As this is the third book in the series, perhaps you should check out my review of the first book The Thousand Names: Book One of the Shadow Campaigns, which is predominantly about a military campaign. The second book, The Shadow Throne, switches gears and is about political intrigue and power struggles. This third book, The Price of Valor, is combination of both and an excellent continuation of the series.
Note about the cover art of the books: I originally found them off putting as they are very male military, “Ooh Rah!” in nature (and partly why it took me so long to pick them up). However, there are wonderfully nuanced female main characters who carry this series and I find it sad that it is not reflected somehow in the cover art.
This book finds our heroes out of the frying pan and into the fire. The death of the King of Vordan, along with the machinations of dark priests from an ancient order, has brought war to Vordan from the surrounding countries hoping to carve it up and claim it for their own. The seat of power in Vordan is on shaky ground. Queen Raesinia has largely become a figurehead as she has relinquished power to the Deputies-General assigned by the people. A threat on her life has her scurrying to the countryside as Vordan city is considered unsafe. At least that is what she wants the populace to think. Instead Raesinia secretly stays in the city to uncover who is making attempts on her life.
Marcus D’Ivoire has been promoted to colonel but instead of rejoining the army is left in the city. He remains under orders from General Janus bet Vhalnich to assist Raesinia in her investigations. The straight forward Marcus is out of his depths and struggles with reconciling his image of a queen and the truth of Raesinia in front of him, who insists he drop all formalities as she is in hiding. Trying to help her leaves Marcus at odds with his natural instincts of subservience to his ruler and belief that women need protecting (despite the fact that Raesinia is physically less fragile than Marcus himself).
Winter Inhernglass finds herself promoted once again and is now a colonel in charge of her own regiment, a regiment that has both traditional male and a newly created female battalion. Winter maintains her facade of being male, though there are women in the regiment who know she is female. Getting the men and women to work together is a tricky act which is made more complicated by the fact that Winter’s lover, Jane Verity, is a Captain under her command who struggles with accepting the military order of things. Jane is jealous of Winter’s devotion to the army as a whole and is afraid that she is losing Winter to the military. In particular, Jane is suspicious of Janus’s motives regarding Winter and how he manipulates her.
The military engagement descriptions continue to be well portrayed so I always have a clear understanding of what is going on. Wexler keeps setting up different types of battles so they are never repetitive (even from one book to the next). The magic is getting more interesting as we find out further information about the dark priests, their order’s goals, and their infernal powers. Between her intelligence and compassion, Raesinia is a force to be reckoned with and I hope she can bring the peace she so strongly desires to her people. And it makes me happy that a lesbian romance is the main romance in such a military heavy fantasy series. This is my new favorite fantasy series.