Petrik's Reviews > The Shadow of What Was Lost

The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington
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it was amazing
bookshelves: owned-physical-books, favorites
Recommended to Petrik by: TS Chan

4.5/5 stars

Islington took the best part—and cut all the unnecessary bloating—of Wheel of Time, maintained the inspirations he got from Sanderson’s story, and Islington added his own twists and originality into this highly ambitious debut.


Three years. The Shadow of What Was Lost was recommended to me by my co-blogger, TS, for the first time in January 2017, and I have never gotten around to it until now. Honestly, the only excuse I had for postponing reading this series for so long—even though I shouldn’t—was because of the famous cliffhangers endings of each book in the series that I’ve heard of, and I was waiting for the series to be completed. For the past three years, I’ve been hearing that if you love The Wheel of Time and Sanderson’s books, you’re going to love this trilogy, and they’re not wrong. For clarification, I’m not even a fan of Wheel of Time, I have DNFed the series upon finishing the fourth installment, and I’m not sure when I’ll get back to it. I do, however, consider Sanderson as one of the greatest fantasy authors of all time. If you’re a fan of either Wheel of Time or Sanderson’s work, or maybe both, I think you have a great chance of loving this debut; I certainly did.

What I found to be the most impressive in The Shadow of What Was Lost was the level of details, planning, and complexities that Islington has put carefully into his storytelling, and to think that this is his debut and just the first book of the trilogy! The book did start in a similar way to a lot of other epic fantasy series—especially Wheel of Time—but the story did a corkscrew on me relatively faster, and Islington never lets up from there. “There’s always another secret,” Kelsier from Mistborn said, and this seems to be the advice that Islington took into account the most with his plotting. Throughout my entire time reading this novel, I was constantly guessing and theorizing in my head; Islington made sure that with each new answer revealed, more questions will be raised as a replacement. However, what furthered my enjoyment was how everything felt like a gradual process that never felt overwhelming to read. I seriously didn’t expect the story in The Shadow of What Was Lost would become this complex, but I never felt lost because Islington prioritized learning each new element and revelations through his character’s perspectives rather than telling them in an awkward inner-monologue info dump that has happened in many other fantasy books.

I also loved reading all chapters of the four main POV characters, which I realized have started becoming a rare occurrence the more I read. Usually, when I read a multi-perspective narration epic fantasy, there tend to be one or two POV characters that infuriated or bored me; in the worst-case scenario, some even felt like they didn’t need any POV chapters. That isn’t the case here; Davian, Wirr, Asha, and Caeden are all utterly crucial to the overarching storyline, and I had a blast reading every single one of their development. None of these characters were infuriating to read, and the importance of friendship, trust, and loyalty that Islington put into the main character’s motivations felt genuine and believable. These characters are plunged into deadly conflicts of ever-increasing proportion incredibly fast, and almost all of the characters here are morally grey and more than meet the eye; everyone has their own distinctive background, secrets, and motivations that drove them that I immensely enjoyed reading.

“Everyone has a darker nature, Caeden. Everyone. Good men fear it, and evil men embrace it. Good men are still tempted to do the wrong thing, but they resist those urges.”


It’s ridiculously hard for me to recall a fantasy debut that is as complex, engaging, and accessible as The Shadow of What Was Lost. I could mention The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons which I read in January 2019, and that book certainly doesn’t pale in complexity, but I felt that Lyons’s debut was trying to do too much that it loses the necessary quality of coherence. The details of world-building can be ultra-complex and the scope of lore could be massive but in the end, everything’s pointless if your readers can’t understand what’s going on. Thankfully, exposition is one thing that, in my opinion, Islington did extremely well. As I mentioned earlier, in this book we learned things together with the characters who, at first, also felt lost by the barrage of unfolding events. The in-depth and intricate magic system was brilliantly written; the vast scope of the history of the world was implemented precisely. The Wheel of Time and Sanderson’s influences are very apparent in many aspects of the world-building, but I think that Islington was able to successfully made the world of his series felt refreshing and original.

“You can put your trust in something that’s obvious, that’s measurable or predictable - but that's not faith. Nor is believing in something that gives you no pause for doubt, no reason or desire to question. Faith is something more than that. By definition, it cannot have proof as its foundation.”


There weren’t any major issues I found during my time of reading this book, as long that you know what to expect, I do think The Shadow of What Was Lost is a book that can be enjoyed by many epic fantasy readers whether they’re newcomers or veterans of the genre. My minor nitpicks would be that there were a few instances where Islington’s writing felt a bit choppy or awkward in the first half of the book. There were also a few phrases that felt repetitive; for example, the distracting phrases “he/she let out a breath he/she hadn’t realized he/she’d been holding” was repeated four or five times throughout the novel. However, miraculously, the quality of Islington’s prose improved significantly in the second half of the book. Islington has a writing style that’s simple, immersive, and super engaging; it reminded me of the best that Jordan has to offer in his Wheel of Time series IF only he would stop emphasizing repetition, smoothing skirt, tugging braid, and sniffing. Seeing the escalating quality of Islington’s prose in this book alone, I’m sure that the next books won’t have the same minor issue I faced in the first half of this book.

The majority of fantasy debuts I’ve read for the past two years—even those that I incredibly loved—have mostly been pretty straightforward in their narrative. The Shadow of What Was Lost offers a multi-layered and intricate world to dive into; most importantly, it is an immersive, accessible, and superbly entertaining classic fantasy written with a modern narrative. I can’t possibly describe how excited I am to be diving into the next two books as soon as I can; I didn’t plan this, but I’ll be binge-reading this series for sure. Too many questions demanding an answer right now, and I doubt I could be able to concentrate on reading something else until I found all the answers. From the first book alone, I already have a very good instinct that The Licanius Trilogy will end up being included in one of my favorite trilogies of all-time list when I’m done reading it, and I shall proceed to test whether my gut feeling will be proven or not.

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

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!

My Patrons: Alfred, Devin, Hamad, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas.
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Quotes Petrik Liked

James Islington
“You can put your trust in something that’s obvious, that’s measurable or predictable - but that's not faith. Nor is believing in something that gives you no pause for doubt, no reason or desire to question. Faith is something more than that. By definition, it cannot have proof as its foundation.”
James Islington, The Shadow Of What Was Lost


Reading Progress

September 14, 2018 – Shelved
February 8, 2020 – Started Reading
February 11, 2020 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 51 (51 new)


Brayan This is currently one of my all time favorite series. I hope you enjoy it.


message 2: by Maxime (new)

Maxime Great review, yet again my man!

What can you say about the level of action in this book? Duels? Battles? Wars? Anything to give me an idea of what to expect. :)


Petrik Brayan wrote: "This is currently one of my all time favorite series. I hope you enjoy it."

I think it's about to become one of my favorites too. I'm reading through the second book now! :)


Petrik Maxime wrote: "Great review, yet again my man!

What can you say about the level of action in this book? Duels? Battles? Wars? Anything to give me an idea of what to expect. :)"


Thank you, Maxime! Hmm, I wouldn't call this one action-packed, really. The story is very gripping and interesting, but if you're looking for battles, this isn't a book for you. There are battles, only at the last part of the book, though! :)


message 5: by Audrey (new) - added it

Audrey I know you will like it I would have been surprise otherwise I’m halfway in it and like you already my favorite. Great review Petrik


message 6: by TS (new) - rated it 5 stars

TS Chan PHEW!! I'm so glad that you loved it so much that it became a favorite of yours.
Fantastic review, my friend!


message 7: by Ambrine O. (new) - added it

Ambrine O. Well I bought the first book on Kindle (it was on sale) thanks to your review my friend 😂😊


Petrik Audrey wrote: "I know you will like it I would have been surprise otherwise I’m halfway in it and like you already my favorite. Great review Petrik"

Thank you, Audrey! It's so good, and it gets better non-stop. Enjoy! :)


Petrik TS wrote: "PHEW!! I'm so glad that you loved it so much that it became a favorite of yours.
Fantastic review, my friend!"


Thank you, my friend! I'm also glad that your reread of this one is better! :)


Petrik Ambrine O. wrote: "Well I bought the first book on Kindle (it was on sale) thanks to your review my friend 😂😊"

You're welcome, Ambrine! I hope you'll enjoy it, whenever you get around to it! :)


Chloe Yes! I loved this book! Now I just need to read the other 2, which are sitting on my TBR shelf! I'm so glad you loved this too!


message 12: by Pyramids (new)

Pyramids Ubiquitous Unfortunately the concept of WOT is better than reading the actual books. It’s like 30% good experience, 70% meh.


Petrik Chloe wrote: "Yes! I loved this book! Now I just need to read the other 2, which are sitting on my TBR shelf! I'm so glad you loved this too!"

I loved it so much, too, Chloe! I'm reading the second book right now, and it's really good! I hope you can get to it sooner, I have so much theory going on in my head! xD


Petrik Pyramids wrote: "Unfortunately the concept of WOT is better than reading the actual books. It’s like 30% good experience, 70% meh."

That's EXACTLY what I said to many readers. Every time someone talked to me about what's going on in the series, or what happened, key points etc, I'm always super excited. But the actual reading experience... omg. It's like digging through a pile of poop in Jurassic Park to find a few nuggets of gold here and there.


Maja Ingrid I'm glad you enjoyed it so much! I'm planning on rereading the two first books sometime this year so I can get to the third book! :D


Petrik Maja Ingrid wrote: "I'm glad you enjoyed it so much! I'm planning on rereading the two first books sometime this year so I can get to the third book! :D"

Thank you, Maja! Oh my god, that's a great idea. I don't think I could've read the third book without rereading first, so much details to remember! xD


Maja Ingrid Petrik wrote: "Thank you, Maja! Oh my god, that's a great idea. I don't think I could've read the third book without rereading first, so much details to remember! xD"

Yeah, I was stupid enough not to reread the first book before book 2... And now it's been AGES since I read both of them xD I actually had to check when I read Shadow and that was in 2016! And Echo when it was released 2017. So it's been a hot while, lol.


Petrik Maja Ingrid wrote: "Petrik wrote: "Thank you, Maja! Oh my god, that's a great idea. I don't think I could've read the third book without rereading first, so much details to remember! xD"

Yeah, I was stupid enough not..."


Ow damn, you read it on the year it was traditionally published! This series is so binge-able, though, I didn't plan to binge read it but it seems like I'll be reading the series non-stop to its completion! xD


Chloe Petrik wrote: "Chloe wrote: "Yes! I loved this book! Now I just need to read the other 2, which are sitting on my TBR shelf! I'm so glad you loved this too!"

I loved it so much, too, Chloe! I'm reading the secon..."


Then I will make it a priority to get to the second one very soon!!


message 20: by Maja Ingrid (last edited Feb 12, 2020 08:18AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Maja Ingrid Petrik wrote: "Maja Ingrid wrote: "Petrik wrote: "Thank you, Maja! Oh my god, that's a great idea. I don't think I could've read the third book without rereading first, so much details to remember! xD"

Yeah, I w..."


Yeah! I got it for christmas that year from a friend (who also got me Malice at the same time) and I devoured it! I struggled a little with Echo because I had forgotten too much from Shadow, lol. Which is why I NEED to reread before Light. will likely read them back to back once I've got my physical tbr down a notch.

also that same friend got me Light last christmas


message 21: by Kaylee (new) - added it

Kaylee Ding Great review as always! I too, love Sanderson, but gave up on WoT (after book 6, perhaps a few books too late) and I've heard favorable comparisons being drawn between Islington and Sanderson. I'm excited to give his books a go after such a glowing review from you, Petrik!


Petrik Chloe wrote: "Petrik wrote: "Chloe wrote: "Yes! I loved this book! Now I just need to read the other 2, which are sitting on my TBR shelf! I'm so glad you loved this too!"

I loved it so much, too, Chloe! I'm re..."


Yay!!! I look forward to your thoughts! 😄


Petrik Maja Ingrid wrote: "Petrik wrote: "Maja Ingrid wrote: "Petrik wrote: "Thank you, Maja! Oh my god, that's a great idea. I don't think I could've read the third book without rereading first, so much details to remember!..."

I know what you mean! I was going to wait a bit before I dive back into Echo, but nope... I feel like I would've forgotten many things and ended up ruining my experience. Hopefully your reread experience will be better, Maja! 😁


Petrik Kaylee wrote: "Great review as always! I too, love Sanderson, but gave up on WoT (after book 6, perhaps a few books too late) and I've heard favorable comparisons being drawn between Islington and Sanderson. I'm ..."

Thank you, Kaylee! Yeah... I gave up WoT after book 4, I honestly have a hard time going back into that series, it's excruciatingly boring. I hope you'll love this one as much as I did! 😀


Maja Ingrid Petrik wrote: "I know what you mean! I was going to wait a bit before I dive back into Echo, but nope... I feel like I would've forgotten many things and ended up ruining my experience. Hopefully your reread experience will be better, Maja! 😁"

Thanks, Petrik! I'm sure I will. Binge-reading series is one of my fave reading experience and I'm so looking forward going back to this world!


message 26: by Joelle (new) - added it

Joelle Ugh another one to add to the list. Your reviews are awesome 👏🏼👏🏼


message 27: by Wick (new) - rated it 4 stars

Wick Welker I enjoyed the first as well. I’m wondering how you’ll like the second...


Petrik Maja Ingrid wrote: "Petrik wrote: "I know what you mean! I was going to wait a bit before I dive back into Echo, but nope... I feel like I would've forgotten many things and ended up ruining my experience. Hopefully y..."

I loveeee binge-reading! I'm actually surprised that many readers prefer taking break in-between books. I mean, there are series like that, but I do prefer binge-reading series most of the time! :)


Petrik Joelle wrote: "Ugh another one to add to the list. Your reviews are awesome 👏🏼👏🏼"

Thank you, Joelle! I hope you can get around to this one soon! :)


Petrik Wick wrote: "I enjoyed the first as well. I’m wondering how you’ll like the second..."

I'm enjoying the second book, too, Wick! I'm around page 220ish! :)


message 31: by jess (new) - rated it 3 stars

jess I still dont really see the comparison to Wheel of Time, except when he journeyed into the tunnels!


message 32: by Jonathan (new) - added it

Jonathan O'Neill Hey mate, you're gonna need to ease up on the great reviews thanks. With the amount of reading I get done, my TBR is pretty much loaded up until the early 2030's with books that Petrik recommended 😬


message 33: by Petrik (last edited Feb 12, 2020 09:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Petrik jess wrote: "I still dont really see the comparison to Wheel of Time, except when he journeyed into the tunnels!"

Really? There were quite a lot of similarities with Eye of the World.
(view spoiler)


Petrik Jonathan wrote: "Hey mate, you're gonna need to ease up on the great reviews thanks. With the amount of reading I get done, my TBR is pretty much loaded up until the early 2030's with books that Petrik recommended 😬"

Hahahaha thank you, Jonathan! Unfortunately, I can't do that... I have to make sure that everyone's TBR reaches infinity and beyond! xD


Maja Ingrid Petrik wrote: "Maja Ingrid wrote: "Petrik wrote: "I know what you mean! I was going to wait a bit before I dive back into Echo, but nope... I feel like I would've forgotten many things and ended up ruining my exp..."

Yes I prefer binge-reading! I just love being able to remain in the same world with the same characters wirh no interuptions! The book-hangover afterwards though... 😂


message 36: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura I really struggled to get through The Eye of The World and am not really interested in continuing with the series but I love Brandon Sanderson's work so maybe I'll give this a go!


Petrik Maja Ingrid wrote: "Petrik wrote: "Maja Ingrid wrote: "Petrik wrote: "I know what you mean! I was going to wait a bit before I dive back into Echo, but nope... I feel like I would've forgotten many things and ended up..."

Oh god I know this pain and I keep on doing it. The book hangover, when the series is incredible, is simply unreal! xD


Petrik Laura wrote: "I really struggled to get through The Eye of The World and am not really interested in continuing with the series but I love Brandon Sanderson's work so maybe I'll give this a go!"

Considering that I DNFed Wheel of Time and I love Sanderson's work, too, I highly recommend this series! :)


Maja Ingrid Petrik wrote: "Oh god I know this pain and I keep on doing it. The book hangover, when the series is incredible, is simply unreal! xD"

We all know we'll suffer but still worth it


message 40: by Etel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Etel Brilliant review. The book is absolutely fantastic. And you know what? The series only gets better.


message 41: by Nicole (new) - added it

Nicole Wonderful review Petrik! Been wanting to read this book for a long time now, glad to know you liked it!


Petrik Etel wrote: "Brilliant review. The book is absolutely fantastic. And you know what? The series only gets better."

Thank you, Etel! Yup yup, I'm making my through the second book right now, I should be finished with it tomorrow! The flashbacks section in particular are so brilliant!


Petrik Nicole wrote: "Wonderful review Petrik! Been wanting to read this book for a long time now, glad to know you liked it!"

Thank you, Nicole! There are issues on the quality of writing and languages used, but considering the ambitious complexities and that this is a debut effort, I can forgive them! :D


message 44: by Jody (new) - added it

Jody Great review, bro! I will be starting this in March or April. Glad to know it lives up to the hype. :)


Petrik Jody wrote: "Great review, bro! I will be starting this in March or April. Glad to know it lives up to the hype. :)"

Thanks, bro! Urgh, it's so good, I should be done with the second book tomorrow. You will want to binge read this one! :D


message 46: by Jody (new) - added it

Jody Petrik wrote: "Jody wrote: "Great review, bro! I will be starting this in March or April. Glad to know it lives up to the hype. :)"

Thanks, bro! Urgh, it's so good, I should be done with the second book tomorrow..."


Oh! I plan on doing just that once I get started. This one has been on my TBR for a long time. I was just waiting on book 3 to be published.


Petrik Jody wrote: "Petrik wrote: "Jody wrote: "Great review, bro! I will be starting this in March or April. Glad to know it lives up to the hype. :)"

Thanks, bro! Urgh, it's so good, I should be done with the secon..."


Wise decision, that's what I did, too! For whatever reason, this seems to be a common action readers did for this series! :D


Spasticnontastic I wish I would have waited! I have book 3 right in front of me and can’t remember a whole heck of a lot from the first two books! ☺️😳


message 49: by Edward (new) - added it

Edward Great review, Petrik. Looking forward to digging into this one!


Petrik Spasticnontastic wrote: "I wish I would have waited! I have book 3 right in front of me and can’t remember a whole heck of a lot from the first two books! ☺️😳"

I know what you mean! There's a detailed recap at the beginning of book 3, though, but I dunno whether that will be enough or not if it has been a while since you read the first two books! I finished book 2 yesterday and I'm looking forward to dive into the third book quickly!


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