The Shadow of What Was Lost – James Islington

It has been twenty years since the godlike 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 and his friends Wirr and Asha set 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 was published at a really interesting time for me (well, the Orbit version…this is another book that was previously self-published!). Reading primarily fantasy was still a pretty new thing to me at that point, and I was collecting books in a near-frenzy. And I mean, this thing hit the shelves and it was just fucking gorgeous.

And with the third book in James Islington’s Licanius Trilogy coming in early December, I figured this was the perfect time to get started on this BEAST of a book! I managed to read a lot of books (for me) in October, because I was reading books that were taking 2-3 days or so. I got through The Shadow of What Was Lost’s nearly 700 pages in around ten days or so, but it actually felt a lot quicker than that. This is a phenomenal debut novel, and something that is absolutely massive in scope…I’m not even sure where to begin!

This is a multi POV novel, with four main POVs: Davian, Wirr, Asha, and Caeden.

To start the book, Davian, Wirr, and Asha are all friends at the same school. But their world gets flipped on its fucking head in short order, and it becomes clear this isn’t going to really be a magical school story, but more of a quest! Davian is entrusted with a mysterious object & told to head north. Wirr accompanies him. Asha’s fate is…something different altogether.

Along the way, we meet Caeden, a young man with severe memory loss, who may or may not be a mass murderer. So, yeah. There’s also plenty of great secondary characters who fill out this…fellowship.

This book has earned comparisons to both Mistborn & The Wheel of Time, but since I’ve read neither of those, I can’t comment. But there’s for sure a Lord of the Rings influence. And look, I’m not a Tolkien nut. At all. I read the books in the early 2000’s, I greatly prefer the movies, and I can’t honestly ever imagine going back and reading the trilogy again. (Don’t get me started on The Silmarillion) But whether Islington was influenced by Tolkien, or just by other authors who were, the impact is there. There were at least a couple of scenes that felt almost like direct homages to scenes from LOTR.

The Shadow of What Was Lost is an incredibly dense book…there is a lot to take in here. The way the magic works can feel occasionally confusing, but it’s ultimately wicked cool. And I can imagine that aspect of the series really ramping up as things move forward.

One of the things I loved the most was that this book takes an incredibly dark turn, and I really didn’t see it coming. Of course there’s plenty of stabby moments & intrigue in the early going, but things had a bit more of an epic/heroic fantasy vibe. But then for real, there’s a scene that just fucking shocked me with how dark it was. And I guess I really felt it more because it was so different from what had come before. Just a really brutal situation for the characters that casts a bit of a pall over things moving forward.

I’m honestly doing a terrible job reviewing this book, and I think that’s because it really is so vast in its scope. I grew to love some of these characters a lot, Asha in particular. She’s someone whose life takes a full 180° from where she thought she’d be, but she’s an incredibly strong person. I think her role in An Echo of Things to Come is going to be absolutely critical.

I tend to be a huge fan of the slow burn/book one vibe…meeting all the characters, getting a sense for the world & the magic & the danger…sort of the calm before the storm. The Shadow of What Was Lost has all that & more. There’s a lot of moving pieces in this story, and by the end, the stakes feel incredibly high. This is a detailed, ambitious, and inspired fantasy novel. I’m really excited not just for the remainder of The Licanius Trilogy, but for whatever James Islington has in store for us in the future.

13 thoughts on “The Shadow of What Was Lost – James Islington

  1. I loved this book!

    I read this one and the sequel last year, and they were both so good. The plot and world building are great, but he really nails the characters. And they in turn keep you super invested in the story.

    I can’t wait to see how it all ends up with the final book comes out next month.


  2. Awesome review! This is making me want to finally pick it up and FINISH the damn thing. I’ve started it 3 times (restarted it each time to make sure I wasn’t forgetting any details) and never gotten more than 250-ish pages in because I always pick the worst timing to try it out. I’m feeling a fantasy mood coming on, though, so I think it’s time to try again. Also,

    I greatly prefer the movies



  3. I’ve been hearing mixed reviews so I was skeptical to read it but your wonderful review has surely piqued my interest 😊😊😊


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