So I’ve now read the rest of Django Wexler’s The Shadow Campaigns series. You’ll recall that when I read the first, I wasn’t thrilled about how the fun military stuff was integrated with the blah fantasy stuff. The straight-up good news is that this got a lot better very quickly.
Mostly this is because the books stopped being straight-up military fantasy—the scope of them expanded beyond a pseudo-Napoleon leading a military campaign, to encompass the whole pseudo-French Revolution and revolutionary politics, with the supernatural stuff being much more seamlessly integrated.
In a way this is disappointing—I was really looking forward to these bubblegum military fantasies, and instead ended up reading a lot of morally semi-ambiguous political fantasy, which wasn’t what I was expecting—but on the whole the books are probably better than the trashy fun Napoleon-with-magic I was hoping they’d be.
I do have one quibble with them, though, which is that the demands of fantasy narrative really clash hard with a sensible political philosophy. Because when you have a sympathetic protagonist who is a fantasy version of a real-world military dictator, and you have a sympathetic protagonist who is a monarch, it’s very difficult to make democracy actually seem like it’s necessary and good. So you end up with this situation where your very non-democratically-elected characters are all “pro-democracy” but also totally going off and being autocratic, because that’s what heroic protagonists in fantasy do.
But dubious politics notwithstanding, these were fun books, and my concerns about the first should be dismissed in the context of the larger series. Recommended for anyone wanting a Napoleonic-esque fantasy who’s already read Novik.