I would like to thank the editors for providing this ARC, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
The Infernal Battalion is equally a well-thought out and frustrating finale. This was objectively a very good book, mixing as usual detailed battles, politics, strategies and magic. It just wasn’t a book for me. Though I liked the characters and couldn’t wait to see how things would evolve and wrap up for them, the plot didn’t manage to enthrall me as much as the first three books did.
I strongly believe that this series would have worked so much better with four installments, instead of five. Much to my chagrin, by the end of the 60% of TIB, I was as exhausted (mentally) as the Vordanai Army (physically) was of the never-ending marching, fighting, setting camp, marching, fighting, dying… The beginning of the book wasn’t exactly boring but it felt like a variation of what already happened before in the series and in hindsight, the various campaigns kinda blurred and merged in my mind. Raesinia’s diplomatic tribulations were what saved the first half of the book for me.
The second half was mostly great however! I was ecstatic to see how far the characters have gone since the beginning. TIB was a journey of questioning, self-discovery and accomplishment for the main characters, and though secondary characters mostly stayed true to their personalities, they affected, impressed and inspired me. Heck, my favorite character is probably Sothe (secondary character). What can I say, I have a fondness for efficient, cold-blooded but loyal assassins, for whom fighting is akin to art!
“But the other side of the balance can be harder to make out. How do you measure what didn’t happen? Friends who didn’t die because of something you did, wars that didn’t start, cities that never burned. That has to count for something, doesn’t it?”
I really loved how the characters grew and I loved how they ended up actually talking to each other. I wholeheartedly appreciated the long-awaited dialogues that actually changed the characters’ mind or the direction of the plot. During the first half, I occasionally yelled at them out loud (much to my husband’s dismay): “you just learned something crucial! Share it with the others, damn you! Here, you have them around! Now or never, dude! … Oh well too late…”. This was the most frustrating aspect of the book (and of the series for that matter) for me.
The most fantastic aspects on the other hand were Wexler’s elegant prose and his perfect mastery of military formations and strategies and of finance. The maneuvers he pulled, be they on the field or in a royal court, were impressive, consistent and decisive to the plot. It was fascinating to learn about the rules of warfare, in the style of the Napoleonic tactics, to see how each formation, each move had its logical, systematic counter-move and that naturally gave some amazing battle sequences.
The “Fantasy” arc was also pretty well explored in this final book! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing more magic and getting explanations regarding the Thousand Names, the lore and the demons. Some occurrences were sadly left unexplained at the end but it was nonetheless great to have magic play such a big role in the finale.
Despite having a few issues with this final book, The Shadow Campaigns series featured one of the greatest military representations and one of the largest female casts I’ve ever read. I genuinely wish I loved it better. If you love Flintlock Fantasy or perhaps historical fiction, I wholeheartedly recommend this series to you. If you look for great, inspiring female characters, then look no more, this series will definitely appeal to you!
1. The Thousand Names : 8/10
2. The Shadow Throne : 8/10
3. The Price of Valour : 8/10
4. The Guns of Empire : 6/10
Review by Haïfa
Read in January, 2018.