Despised by the people beyond the school walls and unable to harness the powers within him, Davian is counting down the days till he is stripped of his magical capabilities and discarded like many before him. But when he discovers his true abilities lie within the forbidden powers of the Augurs, he sets off in search of the truth, alongside his best friend, and together they must learn the truth before an ancient enemy awakens and threatens to destroy the boundary that protects them all.
I’m so undecided on my thoughts on this book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the concept, but on the other, the pacing is sluggish, and the writing is stilted, which made this six-hundred-page book feel even longer than it already was.
The Shadow of What Was Lost begins with Davian, awoken in the night, called upon by his teachers to witness a fellow classmate become a Shadow, a punishment for escaping and using his abilities while not tethered to a shackle. This device prevents them from using Essence. As Davian watches his classmate wither away, he fears he could be next. For years, he has been unable to harness essence like his best friend, Wirr, and if he fails to pass the upcoming trials, then all hope is lost. But his lack of wielding isn’t his only issue. Davian can also tell when someone is lying; their breath releases dark smoke, which is also a surefire sign of being an Augur, people who held various powers of precognition and time manipulations. A generation later, Augurs are hunted down, and the Gifted, like Davian and Wirr, are bound to the Tenets, which keeps them under the control of non-Gifted users.
Shadow’s greatest strength lies in its plot. It’s a solid series-opener. I was enthralled with the initial idea. Davian, who has only ever known the walls of his school, must set off on a journey with only a cryptic message and a box. The scope is immense, and the setting is detailed. I just wish it was better incorporated into the story. There was so much potential, but it’s dragged down by its slow pacing and lack of action.
The story diverges from Davian’s to also give us the perspective of Asha, a classmate, who is unaware that Davian and Wirr have survived the attack on their school. Her memories are wiped as she is taken in by another school and gains the attention of Duke Elocien Andras, who surprises Asha by working to better the position of the Gifted. Asha’s arc was the highlight of the book for me. Her story is better-paced and doesn’t suffer from the same stilted journey as Davian.
Davian’s story falls victim to the long journey as he makes his way up north carrying a box that is supposed to lead him to where he needs to go, as advised by Elder Tenvar, whose intentions become strangely suspicious. Here is where the story fails to give rise or any sense of action to Davian’s journey. Islington introduces many characters but doesn’t seem to provide them with the genuine attention they deserve. The voices of younger characters like Davian and Asha sound precisely the same as Ilseth Tenvar and Taeris Sarr, who are supposed to be in their forties. New members join Davian’s journey and leave just as quick without making much of a splash. And when they’re all in one room together, it becomes messy and confusing.
Overall, I really want to give this series a chance. There were some moments of fun and shocking revelations. The characters and tropes are familiar without being overused. And as a debut, it’s a fun introduction to a trilogy I can see having some potential for other fantasy lovers.