The Infernal Battalion by Django Wexler (The Shadow Campaigns #5)

And so comes to an end a series that will go down as a trend-setting fantasy book of the 21st century. Django Wexler’s ‘Shadow Campaigns’ series has been a truly wonderful experience, going all the way back to The Thousand Names which was published in 2013. Since then, we have journeyed with Raesinia Orboan, Marcus D’Ivoire, and Winter Ihernglass, among others, and witnessed the devastation of an entire continent (or three).

I’ve truly loved this series, and a part of me would love to go back to the beginning and just start all over again. While not every decision made by the author aligns with my own thinking, I have enjoyed every moment of this series and thrilled at the close calls and big risks taken – by characters and author alike.

The Infernal Battalion is the fifth and final book of the series and serves to bring the series to a resounding close. I’ll admit, I didn’t feel as if the book was quite as emotionally devastating, nor was I put through quite the same death-defying roller-coaster as I was in the immediately preceding book, The Guns of Empire, but I think that is a natural outworking of it being the final book of the series, and certain assumptions that can be made by the reader.

Which was another aspect of this book which I truly enjoyed. Unlike many authors – and even unlike Django Wexler’s past efforts – he didn’t seem quite so hell-bent on killing all his darlings by the end of the book. I understand the premise behind the advice – authors shouldn’t hold on so tightly to their characters that nothing ever happens to anyone ever – however, in this day and age of grimdark and gritty storytelling, it seems that every author is trying to outdo one another for the highest death tolls and most emotionally devastating deaths.

Sometimes, I just want my favourite characters to triumph and survive and live happily ever after – it’s not a crime.

That being said, not everyone lives happily ever after, and there are still some loose ends which will allow the author enough freedom to return to this world if need or desire be. I felt as if, even though there wasn’t the equivalent of a mass ritual suicide, that the right price was paid and that nobody made it out scot-free. Like through much of the series (with the possible exception of The Guns of Empire), Wexler has managed to walk a fine line between homicidal and sentimental, rewarding his readers’ patience and love for the characters he has created. 
I came across the climax of the story somewhat quickly, I felt – which might be seen by some as a negative, but when you look at the series from a bird’s eye point of view, it arrived exactly when it should have, not early, and not late.

I think that The Guns of Empire will still go down as my favourite book from this series – if for no other reason than for the range and heights and depths of emotion the author was able to make me feel – but The Infernal Battalion was a truly tremendous end to what I felt was a groundbreaking fantasy series that will go down as inspiration for writers and readers for decades to come.

8/10 A truly tremendous end to what I felt was a groundbreaking fantasy series

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