Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost

The Shadow of What Was Lost
The Licanius Trilogy (#1)
James Islington
Date started:
Date finished:
20 March 2021
21 March 2021

A high fantasy novel with outlawed magic, murky motivations and a confrontation millenia in the making. The Shadow of What Was Lost is impressive. What’s even more impressive is that Islington has succeeded in revamping classic high fantasy; capturing the tropes we crave while avoiding sluggish lengthy detail. Fans of Wheel of Time and Mistborn seeking further fantasy, look no further!

I was hooked right from the word go. Islington’s stunning imagery, a mysterious escape and promised future punishment kindling my anticipation. However, the opening chapters later grew mysterious at best and down-right confusing at worst. Fortunately I stuck with it, my understanding improving, allowing me to appreciate the work Islington has created. Treat this as a novel requiring active engagement, no airport reader here!

By far the aspect I enjoyed most was the intrigue, twists and questions Islington leaves unanswered, tempting me to continue devouring this story well past 2 am. I loved how Islington played me for a sucker when I believed Davian’s judgement. When this is later revealed as wrong I just kept turning the pages, burning the midnight oil to determine the actual truth. The sheer number of times my assessments were wrong or Islington teases later explanation only fueled my reading deep into the night. I’m still scratching my head on how certain characters met via some strange dream like time travel. One was yet to be born and the other was deceased when the meeting was set up. It’s refreshing that Islington steers clear of the high fantasy classic “wise selfless wizard mentor” who can do no wrong.

Characters in the novel were a bit of a mixed bag. Some like Davian are enjoyable to follow as their naivety bleeds into cynicism by the manipulations Islington creates. Almost without exception the characters are morally grey with intentions, allegiance and honesty left unclear. One exception is Whirr and I think it’s no coincidence that I found him to be my least favourite character. He’s just too damn good. Saintly morals, infallible loyalty and superb skills, it’s like Whirr is the champion everyone should aspire to. I hope that this character gets a whooping next novel to force him down into the mud and muck the rest of the characters are slogging through.

I found the magic system left largely unexplained beyond the broad stroke description. I would have preferred a deeper dive into the mechanics of how spells are created and cast. The magic system created did feel like a definite nod of respect to the legendary Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, while still remaining unique. It is neat that Islington integrated this almost Easter egg without degrading readability for unfamiliar readers.

I rate this novel four stars out of five with solid plot, intriguing machinations and a gut punching cliff hanger. While not quite scratching the five star itch that would result in me crowing about it’s magnificence to all ears, I won’t hesitate to recommend this novel to friends and family and look forward to reading book two.

2 thoughts on “Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost”

  1. Good overview, but I would argue that the story gets dry halfway through the novel and just seems to go in circles until the ending cliffhanger. Overall good read non the less

    1. Hi Ben,

      Thanks for your thoughts, I did find the cliffhanger a little uneccessary – if I like your world enough I’ll read the sequels, but I can understand why authors put them in. Congratulations on being the first comment on this website, I’m working on more content to upload at the moment, hope to see you around again.

Leave a Reply to Ben Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *