The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington is the first book in the Licanius Trilogy, and follows primarily the paths of three friends; Davian, Asha and Wirr. They live in a time when the magic that is practiced – called Essence – is largely frowned upon. It is permitted but has onerous restrictions place on those who practice it. And while the three friends are all training in its use, they each eventually have their own… well, without revealing any spoilers, there are quirks for each of them in relation to their use of Essence.
They are separated and reunited at different points during the story, and as they seek to understand why one of more of them appear to be being (or attempted to be) manipulated to serve other more powerful ends, a power of enormous malevolence appears ready to break free from the bonds that have been holding it in check for nearly two thousand years; threatening to bring their world down. Needless to say, over the course of the book, things are revealed about each of the friends and they each become individuals of increasing power and importance (in different ways) in the events that are shaping their world.
Overall, I found the book to be gripping. While at first Essence was little more than a renamed magic, it became more complex and interesting as the story went on, and by the end it’s clear that not even the users of Essence really understand it.
For the most part the characters had depth. Of the three, I found Wirr to be the least 3-dimensional; but I came to care about both Davian and Asha and am looking forward to seeing how they develop further when the second book in the series is published later this year.
There were several twists and turns in the story, and while I could see some of them coming, there were enough that I didn’t to keep me unsure of just where the story would go next, and to keep me more than interested in learning how it would develop. There is a major reveal at the end of the book that certainly makes me want to learn more about just what is going on with that particular character.
I found the pacing also good; never rushed, while the momentum kept me reading to the end.
The only thing that annoyed me was something that afflicts all books that have several main characters; and that is the shifting Points of View (POV). If an author wants to have multiple main characters then it’s inevitable I suppose; but for me as a reader there is little I hate more than getting to an exciting point in the story, only to turn the page to the next chapter and instead of finding out what happens next, to switch to a different character in a different place – “But I don’t want to read more about Asha now; I want to see what happens to Davian!” – or the other way around, etc. But that is really just a statement of my own reading preference rather than a criticism of the book.
All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed the Shadow of What Was Lost. Unusually for me, I registered my email on the author web-site so I can get news about the release of the next book in the series, and will be purchasing it as soon as its e-book becomes available. A terrific book that I would wholeheartedly recommend.