The Infernal Battalion by Django Wexler
|Book Name:||The Infernal Battalion|
|Publisher(s):||Ace (US) Head of Zeus (UK)|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Gunpowder Fantasy / Military Fantasy|
|Release Date:||January 9, 2018|
The Infernal Battalion is the fifth and final book in Django Wexler’s series, The Shadow Campaigns. And when it comes to a series finale, I’m looking for any final mysteries to be resolved, plot threads to come together, characters to fully and finally embrace who they are, and a big showdown to be fought. In The Infernal Battalion Django Wexler delivers that and more.
As was discussed in my interview with Wexler, it’s hard to discuss book five in a series without spoiling the previous books. So I’m going to use the rule we set in that interview: I won’t go into spoilery specifics about the previous books that you can’t see in those books’ summaries. So if you’ve read books one through four, you can definitely read this review without worry. If you haven’t read the previous books, read this review at your own caution. But honestly, the fact that I’ve stuck with a series for five books should be a vote of confidence. Go pick up The Thousand Names and get reading. This review will be here when you’re done with the previous four books.
By the time you reach the final chapters of book four of the series, The Guns of Empire, you would have seen battles, revolutions, and wars. You might think things seem to have been settling down. Sure, there would be some bumps ahead, but the hard work was largely done, right? But then you reach the end. And that’s when you remember that all of that was just on the surface. All the while, magic has secretly been growing in the background. And now an ancient and powerful demon, the Beast, was unleashed after a millennium of imprisonment. It quickly spreads, taking over the minds and bodies of anyone within reach.
The Infernal Battalion isn’t about the fate of some forts on the periphery of the empire or the success or failure of a political revolution (as much as I really enjoyed those stories earlier in the series). It’s about the fate of all mankind. The tricky part is that only a handful of people know that the real danger isn’t that Janus bet Vhalnich, a legendary general who never seems to lose, has declared himself the rightful emperor of Vordan and is marching on the fledgling republic. It’s something much worse. Queen Raesinia Orboan, General Marcus D’Ivoire, and General Winter Ihernglass—all scarred by the recent revolution and war—must decide how to save their lives, save their republic, and save the world.
Let’s look at those series finale points I listed above, starting with mysteries resolved. Let’s just leave it at yes, mysteries are resolved. Anything more that would ruin the surprise.
So plot threads coming together and character growth. At the end of book four, Raesinia and Marcus are together in Vordan (at least to begin with), but Janus and Winter are each off on their own. So yes, there is a little bit of a Meereenese Knot that Wexler has to undo to get all the necessary players together for the final showdown. While I’m sure some people will complain about how long this takes, I enjoyed it, because it allowed Wexler to focus on each character. We get to see each of them learn that final lesson and reach that last, big stage of growth.
Winter has never sought leadership, but she has always felt the responsibility of being a leader. Losing people under her cuts her deep. In this book, she must decide if she is still willing to do the hard work despite the pain and trauma of loss both past and potential.
Marcus has devoted his whole life to the Vordani army, and although he has led it successfully, it has changed faster than him. He must now decide if he can accept that change and treat all of his soldiers equally, regardless of gender. And that’s on top of wondering, not only whether he has done enough and taught them enough to stand up against the greatest general he’s ever known, but also if he can inspire his soldiers to remain with him and his queen despite the long odds.
Young Queen Raesinia Orboan has always fought back against those who seek to use her as their puppet or push her into a corner. But she will need to learn when it might be better to surrender, to give up some of her power—and personal desires—for the good of her country. Then again, sometimes finance lets her be more powerful than everyone else.
As for Janus—yes, he is finally a POV character in this book—we do learn more about him, but we don’t see the same growth and evolution. But that was fine by me. The series has always been about those in his orbit. To really dig into his character the way we do with the others would, in my opinion, take a little away from his genius.
Now to the big fight. Marcus must pit his army—composed of beaten down and dwindling veterans backed by raw recruits—against Janus’s army—composed of rank after rank of fanatical, fearless zealots. Yes, there are infantry and cavalry charges, muskets and cannons and clever tactics. It wouldn’t be a Shadow Campaigns novel without them. I would say it was over too quickly (because I enjoy them so much), but that big fight isn’t really the big fight. It’s the demon that matters. If Winter can’t beat the Beast, it doesn’t matter if Janus wins. And that fight takes place in a whole other realm fought in an entirely different manner.
Pushing back from a big series should be like pushing back from a big meal. I want to be a little surprised, very satisfied, and have an experience that will make me smile thinking back on it. Wexler provides fantastic fare.