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Eidyn #1

The Lost War

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The war is over, but something is rotten in the state of Eidyn.

With a ragged peace in place, demons burn farmlands, violent Reivers roam the wilds and plague has spread beyond the Black Meadows. The country is on its knees.

In a society that fears and shuns him, Aranok is the first magically-skilled draoidh to be named King’s Envoy.

Now, charged with restoring an exiled foreign queen to her throne, he leads a group of strangers across the ravaged country. But at every step, a new mystery complicates their mission.

As bodies drop around them, new threats emerge and lies are revealed, can Aranok bring his companions together and uncover the conspiracy that threatens the kingdom?

Strap in for this twisted fantasy road trip from award-winning author Justin Lee Anderson.

560 pages, Kindle Edition

First published August 30, 2019

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About the author

Justin Lee Anderson

4 books328 followers
Justin spent 15 years as a professional writer and editor before his debut novel, Carpet Diem, was published in 2015. It became a best-seller and won a 2018 Audie award. His second book, The Lost War, was shortlisted in the 2019 Booknest Awards and won the 2020 SPFBO competition. A new release is coming from Orbit Books as the first in the four-book Eidyn Saga.

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Profile Image for Petrik.
674 reviews42.8k followers
May 4, 2023
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

4.5/5 stars

Thrilling mysteries, powerful magic, tangible tension, and great characters to root for; The Lost War has it all.

I honestly had no idea what the book was about when I started it. I’ve never even heard of the author before, not until a few weeks ago where I stumbled upon Anna Stephens’, the author of Godblind trilogy, review of this novel on the Fantasy-Faction Facebook group. Stephens recommended it highly, and after I took a look at the cover art and synopsis, somehow everything about it just clicked with me. I decided to give it a shot based on instinct. This isn’t an easy thing for me to do because I’m more of a plan-oriented reader when it comes to reading through my ARC/review requests. However, giving this a go as soon as possible has paid off satisfyingly for me.

“People who are responsible for everyone eventually feel responsible for no one.”

The Lost War is the first book in the Eidyn series by Justin Lee Anderson. The last war has ended, but in exchange, many forms of horrors such as demons and plagues started appearing more frequently throughout the land of Eidyn. Aranok, the first draoidh (magician in this series) to become the king’s envoy, receives a task from his king to restore an exiled foreign queen to her throne; to do this, Aranok leads a group of strangers across the country to try their best to complete the mission. At first glance, The Lost War sounds like your typical classic or quest-based fantasy, as it centers around a group of different personalities and vocations gathering to complete one important mission. However, it’s an injustice to immediately categorize The Lost War as a cliché because there’s so much more to unmask beneath the surface of this premise. Frankly, I wasn't sure about this book at first, as the first quarter was all about familiarizing readers with the characters, names, and settings, but there were quite a lot of names being conveyed at once to the reader during this section; it took a bit of time for me to really warm up to the story. Everything that came after the first quarter, however, was a gradually escalating engrossment. The story was superbly paced; the perpetual threats and mysteries that the characters encountered grabbed my attention and they left me guessing constantly. The mysteries and plot-line of this book became more interesting because of the ominous atmosphere that’s so thick and palpable in the narrative. I, as a reader, knew that there was something off within their world, but it was super difficult to guess what that something was without knowing the crucial pieces of the puzzles, which get revealed progressively throughout the story. I found this to be such a delightful reading experience.

“Sometimes people come back from war incomplete. Every time a broken thing is put back together, pieces are lost.”

All of the above doesn’t mean that mysteries were the only driving strength of the narrative; there were still many wonderful things that the book have to offer alongside them. Anderson utilized the common third-person multi perspectives narrative to give the characters within Aranok’s group each a highly distinctive voice. What made these diverse characters with various backgrounds, abilities, and roles so easy to empathize with were how each one of them had depths and complexities that made them flawed and well-realized. The characters felt genuine, and none of them ever came across as too powerful or too weak; each character has their own strengths and weaknesses. Aranok’s group consists of Aranok (Magician), Allandria (Archer), Samily (Knight/Paladin), Nirea (Pirate), Meristan (Priest), Vostin (Blacksmith) and Glorbad (Soldier). In a way, they felt like characters born out of a role-playing game or D&D. This group formation isn’t something that’s rare in fantasy, but I found myself compelled to read their story due to the way they interacted with each other; seeing their decisions to prioritize cooperation despite their huge differences in beliefs and backgrounds felt rewarding.

“Aranok had never understood how the faithful maintained their unshakable belief in a benevolent god in the face of such misery.”

One out of many examples of this is Aranok and Samily’s contradicting beliefs; Aranok has no sense of faith towards religion, and Samily has an immeasurable sense of faith in God and her religion. The two of them have several thought-provoking discussions that contradict each other’s beliefs but they always ended up setting aside their differences to choose cooperation; achieving their common goal for the greater good remains their utmost priority. The dialogues and relationship development between these characters were well-written, poignant, believable, and heartwarming. Anderson did a great job in fleshing out all of his characters.

“Letting her children out of her care was like letting her heart run free outside of her chest. When it was gone, she felt a tightness, a hole, an empty longing for it to return. But it came back bigger, wiser, happier. That is what it is to have a child, Samily. That is what it is to love.”

The Lost War also doesn't lack intrigue in its world-building and engaging action. Seriously, I don’t think the action scenes within this book ever bored me and Anderson’s way of writing his elemental magic was incredibly entertaining to read. Faith and prejudice are commonly occurring themes often used in fantasy and stories to become a guiding compass for the plot-line, which is highly evident within this book. There’s a constant sense of fear and disgust towards draoidh that made Aranok and the other draoidhs within the world—despite the kind things they did—hated. Anderson’s writing style has all the quality to conjure vivid imagery from the scenes he wrote; the powerful elemental magic, the demons, and the deadly plagues became dreadful things of terror that were easy to visualize in my head. The people of this world often find themselves stuck in their homes at night because traveling in the darkness is an incredibly dangerous action due to the existence of demons and a terrifying plague that ravaged the world. I also felt that the world of Eidyn reminded me a lot of the world in Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle series, just without all the unnecessary sex and rapes. And that, ladies and gentleman, is a good thing in my opinion.

“I’ll tell you something about men,” he said. “They all have demons in them. They all think things they’d rather not. They all want things they wish they didn’t. All men wrestle with a dark heart. Some win. Some lose. Some embrace it. And some…” he held up the flask, “…drown it.”’

Plus, after all the awesome things I’ve said about this book, The Lost War showcases one of the most smartly crafted ending sequences I’ve read in years. I mean it, the last two or three chapters of this book immersed me and had my jaw dropping. Anderson has created something outstanding here. The Lost War is easily one of the biggest surprises of the year for me, something that I picked up based on instinct alone and it astounded me by achieving all the necessary criteria of a great fantasy book with evident skill. Give this hidden gem a try. I, for one, highly recommend this book and I will be eagerly waiting for the next installment. I might even reread it first just for fun because I believe that there’s a lot of rereading potential here.

You can order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51k followers
March 7, 2023
EDIT: News of further success - the book has now been picked up by orbit, with the author signing a 4-book deal!

This book won the 6th annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off! (SPFBO) It beat 299 other books to triumph.

See the finalist board here:


And 'thanks' to a 4 day (& counting) stay at the Children's Hospital with my daughter I've now read it in an unusually short time!

Credit for this remarkably (for me) swift read can't go entirely to the circumstances - it's a very readable book that encourages you to turn the page.

The Lost War focuses on a smallish band of characters and moves quite rapidly between their points of view. I think (though I couldn't swear to it) that there's some in-page head hopping - something that's usually discouraged in writing guides - but that if you're very good you can get away with (like Stephen King does), and Anderson does.

We're immediately thrown into a small conflict that introduces us to the most central character, and the canvas is rapidly rolled out, revealing the large scale problems of demons, undead, and a kingdom ruined by war.

Magic abounds on both sides, a wide variety of it, from the smallest to the largest scales. The characters are enjoyable and there's always something going on, be it demon fighting or unrolling more of the increasingly puzzling mystery that centres on curious behaviour and conflicting information.

In the end it's the puzzle that comes to dominate rather than the conflict, leading to a denouement that drew considerable praise from the SPFBO judges.

For me, when it comes to big twists, there are two main questions:

1) Was there any reasonable way to see this coming?
2) Now I have the new information, does everything make sense in retrospect?

I feel the answers here are:

1) Not really.
2) With some good will / the benefit of the doubt.

The twist is certainly entertaining and contributed to this being a read I enjoyed. The writing is solid, there's bags of imagination on display, and it's a fun tale on the more gruesome end of the spectrum.

It's an exciting, action-packed fantasy yarn and I commend it to your attention!

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March 4, 2021
We start at 5 stars:
+1 star for a world of magic and misrule and
+1 star for the PLOT!!!
+1 star for what I think might be a rather druid-inspired terminology:

“Back away, draoidh!” (c)
+1 star for some interesting stuff featuring in this world: the Order of the White Thorns, the Blackened, the Reivers... Even though I definitely didn't like the 'Mynygogg' name. And the Hellfire Club made me think about bikers too much for this plot. But that's just me being myself.
-1 star for some tortured phrases:
He stood abruptly to overcome the indolence of his muscles. (c)

+1 star for a girl White Knight character - Samily is totally something:
“Of course. The Wilds are treacherous. You should have an escort.” (c) It's a girl knight suggesting she escorts a male monk. I like that :)
“I pray God walks with them.” (c)
“Samily, you’re likely to be unconscious.”
“Then I will be well rested when I wake,” (c)
She’d sometimes stood on her head, just to see how he looked. Meristan had pretended not to notice her giggles, but she was sure he’d known. He was a perceptive man. (c) Ugh. I'm sure he needed a lot of perceptiveness to notice that.
“He was not my enemy,” she said calmly. “He only believed me his enemy.”
“What?” Glorbad asked. “He tried to kill you. That makes him your enemy!”...
“For some reason,” she said, “his childhood, his king, his family – he believed I was his enemy. He believed he had to kill me, because he believed me a threat to his life. He believed he was defending himself, because someone, at some time, convinced him that he or his loved ones were threatened. That does not make him my enemy, it simply makes him wrong. I had no malice for him. God alone will judge whether his reasons were adequate to excuse his actions. My part is only to deliver him. We all deserve respect in death.”
“So you don’t blame him?” Glorbad asked.
“I would as soon blame his knife for its cut,” she said.
“Then who do you blame?” asked the soldier. ...
“For some reason,” she said, “this man’s master, whoever they may be, saw some advantage in convincing him that the people of Eidyn were his enemies. That they were ‘other’ than he. Less worthy of life. They taught him that Eidyn must be conquered or plundered. Perhaps it was for riches, or perhaps for power, I don’t know – but those, I understand, are the usual reasons. Whatever they may be, that person, the one who made us this man’s enemy – they bear the responsibility.”
“So his clan chief?” said Glorbad. “His clan chief is the only one you blame? You telling me I’ve been killing innocents for the last year?”...
“All people are born innocent,” she said. “Their lives shape them. Some are selfish. Some make poor choices. Some are manipulated. It is not for me to judge them. God will do that, and they will have to answer for their lives. For me to hate them would be…” she shrugged “...pointless.” (с)
God’s grace was hard for some to grasp. And yet it was so wonderful. So liberating. (c)
Samily listened to the crackle of the fire. She breathed in the thick, earthy smell of the burning peat and felt the warmth tingling across her skin, raising the hair on her arms. It was good to be warm. It was good to sit on a rug. She breathed deeply, slowly, expanding her belly with each breath as she’d been taught. Light and shadow danced together across her eyelids. She relaxed every muscle, let every aching joint rest. She was liquid, melting ice. Free and floating. …
Clear your mind, trust in God and stand your ground. (c)
“You do not believe in God. You do not believe that God has put us together on this path. I do. It is as clear to me as you are, sitting before me. I saved your lives. You taught me how. Our fates are intertwined, Laird Envoy. And I do not believe God is finished with us yet.” (c)

+1 star for some extremely lovely religious dialogue (well above this genre's grade!):
...where do you imagine your powers come from?”...
“Why do they have to come from anywhere?” ... “Does a fire ask where its heat comes from? Does the ocean ask why it’s wet? Why can’t it just be a part of us?” (c)
“Look around. You see stars; I see a barren wasteland where once there was an abundance of life. You see beauty; I see decay. You see good; I see suffering. I see no sign of a benevolent plan here.”...
“We see what we choose to see. I choose to see the good. God did not make the Blackening, Envoy. A human did. Have you considered that maybe, for all your lack of faith, you are God’s instrument in curing it?” ...
“Why is everything bad that happens the fault of humans, but when humans do good, they are God’s instruments?”...
“I am sorry for you, Envoy. I am sorry that you have not felt God’s presence. I feel it around me every day, and it is warmth, and love, and peace. I wish I could share it with you. I’m sure you would choose to believe.” ...
“I don’t think you can choose to believe anything, Samily,” “You’re either convinced of something, or you’re not. You believe it, or you don’t. There’s no choosing.” (c)

The ending rating is AMAZEBALLS 5 stars!

Of course, we got magic:
He vaulted into the air with a grunt, said “gaoth” and gently cushioned his landing with a burst of air. (c)
“We’re liaisons to the court now. Should we be more… sober?” (c)
It sounded like a very good way to get killed. (c)
There was one thing she could do for him. She returned to her meditation and prayed – prayed that the greatest man she’d ever known would remember who he was. (c)
It was exhilarating, wonderful and completely right. (c)
I have trained children to fight the battles I am too scared to fight myself. (c)
The world felt real. He smelled the torches burning on the roadsides, felt their warmth and heard the crunch of their feet in the dirt as they walked. The world was no longer some flat thing he observed, but a tangible, rich existence he was immersed in. It felt good. (c)
He’s a monk.”...
“I know that, but you don’t believe in God, so why should you believe in him?”
“I don’t need to believe in God,” he said. “He believes in God.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means I believe he’ll act morally, because he believes God wants that from him. Whether I believe it or not is irrelevant.” (c)
There was rain in the air. She could feel it, like needles in her skin. A storm was coming. (c)
Fear does strange things to people. They run when they should hide. They hide when they should run. They wait to die when they should fight with every breath. (c)
Sometimes people come back from war incomplete. Every time a broken thing is put back together, pieces are lost. (с)
“It is each person’s right to choose how the world knows them.” (c)
... she could see the stars clearly. The deep dark black was lit up with a dancing array of lights, twinkling down on her. It felt like a vast ocean. She wanted to dive in and swim amongst the beautiful little fires. It was at times like this, in silence and solitude, alone with nature, that she felt closest to God. It was peaceful and gentle and good. (c)
“You are the bucket. Your energy is water. You need energy for everything you do, but you’re emptying the bucket every time you use your power.” (c)
The more men she spent time with, the more she was convinced of their innate stupidity. (c)
Hopefully this ‘righteous’ man actually was. ...What were the chances of both of the holy men they went to for shelter being frauds? (с)
There are many ways to lock a gate. The best is magic. (c)
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,009 reviews1,327 followers
August 4, 2021
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Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars

“Some old scars never stop itching,” the old man said, “but scratch too hard and they bleed.”

The Lost War won the SPFBO 6 competition and I have read a few of the finalists from that competition and they were really good but I wanted to know why this won and it sounded intriguing and the rest is history.

The book is kind of a classic fantasy story taking place in the aftermath of a war. The main character Aranok is a Draoidh (basically a wizard) and he is the king’s envoy and they are on a mission to restore a queen to the throne. There is nothing fancy in the synopsis and it may sound like a stereotypical novel but the execution was top notch!!

The writing is great, I loved the author’s prose, I think there were many quotes that I like and highlighted and the more I read, the easier it was to read and the more I enjoy it. The book kind of has a rocky start which made me question it being the winner, the thing is there are many characters and the story shift between them, there is information about the world, the magic system and the last war so it could be a lot to take in and it can be a bit confusing. But a book that was judged by tens of judges to be the winner must be good (I trust the judging process) so I persevered and decided not to overthink and just read and it wasn’t that hard of a task, the characters start to converge and things start getting clearer. After 25%-30% I finally got into the story and was enjoying it and by the end my mind was blown!

‘People who are responsible for everyone eventually feel responsible for no one’.”

There is a very interesting group of characters coming together including a Wizard, Archer, Paladin, Pirate…etc and I think all of the characters grow through the story and we get also to see their backgrounds which makes connecting to them even easier. I really liked Aranok and Allandria but I think I liked all the other characters and it is very hard to choose a favorite because all of them were well written in different aspects. There are all kind of dark creatures which are not the typical giants and Orcs… etc but there were unique ones that give a thrilling aspect to the story.

Speaking of thrillers, there was a mystery element to the story that keeps the reader guessing and trying to figure things out. I will tell you that I did not see that coming and that ending blew my mind and had me bumping my rating because it is not an ending that I will forget! The pacing is kind of fast because there is always something happening and the characters are moving from one place to another and dividing into parties and meeting other characters so there are no dull moments, there is no part that I felt was dragging. I think the plot was very tight and not a much to criticize about it.

I loved the world and I really enjoyed the magic, it is not a hard magic system with very strict rules but it made a lot of sense and had limitations so it is not soft magic either and I think it is somewhere in the middle. I can’t wait to see other kinds of magic in the next entry!

“Words are easy weapons when fear is the enemy,”

Summary: I really enjoyed The Lost War and I believe it deserves its title as the SPFBO 6 winner. It doesn’t have the strongest start but it is not something that prevented me from enjoying the rest of the story with its slick writing, likable characters, creative magic system and unique magic system! I am a big fan of the ending and I really want to continue this series!
Profile Image for Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods*.
780 reviews131 followers
December 13, 2022
Actual quote*:
These aren't the draoidhs you're looking for.

Probably the best Dungeons & Dragons-inspired novel I have yet to read. Unfortunately that was a low bar to clear.

Let's start with the ending. Spoiler alert: there is one.

Is this a spoiler? Kind of, yes. I was kind of spoiled while I was reading this, simply by learning from glancing at reviews, and from my buddy reader (the inestimable K-money) ​once she got ahead of me, that the book has an ending. Or, more properly, THE ENDING, as an entity in and of itself. The book's SPFBO reviews all cite the impact of THE ENDING. The author himself, in interviews, speaks of THE ENDING, not in a spoilery way but acknowledging that THE ENDING is the main point of the novel.

This was a problem for me, because up to that point I was not terribly impressed. And after THE ENDING, I was even less so. But let's rewind.

The Lost War opens strong. Great opening line, and the first chapter does everything a good fantasy novel should do. It generates intriguing questions about the world of the book and characters, presents information naturally, and made me want to read on. Good stuff.

After that, the joy started to fade. The main cast of characters assembles. They are so-so. There's the druid, or rather draoidh MC and his ranger sidekick/girlfriend. We get an armored fighter; an unarmored fighter; and a level one trainee fighter/vassal. Not the most diverse arrangement of PCs, and they are definitely PCs. The author built his friends' D&D characters into the novel, and I don't think this was the best creative choice. They kind of play off each other, but in awkward ways, and their disparate creation shows. A short time into the story they are joined by a paladin and a non-combatant monk.

The characters are generally okay. Their differences led to some interesting dialogue, for instance debating the existence of god, but mostly I found their disagreements uninteresting, and there were a lot of disagreements. One time in particular, Glorbad got on Aranok's case for deciding to do something other than what the king, who happens to be Aranok's BFF and newly ascended to the crown through rebellion, told them to do. Glorbad gets all, "That's treason! You'll be hanged for this!" and I am thinking, this is not a situation where royalty commands that kind of allegiance. Y'all just put this guy on the throne yourselves and killed the last guy. Where is this sentiment coming from? So, I distinctly didn't buy the motivations.

A similar example: early, the party encounters a new type of monster in one place. No one has ever seen or heard of such a creature before. So naturally, the party assumes this new creature is lurking all across the land and act accordingly. Did not compute.

There were many events that seemed simply awkward or ill-fitting. The land is supposedly overrun with raiders from an enemy country. The party occasionally runs into one or two of them; hardly a threatening force. The world of the book's action felt bland, like they're travelling on a map by dotted line, featureless in between a few marked locations. It lacked life.

I was even irritated by the made-up names. Fantasy books often use invented linguistics, often based on whatever culture the world is inspired by, and this is part of their magic. Here, I just found those words gruff, inelegant. Glorbad. Mynygogg. Every time I read, "he used gluais . . ." I was compelled to breathily whisper "gloou-eeaihhh". Can you please just say "he moved it with his mind"?

I also kind of hated that there were two completely separate types of zombies.

I had a little taste of my pending experience with THE ENDING when my buddy reader said that she loved a twist at the 50% mark. Expectations! I read to that point, only to find that the twist is that this one cool rare magical thing is actually a different cool rare magical thing that had never been mentioned before as a possible thing that even existed.

So. THE ENDING. It's a twist. Are twist endings a good thing? Didn't movie studios have to stop putting M. Night Shyamalan's name on his movies' trailers because audiences started laughing?

happy time GIF

As far as twist endings go, The Lost War has a good one, I suppose. I still don't think it's okay. I don't think it's good to explain away bad and weird earlier parts of the novel in that way. It didn't erase the bad impression they left; it just laid a new one on top. I think this is a lousy way to structure a novel, if everything leading up to THE ENDING isn't also strong enough on its own.

Even the greatest twist ending can't erase the existence of a third of the novel in which a major storyline is a "muhduh inbesdigayshun" conducted at the bedside of a character who, due to injury, can only speak as so: "Cayless. You thing he cayless? . . . Gaw close, behine. If came at fronn..." while other characters come back to update her on actions taking place elsewhere, in an extended, bizarrely conceived "tell, don't show" masterpiece and plotline that is dropped, unfulfilled, before the sequence that leads to THE ENDING.

So there I was, trying to get onboard with self-published epic fantasy, wanting to experience stand-out examples that prove that self-published books can be just as good as my favorite trad-pubbed titles. Choosing SPFBO's highest-rated-ever winner seemed like a good way to achieve this. And this was the result.

*Not an actual quote.


#SPFBO6 winner! All of the strength of its opening line.

Good thing I bought it months ago in case the e-book store runs out of copies.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
November 2, 2020
*This is an #SPFBO finalist this year, and I read it as a judge for the competition*

This book is excellent, it’s exactly the kind of book I love to read, but it has some fresh elements and some excellent surprises along the way. I am shocked that this doesn’t have more ratings and reviews or popularity, as it’s certainly going to be classed as one of my favourites from now on. I couldn’t have imagined where it would end when I started reading it, and although it’s a slower beginning, it had me hooked right from early on. I found myself loving the world, which reminded me at times of Peter V Brett’s Demon Cycle world, and also of the series The Broken Stone Chronicles by Damien Black (two of my favourite series).

This story is focused on the world of Eidyn, where Blackened people roam free, infecting the local population, Demons are hard to kill, and left to lurk for the unwary, and magical sorcerers are called Draidoh and are feared by many (despite mostly being good). There’s been a hard war when we pick up the story of the land, and they have just managed to lock up an evil sorcerer who is the cause of so much of the land’s devastation. However, now they have to sort out the land and make it whole again, and a named few are tasked with this burden.

We follow a bunch of characters, but the main ones are:
- Aranok - A draidoh and sorcerer who can wield Earth powers e.g. Air, Fire etc. He’s the King’s Envoy and one of the very few magic-users who has a good reputation and who even the general populace seem to like (mostly) for his part in the war and to restore the land to glory.
- Allandria - A fearsome archer who also acts as bodyguard and lover to Aranok, travelling with him and reigning in some of his more wild and crazy ideas as they go.
- Samily - A White Thorn (elite band of knights who can kill demons) and genuinely caring character. She’s young but fearsome and fuelled by her love of God and belief in doing what is right.
- Meristan - A monk who travels with Family and who is her mentor. He’s caring and led by his belief in God too, but he’s also a quick-thinker and can react in tricky situations and bring hope to the group.
- Vostin - A young blacksmith that joins the band through luck more than anything, and yet he helps to bring some of the outliers into the fold and connect everyone.
- Glorbad - A solider who is very forthright and determined to get the job done. He’s not always a fan of the tasks he’s set, but he does them diligently and with mighty shows of bravery where needed.
- Nirea - A pirate leader who travels with Glorbad and is key to keeping him under control and helping him to get on with the others around him. She’s also fierce on her own merit.

The adventure begins with Aranok as he’s summoned by his good friend the King and tasked with going to find where the Queen is in this time of strife. He’s happy to oblige, but he knows there’s something his friend isn’t telling him, so they end up making a detour and meeting quite a few of the others along the way as they travel.

The book’s magic is very much a part of the story, with lots of the characters either possessing magic or being able to figure magical creatures at different points of the story. The magic was some fo the coolest elements, and I really enjoyed seeing where the fight scenes went and what manner of beast or mystery they would encounter next.

One interesting element which is discussed a lot by the characters is religion, and whether you’re religious or not I think it’s got some poignant and insightful thoughts and outlooks on religion. I found the contestant state of tension between the characters who believe and those who don’t to be amusing and they also reminded me of the religious discussions from Mistborn by Sanderson in some ways.

There’s a lot that I love in this, with big plot mysteries, and magic galore but also a lot I didn’t expect like major reveals and exciting twists and turns. Suffice to say, I ended up reading this late, late into the night and finishing it at 1am, as I really couldn’t wait to find out what would happen, and I wish Book #2 was out as I am desperate to find out what is next! There’s so many questions I need the answers to, and I fell in love with so many of the characters too, so I am pretty excited to get the next instalment whenever it’s released.

4.75*s and I thoroughly recommend this to any and everyone :) A firm new favourite from me. 9.5/10 for #SPFBO!
Profile Image for The Speculative Shelf.
240 reviews67 followers
February 27, 2023
It jumps out of the gate with a strong opening and an interesting premise and finishes with a flourish, but I found the intervening chapters to be fairly standard high/epic fantasy fare that never blew me out of the water.

Justin Lee Anderson does a beautiful job introducing the characters, the stakes, and the world at large, but I just wasn’t as invested in the subsequent proceedings as I hoped to be. It’s surprisingly light and funny and I found myself reminded of Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria books with a splash of Mike Shel’s Iconoclasts trilogy (sans its darker impulses). If you loved either of those series, I think you’ll enjoy this too.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

See this review and others at The Speculative Shelf and follow @specshelf on Twitter.
Profile Image for Anna Stephens.
Author 35 books626 followers
August 29, 2019
WHAT? Sometimes a book has a shock ending with a twist you didn't see coming. This wasn't a twist - this was a bloody corkscrew and, better than that, it was set up really, really well.
This is the first in a new series for author Justin Lee Anderson and it sets up the world, the challenges, protagonists and antagonists fantastically. An intricate and detailed world following several POV characters as they set out on a quest to rescue a deposed queen on orders of their own king.
And speaking of quests, as someone who's recently begun playing DnD, I thought this had a real RPG style to it, with tons of monsters and side quests that kept threatening to derail the party's main objective, so when I read in the acknowledgments that the characters are based on RPG, I felt slightly smug at spotting it.
There were a few plot devices I saw coming, and I knew something wasn't quite as it seemed, but still, the twist at the end genuinely surprised and delighted me, and the second book really can't come fast enough so I can find out what happens next.
I did find the plethora of names a bit hard to follow at times, and it took me most of the book to realise that Dun Eidyn was the castle within the city of Auldun - they're used quite interchangeably and that really confused me as I wasn't sure where the party was supposed to be heading.
And I will say that the epilogue, while great, was also a little confusing as the POV it's from was last seen in about chapter 8. As a result, I had to search for the name and reread a couple of pages to work out the significance of the epilogue and who the red-robed woman must be. That said, if you've got a better memory for names than I have, you won't have a problem with this and it will make you 'oooooh!' a lot quicker than it did me. Still - oooooh!
A really fun and immersive book, with a brilliant set up for the sequels. Bravo!
Profile Image for Sade.
312 reviews218 followers
June 13, 2020

Fact: This book has overwhelming positive reviews.

To be honest, I'm tempted to start this review by stating, I must have read this book wrong and be a lot more, 'It all worked out in the end anyway', because of that ONE SCENE.
However, I always figure if a book is rated this highly, it should definitely, definitely (and I cannot stress this enough) have something more than 1 particular scene in the plot going for it.

I know, I know, all fantasy books can't have deep 3 dimensional characters, character growth and all that jazz and to be honest I'm okay with that, but you just have to come clutch with something. Not just one scene.

So plot.... The king gathers a group of people, names them his council and tasks with going to get some queen to ally with them. Right off the bat,

The plot was a contrived mess!!! like there is nothing that can convince me it wasn't. So this book basically wants you to believe that

The characters were painfully one dimensional. I can't say that was a surprise seeing as the book was largely driven by the plot (and quite frankly, when done right, it's not a disappointing angle to steer a book that way.) and not the characters. With that in mind, I just couldn't understand the drive for the continuous God argument. I have to say i was over it. It's like your friend believes in God and you don't. Like respect that and move on. I don't need the both of you trying to do your is there God or isn't there God shtick every time something good or bad happens. And maybe it was supposed to add some sort of definition to the characters but again, this was a largely plot driven book and honestly i don't think there was any room for character growth, which was why the whole thing was just a pointless, page wasting and annoying sub plot.

I thought the use of words like 'medic, miss, teenager' among others were a miss given the setting of the book but maybe the words aren't as modern as i like to think they are.

The problem with these kind of books is that they have a lot riding on the ending to shut you up. Like,'hey, gotcha!!' and i'm going to be honest, i don't want to get to the end of your book to decide every stupid thing your characters have been doing or every contrived plot is somehow conveniently explained because an author thinks they're clever enough to put in a "gotcha" moment at the end.
It just doesn't work. Sorry.
The journey is as important as the end.

All in all,

⭐⭐ for trying to rescue the book with that ending.

Profile Image for Wick Welker.
Author 5 books338 followers
June 27, 2021
Decent fantasy fare that reads like a middle book.

I was made aware of The Lost War by some of my favorite Goodreads reviewers and thought I'd take a chance on this indie fantasy book. I wouldn't say I was disappointed, but I was definitely rushing to finish this book to get onto my next. The Lost War does a few things right, a few things average and a number of things wrong which makes this a particularly difficult one for me to review.

First with the good: the characters are well done. There is a great cast of characters here all given some fairly decent back story. They have enough dimension to make them engaging with no over-the-top info dumping either. Anderson keeps a pretty even keel with characterization. I wouldn't say there is a tremendous amount of character development but it's on par with what I would expect. There are some wonderful themes of bigotry, loyalty, faith and friendship that come through, especially toward the end that I enjoyed. I also enjoyed the fair amount of mystery that gets weaved into the story and how the various mysteries get resolved was quite stunning at the end. I love a story wherein the last few pages completely change the context of the entire plot. That's what you'll get with The Lost War. Honestly, if it weren't for the ending, this would easily be a three star book for me.

The average: the world building is highly derivative. It's typical fantasy fare: mages, demons, magic and taverns. There is absolutely nothing exceptional about this fantasy world. That's not a bad thing, but Anderson brings almost nothing new to the fantasy table. The prose is mediocre and the overall storytelling slogs quite a bit, especially during the last three quarters.

The bad: The antagonist and major conflicts of the story are off-stage for almost the entirety of the book. This was an odd choice and seriously disengages the reader. The arc of the story is a group of mages/warriors going from one fantasy mystery to the next with various encounters with evil beasts while following a very weakly defined main thrust. I found this very frustrating. I was constantly asking myself: what are the stakes? why should I care? There were just too many plot threads dancing around each other with one adventure after another. The saving grace is the Anderson does tie all this together at the end. Again, the ending very much saved this book for me. I otherwise would have been very disgruntled with this book. Overall, the biggest problem with this book is its a lackluster reader experience. It could've been much, much better. This book had the structure of a middle book which, again, I found to be a very odd choice by the author.

In the end, I'm happy I read this but was ready to quit at the 3/4 make. I'm glad I finished it because the ending is pretty awesome. Will I be reading the next one? Not sure.
Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,310 reviews210 followers
November 3, 2020
The Lost War has a lot going on. A lot. And it has an exciting and unexpected climax (no spoilers – but wow!). It's not perfect, I have a few issues with it, but they're all minor. I'll buy the sequel as soon as it gets published.

Longer review to come.
Profile Image for Adam.
374 reviews164 followers
April 19, 2021
Baffling mysteries with an ending that delivers the goods, this is an easily-readable tale of strange goings-on in a post-war kingdom plagued by sickness, demons, and worse. Solid characters and basic magic in a classic western fantasy setting, but if you stick it out, things get upended in entertaining fashions.
Profile Image for Jord MiddleofNowhere.
108 reviews32 followers
April 6, 2023
What a ride!! This is a tale that has some great action and characters that will quickly become favorites of many. I had not read the Indie published version of the book, and cannot speak to what has changed between the two. That being said, this story was a lot of fun, action packed, and has some great magic thrown in for good measure. I can easily see why this became so loved by so many different people and definitely deserves to be read.

The strength of the novel to me was the magic. It was interesting and plays an integral part to the story. I found myself really enjoying how each of them used the variety of abilities that helped to bring it all together and make the story unique.

Overall, this is a fast paced novel that people will really enjoy for the action scenes and the mysteries that unfold as the narrative takes place. It sets up for subsequent novels in a great way and I am excited to see where the story will go!!
Profile Image for Shalini.
2,507 reviews199 followers
August 22, 2019
Omg omg omg I don’t think I can do this book any justice in my review. It was earth-shakingly fabulous. The world that I knew had changed; it had become what the author wanted to show me. Such was the power of Justin Lee Anderson’s writing.

The first thought that came to me as I opened the book was – magnum opus. Every cell in me woke up and went on the adventure that the author took me on. The blood in my veins rushed in a tempo which matched the excitement this story brought about.

I was introduced to Laird Aranok, the draoidh, (think magician) with earthly elements as his magical power and his bodyguard Lady Allandria who was mighty frisky with her bow and arrow. An envoy of the King Janaeus of Eidyn where the two had fought by his side in the war against Mynygogg and his demons who was ultimately contained in Dun. On a mission sent by the king, they were joined by Glorbad and Nirea. Vastin, the blacksmith’s son, Brother Meristan from the Order of White Thorn, and Samily a knight in the same Order.

This motley group of people had to deal with various hardships like fights with Rievers, many different types of demons, the Blackened who spread plague by touch, murders, magic, and treachery. It was so beautiful and heart warming to see them coming together as a cohesive group. They were like family as they traversed through the pages, and they were like friends to me as I read down the chapters. I was rooting for them through their anger, pain, joy, desperation. Every emotion shown by them was felt deeply in me.

The author has written a complex land with myriad of beings with layers in the characterization of its people. Every chapter in this book brought about a vivid adventure much grander than the previous. Pulse spikes and pools of excitement were many as I kept reading down its pages.

The initial half laid the adventure of the quest. But it was the last few chapters which simply blew me away. I had goosebumps as I read through the twists and reveals. I hoped that the author would put the final twist as I had imagined the plot in my mind. I was right! I knew it, but what I didn’t know was how this brilliant author would write that twist. It was simply mind boggling.

I can go on and on, talking about this book. I can tell you that the action sequences were thrilling, the plot lines had so many rhythmic layers that I was dancing as I read them all. The characters have run away with a slice of my heart. And the magic and supernatural beings just made me feel only awe for the author’s imagination.

The adventure and the quest this group went on made me realize how much I love this genre, but the last few chapters made me laugh with glee at the pure wickedness of Justin’s writing. He brought this book alive like a three dimensional vivid colorful movie. SIMPLY AWESOME!!

Profile Image for Chelsea.
64 reviews85 followers
May 14, 2023
There is a lot going on in the first book of this new series and I have to say, the ending is what has really gripped me for the next book. The book starts out by introducing us to the characters we will be following for the rest of the book, creating relationships and outlining how these seven people fit together to accomplish their set goal. There are many deviations from the set goal which set us up for the twists and turns of the story and I really enjoyed it. There is a lot of action in this book with plenty of fight scenes with both demons and people alike. Looking forward to seeing where the next book takes us!
Profile Image for ♥Milica♥.
890 reviews258 followers
May 23, 2023
I was not expecting this book to have ace rep, but hey, I'm all for it. And it's very clear rep too, which I love to see.

So OBVIOUSLY, Samily is my favourite character, my little bean, she's so precious. I loooove her and I'd definitely read the sequel for her, and to find out more about her mysterious powers.

I didn't connect with the other characters quite on the same level, but they were fun to read about.

The magic system was interesting, and, I'm just now realising, based on D&D? The whole book is, which makes a lot of sense. So I feel like knowing that when going into the book might help you understand it a little better.

The plot is where The Lost War lost me a bit, it was jumpy and there didn't seem much point to it until the very end. Combine that with a slow pace and I can't give it more than three stars.

But I'm still glad I read it, and I'm looking forward to the next book, I'm sure it'll be much better.

P. S. Look at the cover!! So green!! So pretty!!

*Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for  Charlie.
477 reviews217 followers
June 2, 2021
I had a great time reading this book. It's no surprise to me it won the SPFBO and it's right up there with the best I've read in the last five years. I had some absolutely epic moments and revelations and the whole thing feels like one never ending discovery. I cannot wait to learn more about this world and see where the characters go from here.
Profile Image for Rob Hayes.
Author 35 books1,364 followers
May 27, 2021
Bit of a weird one. It was fine. Had a very traditional fantasy feel for a lot of it. A bunch of little mysteries leading up to a big reveal/twist. It was well done. I think I just bounced off the setting mostly. It was a bit too traditional for my liking maybe. The characters were all fine, but I never cared too much for any of them.

I don't know. It's a good book. It's well done. I just didn't click with it, and I'm honestly struggling to figure out why. I just never felt truly engaged.

3/5 for me. I definitely recommend checking it out if you like your fantasy with a traditional setting and a mystery at the heart.
Profile Image for Amybibliophile.
149 reviews48 followers
December 15, 2019
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

The War is over and Eidyn is left in a vulnerable state. A plague is spreading, daemons are burning the peoples provisions and there is danger at every turn. The kings Envoy and elemental Draoidh, Aranok, is sent across the country with a band of strangers to restore an exiled queen on orders of the Crown. Only Aranok takes a detour from the kings orders, to visit his home and family after hearing reports that the city has been pillaged by Reivers. Only he finds a completely different story to the one he has been lead to believe... Aranok and company see the kingdom is in a much different state than what the king has told them and darkness is lurking in every corner.

When this book arrived at my door my initial thought was that it was a fairly big one! What I didn't expect was 572 enchanting pages that completely transported me to the world of Dun Eidyn. I've not been so addicted to a fantasy book since ACOTAR! I like fantasy genre on a whole & try to read as much of it as possible so I was more than happy to read this book and was delighted to find it contained everything you could want in a high-fantasy, with an enchanting new magic system, a band of very different yet interesting characters who's paths cross, a dark villain, daemon-like creatures, a disease that threatens to wipe out the population and an almighty plot twist that you don't see coming but miraculously ties all of the books events together.

I became quite attached to the characters as the book went on, they were compassionate, humorous, dynamic and had me eager to read on when every twist was dropped upon them, I am impatiently waiting to see where their path leads next.
I'm shocked more people don't know about this book, I will be recommending this to all of my fantasy loving friends & keeping my eye out for when book 2 makes its appearance. I hope this becomes a long fantasy series because it definitely has the potential to be so! I can't wait to read more of Justin's work.
Profile Image for Jennifer (bunnyreads).
460 reviews67 followers
June 18, 2020
Aranok the king’s envoy, is on a mission to help return the Queen Taneithea, to Gauelle and her throne, in hopes of gaining some powerful allies in this time of unrest.

 Joining Aranok are his bodyguard Allandria (who is also secretly his partner), Nirea and Glorbad (liaisons to the court), Vastin(a young blacksmith), and Samily (a young warrior).
 The group are finding all kinds of abnormalities among the other dangers they face during their travels; the Blackened (the people that have contracted this affliction- think zombie plague) are on the move, the Reivers are alliancing, and these new and terrifying cocooned creatures are being found in the trees and abandoned buildings.

They suspect that somehow Mynygogg, a rare two-powered Draoidh (he is a necromancer and can call forth Demons), is controlling the Blackened and the Demons, from his prison- they hope to find a way to put a stop to him once and for all.


So, this feels like a good old classic D&D story. There is a bit of set-up, getting to know the world, getting to know our group of adventurers and seeing them in action and the dangers they face as they set upon their mission. You think to yourself- I know this story. But, as the story you recognize moves along, you start to see things are just a tad different, not much but enough to keep you interested and about the time you get comfortably settled into the tale, the author throws this little monkey wrench at you and you realize- maybe I don’t know this story at all.

I think that’s why this was so enjoyable for me. It takes the familiar, gets you comfortable and then messes with it, just a little. You get comfortable with this new thing, and again there it is, that little push that says no, that's not where we are going this time! I loved that about it.

I have been reading for a long time, I do tend to get excited and occasionally think some big fabulous plot is happening, only to have it not be as grand as my imagination. So, when I do read something that pushes those boundaries and let’s my imagination run with possibilities, and after a few surprises, I feel that it just might be clever enough to be actually going in that way- then, I am impressed. I have a lot of praise for a story that can do that. So, here is me praising this story, for letting me, let my imagination, run wild.

And btw. my imagination, was totally wrong. I have no qualms about admitting the only thing I guessed correctly about the bigger mystery, was the easy part about who was involved. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to be wrong on that scale (although my imagination had a pretty grand plan, too).


A little about the characters-

First, I loved the women- they became friends, they stick up for each other and they tell the men on more than one occasion when they’re being dumbasses about something. They’re smart and caring towards one another, and towards the men. I also loved the fact that Aranok and Allandria are a couple- that doesn’t happen often in fantasy and it was a refreshing change.

The men are a bit hotheaded- they butt heads a lot. These are two leaders’ personalities having to learn to work together- I found their arguments justifiable (this is where the women have to remind them that each of their points are valid and to smarten up the attitude) and fitting for who they are.

Also, Aranok is a Draiodh, which automatically comes with baggage because the Draoidh have powerful magic that in the past hasn’t always been used for the good of anyone but themselves. There is a distrust towards him and his kind, and that underlying fear doesn’t help in the dealings with others.

Everyone in the group looks out for the younger two of the group- Vastin, and even Samily (though she can easily take care of herself).

There are some big changes as the story proceeds, that shift the friendships between these people and also make me very curious to see how this new information will affect the dynamics of the group – you can already see some of it happening and it’s going to make for some interesting circumstances in the next book. I am excited to see where the author takes these friends.

Minor quibble/s

The end felt a little on the ‘explainy’ side, especially after how smart the rest was, some of the information felt like it could have been sprinkled into the main body without giving away the mystery; a minor gripe though in a well thought out story.


I really enjoyed this story. It was crafty, friendships were great, and it's told in that nice pace that kept it moving and never felt like the nearly 600-page book it was.


 Clever and entertaining- make time for this one.
Profile Image for Tabitha  Tomala.
666 reviews79 followers
March 29, 2020
This review is also featured on Behind the Pages: The Lost War

The war for Eidyn may be over, but the horrors that follow are just beginning. Locked away in his prison of a castle, Mynygogg is a looming threat to the countryside. The King’s council has been sent to rescue a hidden queen to protect what territory they have stolen from Mynygogg. Among them is Aranok, the king’s advisor and a magic casting draoidh. As they venture towards the queen, Aranok learns that his hometown has been taken over by the blackened. Horrific creatures that spread disease and death by a simple touch. Aranok has the choice to follow his king’s orders or find his family. Heart wins over duty, and Aranok plunges into a journey that will him down a dark road. As the party divides, they will each encounter horrors leftover from the war and none will be the same as they were by the time their journeys end.

When you step into the world of The Lost War, you are enveloped in a rich high fantasy filled with magic, demons, and fantastic storytelling. I was worried at first with the number of main characters in the traveling party, but Justin Lee Anderson gives everyone their time to shine. As the characters struggle to understand the war-torn country, the reader will delve into the mistakes and horror the aftermath of war brings. The past for each character will be split wide open to show what they’ve experienced while fighting for their country, or simply trying to survive.

As I immersed myself in this book, I felt nostalgia at how much the novel felt like the Dragonlance Chronicles. A well-balanced party venturing out to do what they think is right, and never giving up even if there are difficult choices to make. And while there might not be dragons, there are plenty of demons and mutations the characters must face.

I want more of this world. I tore through this novel. Every spare moment I had, I read. There was never a dull moment, never a part where I felt the need to skim because it was useless information. Every word sinks you deeper into Eidyn and its heroes. You laugh, you cry, and you hold your breath as they battle for their belief in a better world.
Profile Image for Katharina.
160 reviews4 followers
October 14, 2019
5 stars! You hear me?! 5!
This book is freakingly awesome, amazing, great!
And I am sooooo fu**ed because Mr. Anderson didn‘t even start writing book 2, believe me, I asked him.
This book has everything a fantasybook lover is searching for. Strong protagonists, badass female characters, magic, demons, kind of zombies, clever evil wizard, and something that hadly ever happens in fanatsy books - a mindtwisting plottwist that I didn‘t see coming at all.
Really guys, read this book!
Thanks to Petrik for his marvelous review that grabbed my interest for this piece of fanatasy masterwork!
Profile Image for Rowena Andrews.
Author 3 books60 followers
February 6, 2021
Where do I even start with this book?! I picked up The Lost War at Christmas because I had vouchers to spend and I wanted to read some more of the SPFBO books and the cover immediately caught my eye, while the premise sounded right up my street. So, I went into this book, hoping that it lived up to both, and expecting to enjoy it.

Well, I was right…only I didn’t just enjoy it, I bloody loved every single moment of it and everything about it.

An increasingly large part of my life revolves around D&D (as my nephew has informed me, I am getting nerdier as I get older) and it wasn’t hard to draw comparisons with this book at least towards the start. You’ve got the coming together of the party for a quest, and then all the numerous sidequests and distractions (because you have to investigate and get side-tracked just to foil your DMs plans), but while those elements are certainly there, and another reason why I enjoyed this book so much, it would be doing this book and the author a disservice to reduce them down to that element. Because, The Lost War has layers upon layers, and the entire book is about gradually peeling back those layers to discover what lays beneath, with more than a few surprises along the way.

The start of the book is slower, taking the time to develop the characters – and what characters they are (but more on that later), the world, and the dangers that inhabit this land and the troubles that have followed even though the war is over, and the Draoidh (magician) largely held responsible had been locked away. I loved this part, and the slower pacing was easily forgiven because you want to learn more, and then once you think you’ve come to grips with everything, the pace and the plot begin to build. There was as subtlety to the pacing and the revelations, as mysteries unfolded, answers were found but more questions were raised, and just as you thought you knew what was happening, there would be another twist. Almost from the beginning of this book, you can tell that something is off in this world, but Anderson uses the pacing and the twists to not only build on that feeling, leaving a creeping, ominous atmosphere that grips you and keeps you focused, waiting for the next development, but also does an excellent job of keeping the mystery just out of reach.

As much as the mystery and quests drive the narrative, it was the characters that truly carried it. There was a fantastic cast of characters, who each had their own distinct voice, perspective and personalities, and they were each wonderfully realised both as individuals and members of the party. They came from a range of backgrounds, bringing different experiences and skills with them, and there was a depth to each one, that meant that it was impossible to pigeon-hole them just by their role. What I particularly enjoyed was that they didn’t immediately mesh with one another, flaws and experiences, and differing views on their task, on faith and trust, meant that there were arguments and conflicts, as well as negotiation, compromise and development, and consequences where there needed to be. This was a poignant, believable group of characters brought together by duty and circumstance, and choosing to do and become something more, and I don’t think the story would have been as strong if even a single one of them had been missing (especially if Nirea and Allandria hadn’t been there to keep Aranok and Glorbad in line and knock some sense into them where needed).

The world-building was just as rich and detailed and varied as the cast, and every element was well thought through and gripping, from the demons to the deadly plague (mercifully nothing like *gestures at the world*) and the menace they brought, to the role of faith and the White Thorns – knights or Paladins who were revered for their fighting prowess. Then there was the intrigue and challenges of a country fresh from a war, that was threatening to be torn apart by those threats, by other factions and the attempts to stop that from happening, and the suspicions of other machinations behind the scenes that grows throughout the book.

The Draiodh were one of my favourite elements of the worldbuilding, not least because although it was integral to the world and the plot, Draoidh including Aranok were regarded with fear and hatred even though magic had helped win the war and was protecting them, it had also contributed to the war. That prejudice is evident even within the party and adds another dimension to the relationships between some of the characters, and Aranok poses an interesting intersection between that fear – we can see how that fear and the reactions it produces affect him and have shaped him, and yet at the same time, despite being a Draoidh he has risen to a position of power as King’s Envoy. The magic itself was fascinating and so easy to visualise through Anderson’s entertaining and detailed descriptions and well-balanced action scenes, and it was fun to see the characters having to adapt and use the magic in different ways depending on the situation and how far they had already pushed themselves.

Also, hello Scottish Gaelic I see you there, and I have to admit my excitement and love for this book leapt several levels when I recognised the language. Then there was the fact that there is a cost to the user if they go to their limits and beyond, in terms of exhaustion and potentially deadly, which is something I’ve realised recently that I am a huge fan of. There was also a fantastic range of abilities, and I enjoyed how our knowledge of what was possible expanded throughout the book, and there are a couple that I can’t wait to see in action in future books because the possibilities are amazing to consider.

Then there’s the ending!! I thought that I was used to the twists and turns by that point, and I was so, so sure that I had worked it out as we drew towards the climax of this book. Ridiculously confident about it in fact and I have never been so delighted to have been wrong because I sure as hell didn’t see that twist coming. I was right about one aspect (so, small victory dance there?), but other than that I was completely caught by surprise and oh my goodness it was delicious. Once the surprise has settled (a little at least, as I think it will take me a while to get over that ending), you can then appreciate how beautifully crafted that ending twist is, because it is perfect and shocking, and everything I didn’t know I needed.

I can’t wait for the next book, because I want to spend more time in this world, with these characters and I NEED to know what happens next. I know that I will be rereading this one sooner rather than later, and I cannot sing this book’s praises highly enough, it’s an absolute gem of a book.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 19 books431 followers
March 9, 2021

I have been aware of Justin Lee Anderson for a while now, though it took me until this last bit of life happening for me to pick up his book (I’m sorry it took so long). The Lost War ended up being just the thing I needed, which is odd, because when I started it I was pretty sure I was going to bounce off it. You see, on the surface, this book feels a lot like your quest-trope fantasy and that’s not really my bag of oats. However, once I really settled into the story, I realized there’s a lot going on under the surface, I just had to give myself time to see it.

In short, I really ended up having a lot of fun with this one, and enjoying it to a degree I did not anticipate.

Anderson thrusts his reader into a world where a war just ended. Now, let me take a moment to appreciate this setting, because I loved it. I saw what was going on right away, and thought, “Yes, I am here for this.” The reason being, in fantasy, we read a lot about wars starting, wars being fought, wars simmering in the borderlands, but we rarely read a book set in a time after the war has been fought, and everything, for good or ill, is starting to settle.

The dynamics The Lost War were masterfully played out. Anderson created a whole new category of strife for the bereaved residents of Eidyn to deal with in the form of plagues and demons, other horrors that make life miserable. So, the war ends, which is not always a good thing, but usually there’s some form of relief… “Yay, no more fighting” at least. Anderson, however, uses this ending as a vehicle to unleash a whole new slew of trials upon the land. As the description says, “the country is on its knees” and as the reader, you’ll feel that throughout. Furthermore, this aspect, this tug-of-war with such a big event and its ramifications provoked a bit of thought in me regarding my own writing, how one thing can spark another. How unexpected results can move a story down unexplored pathways.

And here’s the thing. You might read that and think, “Well, that sucks,” but it’s truly an example of how the entire book works. Anderson sets you off balance, and you don’t even realize he’s done it.


You’ve got this really interesting setup, a place steeped in pain, with a lining of hope, and insert your plot. Aranok, a draoidh (read: magician) has been called by the king to restore an exiled queen to her throne. In order to do this, he has to lead a group of strangers across unknown lands, and somehow you know, at this point, unexpected things will happen and swords will be drawn. Blood will spill.

As you can see, this book might feel a lot like a lot of other fantasy books you might have read. The first chunk of the novel will likely either make it or break it for you, because there are a lot of names and places, people being introduced, and this quest is set up. However, if you’re a reader who doesn’t mind all that, the payoff is fantastic. There’s a whole lot going on under the surface that Anderson hints at, alludes to, or toys with in supremely subtle ways, and this, friends, is what hooked me. The example of the war/beasties aspect I listed above is just one. His ability to take something that should be straightforward (Yay, the war is over!) and make it absolute crap (Oh, a plague.) kept me absolutely engaged and intrigued.

What this all leads to is an atmosphere that is welded like a hammer in Anderson’s toolkit. You don’t really realize how ominous things feel until you’re in the middle of the book thinking, “Holy shit, when did things start feeling like this?” What I’m saying is, the book sort of creeps up on you. At the start, you’re thinking this is your typical fantasy quest story, but you keep pushing on and one thing leads to another. It’s like Anderson is playing a song on the piano, throwing in a minor key here and there. You don’t realize he’s turning this peppy song into a lament until it’s too late to turn back. All it takes is one note here, one note there, and this song you thought you knew turns into something else entirely.

The truth is, none of that would be as effective without that familiar-feeling beginning. It’s through that understood starting point that the rest of this book is able to be as effective as it ended up being. Added into that, the pacing was near perfection. Once the story takes off, it’s like rolling a boulder down a hill. It picks up speed and momentum, something always happening right where it needs to to drive the plot along, or build the world or characters, sometimes all three. By the end of the book, the pacing is relentless, and the ending is… really a thing to behold due to that.

Anderson’s magic system is superb, and he has a way with writing not just magic and action to keep them vivid and interesting, but characters as well. Even the intrigue was really well done. In fact, when I think of this book, I’m fairly amazed by how well balanced all the different elements of it were. Anderson basically threw a whole bunch of balls in the air, and then juggled them all without dropping any of them at any point.

When I think about The Lost War, what I realize is it’s Anderson’s ability to tell a story that really captivates me. The entire book felt like the piano song I mention above. You start out feeling like this is a familiar tale, and you recognize it. He throws in some minor notes here and there, subtly fiddles with the tempo, and before you even realize what’s happening, you aren’t hearing that familiar song anymore, but something else entirely. Every element plays off of every other element to create something that, in the end, you both recognize and not. It’s pure artistry. I was amazed by how he managed to transform something I went into thinking, “Yeah, I know this story” into something I left thinking, “Holy shit, what did I just read? That was… WOW.”

So, what do you have here? Something truly unpredictable. This book showcases what sleight of hand and manipulation of a story can really attain. It’s the first book in a new series, and I absolutely cannot wait to read more. The Lost War ended up being a huge surprise, and one I hope you read and enjoy as much as I did.
Profile Image for Sway.
25 reviews8 followers
November 14, 2019
Dude... What?! I expected... something. I don't even know what I expected. The mystery surrounding the book swept me away completely.

At first, I treated this like all the other fantasy books out there, as if everything was based on concrete, realistic things like betrayal and revenge. What I got was so much more and the best climax in a book I've ever read, maybe excluding Oathbreaker and Hero of Ages, but satisfying in a way the others weren't, as if finally figuring out where that feeling of deja vu was coming from. The air of dread permeating the stories had me thinking to myself every time a new character was introduced that they were the culprit, that they were the missing piece of a puzzle I just couldn't find the end to. I am happy to tell you and anyone that listens, it goes so much deeper than that.

Please read this book so the author can make more because I really need more.
Profile Image for Jim Robinson.
76 reviews18 followers
January 30, 2020
AMAZING! 5 stars! Why have only 130 people reviewed this book! People get on it, this is a great read!

Sweeping fantasy adventure set in a broken realm post a brutal war, full of demons and undead and reluctant heroes I enjoyed every page of this story. The pacing is perfect, detailed character building set in between intrigue, deception and battle. At times its part fantasy spy thriller as our heroes try and solve what the hell is going on around them and part fight for their lives as all sorts of evil magic and fiend confront them.

I loved the characters, I loved the story and the ending could be one of the best endings ever written in a fantasy book and I am not exaggerating. The ending took my breath away and made me curse, laugh out loud and left me totally staggered by the breadth of the story.

I cannot wait for the release of book 2!
Profile Image for Tom Lloyd.
Author 32 books428 followers
February 26, 2020
A highly entertaining fantasy built on familiar ground that develops into something greater. While very different there's definitely a flavour of Tchaikovsky's After The War novel in terms of the setting - I don't know if that's a new thing or just a coincidence but I like it. Both were handled well without being too heavy on the trauma of past events. There were small parts that didn't quite chime right for me through the book that interfered with my reading rhythm, as it were, but at the end they were revealed to be a deft pattern building with purpose rather than flaws in the story. Which was greatly pleasing as the rest was extremely readable. I had a few very minor niggles, but personal ones and nothing that'll make me hesitate diving in to book 2!
Profile Image for Jon Adams.
294 reviews57 followers
October 11, 2019
Well that was perfectly entertaining. I thought I had guessed the twist at the end, but I was totally wrong...and happy to be.
Profile Image for Claire.
Author 27 books235 followers
September 14, 2019
Recap: Aranok, the King's envoy is meant to be on a rescue mission but he gets sidetracked as reality doesn't match up with what he was told. Strange beasts, demons, a plague of blackened and knights with unusual powers lead him on a new quest.

Review: Great fantasy writing with an interesting cast of characters. You do have this sense that you're missing something and so the ending is both a combination of I knew it and omg I didn't expect that! Traditional fantasy tropes are expanded on - there's a healthy payment for use of magic and injuries do slow characters down, we've got zombie like plague victims as well as the actual killer dead plus a great deal on the view that God is the provider of all good things - in fact the religious stuff did turn me off a little and almost lost a star. The ending made up for it.
Profile Image for Jamedi.
225 reviews40 followers
May 13, 2023
Review: https://jamreads.com/reviews/the-lost...
Interview: https://jamreads.com/interviews/some-...

The Lost War is the first book in the Eidyn series, written by Justin Lee Anderson, who won SPFBO6 with its self-published version, being this the traditional debut of this author. And from the first page, you can appreciate the many qualities that made this book shine as it did on SPFBO, a thrilling and gripping plot with a large cast of interesting and unique characters, all thrown into a well-developed world.

The war on Eidyn was over, but things are far from going well. Demons are terrorizing many parts of the country, Blackening illness is still a threat, and draoidh are mostly feared and despised among their compatriots. In this climate, Aranok is the first magically skilled draoidh appointed as King's Envoy.
His King asked him to restore an exiled foreign queen, a mission that will bring him and a certainly interesting cast of characters to travel across Eidyn, finding different dangers and several mysteries that will take this crew far from their main objective, similar to side-quests, and that will create more questions.

The group which will be accompanying Aranok is quite diverse, each one unique, with its own strengths and weaknesses. While the narration is done using a 3rd person style, when the POV is shifted, we can appreciate certain differences in the narration, transmitting the different voices of each character.
The relationships between the members of the group are an integral part of the storytelling, especially through dialogues, sometimes due to the contrary beliefs some of them have (like, for example, Aranok and Samily).
Despite Aranok being the main character, it is fairer to say that all the members have a role, complementing each other when it's necessary. You can see how they take the best decisions for the common, instead of prioritizing their own interests.

Talking more about the plot, while the classic premise of a quest is the angular piece of it, we are able to see how Anderson masterfully creates several ramifications, which end up being reunited into a quite surprising ending, which impressed me so much; those final chapters are practically magnetic.

Eidyn is a well-developed world, with a previous history, which we get to see a glimpse of it (especially about the Draoidh Rebellion). The journey trope is used in an excellent way to portray several places on Eidyn, and how they are still suffering the consequences of war and sorcery.

The Lost War is an excellent epic fantasy novel, showing the strength of Justin Lee Anderson as a writer and worldbuilder. If you like books with D&D inspiration, unexpected twists and a group of interesting characters, you should read this book!
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