The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler

A masterpiece of flintlock fantasy.
The Shadow Throne book cover

One of the most enjoyable books I read in 2014 (though published in 2013) was The Thousand Names by Django Wexler. I had Wexler’s name around the traps for a little while, and the book had popped up as a recommended title in my regular searches through Amazon for something new to read. It’s brilliant combination of character-driven story amidst a burgeoning grand epic fantasy ticked all the right boxes for fans of Glen Cook and Steven Erikson – albeit, with muskets and canon.

Several months have passed since I finished The Thousand Names, and I even inadvertently found myself several months on from having started the sequel, The Shadow Throne – paused for what reason I don’t know, though I suspect I just ran out of time. According to my Kindle, I picked back up only 10% or so into the book, and even with that distortion, within a few per cent I was back into the thick of another brilliant story by Wexler – proof positive of just how enjoyable this book was.

The Shadow Throne is a wonderful sequel, full of the right amount of new characters and stories woven into existing lives and story. In some ways, I actually enjoyed this book more, thanks to the introduction of Raesinia Orboan, and her jaunts into the academic part of town, where all the university students cluster to rage and rant about the inherent inadequacies of one political system or another. For history buffs, you’ll probably feel quite at home, especially if you’re a fan of the French Revolution. It’s been far too long since I studied the topic, but even I could feel the tell-tale hints of French revolution seeping into the story – and it makes it all the more richer for its hints of historical accuracy. The inevitable revolution is so enthralling, the historically-minded reader will feel a tug towards one side of the equation or another (turns out, I’m a bit of a monarchist).

The wonderful story weave that Wexler performs to bring everything (seemingly) together by the end of the book is magnificent, and never once bears the taint of “contrivance” – a sure-fire way for me to immediately lose interest in a book. But despite that, I still finished the book wondering who to trust – and considering how black and white many of the characters are portrayed; this is a true testament to Wexler’s writing. For there is no black and white – not really, not when there is so much at play in the world, and so many points of view in a religiously-fervent, anti-magic world. The third book is sure to be a thriller, for there will be a lot of characters that I have come to adore facing difficult decisions – decisions I am inherently going to disagree with, causing me to rethink my feelings.

Truly, Django Wexler is writing a masterpiece of flintlock fantasy that is exceedingly close to transcending its genre-identification and becoming an epic piece of fantasy. To so richly capture the lives of fictional creations, and to make me care about them making “morally right” decisions is proof of Wexler’s mastery of this art form – add to that my increasing love of magic and muskets, and The Shadow Throne is easily one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in years.

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