In my recent review of The Legends of Muirwood, I wrote that if one was looking for a classic and satisfying “orphan comes of age and develops magical powers” story, a better choice would be James Islington’s recent novel, The Shadow of What was Lost (which acts as the first entry in his Licanius Trilogy).
The blurb that convinced me to give this one a try indicated that the book compared favorable to The Wheel of Time, so readers of my WOT review will understand why I jumped at giving the book a try. Indeed, TSWWL owes a great debt to WOT- both stories start with a relatively obscure protagonist, surrounded by his friends and mentors. Shortly, their peaceful environments are disrupted, forcing them to flee in the company of old friends, and new, possibly untrustworthy acquaintances. Islington takes, what seems to me to be great pleasure in riffing on some of the tropes of WOT, including the novel’s prologue, which mirrors Robert Jordan’s classic teaser of Lews Therin Telamon, wandering among the wreckage of his home and family, not knowing that he himself was responsible for their destruction.
Things I liked:
- Cool magic system, and one which seems like it will lend itself to further “reveals” over time
- It’s clear Islington is drawing from authors I love, like Jordan, Sanderson and Rothfuss
- The story is morally complex, and even by the end of the book, it’s not entirely clear to us who “the good guys” are, and what the “bad guys” motivation is.
- Islington’s writing is really solid, especially for a debut novel
By the end of the book, I was wholly committed, and the sequels have risen to the top of my list of forthcoming books. Islington has created a prototypical epic fantasy world, and while he may not be breaking new ground, he’s shown that he can world-build with the best of them. I eagerly await the rest of the trilogy, as well as whatever he decides to do next!
Rating: 4- Mandatory Reading