Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Thousand Names

I am currently reading a book that – in the normal course of events – I would not have even picked up and look at before. It is THE THOUSAND NAMES: BOOK ONE OF THE SHADOW CAMPAIGNS by Django Wexler (Published by Penguin Books [ISBN 978 0 451 46510 8]). (To be honest, the author's name would have normally put me off, but the book cover was intriguing ... so I picked it up and looked at the synopsis ... and then I was hooked.)


The book is set in a fantasy world that bears a remarkable resemblance to nineteenth century Earth. Vordan (a European-style empire/nation) has been occupying Khandar (a North African-style country that seems very similar to Egypt and the Sudan rolled into one) and has trained and equipped a locally-raised army for Khandar's princely ruler. The story begins just after a religious movement (The Redemption) has swept through Khandar, destroying all those who are not 'true believers'.

The Vordanai forces – the Colonial Regiment – and the Prince of Khandar have fled to an old fortress on the coast and await an evacuation back to Vordan. Threatening them are an untrained army of Redeemer volunteers, the former soldiers of the Prince's Vordan-trained army, and the nomadic desert tribes (Bedouin-like tribesmen).The evacuation does not come; what comes are untrained 'reinforcements' for the Colonials and a new commander – Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich. He plans to defeat the Redeemers and reassert Vordanai control.

The story is told from the point-of-view of two main characters, Captain Marcus d’Ivoire and Ranker (later Sergeant/Acting Lieutenant) Winter Ihernglass. Captain Marcus d’Ivoire is a professional soldier who served as second-in-command of the Colonials under the previous colonel (until the latter was killed in a skirmish with Redeemer troops) and now serves in the same role under Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich. Winter Ihernglass is a young woman who is masquerading as a man so that she could enlist as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials to escape from a dark secret from her past.

I am about halfway through the book and I must admit that I am enjoying it for two reasons. Firstly the background to the book is one that I am familiar with (it is not a million miles removed from some of the situations I have used in my own colonial imagi-nation wargames). Secondly the magic/fantasy elements in the story are not overplayed or overused. As a result they do not dominate the storyline ... which I think is a good thing.

I look forward to finishing this book ... and I can see it spawning a number of HOTT armies amongst other wargamers who read it.


According to the 'blurb' I have read, Django Wexler 'graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not planning Shadow Campaigns, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts.' (The underlining is mine.)

Perhaps I can now begin to understand why I am enjoying this novel so much!

10 comments:

  1. What a name ! , wish I'd been christened Django rather than the pedestrian Anthony William ! , Tony

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  2. I must look into this - it sounds a bit like my sort of thing. Incidentally, if you haven't encountered his books before, you might try Harry Turtledove's 'historical' fantasy - especially the 'Lost Legion' ... I think it's a trilogy.

    The premise of Lost Legion is that in the middle of a desperate battle with Gauls, a Roman legion gets caught up in come kind of magical (?) vortex and transported to another civilized planet, together with the Gaulish chieftain, who had been a bit overenthusiastic.

    The world to which the legion is teleported bears a remarkable similarity to the Byzantine Empire of around 1050 A.D.

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  3. Speaking of authors' names: this one is no weirder than Dashiell Hammett or Elmore Leonard... :-)

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  4. Mosstrooper (Tony),

    It certainly is a memorable name ... but I'm not sure that I would enjoy having it as my first name!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Archduke Piccolo,

    I like the nineteenth century setting of the book. It is a bit different from the usual Middle Earth-like worlds that feature in most fantasy books that I have read.

    I have read quite a few of Harry Turtledove's books and found them to be of a rather variable quality. I have not read LOST LEGION, but I may well give it a try.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. Archduke Piccolo,

    I suppose that the name is not very different from the ones that you mention ... but it does sound as if it has been created as a nome de plume.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Arthur1815,

    I must admit that I have my doubts ... but he is an American so I suppose that it might be his real name.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  8. Well, Bob, I purchased this book because of your post . . . and I'm hooked.

    Thank you very much, sir.


    -- Jeff

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  9. Bluebear Jeff,

    I am pleased to read that you are enjoying the book. I must admit that it is not a genre of book that I usually enjoy, but once I started to read it I found it difficult to put down.

    All the best,

    Bob

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