Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Price of Valor Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Django Wexler
Publisher: Roc
Genre: Flintlock Fantasy, Military Fantasy
Series: The Shadow Campaigns Book Three
Pages: 512

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(Spoilers for The Thousand Names and The Shadow Throne).

For those of you out there who haven’t started reading The Shadow Campaigns you’re missing out on one of the best fantasy series’ currently being written. The Thousand Names, the first book, was a good book, it wasn’t great but it was good.  The Shadow Throne, the second book, was absolutely brilliant. It’s a massive jump in quality storytelling, which I liken to how I felt when reading Elfstones of Shannara after The Sword of Shannara. It’s really that much better.

Price of Valor picks up the story after Orlanko’s defeat. Maurisk, Raesinia’s former co-conspirator, is running a reign of terror by executing droves of people everyday on trumped up charges with a new device called the spike. It’s not long before an assassination attempt fails to take Raesinia’s life, and she reverts back to her incognito mode to root out her would be assassins. Accompanying her on this mission is Marcus D’Ivoire now a colonel who’s been charged by Janus to watch over the capital.

On the outskirts of Vordan, Janus leads his army against the League of Hamvelt, the first outside nation that looks to capitalize on Vordan’s political crisis. Serving under Janus is Winter Ihrenglass whom has also been promoted to colonel, and she’s charged with ordering the first female battalion in history into battle. As Winter’s responsibilities increase, it threatens to damage her relationship with Jane as well as the soldiers serving under her.

Price of Valor finds itself perfectly balancing the political intrigue that dominated The Shadow Throne with the musket firing, canon exploding action of The Thousand Names. All three major narrators – Raesinia, Marcus, and Winter – return, but Marcus is given more narrating time, while Raesinia takes more of a backseat. Joining them during the interludes is Maurisk, whom is used to reveal some of the intentions of the antagonists.

Like he did in the last book, Wexler continues to tease a possible romance between Raesinia and Marcus. I believe that’s a risky venture, but he’s made everything work so far, so I’m curious to see how this plays out.  Winter and Jane’s relationship continues to be a source of drama. Up down. Up down. Those two are all over the place, but wisely, whenever their relationship looks like its going to become too melodramatic, Wexler changes gears.

The non-narrating protagonists continue to remain fully dimensional. Tidbits of Sothe’s mysterious past are slowly revealed to the reader, but there are still plenty of questions remaining. Mad Jane’s explosive tirades make her an unpredictable time-bomb of a character. She may be the only person that is clearly seeing what’s going on – especially in regard to Janus –  but she loses most of her credibility with the reader due to all the other horrible decisions she makes.  Janus continues to be the master manipulator, winning and defeating everything set in his path. With each subsequent book Janus gets creepier and creepier, and Price of Valor is no exception.

I greatly admire what Wexler’s done with his LGBT characters. He expertly avoids terrible cliches like focusing on gay characters debating whether or not they should be gay, everyone else’s reaction to them being gay, and most importantly he doesn’t treat being gay like a personality trait.  Fantasy is a genre with few LGBT characters in major roles, and hopefully Wexler’s willingness to tackle the subject matter will encourage other authors to do so as well.

It’s not that often that I go and buy a book on release date. Advanced reader copies might be a big reason why, but I usually get around to reading something sooner or later … unless said book is special. Price of Valor is one of those special books and after traveling to two stores, and making employees go on store-wide hunts for the book via cracking open box after box in the back of their warehouses, I finally had my book after a lengthy two hour search.
I can safely say it was worth the effort.

Score: 9.4

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