I’d really like to discover more about this brilliant man and his past.
Concluding: The Shadow Throne continues the Shadow Campaign series in the same way the Thousand Names started this adventure. Fans of the first book don’t need to think twice about buying this book. They will get a similar menu as the first book served up, with less war and more revolution. Some people might not like that as much, but I was convinced by the book. I think this quieter book was needed too, as this is the actual prelude for the story. The book sets the pawns into their starting positions and Django Wexler promises an all-out war in the next books. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the series. It definitely has the potential to rank very high on everybody’s lists.