I'm not sure I can be coherent about this book/series. I really do love it quite a lot. I had originally pegged this series as a British based historical fantasy. I was very, very wrong. I suspect that's because my knowledge of colonialism is mostly with the British empire, I mean I know there were other European colonial powers but generally I see colonialism in books and think British. The first book being set in the colonial country does nothing really to belie that, though I suspect that if I had a better grasp on colonialism and it's history I would have pegged this correctly much sooner. This series is alt/fantasy history of the French. The first book was the French Foreign Legion and the next two were the French Revolution. There are enough major changes, alterna-France is not part of the alt-Roman Catholic Church for example, that it isn't directly the French Revolution with magic. But there's just enough familiarity that even I, who am really not well versed in European history, can see where Wexler got his inspiration. I have no idea why the idea of a fantasy based French Revolution tickles my fancy, but it really, really does.
I have once again skimmed over most of the battle scenes. I'm sure that someone else more interested in military battles or strategy would find them interesting, I don't. I think they're well done, and occasionally they're even exciting to someone like me who reads the bare minimum and doesn't appreciate the strategy. This book really pulls no punches with how awful getting wounded was in the late 18th early 19th centuries. And there were moments in the battle descriptions that I winced because of the realistic blood, guts, and death.
But the major reason I just love these books is that Django Wexler writes believable women. There are a number of male fantasy authors, whom I quite like and think write very good books, who don't quite write believable women. Brandon Sanderson or Guy Gavriel Kay, for example, write very good books with many female characters but those characters are just not quite 100% believable and there is something about those female characters that indicates to me that they were written by men. I really wish I had a better handle on why they weren't quite believable because then I could run workshops on how to write believeable women, but I suspect the reasons are many and varied and cannot be pinned down to a few simple things to avoid. However, Wexler does not fall into that at all. I absolutely believed every single one of his female characters, and there are a lot of them in the books. Winter and Jane and Bobby and Abby and Reasina and and and I get excited just thinking about them. I had to double check a couple of times to make sure that Wexler really was male, and believe me that's a compliment.
They aren't perfect. I'm not sure how I feel about how rape is handled. Personally I think it's handled well. It's never gratuitous and I don't feel like it is used to punish the women in the books. However it is present, and in the fist book there's a very brutal rape that is seen in the aftermath as you walk through a defeated enemy camp. It is seen as despicable by both the character through whom we see this poor woman's body as well as most of the characters who hear of what happened in that camp. I don't think it's too much and in general I feel that rape is handled well but I can understand the point of view of someone who differs in that opinion.
I am very much looking forward to the next two books.