Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Book Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington (fantasy)

The Shadow of What Was Lost
Author: James Islington
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Protagonist Gender: Male/Female

I'd had this bad boy sitting on my shelf for quite a while, but our winter vacation gave me an excuse to pluck it from the TBR pile. It came highly recommended by a few friends whose opinions I trust, so I decided to give it a chance . . . and I'm glad I did.

The Shadow of What Was Lost started out with a bang, taking the coming-of-age and chosen-one tropes of epic fantasy, then slapping an immediate layer of danger and death upon it. It's clear from the start that there are huge stakes to this struggle, proper save-the-world storytelling, peopled by characters who are as unique as they are compelling.

While I wouldn't say I found it dry, there was a sense of distance to the narrative that I find is common to the current batch of epic fantasy, and that's probably my only complaint. It's a raw sort of realism, a desaturated thinness between the world of the author and the reader, that lacks the wonder of the pulp fantasy I grew up with. It's not quite grimdark, even if it has elements of that sub-genre to it, but there is death and destruction galore to go with the hope and heroism.

Aside from that, the narrative comes closer to my memories of epic fantasy than most stories I've read over the last few years, making it worthy of the World of Time comparison on the cover. There's magic, mystery, and monsters within it, cosmic fates and human struggles combined that drive us through quests and battles alike. There are key characters who are more than they seem, other than they seem, and even though we get one very big answer before the end, it opens up a whole new world of questions.

Davian is clearly the protagonist here, the character who drives so much of the story forward but, for me, it's Asha who gives it meaning and significance. Hers is a story that starts out tragic before becoming heroic, and there ares deep hints that she's destined for something more. That, coupled with the development of the Caeden mystery, and tagged with the curious foreshadowing of Davian's future, has me excited to see what James Islington has planned next.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ 

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