Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: The Shadow of What was Lost by James Islington

The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington
Orbit, 2017. 
Paperback. 736 pages. 

About The Shadow of What Was Lost:
"As destiny calls, a journey begins. 

It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them - the Gifted - are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion's Four Tenets, vastly limiting their powers. 

As a Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything. 

To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian's wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is... 

And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir."

The Shadow of What Was Lost had been sitting on my shelf for about before I finally plucked up the courage to read it. I'd been wanting to check it out for quite some time, but it's quite a chunker and it was a bit intimidating to start yet another series (I don't even know how many series I've started over the years), especially with a book of that size. But every time I heard something about it (which wasn't all that often, this one is a bit underrated), it was constantly raves. I finally decided to pick it up and now I'm having those 'why didn't I pick this up sooner?' thoughts. With all that being said, let's dive into the review!

The story starts off in a school setting, but it doesn't stay there for long and instead picks up rather quickly into an entirely unexpected storyline. I was fascinated by this story and how it evolved throughout the book. I'd also like to address the reviews that say this is a "rip-off Wheel of Time series," because although I can understand where they get that, it's clearly not. You can absolutely see inspiration between this book and other popular fantasy books, but Islington makes this entirely his own and incorporates his own unique storyline and world that sets it apart from others. There were so many twists and turns that left me feeling that this was a truly unpredictable novel, something that I really appreciated.

The world-building is really strong in this book. It felt expansive, but also manageable and not overly complex. I could follow along fairly easily with places and events that were described, something that certainly cannot be said for all fantasy books. One of my favorite locations in this book was a city called Deilannis that is semi-briefly visited, and it is locations like that that really added to my excitement and overall engagement in this book. In addition, the magic system was particularly interesting and I genuinely enjoyed learning how it worked. People in this world are separated into three main groups: the Gifted, the Augurs, and those with no magic. Augurs are the rarest and are considered to be essentially eradicated after they became unreliable and seen as a danger to the population. As a result of this, the Gifted were also 'bound' to the Four Tenets, which basically means that, at the core, they are unable to use their powers on any non-Gifted people--not even for self-defense--and are closely watched by the Administration. They are also, for the most part, completely hated and feared by all non-Gifted people. I thought that this setup made for an interesting story as it examined the various power constructs among these groups. For instance, the Gifted are technically more physically powerful, but the non-Gifted have them bound and unable to defend themselves, so therefore they are actually weaker. It seems like a basic setup, but it provided for a strong story and I liked seeing the differences between Augurs and the Gifted become more apparent.

I also loved our three main protagonists. I have seen a few complaints that the characters weren't developed well, but again I have to disagree. I thought all three of our main protagonists, Wirr, Davian, and Asha, were really well-written characters. Davian is what I would consider out main protagonist, though the POV shifts between him, Asha, Wirr, a man we meet named Caeden, and a few others along the way. I was never confused about whose POV we were in or what was going on, so I give props to Islington for using multiple POVs so successfully. It's not overdone and it's easy to follow along with what is going on--something I always appreciate in a complex fantasy series.

Davian appears to be your average young man, not overly outgoing, but also not exceptionally shy. His character begins to develop as the story moves along and we are able to learn more about him. His rather 'generic' initial impression changes immensely and he becomes a much more interesting character to follow as the story progresses. Wirr is a physically stronger person than Davian and has a more charismatic nature allows him to more easily journey in secrecy. He's an exceptionally loyal and trustworthy person and I loved watching his journey throughout the story as well. The final character I want to mention is Asha, who I would say is one of the more intriguing characters of the lot. Her journey through this story was so interesting and I love her relationship dynamics with various characters, as well as her own difficult journey that allowed her to grow and develop into a strong, fascinating character.

My favorite aspect of this book is simply how 'classic epic fantasy' it felt. Of course, I don't mean it's another Lord of the Rings or anything, but there was something very old school about the storytelling, the narrative, and the events of the story. It's very unique and highly engaging, and it also has an overwhelming epic quality that made me feel so at home and I desperately wanted to read it at any moment when I set it down. I wanted to race through this story, but I let myself read at a leisurely pace because I was enjoying it so much.

Overall, I've given The Shadow of What Was Lost five stars! If you like epic fantasy with compelling protagonists, strong magic systems, and and exciting plot, then you will love this one.

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

You might also like:
A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne
Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell
A Time of Dread by John Gwynne
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

1 comment:

  1. I've heard really great things about this book and every once in a while I see a review for it and I'm like, "I should push that up on my TBR" but I haven't yet because my current schedule is a little intense haha.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this one, thanks for sharing,
    ~Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles