The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

    I’m really glad I picked up The Thousand Names, the first book in the Shadow Campaigns flintlock fantasy series. I mean, who can’t resist flintlock fantasy written by someone with the name Django Wexler? In all seriousness it was a solid book with an interesting backdrop. The setting takes place in a desert colonial outpost (Khandar) on the fringes of a large and powerful empire (the Vordan Empire). Right before the book begins, there has been upheaval in this colonial possession as the propped up state is overthrown by a rebellion with a large helping of zeal for a new religion ready to sweep away the old.

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    The colonial garrison has been wasting away since the original conquest and it is among these colonials where the two POV characters come from. Captain Marcus d’Ivoire volunteered for this ill reputed post essentially to remove himself from his past and suddenly has to be in position of serious leadership as a campaign mounts up to reassert Vordan authority. Winter Ihernglass on the other hand is a women who is disguising herself as a man in order to serve in the army. Similar to Marcus, she too is trying to prevent the past from ever catching back up to her. Throughout the novel, Winter climbs the ranks as she performs nobly with the men under her change. A the same time, she is trying to keep her cover intact as well as care for a hidden refugee.
    There were a few sticking points that bothered me with the book. First, the reinforcements for the languishing colonial troops are the greenest troops I’ve ever read before. Some have had a grand total of 0 days in training. But, after some drilling on the march apparently most of them are up to snuff miraculously. There is also a relationship that the reader can see a mile away. The predictability of the relationship isn’t the problem though. The problem is when one of the characters essentially works for this shady and sketchy secret police cabal and the other character is sort of “meh” since he knows the whole time.
    The biggest problem I had with the story was the magic though. The weirdness alone wasn’t a big deal (licking eyeballs for example.) My problem was that the magical elements are largely entities residing inside people to enhance their abilities/powers/strength to a point where they can literally catch bullets. While they are not overly present in this volume, I’m nervous about the scaling up of magical elements in the later books since the average person has absolutely no way of confronting such power. The only way that these magical people are are managed is for someone else with a stronger entity to deal with them.
    That being said, I did enjoy the characters quite a lot. Since there were only two POVs they became quite fleshed out for the most part and they had depth. Even many of the side characters were well done as well, my favorite being the eccentric Count Janus bet Vhalnich Mieran. The pacing of the book was also really well done in that it felt like an actual planned campaign going on rather than one major cataclysmic battle at the end. There are pitched battles, stealth, and skirmishing that take place interspersed throughout the book and it flows quite well.
    Overall I was very pleased with the book and look forward to reading the remaining four books in the Shadow Campaigns.
    4 out of 5 stars.