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The Infernal Battalion by Django Wexler

The Infernal Battalion

by Django Wexler

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The Infernal Battalion is the fifth, and final, book in Django Wexler's Shadow Campaigns series.

Peace came briefly to Vordan, but it is not long before the Beast of Judgement turns an eye to the country in an attempt to claim the Thousands Names, the massive steel tablets bearing the names of legions of demons. It is only Winter's Infernivore, and the Names themselves that stand as true obstacles to the Beast’s complete domination of humanity.

Janus bet Vhalnich, one of the greatest generals of Vordan, has fallen to the Beast's influence, and now leads an army against the Queen, calling himself Emperor of Murnsk and Vordan. As Marcus and the Army of the Republic face off against Janus, Winter fights to get back to Vordan and seeks a way to reach the Beast of Judgement's core host, so she can use Infernivore.

Meanwhile, Queen Raesinia seeks aid from Borel, not so long ago enemy to Vordan. But it is only Winter and her traveling companions who know the full depth of danger they face. To the others, the Beast is a creature out of legend. Janus alone is a dangerous foe. With the Beast's control, he is downright lethal. Not every enemy is an enemy though, and the Vordanai forces find the assistance of a master strategist giving subtle aid. Will all the pieces in this far-flung grand game of chess end up where they need to be for a full checkmate?

I love the Shadow Campaigns series! This is a brilliant series that blends technology with magic, and is military fantasy at its best. Much as I love Game of Thrones, I like this series more. These civilisations are roughly evolved to the equivalent of say, the US Civil War, or the Napoleonic Wars. Cavalry is utilised, and bayonets/muskets, along with cannon. The attention and depth of detail to the battle sequences is breathtaking, and terrifying, painting a very vivid picture. It's clear the author is well-researched in this area, and I felt immersed in the soldiers’ terror of battle, and their courage to stand and fight.

This is a world where demons exist, and those possessed by them have abilities both feared and revered. These demons require a host. Their names are recorded in the Thousand Names, and a person reads the name in a ritual, binding with the demon, and it's not uncommon for death to occur. Each demon offers different gifts, allowing the host to heal, or travel as sand, or never die, among other things.

Throughout this book, and the series as a whole, many different cultures are explored- Vordanai, Haeta, Borelgai, Khandarai. The anthropologist in me appreciates this! Here, again, Wexler has paid attention to detail. Each culture has its own values and personality traits, sometimes bringing characters into serious conflict.

Each chapter follows the perspective of one particular character, and I looked forward to reading each. Usually, in cases where the chapters follow different people, there's always one story thread that's just not as interesting. None of these were boring in the slightest and each had vastly different things going on. Marcus was in the midst of war, right on the front lines. Raesinia’s story focused on more courtly aspects. Winter was on a desperate, headlong flight. Janus’ was the most alien of all, as he navigated working with the Beast.

Ideally, these books should be read in order. There is enough information threaded through the narrative though that, even if you jump in the middle, you'll find footing quick enough. Through this series, Wexler has become one of my favourite authors, and I look forward to his next work!

***Many thanks to Netgalley and Penguin/Random House for providing an egalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. ( )
  PardaMustang | Jan 31, 2018 |
The last book in Wexler’s Shadow Campaign series, The Infernal Battalion doesn’t disappoint.

Look. I can’t talk about The Infernal Battalion without talking about the previous books. The series starts with The Thousand Names, and it only improves from there. It’s a military fantasy series that is super great about including queer characters and female characters, and I love it a lot even though military fantasy isn’t really my subgenre. If that sounds appealing, I suggest you check out my review of the first book. Spoilers for the series will follow in the rest of this review.

If you don’t remember, the book before this, The Guns of Empire, ended on one heck of a cliff hanger. The Beast, a demon that can spread itself by taking over people’s minds, has gotten free of its prison. And it has seized the mind of Janus, the military general who was possibly humanity’s best hope for defeating it. Of course, most people don’t know that the Beast is actually real, let alone that it’s escaped its prison and is quickly enacting its desires for world domination. Winter is the only one who can possibly destroy it once and for all, and she’s stuck up north, far away from her allies in Vordan. She needs to reach them, even as the Beast is determined to see her annihilated.

Meanwhile Raesinia and Marcus are struck by unexpected news: Janus has declared himself the rightful emperor of Vordan and is forming an army to march against them. Marcus might wonder if Janus is in his right mind (and wow, he really has no idea), but what can he do but prepare to face him. While Marcus is readying troops, Raesinia goes abroad in search of much needed aid.

It’s fitting that the stakes are highest in the last book of a series. And oh, boy does The Infernal Battalion ever deliver. The Beast sort of reminds me of zombies in the way it spreads itself so quickly. Only, unlike zombies, the Beast isn’t mindless. Which makes it that much more intimidating. After all, there are no higher stakes than the fate of the world. The Infernal Battalion is a super intense, heart-in-mouth read. A couple times I had to step away when I felt myself getting too stressed! I’ve seen other reviews complaining about Raesinia’s chapters being slower paced, but I don’t see that as a failing. Raesinia’s political intrigue gave me a chance to breath and recover from the “live or die” drama of the other chapters.

It’s easy to become invested in a book when you care strongly about the characters. I love the characters of the Shadow Campaigns. Marcus actually has a great arc, and he’s a character I’ll be pointing to whenever “sexism as a character flaw” comes into discussion (Foz Meadows has an essay about it and the Shadow Campaigns, FYI). Basically, he’s learning that chivalry isn’t actually a good thing and that he needs to resist urges towards it. Raesinia continues to come into her own as a Queen and political figure, and Winter grapples with the responsibility of command and feeling like she’s the cause of people around her dying. It’s a bit melodramatic, but it’s probably a pretty natural response to the situations she’s been in. Oh, and Marcus still thinks Winter’s a man and people are still sort of half-heartedly pretending for his sake. Don’t worry, this gets resolved… I just can’t believe I waited five books for it!

I’ve talked about this in all my other reviews of the series, but I love the Shadow Campaign’s female characters. They are well written, capable, interesting, and plentiful. Also, a number of them are queer, which is even better. Winter, our badass lesbian lead, is practically the Chosen One here, the only hope of fighting the Beast. And she interacts with so many other awesome women! There’s a point in the book were they need to assemble an A-team of badasses and it ends up being all women. I don’t think it’s even commented on — they’re just the most obvious choices.

Going into The Infernal Battalion, I was scared this book would end up betraying me. Namely, I was worried about it turning into a queer tragedy where Winter would die while Marcus and Raesinia lived happily ever after. That would hurt a lot, especially since I’ve been recommending this series when people ask for queer fantasy novels. However, in the end, I feel like The Infernal Battalion does right by Winter and its other queer characters, and I’m so glad my trust wasn’t misplaced.

I really love this series. Yes, it has it’s flaws (it’s really really white for one thing), but it also just gives me so much of what I want in a very well executed way. I get feelings when an all female team goes and does something badass, and that’s a staple of this series! While I’m sad this series is over, I’m glad I got to be along for the ride.

I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Jan 9, 2018 |
A satisfying conclusion to the Shadow Campaigns series. Janus bet Valnich, who was taken by the demon known as the Beast, has declared himself emperor and is marching on the capital of Vordan with a mighty army. But the real danger is the Beast, which will consume all of humanity if not stopped, and soon. Only Winter Ihernglass, who controls the demon Infernivore, has a chance of stopping the Beast, but she is far away and in great danger. Much maneuvering, political, military, and demonic, must happen if humanity is to be saved.

Wexler wraps everything up in ways both inevitable and surprising. This series is definitely worth the time. ( )
  readinggeek451 | Oct 3, 2017 |
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Military might and arcane powers clash in Wexler's fifth action-packed Shadow Campaigns novel. The Beast, the ancient demon imprisoned beneath Elysium for a thousand years, has been loosed on the world. It absorbs mind after mind, spreading like a plague through the north. And it threatens the heart of Vordan. As Queen Raesinia Orboan and soldiers Marcus D'Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass grapple with the aftermath of a hard fought military campaign, they soon discover they have more than arcane powers to fear--it seems they cannot trust one of their own.… (more)

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