The Shadow of What Was Lost: Book One of the Licanius Trilogy by James Islington
|The Shadow of What Was Lost: Book One of the Licanius Trilogy by James Islington|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A chunky, action-packed epic fantasy urge-satisfier. Very more-ish!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 704||Date: November 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
Young Davian is an Augur; a once powerful race that has become almost extinct due to legislation. The surviving remnant stay silent about their powers lest they follow the same fate as their forebears – outlawed and then murdered by a harsh legal system. Up till now Davian has been safe within an academy for the Gifted: the Tol in Andarra. Then one day everything changes. Now Davian is running for his life, unaware of his capabilities or whom it's safe to trust. It's even worse than it sounds for this is a world on the edge of war, trying to suppress secrets that will endanger its very existence.
Australian writer James Islington was fed on the fantasy novels of Robert Jordan and, more recently, Brandon Sanderson to the extent that he was inspired to write his own. The result is this debut novel which is actually being compared to work by his author heroes. It's very easy to see why.
If fantasy thrives on jeopardy then The Shadow of What Was Lost is totally adrenalised. Without giving away spoilers, near the beginning we're presented with a catastrophic event that hurls Davian and his friend Wirr into a mission they don't fully understand. All they know is that it's fatal if they put a foot wrong. The fact they don't know where the right place for their feet doesn't help them any. Add to that Davian's illegal semi-formed abilities, a murderer they collect on the way who can't remember how or why he committed said murders and some other morally-ambiguous shady characters and we have an action packed nail biter on our hands.
James employs some great touches, the most well-used (as in used very well) of these being the Shadows. This is an underclass that has done something to warrant a form of painful branding, marking their bodies from the inside out. This branding via an intriguing form of infusion normally accompanies a failure of some sort and marks them as a servile underclass. However there is an exception to the failure rule…
Within this framework and a coming of age backdrop, James also gives us something present in all good fantasy: contemporary issues. In this case there's a palpable anger against the shadows and, indeed, against putative Augurs; an anger arising from fear and non-understanding of people who are different. (Yes, very current!) This was so well done that, as the story went on, I was really torn as to who I wanted to plump for, all things considered.
There are of course recognisable fantasy memes too but we expect that. The joy or failure of a fantasy novel hangs on the method of the recipe as much as the ingredients so recognising memes shouldn't be a problem. Here there's nothing to worry about: James proves himself to be a 4½* chef. In short this is a great introduction to the trilogy and my appetite is already whetted for whatever comes next. (Book 2, An Echo of Things to Come, is currently due out in June 2017.)
(Thank you so much Orbit for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you like a good drop of epic fantasy, then treat yourself to The Waking Fire: Book One of Draconis Memoria by Anthony Ryan or Stranger of Tempest by Tom Lloyd.
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