Magic and the military.
Several authors have combined these two elements into fantasy fiction. Glen Cook. Steven Erikson. Brian McClellan. A few others. But one of my favorite authors, Django Wexler, has one of my favorite series with the Shadow Campaigns.
Those who love magic in their military have a new book to look forward to this week. The Infernal Battalion, Book Five of The Shadow Campaigns, publishes tomorrow. It features amazingly-crafted characters — Janus, Raesinia, and Winter — and sets up conflict between them in a way that makes for a book that can’t be put down. And conflict, as we know, is paramount when it comes to military fiction.
“As Queen Raesinia Orboan and soldiers Marcus D’Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass grapple with the aftermath of a hard-fought military campaign, they soon discover a betrayal they never could have foreseen. The news arrives like a thunderbolt: Janus has declared himself the rightful Emperor of Vordan. Chaos grips the city as officers and regiments are forced to declare for queen or emperor.”
Below, Wexler discusses The Infernal Battalion and what he has in store for readers in the future.
Unbound Worlds: The Infernal Battalion is in stores tomorrow. Tell Unbound Worlds readers about the Shadow Campaigns and how this book fits in with it?
Django Wexler: This is always a tricky question for me because I don’t want to spoil the first four books for people who haven’t read them! Shadow Campaigns is the story of the brilliant general Janus bet Vhalnich, and the men and women who follow him on his campaign — though whether his goal is to save his country or a move in a game of ancient, secret magic is yet to be seen. For me it’s always been a story about loyalty — what drives people to follow a leader or a country, and especially what happens when the two point in opposite directions. In this last volume, people are going to have to make their choices!
UW: Queen Raesinia and Emperor Janus are in direct conflict with one another, with other characters having to choose sides. As the writer, did you intend for this chaos to mimic anything from our own world’s problems? Or does it merely suit the story at hand?
DW: At this point, we’ve diverged pretty far from any real-world history. The series was originally intended to follow the French Revolution and the campaigns of Napoleon much more closely, but it’s wandered pretty far as the characters came into their own. So it’s not reflective of any specific events, but rather the age-old problem of what happens when a successful military leader turns his loyal troops against the state he ostensibly serves. It seemed like a fascinating time to write about, with uncertain loyalties and difficult choices.
UW: You added magic to a military, making it a cool hybrid. If you could add magic to our own military, what form would it take?
DW: Ooh, that’s a tough one. It depends what you can do with the magic, of course! Magic in the Shadow Campaigns is fairly subtle, not the sort of thing you’d use in a field battle. But it would probably be excellent for special-ops work, spying, or anything of that nature. Combat magic might be outclassed by modern weaponry, but anything that could make you invisible, read minds, and so on would be hugely useful!
UW: A lot of epic fantasy highlights the struggle between the good and evil in a person’s heart. The character Winter epitomizes this. What does she mean to the overall story in The Infernal Battalion?
DW: Winter really has become the heart of the story, more possibly than I originally intended! I don’t think, though, that it’s about the struggle between good and evil — Winter is basically a good person, though she’s certainly struggled at times. Instead, I think that her story hinges on what good means, how to translate good intentions into action and the difficulties you encounter along the way. It’s about the duty of soldiers to their leaders, and the duty of leaders to their followers, and the conflict between those. And it’s about costs, and how long you can keep doing good when the costs keep mounting.
UW: What is next for Django Wexler? More Shadow Campaigns? A new series? Do tell!
DW: Lots of things! I’m in the process of finishing up the first volume in a new YA series (tentatively titled Deepwalker, though that will probably change) for Tor Teen. It’s the story of a girl who is dragooned by her government into boarding a legendary ghost ship crewed by mage-born, with the goal of trying to take it over to add to their navy. The society she finds there, and what she has to do to try and climb to the top, end up being nothing like what she expected.
Next up is an epic fantasy trilogy from Orbit. I can’t write a better description that my last post, so I’ll just quote it: “Gyre and his sister Fiera were torn from each other when they were children. Twelve years later, they will meet again as enemies. Trained in the ways of the Order, Fiera believes the only way to keep the world safe is to eliminate all traces of the forbidden blood magic that almost destroyed civilization many centuries ago. But Gyre, a mercenary on the lawless frontier, seeks out the lost arts to break free of the Order’s domination and release mankind from the dead hand of the past. As the tensions across the country rise, not even the ties of blood will keep these two siblings from splitting the world apart.”
On the sillier side, inspired by, well, you guys, I’m running a giant tournament of Disney characters to find out who comes out on top in the inevitable post-Infinity Gauntlet mega-crossover. Come vote for your favorites HERE!
The Infernal Battalion by Django Wexler is in fine bookstores tomorrow!
Return to the campaign!