My rating: I’d go there again (3.5/4)
Recently, I was looking for a good fantasy book, and The Thousand Names happened to come onto my radar. Wasn’t really sure what to expect, but when I learned that it featured a woman disguised as a male soldier, I immediately thought of the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce. Logically, I knew this book would be no where close to the same, but I thought it was a great premise that spoke to my past teenage reader brain. The Thousand Names was an interesting read, although it had a lot more military details than I was expecting, this kind of description isn’t really my “thing” when reading. That said, I ended up quite liking this one, and I’m looking forward to book two, The Shadow Throne.
The Thousand Names is set in an alternate world. My impression was that it was a more Middle Eastern culture due to the desert setting. The Vordan have a military base in Khandar, and it’s where the dregs of the Vordanai military are sent in punishment. However, this unimportant outpost is about to get a lot more notice when Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich arrives to take command following a rebellion. His stated plan is to win back the throne for the Khandarian prince; however, it soon becomes clear to the Vordanian captain that Janus just might have an alternative mission in the works.The Thousand Names is told mostly in two alternating viewpoints. The first is Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, the reluctant captain of the army in Khandar. He rose to captaincy following the rebellion in Khandar and now serves Colonel Janus. The second narrative is from Winter Ihernglass, a woman who’s on the run from her past and made a patched together life for herself in the army. By happenstance, Winter finds herself promoted and leading a group of men. Both Marcus and Winter are not your typical leaders. They are more hesitant and questioning, but this is what makes them good leaders. Each of them come into their own by the end of the novel, and that self-actualization showed a level of depth that I wasn’t expecting. However, learning to be a good leader is the least of their problems as they come to realize just exactly what they are up against.
For the most part, I enjoyed The Thousand Names, although I found the first half of the book to be rather slow moving. Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of the military descriptions; it felt a little like a war history book at times. In fact, I was reading The Black Count at the same time, and there were times that I confused fact and fiction. I consider that a compliment to the author for creating such a vivid, and realistic depiction of military life. While it’s not my preference, I recognize how well thought out and well constructed this world was. Due to the time spent on the military campaign, I found that it took awhile for The Thousand Names to really get started, but by the time I got half way through, the action really picked up and I was invested in the outcome for Marcus and Winter.
What I would have liked more of was more time spent with the characters. Both Marcus and Winter were compelling in their own ways, but I felt that it took a long time before readers were able to really “get to know” both characters. I was also surprised that Marcus and Winter rarely interacted with each other. They were little better than acquaintances and I was expected them to have more of a friendship or at least a working relationship. This worked for The Thousand Names since each narrative offered a new lens to view the campaign, but I hope in book two that they have more of an opportunity to build a friendship. I’d also like to know how Marcus would react to finding out Winter is a woman. From what we learn about him, I don’t think he’d be all that sanguine about the realization. I think there’s potential for these to be quite the team, but to be clear, it’s not a romantic partnership, which is a-okay by me.
With the ending of this book I can’t wait for The Shadow Throne to come out in July. I have so many questions! And I hope some of them will be answered in book two. But what I’m really looking forward to is how the characters will grow and change in a new setting. The principle characters are heading back home to Vordan and I think it’s going to open up a can of worms. Marcus and Winter are both going to have to face their past and it doesn’t look rosy for either of them.
If you enjoyed the desert setting, I recommend the Tiger and Del series by Jennifer Roberson. The setting is fantastic, although no one is hiding their gender. Make sure that you start with book 1:
Having read The Thousand Names I’m now a little curious about the whole military fantasy subgenre and I think next up on my list is Promise of Blood. It looks to be another that’s heaving on the military campaign, but again the characters intrigue me.