There are some novels that are inevitably drawn to a reader. Novels that are inevitable, unavoidable. They simply must be read. For me, The Thousand Names by Django Wexler was one such novel.
Through sheer weight of recommendations alone I would have been compelled to obtain the novel. The fact that it is military fantasy, my favourite sub-genre, was merely the nail in the coffin. I have seen the book described as flintlock fantasy, which seems appropriate. With muskets and bayonets this novel is very reminiscent of colonial times.
Firstly, I must say that I enjoyed The Thousand Names immensely, as I strongly expected that I would. Wexler does a number of things admirably, but the overriding achievement to me was in his discipline.
Wexler creates and shows the reader a rich, believable world but doesn’t force feed it down your throat. Instead, he parcels the world building out in flashes and snapshots that feel organic and not forced.
There is magic, but it is not over used or over explained. While I do enjoy complex and well fleshed out magic systems, it is refreshing to come across magic that is just that. Magic.
Another way that Wexler shows discipline is in his characters. He is sparing in his use of viewpoint characters. In a literary world where authors seem to be trying to tell their story through as many faces as possible, this choice kept the novel tight. The characters themselves are deep and likeable. Wexler creates a myriad of obstacles and adversaries to keep them busy and struggling. The theme of the everyman, or everywoman, muddling through as best as they can is prevalent and is effective at drawing the reader to cheer for the characters as they succeed.
However, for me the standout of the novel was in the battle scenes. They were just as I like them, numerous, bloody and easy to follow. Wexler pulls the reader onto the battlefield with the characters, presenting a clear and often gory picture of what was happening. Also importantly, the combat always felt dangerous and had stakes. It must feel as though there is danger for the characters, and Wexler delivered on that.
Ultimately, The Thousand Names achieved what a first novel in a series should do. It had an memorable engaging story that left me craving more. Immediately after finishing I ordered the rest. Overall, I would fully recommend this novel to anyone who loves fantasy and doesn’t mind a little, (or a lot) of violence.
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