Title: The Shadow of What Was Lost (The Licanius Trilogy #1)
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Release Date: November 8, 2016
Narrator: Michael Kramer
Listening Time: 25 hours, 29 mins
Goodreads Synopsis: 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 own powers. As a young Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and his friends are despised beyond their school walls for the magical power they wield: a power that Davian, despite his best efforts, cannot seem to control. Worse, with his final test approaching and the consequences of failure severe, time to overcome his struggles is fast running out. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that will change his life – and shake the entire world.
Plot: The plot of this first book feels very much like a classic, epic fantasy. Characters are learning of a looming threat and do the best they can to help, while learning and facing dangers along the way. This book feels very accessible to teens or people that primarily read YA which is a big plus. It’s easy to follow and despite its length, has great pacing. James Islington did a great job of moving the plot in fun and interesting ways. It’s slightly slow in parts but it never detracts you from the story. Plus, you get some great hints of what’s to come if you look closely.
Islington also delivers on the shocking moments throughout this book. You don’t get hardly any foreshadowing of when something will happen all of a sudden. He sneaks up on you with revelations, foreshadowing, etc. I don’t get very surprised much anymore in books, but this blew me away. I gaped at some of the stuff that happened. The magic system is a bit subtle in this book (not as prevalent like Mistborn is) but it’s a good foundation for later books and adds more of an atmosphere to the book.
Characters: You get the perspectives of a few characters: Davian, Wirr, Asha (all three are good friends) and Caeden. All three friends get separated for a good amount of the book and you see the stuff they deal with. I particularly loved Wirr, Asha and Caeden. Asha showed the anger, confusion and dread that comes with dealing with sudden changes. Wirr offers a grounded personality and he’s a great overall guy. Caeden doesn’t know who he is, but tantalizing flashbacks properly make you unsure if you can trust him or not. They all had their own unique voices and it was nice to see a nice friendship between guys and girls. The one flaw for me was Davian. He never felt fully fleshed out like the other characters. I felt it was just “I’m here and I’m doing this” or “I’m not worried at all of what’s going on, just with the flow.” He never really used his brain on what was happening in some situations, but we also don’t get a lot of time with him so he felt underdeveloped.
As far as more minor characters, I really enjoyed the princess Karaliene, whose independent personality and sometimes being unpredictable was fun. And then there’s Malshash, whose very ominous and a great mystery character. Islington did very well at keeping things from you about him for now.
World Building/Magic System: The world is a really big place in this series. There was a war between the Augurs and humans. Now, people think that all the Augurs are dead and you see the prejudice the humans have of the Gifted people. The magic mainly focuses on the Augur abilities that some of the characters have. Davian, for example, can sense truth from lie. When someone lies, Davian sees black smoke come from the person’s mouth. There’s also a use of Kahn, magic that helps to manipulate the Essence around the person. Kahn is more of an ancient art that no one uses anymore. There’s more Augur abilities in this book, but I wont’ mention anymore here because it’s fun to discover more of the abilities. But if the Gifted are caught or sentenced for crimes, they become Shadows with black scars and they no longer have abilties. Shadows are also treated very badly and can’t advance in many trades. But what’s even more fun is the lore and stories you uncover in this world. You see flashbacks of the old times, even of other characters as they uncover the looming threat. It’s big like Sanderson’s books, although with not quite as much detail.
Writing: This was the weakest part for me. Some dialogue is either cheesy or dialogue that you’ve heard or seen in books, movies and TV. For a debut novel, you can tell that it’s the author’s first book. But the strongest writing was in the telling of the flashbacks and old lore as you get further into the book. The author did a good job at making the stories sound old and almost like fairy tales of that world. But I can see room for growth as this series goes on. While the writing isn’t the best, I never got deterred from the story because of it.
Narrator: Michael Kramer hits out of the park again. This guy makes long fantasy stories easy to enjoy, picture and get invested in. He even uses a few different voice tones for characters that I hadn’t heard him use before which was nice. I think he’s also improved on voicing female characters. Sometimes I got Sanderson vibes with some of his voices but that just made me smile; I’ve listened to the majority of Sanderson’s works thanks to his narration. If you need a new fantasy book to listen to, this one will be fun for you.
Overall: This is a solid start to a new fantasy series. It’s very refreshing to see teenage protagonists that have great friendships, finding themselves and adapting to new environments without having romance on the brain all the time and just being stupid and reckless. The enemies are creepy, great build up and awesome surprises. I still need to be more invested into Davian’s character and I’m hoping that the dialogue and writing itself will get better. I also enjoyed that this is a cleaner adult fantasy, similar to Sanderson. I’m always looking for adult fantasy that’s not as explicit like George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie and Peter V. Brett. I can’t handle that stuff. But if you’re looking for fantasy more like Sanderson in many ways, go grab this book. Plus, the second book is out in August, so not a long wait 🙂
If you’ve read or listened to this, what did you think? Had you heard of this book before? Any other series like this to recommend?