Book two in Django Wexler’s THE SHADOW CAMPAIGNS series, The Shadow Throne sees our heroes Janus bet Vhalnich, Winter Ihernglass, and Marcus d’Iviore return to the capital of Vordan, Vordan City, upon hearing of the king’s dire illness. Confined to his sickbed, the king promotes Janus to Minister of Justice, who then places Marcus in command of the city guard. As Janus works to promote the independence of Vordan from foreign influence and establish the power of the monarchy, a supporter of Hamveltai control in the nation, the Last Duke and Vordan’s spymaster Orlanko, seems to be watching Janus’s every move and actively working to foiling his maneuvers. After the grueling campaigns overseas, can Marcus, Winter, and Janus emerge victorious in the cutthroat politics of Vordan? This is the question that keeps us on our toes throughout the novel.
What makes The Shadow Throne stand out its introduction of complex politics into military fantasy, which is a subgenre that hasn’t quite attracted substantial attention yet. Though Brian McClellan’s THE POWDER MAGE does include some politics, I feel that Wexler is one of the first authors in the genre to wielded militarism and politics so effectively with gruesome imagery near the scale of Glen Cook’s THE BLACK COMPANY and almost enough intrigue to rival Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor. There’s intrigue around every corner, especially since Janus’s political opponent is the seemingly-omniscient Orlanko. Not only did this add some drama to the story, it really helped pull me into the plot. In terms of tone, I was reminded a little of Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song, and I also enjoyed the themes of democracy and colonialism present throughout the series. However, there’s a major shortcoming with The Shadow Throne that might half cost it a star or a half in terms of rating: plot.
Although Wexler’s work was both fun and captivating, The Shadow Throne suffered from some lulls in action and strange plot decisions that made parts of the story feel a bit bumpy/unnatural. After reaching a bit of a climax roughly halfway through the book, we were left with chapters of inaction until another peak in the last fifty pages followed by a giant cliffhanger. While I can understand the plot decisions, I think Wexler needs to be more careful with his plot and make it flow better. It might simply be an issue of getting bogged down in too many details, but a good chunk of the novel felt a little too slow for my taste. That said, having just devoured The Price of Valor, book three, in a day, I certainly encourage you to keep reading THE SHADOW CAMPAIGNS if you’ve already started. I’ll elaborate more on how I feel about the series in general in my review of The Price of Valor.
But Raesinia has found unlikely allies in the returning war hero Janus bet Vhalnich, and his loyal deputies, Captain Marcus d’Ivoire and Lieutenant Winter Ihernglass. As Marcus and Winter struggle to find their places in the home they never thought they would see again, they help Janus and Raesinia set in motion events that could shatter Orlanko’s powers, but perhaps at the price of throwing the nation into chaos. But with the people suffering under the Duke’s tyranny, they intend to protect the kingdom with every power they can command, earthly or otherwise.