Mount Readmore Book Review, 2018 93/200
The Infernal Battalion by Django Wexler
Finished on 6/15/2018
Military might and arcane power clash in Django Wexler’s thrilling new Shadow Campaigns novel.
The Beast, the ancient demon imprisoned beneath the fortress-city of Elysium for a thousand years, has been loosed on the world. It absorbs mind after mind, spreading like a plague through the north. The fell army it has raised threatens the heart of Vordan, and it is under the command of the Beast’s greatest prize: legendary general Janus bet Vhalnich.
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 a betrayal they never could have foreseen. The news arrives like a thunderbolt: Janus has declared himself the rightful Emperor of Vordan. Chaos grips the city as officers and regiments are forced to declare for queen or emperor.
Raesinia must struggle to keep her country under control and risks becoming everything she fought against. Marcus must take the field against his old commander, a man who has seemed an unbeatable strategist. And as Winter recovers from her injuries and mourns her losses, she knows the demon she carries inside her might be the only thing standing between the Beast and the destruction of everything in its path….
Genres: Fantasy, Flintlocke Fantasy, The Shadow Campaigns, High Fantasy, Politics, Fiscal Fantasy, Military Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
What to do when Napoleon becomes possessed by a demon…
This was great! I think THE INFERNAL BATTALION meets, and at points exceeds, the highs set by all the previous books in the series.
The rest of this review will mainly be a review for the entire series, with focus especially on THE INFERNAL BATTALION. This is the fifth and final book in this series, so spoilers. You’ve been warned.
This series is about a Napoleon-like character, sent by his government to lead military expeditions against their nation’s enemies, while simultaneously he struggles to contend with demons sent to kill him. Janus bet Volnich is a clever officer, in battle tactics but also lateral thinking- he is a Mozart of the battlefield, but also a shrewd tactician capable of coming up with unorthodox strategies. Not only that, he’s a demon-consorting warlock, using demon magic to help his kingdom fight against the vile Priests of the Black.
But Janus defeated the Priests of the Black in the fourth book of the series. In the fifth and final book the Beast of Judgement is loosed and destroying the world because the Priests of the Black were the only thing preventing it’s freedom. The Beast is a hive-mind supernatural entity, capable of devouring the souls of humans and using their bodies as puppets. It is so dangerous that in all the local religions the Beast is basically their version of Satan. And now that the Beast has been released, it is busy taking over the world and devouring the souls of all mankind.
One of the first people the Beast devours is Janus himself. The Beast now has access to the supreme intellect and supernatural acumen of the smartest general of the age. Janus, once a hero, is now the villain and it’s up to the remaining heroes to figure out how to defeat him. This was a great conceit: for four books we’ve been building up the neigh-miraculous military skills of Janus, and now in the fifth book the remaining heroes must come together and stop the unstoppable Janus. I loved this plot device.
The characters were mostly very good. Raesinia has metamorphosed from a rebellious young princess to a Queen willing to do whatever she has to to save her people from desolation. General Marcus wants to marry Raesesinia, but before he can he must defeat Janus on the battlefield. Winter has a FANTASTIC character arc: she struggles with PTSD from the fact that basically everyone she’s grown friendly with in the course of the entire series has died or become the Beast. Now she’s left a hollowed shell of a woman, her confidence shattered… which is bad because she’s the only person who can stop the Beast.
The only bad character was the Beast itself. I liked it’s representation in the last book, where it was basically Mad Jane but clever. In this book the Beast has basically become a generic evil villain, except for at the very end when Mad Jane rears her head again. The ‘generic evil villain’-ness of the Beast didn’t make for a compelling bad guy, so I wish the author doubled down on representing it’s personality as Mad Jane. Mad Jane is a fascinating, selfish, oddly moral and self-absorbed character- I would have loved to see her as a spreading Hive Mind taking over the world.
The pacing was brisk- almost too brisk. I wish the author had slowed down a little and included some more character-focused chapters. The book had a lot of battle scenes and plot scenes, and I feel that it could have used a few more restful moments where the characters decompress.
Highly recommended. Overall I liked this series rather a lot. Start with book 1, THE THOUSAND NAMES, and read on from there including the novellas if you can find them. For fans of Flintlock Fantasy and Military Fantasy of the Napoleonic bent, or if you just want to read well written books.