Author: Django Wexler
Genre: Flintlock Fantasy
Series: Shadow Campaigns Book Five
(Spoilers for Shadow Campaigns Books 1-4 are below).
The Beast is unleashed.
Absorbing mind after mind, it's building an army. And leading that army is Janus bet Vhalnich the undefeated and greatest general in Vordan's history. Only Winter Ihernglass is aware of the Beast's escape and it's abilities to control people's minds. Deep in Murnskai she must make her way back to Vordan to warn the others and confront the Beast itself as she hosts the only demon that might be able to defeat it.
In Vordan, Raesinia Orboan works with Marcus D'Ivoire to heal their country after years of warfare, but when Janus declares himself emperor all hope of peace is shattered. Raesinia is forced to begin political negotiations Vordan's oldest enemy to save her country, and Marcus once again heads into battle to face the commander that's taught him everything.
If there was one thing I was worried about after finishing Guns of Empire, it was how the protagonists would be able to stand up and believably fight an antagonist as strong as the Beast and his undefeated general Janus. Fortunately, Wexler immediately begins setting up limitations to the Beast's abilities, and from the beginning it looks like the protagonists will at least have a chance at winning this fight.
As a new series the Shadow Campaigns has been one of my favorites. As it's progressed Wexler has created a whole series of progressive characters, that are well rounded, well developed, and are for the most part engaged in interesting internal and external conflicts. His plots from book to book tend to vary from being more conservative, traditional, and straightforward, to being more morally complex and progressive.
When Wexler heads the more conservative route you find yourself reading something like The Thousand Names, and when he goes the more progressive route he ends up writing something like The Shadow Throne. I find the other two books somewhere in between, but I would say they tend to lean towards the progressive side. I enjoyed one of these books a lot more than the other. So when Wexler goes straightforward and conservative I find myself enjoying the story, mainly because of the excellent character development, but a predictable plot has all the merits of a predictable plot.
So in a way I guess you could say I was surprised to see Wexler take the plot down the conservative route for this final book ... especially after the setup in the last book seemed to present a lot interesting conflict opportunities. The plot hits its points in a timely and efficient manner, which kind of ruins the organic feeling that was so enjoyable in the previous three books. The "surprises" were fairly easy to spot, and the ending was so traditional I'm kind of surprised it was published in 2018.
The other big issue is the moral conflicts, or lack there of. These conflicts really made the middle volumes of the series engaging. In Infernal Battalion Raesinia and Marcus are able to resolve their morally pressing issues fairly easily, while Winter more or less already faced down her biggest moral issue in the last book, coming to terms with having to kill Jane, since she's hosting the Beast's body.
Even with these setbacks it's the characters that have made this series so enjoyable. And the integrity of Winter, Marcus, and Raesinia as characters is still maintained and that's a lot to ask for in a longer story. Realizing a lot of this review kind of sounds negative, I really want to emphasize the point that I actually really enjoyed reading this. It just fell a little short of what I was hoping for. Infernal Battalion is good read and an enjoyable ending to what's been a great series. And although Wexler states he has no plans to return to this world, I'm hoping he decides to come back one day.