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The Shadow Campaigns #0.5

The Penitent Damned

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Alex is a master thief, with dark magic to give her an edge. When she goes up against Duke Orlanko's Concordat secret police, though, she may have taken on more than she bargained for...

This is a prequel short story to The Thousand Names. It was released for free on io9 -- http://io9.com/the-coolest-fantasy-st... -- and is also available on the Kindle Store.

20 pages, ebook

First published June 17, 2013

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About the author

Django Wexler

45 books3,072 followers
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.

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5 stars
311 (17%)
4 stars
785 (45%)
3 stars
549 (31%)
2 stars
70 (4%)
1 star
16 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 118 reviews
Profile Image for Jack.
Author 5 books133 followers
April 9, 2018
A fun little ditty that gives us a bit more of Alex's backstory, but not a necessary entry into the existing Shadow Campaigns lore. I don't mind a little tidbit or morsel in an established series, but I was kinda hoping for a little more with this one. This was much shorter than I expected (that's what she said!). But oh well, you get what you get and you don't throw a fit. And since I like Alex as a character, any additional time spent with her is a good thing.

Ultimately, The Penitent Damned won't really make much sense or an impact for anyone who hasn't already read the actual novels in the Shadow Campaigns series. So....ummm...read those first, mmmkay?
Profile Image for Elena Rodríguez.
682 reviews307 followers
June 4, 2023
“Once,we were vulgarly known as the Obsidian Order. ”

Hace tiempo cuando acabé la Compañía Negra y no andaba llorando por todas las esquinas, me dijeron que me leyese esta saga de fantasía militar.

Este relato es el 0.5 así que me decidí a leerlo antes de darle una oportunidad a la primera novela pues no creía que me fuese a hacer ningún spoiler y al mismo tiempo me pondría en perspectiva sobre lo que iba a encontrar en sus siguientes entregas.

Obviamente, uno de los problemas o inconvenientes de leer un relato antes de la novela principal es que puedes perderte sobre todo en cuanto al mundo, sin embargo, ha sido una buena lectura y buena presentación de los personajes.

Asimismo, me ha dejado con buen sabor de boca y bastante interesante para seguir con el resto de las novelas.

Ojalá encontrarme a estos personajes pronto en los siguientes libros porque siento que merecerán mucho la pena.

“Elysium has a long memory. Maybe once upon a time, the Priest of the Black hunted people like me”.
Profile Image for Conor.
148 reviews315 followers
December 13, 2014
This was a short but enjoyable novella set in the world of the awesome The Thousand Names.

The main character in this novella was a young thief who uses her magical powers to succeed in audacious robberies. Despite the limitations to characterisation imposed by a 50 page novella I found her to be likeable and interesting. Her powers were especially cool. I was disappointed with the focus on magic at the end of The Thousand Names and how it distracted from realistic military action but I really enjoyed how magic was used this time. The main character used her powers in clever, inventive ways and a magic duel was done really well.

We also have a handful of other characters: Metzing, ageing master thief and the main character's mentor. Duke Orlanko, the sinister minister (hey, I'm a poet and I didn't even... ah... rhyming?) of intelligence whose schemes played a significant role in the Thousand Names and seem likely to play an even bigger role going forward. And Andreas, Orlanko's deadly and mysterious agent.

The ending to this was horrifying with and I hope this will be dealt with quickly in the next book.

This was an enjoyable read that has dragged me even further into this world and gotten me really psyched to read The Shadow Throne.

Profile Image for Molly.
342 reviews126 followers
August 17, 2015
Rating, 3.5

Thieves and assassins. Politics and magic. A too short little short.


This is my first time reading something written by Django Wexler,... so ... no, I'm not familiar with The Shadow Campaigns series, and this I shall rectify soon.

Pity that when the real action began, the story was at it's end.
Profile Image for ᴥ Irena ᴥ.
1,652 reviews216 followers
October 31, 2014
What starts as an ordinary, mildly interesting story turns out to be an extraordinary introduction to The Shadow Campaigns series world.
It surprised me, it didn't go where I thought it would, it didn't end the way I thought it would. It is the reason why I liked it. The promise of a wonderful fantasy is there.
Profile Image for YouKneeK.
659 reviews80 followers
February 11, 2019
The Penitent Damned is a short prequel to The Thousand Names in Django Wexler’s The Shadow Campaigns series. It’s available for free here.

Duke Orlanko learns that a famous thief is planning to steal something valuable from him, so he assigns somebody to try to prevent the theft. The story is primarily about what happens when the thief makes the attempt.

This short story wasn’t nearly as entertaining to me as the first novel, so I wouldn’t recommend starting with this if only for that reason. It was mildly entertaining, but nothing special. Story-wise it could probably be appreciated on its own, but it makes reference to a couple names and terms that are more meaningful within the context of the first novel. Also there’s a reference at the end that nobody would get if they hadn’t read the first novel.

A couple spoiler comments:
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,071 reviews2,634 followers
September 26, 2013
I read and loved Django Wexler's The Thousand Names this summer, and only found out about this short story afterward. The Penitent Damned features different characters, but it's a prequel to TTN taking place in the same world. Of course, my recommendation would be to start right out with the full length novel, but if you haven't discovered this author's work yet or want a taste of the writing before you take the leap, then this is a great way to get started. The story can be found here for free: http://io9.com/the-coolest-fantasy-st...
Profile Image for Sotiris Karaiskos.
1,178 reviews89 followers
September 7, 2020
I have reached the fourth book of the main series and I am at the point where the protagonist of this short story appears, so I realized that it was time to read it. Nothing great, a little night adventure with a little backstory but it definitely adds something to the bigger story. I would like it to be a little bigger and offer us more details about this very interesting heroine but I have to be content with what the author wanted to give.

Έχω φτάσει στο τέταρτο βιβλίο της κύριας σειράς και βρίσκομαι στο σημείο όπου κάνει την εμφάνισή της η πρωταγωνίστρια αυτής της μικρής ιστορίας, οπότε κατάλαβα ότι ήρθε η ώρα να τη διαβάσω. Δεν είναι τίποτα σπουδαίο, μία μικρή νυχτερινή περιπέτεια με λίγο backstory αλλά σίγουρα προσθέτει κάτι στη μεγαλύτερη ιστορία. Θα ήθελα να είναι λίγο μεγαλύτερο και να μας προσφέρει περισσότερες λεπτομέρειες για αυτήν την πολύ ενδιαφέρουσα ηρωίδα αλλά πρέπει να αρκεστώ σε αυτό που ήθελε ο συγγραφέας να δώσει.
Profile Image for Anya .
124 reviews9 followers
March 21, 2021
I didn't realise this was only 20 pages... bummer. Nice little story about Alex and her thieving days. I wish it was longer and that I read it at least before book 4 of The Shadow Campaigns.
Profile Image for Thomas Stacey.
194 reviews31 followers
October 28, 2017
2.5 stars.

An entertaining short story with a bit of setup for the full length novel.

Short stories aren’t really my thing, but at this price (a big fat zero) how could I not pick it up?
Profile Image for Mihir.
647 reviews302 followers
July 16, 2013

Review originally over at Fantasy Book Critic

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Penitent Damned is a prequel short story that was featured for free on io9 and after reading it, I would very much recommend it to readers as well with the caveat that they might enjoy it better after reading The Thousand Names.

The story is set in Vordan and basically is a heist story. The story focuses on Duke Mallus Kengire Orlanko, Royal Minister of Information and leader of the Vordanai secret police, the all-seeing, all-knowing Concordat, Andreas the Concordat assassin and Alex the thief. Alex and her mentor master Metzing have been given a job that is almost impossible to turn down. Andreas warns the duke of an impending heist and so the trap is set. It remains to be seen which side will triumph as both sides have secrets of their own and surprises to spring as well.

I read this short after I had read the book and I’m glad for that as certain things the book illuminates become very easy to understand after reading the climax of The Thousand Names. While I believe most readers will enjoy this story anyway, I think those who read The Thousand Names will be able to discern a few more facts from it and especially the last line gives out a very crucial part that possibly reveals an important clue in regards to an important plot point. Plus the story also shines a sharp light on the Vordanai magic system and that is revealed quite late in the main book. The story does have a nice twist in its climax and as far as short stories go, is quite an excellent one.

Overall The Penitent Damned is a story that I would heartily recommend to all fantasy lovers. If you haven’t discovered Django Wexler yet, then this is an excellent, free way to get started. Though my recommendation would be to read it after the author’s long form debut as that way you will enjoy it even more!
Profile Image for Antonis.
211 reviews42 followers
July 13, 2013
This short story can be found and read for free at:

Great short story with a lot of tension and interesting twists that while a bit expected are still very enjoyable! A good appetizer for Wexler's full length novel in the same universe. I can't really say more as due to its short length I won't be able to avoid spoilers. But it's short and it's free so there's nothing holding you from reading it and enjoying it yourselves!
Profile Image for Richard Eyres.
594 reviews9 followers
August 13, 2014
Thought i would take a quick break while reading The Thousand Names to read this short story. What a great little short this is. It builds up a character that i hope we see again in the future. It is a short read, and there will be no spoilers here about it, but it is NOT set in the same area as The Thousand Names.
Profile Image for Daniel.
754 reviews74 followers
April 28, 2015
Lepa priča koja fino proširuje jednog od važnijih likova osnovnog serijala. Kratko ali slatko. Minus je jednio što je sama priča suviše kratka. Ali nekada je to i dobar znak kada nas knjiga (knjižica stvarno) ostavi željna za još više.
Profile Image for Mark.
490 reviews84 followers
December 8, 2013
Wow, what a completely different writing style to the the thousand names. Its a must read just to enjoy the writing.
Profile Image for Férial.
426 reviews39 followers
February 16, 2018
It's difficult to rate 20 some pages.

Anyway, 4 stars because we get to know a bit more about some characters we'll meet in The Thousand Names and because I hope that this (very) short novel has a purpose. I know we'll meet Alex again in The Shadow of Elysium but does she have a role to play in the rest of the series ?

Only one way to know ... on my way to The Price of Valour

Profile Image for Murat.
132 reviews11 followers
July 31, 2017
It made me to decide to start the series although I don't have much time
Profile Image for Jasper.
419 reviews37 followers
August 22, 2014
originally posted at: http://thebookplank.blogspot.com/2014...

Last year Django Wexler published his first book in The Shadow Campaigns series, The Thousand Names, which was followed just a few weeks back by the sequel in the series, The Shadow Throne, where he really had outdone himself, tranforming his storyline into the right direction! When I was adding the book on goodreads I found that there was a short story written prior to the events of The Thousand Names called The Penitent Damned, and since this is now one of my favorite currently running series, there was no other choice than to catch up with it!

Django Wexler doesn't hesitate one moment to throw you as a reader in the midst of an assassin/thieving/backstabbing kind of a story. The Penitent Damned is set before The Thousand Names and follows sort of two storyline, the first focuses on Duke Orlanko, whose name shouldn't have escaped the attention of readers of the full lenght books. He is the man behind the infamous Concordat, the secret police on the streets of Vordan and Andreas an assassin hired by Orlanko. The other perspective is offered by a young women and master thief Alex. Who has an very specific advantage working in favour for her: "Dark magic" I wonder what that could be...

In the introduction you see Orlanko and Andreas conversing, being the Concordat, they know everything that goes on about in Vordan and most of the rest of the country. Orlanko has heard that a thief is coming to Vordan to steal something of him and he tasks Andreas to stop this from happening. Right after this brief but eye-opening introduction their side the perspective is changed to Alex and her tutor Metzing who have traveled from Desland to Vordan to steal a precious item, after their short introduction and one that will put a grin on your face when you know just what Alex can do, the story focuses on the actually stealing of said item and this is where everything goes down... And where I will stop from telling more. But let me tell you that it is very, very cool and the style in which everything goes down is more in the lines of the first book than the second book.

The Penitent Damned is a short story only 15 pages long, but Django Wexler does a great job with introducing the sides of the story with Orlanko and Andreas and Alex and Metzing. Though Orlanko for me is already an established characters the other were new, and within the few pages dedicated to them, their are shown in well developed way. Django Wexler definitely knows just how to create some enigmatic characters with only a few sentences. The two characters that really stand out are Andreas and Alex, they both have something extra to their ordinary, if you know what I mean... *hint*. Alex is especially great to read about as she is young and naive and very powerful but when you take those to former elements and combine them with the latter one, you do get a recipe for disaster... Alex had gotten enough wise words from her mentor Metzing... but it is what you do with those words whether they help or not.

Another thing that I liked was that Django Wexler showed more of the Ignatha Sempria, or the Penitent Damned, in The Thousand Names you already learned a lot of them but just highlighting several elements once again and writing the story in the perspective of two of the Ignatha and their power is just cool. Also Django Wexler delves a bit deeper into the history of the "war" between Pontifex of the Black or also known as the Black Priests and the Penitent Damned. It adds a much darker undertone in those few paragraphs that help build a greater sense taken together with the two full length books.

I do think that you should read this story either after the first book, The Thousand Names or after the second book, The Shadow Throne, in order to fully understand what is going on in the story or at least appreciate what is going on. With The Penitent Damned, Django Wexler shows that his stories doesn't necessarily have to be 400+ pages long to be powerful. He hits all the right snares to create a very cool story. It's non stop sword and sorcery and over to soon! I hope that their will be more short stories featured in this world or that their will be a Forbidden Library one in the near future.

Read the full story here

Profile Image for Phil A.
33 reviews5 followers
January 14, 2016
This was a very short story, but very exciting too! I really like Alex's magical power. The back and forth battle between Alex and the Penitent Damned was a great scene in the story. Having read "The Thousand Names" first, you can now appreciate the reach that Orlanko and his group holds. They remind of the Smoking Man from the original X Files TV series. His group is undercover and out of the public eye, but very powerful and unchecked. I would love for this story to continue. How about it, Django?
Profile Image for John.
1,458 reviews36 followers
May 21, 2014
I usually don't like it when Kindle Singles serve as "teasers" for a much longer work or series. In this case, though, I'll make an exception. There's something about Wexler's worldbuilding that feels very fresh, and THE PENITENT DAMNED made me eager to explore this new fantasy universe in much greater detail.
Profile Image for Chompa.
680 reviews53 followers
May 20, 2015
This is a prequel to a book I've already read. No worries though, it has nothing to do with The Thousand Names aside from being in the same world and some of the organizations.

Really an excellent read and a great taste of Wexler's writing. I greatly enjoyed Alex and her strange ability. I'd love to read more about her.
Profile Image for Amy.
722 reviews9 followers
February 5, 2015
The Thousand Names, the first book in the Shadow Campaigns series, is on my to-read list, so I thought I'd check out this prequel short story. Very nicely done, girl thief tries to pull off a job with her magic. Don't know how it ties to the main story, but we shall see when I get to it.
Profile Image for Mayank Agarwal.
857 reviews29 followers
February 7, 2019
Too short to be enjoyed

At about 20 pages it’s too short a story to be enjoyed, at best it’s an introduction to the world of The Shadow Campaigns Series, more a glimmer of the kind of magic to expect as the series has much more to offer with magic playing a minor part. Still one can gauge the ability of the author his writing style and storytelling skill from this short story.

The plot revolves around a young thieve having some mysterious power which makes her overconfident into believing she can get away from any situation. I was enjoying her characterization and wanted more of her.

Giving it a low rating as it left me with an incomplete ending or you could say one I didn’t like, this felt like the first chapter of a book.
Profile Image for Robert.
193 reviews2 followers
May 3, 2023
Very cool short story which serves as a prequel to The Shadow Campaign.
Wexler reads a lot like Sanderson. Clear magic system, likable characters and lots of action. It is very losely connected to The Thousand Names, which didn't bother me. I definitely want to read more from this author.
Profile Image for Josip.
7 reviews
March 12, 2017
Quite intriguing , but should't Alex felt the presence of other penitent damned?
Profile Image for Lexie.
2,080 reviews301 followers
April 9, 2014
I want to read "The Thousand Names" and this short story (maybe 20 pages) was a very good sample of what to expect. We open on the "Last Duke" Orlanko musing how he hated using Andreas because he (and his comrades) represented Orlanko's concession that his world was not as perfectly organized as he wanted. Orlanko is a man who likes everything to be in their place and to need Andreas to clean up messed that couldn't be dealt with in the normal ways rankled him.

But hey you know what they say about necessary evils and all that...

Alex meanwhile is the protege of Metzing, a semi-retired master thief who hailed from Vordan and vowed never to return. Alex convinces him though--the money's too good to pass up for such a simple job, they could retire to being merchant princes!--and with her usual skill the job goes off without a hitch. Except the job was a trap and the trap was for Metzing not Alex.

The latter half of the short story is taken up with Alex learning the price of her talents. In a short time we see the arrogance that Alex has in regards to her talents and skills and the cautious warning she should have listened to from Metzing.

This only made me want to read "The Thousand Names" more as the person the Last Duke mentions in the last line is one of the main characters of the first book. "the Penitent damned", the name given to those who wield the (supposedly) demonic magic like Alex has and who give their lives selflessly to making others' lives better even though they will burn in damnation for all time, intrigued me as much as it did Alex. The Black Priest tells Alex that her magic stems from a demon, but Alex scoffs at this. We're never told where she gained her shadowy, inky tool and all the Black Priest claims is that it was lost hundreds of years ago due to a clerical error.

Right. Sure. Because when I make a clerical error at work it leads to a possibly demon forged and possessed weapon getting loose that no one seems too worried about tracking down.

I do agree with other reviewers that if I had read "the Thousand Names" first that some of the references would make more sense, but I think this works well enough as an introduction to the world. Just make sure to have the book on hand to read directly thereafter.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 118 reviews

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