The first thing you should know is that I love this series; there’s no way I'll binge-read a five-book series if I didn’t truly enjoy each installment. However, The Infernal Battalion disappointed me and I’m extremely disheartened to give the last book in this series less than 4-stars—the final volume and an ARC too—but honest I must be. The Shadow Campaigns had been very consistent in quality from the first up to the fourth book, even when the direction of storytelling shifted to politics or actions. This final one, however, is the only book in the series which fell short for me.
Why did this book not live up to the series thus far? As far as I'm concerned, it is packed with more fillers than actual plot progression. Like before, Marcus, Raesinia, and Winter remained as the main POV characters. After the fantastic penultimate book, it saddened me to see how unnecessary Raes and Winter’s POV in the first 65% book become - so many parts could be cut and it would not have mattered to the main plot. Django also introduced a lot of new characters in the last installment of the book, that I felt was unnecessary and unimportant. Raes’s story actually bored me to sleep. Her arc involved dealing with tons of politics that revolve around financial complications and court drama together with plenty of new characters, which I find uninteresting. I wasn't able to bring myself to care about these new characters which were introduced in the FINAL installment of the series. All I want in a concluding volume is to read the continuation and the wrap-up of all the main characters' journeys, of which I've experienced through the eyes of a reader for the past books. Moreover, these new characters didn’t contribute to the main plot, and did not even feature in the last third of the book, which brings to my point that they merely feel like filler content.
I guess my high expectations after coming from the incredible penultimate volume, The Gun Empire, added fuel to fire. I have anticipated Infernal Battalion to go full throttle with the main plot up until the ending of the series. I can also tell you that if you’re expecting this final installment to be action-packed like I did, most likely you're going to be disappointed like me. It is a fact that the main climactic actions happened only around the 90%-97% point of the ebook; it’s that short. Sure, there may be minor action sequences here and there for Marcus and Winter throughout the book, but most of them are just not that thrilling and gripping.
That said, the last third is wonderful. Every character we know from the past four books has their own conclusion with no loose ends. Django has always been skilled in establishing his characters, and that remained true here, especially for the females. Winter has become one of the best female characters I’ve ever read in any high fantasy series, and it’s not only her that’s well written; it’s very evident that Django was meticulous in strengthening every female's characterization. I can’t honestly speak the same for the male characters though. By the end of the series, only Janus and Marcus were memorable to me. I'm pretty sure I won’t remember any of the other male characters in a week's time. In fact, I can't even recall Give-Em-Hell’s real name, and he actually did appear in all five books. As for the action scenes, although it was too short for my preferences, overall, it was well written and immersive because of Django’s continuously engaging prose.
While I sound quite negative in my review, I want to state once again that I mostly liked this book and most definitely enjoyed the entire series. Even though I felt let down by the last book, the previous four were fantastic, and I will still recommend this series to anyone who wants to read military fantasy with great, kickass female characters.
The Thousand Names: 4/5 Stars
The Shadow Throne: 4.5/5 Stars
The Price of Valor: 4.5/5 Stars
The Guns of Empire: 4.5/5 Stars
The Infernal Battalion: 3/5 Stars
The Shadow Campaigns: 20.5/25 Stars