on 28 February 2015
Opinion for this one is a bit split, but I'm leaning towards the better side of average overall.
The beginning of the book I found a bit of a slog to read; info-dumps, awkward names and the lack of any movement didn't convince me early on that this was something I'd want to continue reading.
Once the plot gets moving though, the main strength of the book comes to the fore: its characters. The two POV focus-points, Marcus and Winter, are given backgrounds, real personality and are the kinds that make understandable decisions as the plot progresses: they're likeable, and really helped turn large parts of the book into compelling reading for me that otherwise wouldn't have been.
The plot itself isn't particularly interesting, the Arabia-esque desert style setting works fine, but most of the book simply follows an army from engagement-to-engagement. Action set-pieces a-plenty are fine, though verging on getting a little tired toward the latter half, but do serve effectively to broaden out the POV characters and the interesting set of secondary characters, particularly the mercurial Colonel Vhalnich.
The final stages of the book introduce a magic system. Subtly hinted at earlier in various chapters, its final revelation isn't exactly spectacular – the religious overtones not helping one bit – but was effective enough, despite a tame "boss-battle", that I'd be interested in finding out the next part in the stories of Winter, Janus and the captain.
I'm not exactly running to The Shadow Throne (the follow-up novel), but I'll get to it at some point.
on 18 July 2013
I took a chance on this book, and had reasonably high hopes for it, but my overriding feeling towards it for most of its 500+ pages was 'meh'. It's a military fantasy, which has immediately caused people to draw comparisons to the likes of Glen Cook and Steven Erikson, which is what suckered me into buying it. Sadly, it's undermined by its drab characterisation and totally predictable storyline. And when I say totally predictable, I mean *totally* predictable. If it had been a movie I would've been throwing things at the screen because it was so obvious what was going to happen. Even the big 'twist' is completely obvious from very early in the book. Okay, there was one bit that took me by surprise and - unsurprisingly - it was the best part of the book. But it didn't last long.
In a George R. R. Martin stylee - something which is getting old now - each chapter is told from the point of view of one character, whose name appears at the beginning of each section. However, there are only two main characters, one of whom - Winter Ihernglass - is vaguely interesting, and the other - Marcus D'Ivoire - is so bland and boring that I found each of his chapters a trial of patience and endurance. Winter is a woman posing as a man in the army and even though she is the more interesting character, Django doesn't do nearly enough with her situation. In fact, he gets around all of her potential problems by having her buy her own tent so that she doesn't have to share with anyone.
This is a military fantasy, so you expect battle scenes - and they are there, lots of them. But they are written without any flair or sense of peril. I never once felt thrilled or tense and, because I didn't care about the characters, I was never bothered about what happened to them, and the progress through the campaign seems to flow along far too easily. The dialogue is another weak point, usually involving one character asking another 'How are you feeling?' or, more likely, 'What shall we do now?'. There's no zip, wit or punchiness that makes good dialogue, to my mind, and therefore the characters remain flat and stale.
Coming off the back of reading Anthony Ryan's storming Blood Song, where the author took standard fantasy tropes and worked absolute wonders, I feel that Wexler has taken a fairly innovative setting (desert-based with Napoleonic technology) and missed the mark by a fair way. There was real potential here, I think, but it's been lost somewhere along the line. This is the first of a series, so he can always put it right. At the moment, though, this Django is still chained.
on 15 July 2016
Suffice to say I immediately ordered the other books from the Shadow Campaigns series after finishing this one. Could have been a bit less descriptive in all those battles and a bit more when it comes to all that magic, but otherwise great characters, and enticing story.
on 12 September 2014
A new subgenre of fantasy for me, I have to say I enjoyed my first foray into ‘flintlock fantasy’ an enormous amount. Having never read anything of the subgenre, all I had to go on were the amazing reviews of this, and those of Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage Trilogy. I had no idea what to expect, and I am glad that the gamble paid off. The book was fast-paced, and I seemed to blow through it very quickly.
I’ve come to find –recently in particular- that I am a great fan of military fantasy, which I think The Thousand Names should certainly be classed as. The fact as well that it challenges the traditional ‘sword and shield’ fantasy trope, made the read a voyage of discovery for me.
I engaged with the plot quickly, enjoying the fact that ‘magic’ was considered mysterious by the protagonists and was therefore side-lined to a certain extent. While the twists were a little predictable in places (at the risk of spoilers, one of the characters not being what (s)he seemed), the ingenuity displayed by the protagonists in various of the tight spots they found themselves in was incredibly entertaining.
Overall I found the book very entertaining, in large part for its focus on the military and campaigning aspects. The way the sequel was set up in the last chapter makes me wonder whether or not I will enjoy it to the same extent. On the strength of The Thousand Names however, I am certainly willing to give it more than a chance.
on 30 November 2014
I loved it! this is a great read and there is so much to like about it. Ok, it definitely does not have the depth of some other fantasy I've read (that's why only 4 stars) but it doesn't really need it. It's just a enjoyable bit of fun which does not take it's self too seriously and is all the better for it. My only query is that when I first saw this book on amazon it had a lot of 1 and 2 star reviews (mistaken reviews I think after reading it) and when I eventually came to buy it those reviews seemed to have vanished.....strange that. I wonder if mine will too.
A debut author from Del Rey that not only brings a brand new world to the fore but really picks up on the whole Flintlock Fantasy that fan's have been crying out for. The world is imaginative and with a tale that feels like it's the beginning of an epic series (with the careful world-building alongside giving the reader chance to know the world through two of the main characters initially) all round is set to give you something special.
As with Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, the scope is huge, the cast massive (with something for everyone) and when added to pace alongside prose that will more than keep you glued all round makes this something pretty unique. Throw into the mix that this debut is massively impressive alongside the twists and turns within really is giving people the chance to get in on the ground level so early on. With luck, Django will continue to work on the success of this, learn lessons from some of the problems within and won't be struck down with the infamous book two curse.
on 31 May 2016
This series has the potential to be incredible. Potential is the key word here because whilst there were many fantastic elements in this book, there were some major problems.
First, the story itself is very good. The indigenous population consisting of desert tribes, religious fanatics and trained soldiers form a coalition to overthrow the prince and his foreign army. The latter retreat to a coastal fort. When fresh troops, supplies and a brilliant new Colonel arrive from home, they decide to march back and retake the city.
The world building is impressive. The location (an arid desert) is described vividly and the plot was complex but well explained. The characters were a pleasure to read about including the already mentioned Colonel Janus (a highly educated genius who is also secretive and possibly crazy; a brilliant character) and on the other side we have the mysterious leader of the desert tribes: the 'steel ghost'.
The story is actually told through two characters in the advancing army: Winter and Captain Marcus. The former is a fantastic creation, a highly capable person who learns on the job and becomes indispensable to the unit. Winter also has a fascinating back story and hopefully we'll see more of that in the next novel. Marcus is a more an 'everyman' character but he serves a purpose as a medium for the reader. Also, it's a nice touch to see the same situation from two different perspectives; Winter starting out as a low level soldier and Marcus being a Captain.
This is Flinklock fantasy so we have muskets, cannon balls and bayonets. This is a bit of a departure for me but overall I liked the style and the author blends this with traditional fantasy tropes and a dash of mystery and the supernatural so it's a satisfying read in that regard.
That said, there are some negatives. I appreciate this is military fantasy and sieges and battles are to be expected. Moreover, there is excellent detail of army life: the drills, formations in battle, the ranks and the hardships of life on the march in an unforgiving environment. But the amount of battles we have to endure is ridiculous. Not only are there many but they are described in excruciating detail. Why the author felt the need to do this I'll never know. It completely kills the pacing of the book. 100 pages could be lost easily here and the trimmed down book would be all the better.
I'm not afraid to discard a book mid way through and I came so close to binning this one on about three occasions. Then, the battle would be over and the excellent plot, characters and dialogue would kick back in and I would race through the pages again.
So if you like military fantasy you'll love this but I honestly think even fans of that fantasy genre would struggle with the turgid monotony of the battles.
Overall, the good outweighs the bad....just. It was a bit of a bizarre read because I raced through certain sections and crawled through others.
on 14 October 2015
Marcus and Winter are the two main protagonists and Wexler has nicely balanced the narration between the two. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale. It bounces along with plenty of nice touches of humour, detailed world-building that doesn’t hold up the pace and engrossing storyline. It was also refreshing to have a military-based fantasy so richly character-led. I found myself really caring about both protagonists, as well as many of their fellow soldiers. This shapes up to be pleasantly complicated, as there is a political agenda to all the warfare kicking off that we barely skimmed, and I’m betting will feature a whole lot more in the next book in the series, The Shadow Throne, which I’m delighted to report is by my bed.
Winter, a runaway orphan destined to be married off to the first man who pays for her, disguises herself as a boy and joins up. Her natural talent for tactical thinking under pressure ensures her survival, but she is always having to keep herself aloof. And before anyone rolls their eyes and thinks this is a ridiculous fictitious event, there is on record there is a steady trickle of girls and women who joined both the army and navy from the 16th century onwards to serve, often in appalling conditions, alongside their male comrades and often it was only when they were wounded they were discovered.
The battle scenes are vividly depicted, with plenty of tension and I stayed up waaay long than I should have to discover what happened next. Wexler brings his clean, punchy writing style to bear on the supernatural elements and the magic is described with a real sense of wonder that is often lacking in fantasy books. Altogether, this is a very promising series and I’m thoroughly looking forward to reading the next one.
on 11 September 2016
Strong, intelligent plot, great characterisation and strong females to balance the storyline. Excellent writing style keeps the book intense even while the author establishes the universe. Can't recommend this series enough.
on 24 September 2014
This isn't Sharpe.
It's a sort of Joe Abercrombie type of a Sharpe (you know, the real Bernard Cornwall books; I do hope I've got his name right, that'd be embarrassing...)
but yes, a Joe Abercrombie version. so it's kind of like a book which is gritty and realistic; I love gritty and realistic. but it's not really either.
the goodies are unilaterally good. the baddies are simply bad. the twist isn't very unexpected.
but like the aforementioned JA, it's a really good story, with engaging characters who have their own voices and motivations. the world is to simplistic to compare to Steven Erikson, Robert Jordan or GRRM, but it works.
in this post game of thrones fantasy genre, where awful books are churned out to cash in, this is a good story and a very enjoyable read. there isn't much better.
actually, the red knight by miles Cameron is much better.but if you've read that, this is also pretty good.