At the end of last year I finally got around to reading The Thousand Names: Book One of the Shadow Campaigns and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Thousand Names is primarily about a Vordanai military campaign, in the foreign desert land of Khandar, told through a couple of perspectives. The Shadow Throne completely switches gears and setting. It keeps Winter Inhernglass (Lieutenant and female in disguise) and Marcus d’Ivoire’s (Senior Captain) narratives and adds two new ones; Raesinia Orboan (heir to the throne) and Duke Orlanko (Ministry of Information, spy master).
Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich (who knows Winter’s secret) has been summoned back to Vordan City, capital of Vordan, to become the new Minister of Justice. He leaves the army under the control of Captain Warus and rushes back, outracing the army by weeks, bringing with him only Winter and Marcus to assist. The king of Vordan is dying and his only surviving child, Raesinia, considered by many to be a young, weak willed girl, is to inherit the throne.
Orlanko knows a secret about the princess and intends to use it as leverage against her once she becomes queen, planning to rule through her. Orlanko has used the Ministry of Information to set fear into the citizens and consolidate power. Raesinia is much wiser than she is given credit for, hiding her intelligence less Orlanko realize she is not the simple girl she portrays. Fearing whatever Orlanko has planned upon her father’s death, Raesinia has been going out in secret starting the embers of a revolution to oust the Minister and prevent him from taking control.
Janus is enigmatic as ever, putting Marcus in charge of the Armsmen, city guards. It is a tricky position as Marcus is from the Colonial forces and the Armsmen, not knowing him, have no established loyalty. Janus orders Winter to assume the role of a female and attempt to infiltrate a group of rabble rousers called the Leatherbacks. This throws Winter into considerable turmoil. To her military colleagues, Winter is a man assuming a female disguise for the mission. In reality she is a female that has been pretending to be male for years, and now she is being asked to assume a female persona. Keeping it all straight and figuring out what her identity actually is causes Winter considerable agitation. Once into their assignments, Marcus and Winter begin to discover things about their pasts that have haunted them.
The city is sitting nervously on the edge. No one trusts Raesinia to be able to competently hold the throne. Unrest among the working classes is starting to kindle. And lurking underneath it all is the cabal of the Priests of the Black and their arcane war.
I wasn’t expecting the complete change in tone from book one and was pleasantly surprised. I truly loved calculating and compassionate Raesinia and hope that she continues to be a voice in book three. Django Wexter masterfully weaves a complex tale, slowly feeding the audience information. The layers of what is happening so far in the “Shadow Campaigns” series is quite interesting and I’m eager to find out where the story goes from here. I’m also very curious if there will be another shift in book three, the way there was between the first two books.