Book of the Year 2015 (see all)
Fantasy Book Review Book of the Month, November 2016
When I finished reading The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler, the second book in his ‘The Shadow Campaigns’ series, I was struck by just how unsure I was about the motivations of the characters I had been riding shotgun with. Authors have often gone out of their way to ensure the reader is aware of the justifications behind the actions of their lead-characters, and furthermore, ensured that the reader is aware that their characters are “in the right”. Django Wexler did nothing of the sort in The Shadow Throne, and having just finished the third book in the series, The Price of Valour, I can quite confidently tell you I still have no idea who is on the right side.
The first book in the series, The Thousand Names, suitably set the world in place and left you very sure of whom was right and wrong. It was a fine book on its own, and deserved of much praise – which thankfully, it received in plenty. The Shadow Throne continued the story, but left behind any of the moral certainty that had existed in the first book, while at the same time firmly rooting the reader on the side of the protagonists – Winter, Marcus, their commander Janus, and the newly arrived Raesinia Orboan.
The Price of Valour does nothing to shed any light on whether we are reading the right side of this conflict, or whether we are in fact on the side of evil – though that in and of itself is no doubt a discussion for readers to share between one another. All of our protagonists start this book certain of their beliefs and the legitimacy of their complaints with their enemies, even if the reader is vaguely aware of the possible snake in the grass Janus bet Vhalnich represents.
By the end of The Price of Valour, however, each of our three main protagonists has a question in the back of their mind – and we the reader are none the wiser than they.
Which to me, as one of those readers, makes Django Wexler one of the most impressive writers I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It is a near-singularly brilliant achievement to leave both the reader and his protagonists baffled as to the legitimacy of their actions. No one can doubt what Janus has done for the country of Vordan, and the loyalty he has commanded from those beneath him (and even those above and alongside him), but those last pages are enough to leave me absolutely salivating for more.
The Price of Valour may be my favourite yet, in terms of sheer enjoyment. There was very little that could extricate me from the pages of this book and the struggles of the characters therein. Marcus and Raesinia’s adventures in the capital were wonderfully fun – as were the unanswered and barely hinted-at relationships blossoming within that group of insurrectionists. Winter again stood out as far and away one of the most impressive characters ever to grace the pages of a book, putting everything on the line for what (I imagine) every reader judges to be the right decision, time and time again. Her interactions with colleagues, friends, and lovers make for the most vivid reading this book provides – not to mention some of the most intense fight scenes of the series.
And beneath it all runs that undercurrent of confusion – just whose side should we be on?
In the future, I hope that Django Wexler will give us a whole series of books following the adventures of Winter Ihernglass, but for now, I just want the next book in this series in my hands as soon as possible, for I suspect this story is on its way to one gigantic and explosive (no pun intended) conclusion, one that very few of us (or the characters) will see coming. Even Janus.
Review by Joshua S Hill
9/10 from 1 reviews
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