My rating: I’d go there again! (4/5)
After discovering The Thousand Names a couple of months ago, I was completely intrigued by the military fantasy genre. This is not really a genre that I would normally gravitate to, but you never can tell what you’ll think of a genre until you’ve given it a shot, as I’ve proven to myself with The Shadow Campaigns series. While the military descriptions are still not my thing, I really love the characters that inhabit this series and I am completely invested in this story. What’s Janus’ real end game? Will Marcus ever find out why his family was murdered? Will Winter ever go public as a woman? These questions will ensure that I’ll be showing up for book three.
The Shadow Throne is somewhat of a departure form The Thousand Names. In book one, the focus was on military movements in a foreign land; book two brings the victors back to their home country – and to the political machinations of the less than scrupulous Duke Orlanko. Marcus d’Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass have both accompanied Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich back to Vordan, and both are moved into place to fulfill some role that only Janus is fully aware of. While Marcus and Winter both have parts to play, they also have to confront their past, all the while helping to shape the future of Vordan.
Marcus is now in charge of the Armsmen of Vordan, who are charged with keeping justice in the city. It seems that someone has not been upholding that responsibility, so it’s up to Marcus to route out who is behind the miscarriage of justice, and follow direction from Janus. When Marcus is ordered to arrest Danton, an apparent political radical stirring up the city, all hell breaks loose and rebellion and revolution seem imminent.
Meanwhile, Winter has been asked to infiltrate a group of women, the Leatherbacks, and report back to Janus. The hardest part for Winter, is the fact that she’ll have to do all of this as a woman, something she is distinctly not comfortable with having lived in disguise as a man for so long. Complicating matters, Winter is also confronted with her someone from her past when she finds her way into the inner circle of the Leatherbacks.
Entering into this already complicated mix is Raesinia, princess of Vordan and the imminent heir to the throne. With her father on his deathbed, Raesinia has been plotting how to make sure that she will not be under the thumb of Duke Orlanko, the Minister of Information. Raesinia, disguised as a university student, has been inciting her own rebellion among the common people in the hopes that they will overpower Orlanko allowing her to be a Queen in her own right rather than Orlanko’s puppet. Raesinia succeeds in inspiring the people, in fact she succeeds a little too well and soon the city erupts into violence and Janus starts to move his pieces into play.
While the notion of rebellion and revolt was interesting and so realistic, it was the characters that once again captured my attention in this one. Marcus and Winter just seem like such a surprise; they are both so…upstanding. Marcus is completely devoted to his duty and is ultimately out there to protect the people of Vordan. He’s not quick to react and generally thinks the situation through before acting. I also love that he’s continually referred to as someone that has missed his calling as chivalric knight, because his actions certainly bring that to mind. Likewise, Winter is also a basically “good” character. She’s willing to serve Janus but she’s also still committed to her military life that she surprisingly adapted to so well. While both Marcus and Winter have their flaws and with them become more than one-dimensional cutouts, they both are bound by a similar code that I actually find refreshing to read about.
I also liked the addition of Raesinia to the storyline. This Queen is much more than a figurehead of the state, she wants to be more and she’s going to fight to get it, meaning there’s some hard choices ahead for her. I also feel that the author is setting the stage for something much larger with Raesinia’s introduction if her reaction to meeting Winter is any indication. Raesinia’s supernatural abilities provoke a strong reaction in her when she meets Winter; she is afraid of Winter and the infernivore that become part of her in Khandar. I suspect that this is setting the stage for a larger conflict that focuses more on the fantasy elements of this series.
My only complaint or dissatisfaction with these books is the lack of interaction between the main characters. Yes, Marcus, Winter and Raesinia all represent important threads of the plot that are slowly pulled together, but I can’t help but want them to actually interact with each other. Especially Marcus and Winter. I’m dying to know what’s going to happen when Marcus is finally aware that Winter is actually a woman considering his chivalric impulses. He truly has no idea, which you can’t help but laugh about because Winter’s disguise seems so obvious. And call me crazy, but does anyone else thing that Winter might possibly be Marcus’ sister? Am I grasping at straws? I honestly can’t remember what Winter’s story was before she was sent to the orphanage, but come on, it’s possible. Right? Marcus’ sister is described as having white-blond hair, and so does Winter. What are the chances of this being a coincidence? Or am I misreading or misremembering here?
The Shadow Throne was another great and compelling read for me. The military fantasy genre is new to me, but I can see this series being a great connector for fans outside of the genre. Like me, I suspect readers will be hooked by the characters and the unanswered questions in each book.
This is still a fairly new genre to me, so I don’t have much from my personal reading arsenal except for what I had suggested after reading The Thousand Names. To see my suggestions, see my review of The Thousand Names.