The Shadow of What Was Lost (The Licanius Trilogy #1) – James Islington

four stars black
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit 
Pages: 726
Release Date: August 4, 2014

It has been twenty years since the end of the war. The dictatorial Augurs—once thought of almost as gods—were overthrown and wiped out during the conflict, their much-feared powers mysteriously failing them. Those who had ruled under them, men and women with a lesser ability known as the Gift, avoided the Augurs’ fate only by submitting themselves to the rebellion’s Four Tenets. A representation of these laws is now written into the flesh of any who use the Gift, forcing those so marked into absolute obedience.

As a student of the Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war fought—and lost—before he was born. Despised by most beyond the school walls, he and those around him are all but prisoners as they attempt to learn control of the Gift. Worse, as Davian struggles with his lessons, he knows that there is further to fall if he cannot pass his final tests.

But when Davian discovers he has the ability to wield the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything. To the north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir. And 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…


The Shadow of What Was Lost is a sprawling fantasy with a lot of characters, an intricate magic system, and political intrigue that will keep all types of fantasy readers entertained.

The Shadow of What Was Lost begins by introducing the main characters in a school setting. Here is where readers learn the basics about the magic system, key players, and the political climate of this world. The tone and direction of the story quickly change as Islington rips the rug from readers’ feet by setting the characters on a different path than expected. The pace is relentless and doesn’t stop until the end.

As mentioned previously, there are a lot of characters. Unfortunately, not all the characters are fleshed out equally. This is partly due to the fact that there are a lot of mysteries surrounding the characters: their pasts, motivations, and identities are directly related to the plot.

There are multiple perspectives and Islington employs them strategically. There is a section in the novel where one of characters is pulled aside to learn. I both enjoyed and dreaded these chapters as they were information heavy with little time for the reader to digest what happened and their implications moving forward.

The political machinations in this world are tightly linked to the magic system. A hierarchy has been put in place to suppress those who demonstrate magical abilities. The Shadow of What Was Lost is very much a story about oppression and fear as the past plays a large role on the society at large.

The epilogue of The Shadow of What Was Lost is a game changer. Information is revealed that made me sprint to the computer to order the sequel.

Overall, The Shadow of What Was Lost is an enjoyable fantasy with a cast of characters to get lost in and a magic system so intertwined with the political landscape that you cannot have one without the other.


Have you read The Shadow of What Was Lost? What did you think?

7 thoughts on “The Shadow of What Was Lost (The Licanius Trilogy #1) – James Islington

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