I received a review copy of The Shadow of What Was Lost in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank James Islington and Orbit Books.
To begin with, I really thought this was going to be a “run of the mill” chosen one in a magic school sort of fantasy adventure. Thankfully only about 5-10% takes place at said establishment and the rest embraced a pretty awesome and beautifully depicted fantasy world. It still gives off the “chosen one” vibe throughout but that trope doesn’t bother me if it’s done well. Following on from a previous war, magic-wielders are controlled by 4 tenets. 4 rules which limit their power and where and how it can be used. It took a while for me to really appreciate the main 3 characters, Davian, Wirr, and Asha. When I did though, I analysed how they were really well fleshed out especially as they are only in their mid to late teens. They are highly likeable and although they traverse tragic emotional directions throughout, they are a joy to follow. In Islington’s debut, things do not always go as planned for anyone, especially the magic-wielding Gifted. There are many deaths, lots of battles, and stalking shadow-beings. There are two types of magic. Essence, which is from the Brandon Sanderson school of magic schemes and a more mysterious, banned art used by the Augurs. We find out more about this later on in the book as a main character learns it for himself. Islington acknowledges himself that he wrote this after reading the Mistborn series and similarities are evident but this isn’t a parody or a carbon copy. It’s one of my favourite epic fantasy series since The Stormlight Archives and The Faithful and The Fallen which speaks volumes! I’d say that a mix of those two juggernauts of fantasy reading is a good general depiction to describe Inslington’s work. Characterisation is strong throughout and even though some individuals’ motives are foggy at best it makes for a scintillating reading experience. Characters outside of the main 3 such as Caeden, a powerful young man whose memory has been wiped, Taeris, a scarred mage who has followed Davian’s life closely, and Aelric, a fine swordsman really help to bolster the piece.
We travel throughout a good proportion of the world and the cartographed map was really helpful to set my bearings straight to follow the action. At 693-pages this is a lengthy endeavour but I was never bored and in fact, I kept thinking about when I could go back to the story and read it next. This opening in the Licanius Trilogy was a pleasant surprise and I’m sure Islington will become one of fantasy’s heavyweights. I’m keeping this review short and not divulging too much information regarding the plot as I don’t wish to spoil anything. I will say that when certain characters get split up and then didn’t even know whether their friends were still alive that I was gripping the book intensely, glaring down at the pages begging Islington that they will meet again. A book has succeeded for me when it has me that emotionally engaged and engrossed. This is a brilliant opening chapter in what will undoubtedly be a damn fine fantasy series. It’s highly detailed, very well written, and although death and gore are frequent, it contains a bit more hope than most stories currently around in this ‘grimdark-era’ offer. The Shadow of What Was Lost is emotionally engaging and the characters are great to follow, support, threat over, and care about. Now that I’ve finished this review I can start reading An Echo of Things to Come… this series is that addictive that I just need to know what happens next.
PS. I listened to part of this on Audiobook and must comment that Michael Kramer (The Stormlight Archives) does an amazing job.