“Everyone has a darker nature, Caeden. Good men fear it, and evil men embrace it”.
This book—and the series—belongs to the coming-of-age and traditional fantasy stories, reminiscent of books such as The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. It is also worth noticing that this is the debut for James Islington and what an incredible story he has delivered! Not only does it have an inspiring plot, but it is also well executed in terms of delivery. Do not be fooled by the beginning of the story, which might seem pretty straight forward; the plot is surprising with fast-paced narration and many twists and turns, credible ones too, which can leave a reader breathless. It is most definitely an action-packed story featuring compelling characters with a whole world to discover; and a world to save.
This book deserves 4.5 stars out of 5 for its complexity of the story, the characters, and the magic system has certainly caught the attention of many fantasy readers such as myself.
Beware of the spoilers from now on! And now that you have been warned, please continue if you dare!
There are several aspects of the book that are outstanding. First and foremost, the magic system. Actually, the magic systems; yes, plural! The Gifted have abilities to morph magic and they use this to rule over the land to keep the non-gifted in check. Following the end of a war 20 years before, between Gifted and non-gifted, the new monarchy—and the new social system—sees the magic of the Gifted bound so they are unable to use magic to harm others and obey the non-gifted.
The second magic wielders are the Augurs. In theory, they do not walk the land any longer, but we discover that Davian, and others, are one of them so he will need to discover who he is and how to control his power. This quest actually opens a fresh, albeit non-original maybe, version of time-travel. This magic system is explored through Davian, but it is also left to secondary characters to explain how powerful Augurs can be and what kind of influence they can exert.
Finally, there is the possibility that a Gifted loses his or her power and, besides the skin colour change—I cannot wait to see a visual mean of the story because this sounds just incredible—the person becomes a Shadow and are considered less than second (let’s say last) tier citizen.
Quite frankly, the book does a great job in describing who the Shadows are and how poorly they are treated and what they can really do. Their story, thanks to Asha, becomes almost addictive. For instance, it becomes apparent that the Shadows are not willing to be simply mistreated as they are tired of being the invisible ones and they are ready to do something about that. Scheming, politics, the hidden (or not so hidden) agendas of all the parties involved in this story, from the ruling family of Andarra, to the Gifted, to the Shadows—everyone has a goal and no-one is ready for the war that the Blind bring to the capital.
The story also explores in some detail various family relationships and, in particular, a father-son relationship that flourishes throughout the narration of Wirr’s storyline. This is a relationship that helps Wirr transform from a reluctant hero to an involved and inspired member of the royal family, understanding what is at stake and become willing to do his part. It is not revolutionary in the genre, yet the character is passionate and sincere in his motives. Yet, the main driver for his change, his father, might not be as enlightened as Wirr thinks he is. Which leaves space for a great character development (or the opposite?) for Wirr; or will James Islington plot another twist that readers will not see coming?
There is also a connection to or an inspiration, if you will, to The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The premise of the story is an ancient fight between the dark lord and his foe (the hero? The question mark is not an accident). This fight is presented in a short, somehow cryptic prologue that really sets the tone for the type of characters of the story. Most of them are really ambivalent, being grey rather than black or white; which triggers interesting trips to self-discovery by the characters, especially but not limited to Caeden who can be described as the most mysterious character of the story and the most complex. A journey to find who he is and what motivates him. A dark secret and a devastating truth.
Besides the magic system which is complex yet explained in a simple way, the characters are the best aspect of the book; a great variety of characters, incredibly compelling, absolutely relatable (law of probability) because they are fleshed out in an insightful way!
As a side note, the audiobook is just another absolutely rare gem by Michael Kramer. The prose of the book is simple enough to allow an audiobook to capture all the details of the story!
Want to read the first chapter? Read it now!
Have you read the novel? What are your thoughts about it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!
SYNOPSIS | Goodreads
It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them – the Gifted – are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion’s Four Tenets, vastly limiting their powers.
As a Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything.
To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian’s wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is… And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir.