Tag Archives: muskets and magic

Friday Faceoff – Armed to the Teeth

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer.

This week’s topic is comparing covers featuring weapons – and we’re spoilt for choice… I finally decided on a book I read last year and thoroughly enjoyed – Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names.

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This first cover was published by Roc in July 2013. What strikes me particularly about this book is that both covers are similar in feel and tone – and accurately depict the book. I love the sense of movement and the detail of the backdrop in this particular cover.

 

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This second cover was published by Del Ray for the UK market in July 2013. Again, there is lots of drama and impetus in this cover – but I particularly like the colouring. A lot of military fantasy covers are quite dark and this one stands out with the reddish tones with the bright explosion in the centre. While I like the US cover, this is the one I prefer. What do you think?

Review of The Shadow Throne – Book 2 of The Shadow Campaign series by Django Wexler

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book The Thousand Names in this entertaining Muskets and Magic series – see my review here. Would The Shadow Throne be as much fun?

theshadowthroneThe King of Vordan is dying, and his daughter, Raesinia, is destined to become the first Queen in centuries – and a ripe target for the ambitious men who seek to control her. But politics knows no loyalties, especially for Duke Orlanko. He will bow his knee to no Queen. Freshly returned from their recent victories abroad, Colonel Janus, Marcus d’Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass must defeat the Duke using muskets, magic and every weapon at their command.

Wexler has been smart in completely changing the backdrop to this adventure, thus immediately giving it a different tone and feel. While the first book was set in a dry, desert country where our protagonists were the outsiders, this volume has them back home, grappling with palace politics. Wexler’s smooth writing delivers a cracking read, providing plenty of thrills with engaging, likeable characters. I particularly enjoyed the extra little bits of information we were given about Marcus, although Janus remains intriguingly enigmatic. Winter’s story arc was also strong, as her past catches up with her in a big way and we meet with Jane, the girl in the orphanage with her who helped her survive the miserable conditions. Nowadays she is known by the folks living in the docks area as ‘Mad Jane’.

But the character at the heart of this book is the young princess, who should be spending most of the tale confined to the tower where she is living. And she doesn’t… The scene where she doesn’t and we discover why had my jaw dropping. Wexler writes with an engaging verve and enthusiasm that nonetheless demonstrates great skill. I was gripped by the story and burned through the 641 pages in an impressively short time as I was desperate to discover what was going to happen next.

There was no middle book slump going on with The Shadow Throne, as Wexler brings this slice of action to a satisfying conclusion, leaving sufficient dangling plot points for me to be very happy to have the next book already stacked up beside my bed. Marital bliss is marvellous – if it hadn’t been for Himself’s recommendation, I would never have picked up The Thousand Names – and I’m so very glad I did.
9/10

Review of The Thousand Names – Book 1 of The Shadow Campaigns by Django Wexler

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1000namesHimself and I make a good pair. Whereas I find any starscape-spangled cover irresistible, Himself is unable to pass by a book displaying weaponry. It’s surprising how often we can swap these books, though. And that’s what happened to The Thousand Names. Frankly, I wouldn’t have plucked it off the shelves in a long lifetime – but once Himself finished it, he plonked it in my lap with the words, “You’ll like this one.”

In the desert colony of Khandar, a dark and mysterious magic, hidden for centuries, is about to emerge from darkness. Marcus d’Ivoire, senior captain of the Vordanai Colonials, is resigned to serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost, when a rebellion leaves him in charge of a demoralised force in a broken down fortress. Winter Ihernglass, fleeing her past and masquerading as a man, just wants to go unnoticed. Finding herself promoted to a command, she must rise to the challenge and fight impossible odds to survive.

Marcus and Winter are the two main protagonists and Wexler has nicely balanced the narration between the two. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale. It bounces along with plenty of nice touches of humour, detailed world-building that doesn’t hold up the pace and engrossing storyline. It was also refreshing to have a military-based fantasy so richly character-led. I found myself really caring about both protagonists, as well as many of their fellow soldiers. This shapes up to be pleasantly complicated, as there is a political agenda to all the warfare kicking off that we barely skimmed, and I’m betting will feature a whole lot more in the next book in the series, The Shadow Throne, which I’m delighted to report is by my bed.

Winter, a runaway orphan destined to be married off to the first man who pays for her, disguises herself as a boy and joins up. Her natural talent for tactical thinking under pressure ensures her survival, but she is always having to keep herself aloof. And before anyone rolls their eyes and thinks this is a ridiculous fictitious event, there is on record there is a steady trickle of girls and women who joined both the army and navy from the 16th century onwards to serve, often in appalling conditions, alongside their male comrades and often it was only when they were wounded they were discovered.

The battle scenes are vividly depicted, with plenty of tension and I stayed up waaay long than I should have to discover what happened next. Wexler brings his clean, punchy writing style to bear on the supernatural elements and the magic is described with a real sense of wonder that is often lacking in fantasy books. Altogether, this is a very promising series and I’m thoroughly looking forward to reading the next one.
9/10