Series: The Shadow Campaigns #5
Published by Ace on January 9th 2018
Often it is said that the final book that can either make or break a series, but I’m thrilled to report that The Infernal Battalion is a finale that exceeded my expectations, bringing about a stunning conclusion to The Shadow Campaigns.
As this is a review for the fifth and final installment of the series, the usual caveats apply: beware of possible spoilers for the previous books, if you are not already caught up. A great deal has happened to bring us to this point, including the escape of the Beast—the demon of all demons, and a force of unspeakable evil—from its ancient prison beneath Elysium. Its influence spreads the way it feeds, absorbing the minds and controlling the bodies of all those it infects. Now it has amassed an unstoppable army of these drone-like soldiers, and at the head of this infernal host is none other than General Janus bet Vhalnich, whose faculties the Beast had stolen at the end of The Guns of Empire.
But to those who are unaware of Janus’s possession, his actions seemed like the worst kind of betrayal. Vordan has only just emerged from a bloody war, and Queen Raesinia had been looking forward to a period of peace for rebuilding. Instead, she now finds herself under threat from the very same man who won her kingdom its many victories in battle. Janus has declared himself Emperor, and his message to Raesinia is loud and clear: surrender her throne, or else he and his army will destroy anyone who stands in his way.
For readers who have been following The Shadow Campaigns and are familiar with Janus’s military prowess, we know perfectly well what his character is capable of. Perhaps it only makes sense for Vordan’s greatest hope to become its greatest threat, and in retrospect, this crux of the series might have been in development for several books now, under Wexler’s subtle guidance. It made for a gripping premise, one worthy of a grand finale, for not only did the phenomenal battle sequences and action make this the most intense novel of the series, Janus’s apparent betrayal also created a lot of interesting conflicts for our characters. Many of them are unaware that their general is under the control of the Beast, giving rise to a lot of uncertainty and tension—an element of suspense that I felt was missing in the previous book.
As you may recall, in my review of The Guns of Empire, I noted the sporadic pacing of the book, almost like the series seemed to be biding its time, holding itself back for the right moment to unleash its full force. Well, that time has finally come. Wexler is in his element as The Infernal Battalion shifts the focus back to the chaos and violence of the frontlines, making this one an action-packed installment.
However, the true strength of the novel lies in its characters. We’ve seen the cast expand in size and diversity over the course of five books, but the three main protagonists—Winter, Marcus, Raesinia—remain the heart and soul of this series. Individually, they’ve each endured so much, and now that we’ve arrived at the end of this journey, I desperately needed to know what would become of them. Happily, this finale did not disappoint; all three of our stars get their moments to shine, and there were plenty of revelations about them as well, with the surprises coming at us hard and fast. Marcus won my love in this one, as he was in the most unenviable position of having to go up against Janus—his former commanding officer that he greatly admired and considered a friend—knowing that his chances of winning were practically nil. I was also touched by his love and loyalty to Raesinia, even with their romance full of ups and downs. Winter was a joy to follow too, despite her constant guilt-ridden thoughts and self-pity parties, and I think her epic actions in the climax will end up being one of the series’ most memorable moments.
In sum, The Infernal Battalion is the culmination of everything that has been building up throughout The Shadow Campaigns. As a finale, I couldn’t have asked for more; the plot and characters were engaging, the ending was satisfying, and as far as I’m concerned, Django Wexler has written a pitch-perfect conclusion to one of my favorite series. It has been an incredible journey, one that I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone with a love for epic fantasy fiction.