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The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington — Book Review & Summary


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

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

But when Davian discovers he has the ability to wield the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything. To the north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir. And to the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian’s wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is…

AUTHOR:               James Islington

PUBLISHED ON: 3 August 2014

GENRE:                 Epic Fantasy

STARS:                   3.75 Stars



             Heist, Close-knitted group of friends, Hidden Royalty, Finding suppressed powers, constants twists, Time Travel 

READING CHALLENGE: Read this for Add-on Prompt: A Book With a Question Word in the Title

The reading challenge is hosted by Shalini (kohleyed.com) #readingwithmuffy

The Shadow Of What Was Lost by James Islington Cover
The Shadow Of What Was Lost by James Islington


Davian works day and night, ignoring his friends, his body’s call for sleep. All this so that he could pass his trials and not become a Shadow. Every day as they come closer to the day of the Trials, Davian pushes himself but there is no sign, no proof that he can wield power and all he could think of was that he would be living his last day. But then before the day of his test, he meets one of the people who came with the delegation named Ilseth Tenvar who convinces him to flee before sunrise. Davian, despite having no power to wield, did hold one secret close to him and two of his friends that he could see when the opposite person was lying. Trusting Tenvar was easy and the task given to him was mysterious but intriguing and he was on his way.

When his friend Wirr comes to know about his plans, he quickly joined Davian and the two of them were on their journey with no definite path or destination but only the box that Tenvar had given them and the box would guide them. The institute was under attack that night, killing every member except the members of the delegation and Asha who was mysteriously left alive. But Asha was struck by another tragedy and her life changed forever.

Davian and Wirr continued on their way, trying to be as discreet as possible. Because the cost of getting caught was becoming a Shadow. They made their way towards the north waiting for any sign the box showed. The journey wasn’t easy. They had to con their way, lose money, witness people dying and also kill someone. But finally, they found their way and found that the box leads them to a prisoner. Freeing him, the two of them started a chain of events they didn’t even realise. The three of them hardly moved when they were followed and while they were saved, the three of them were captured again by someone who everyone believed was dead.

The train of conversations undercovered hidden truths, increased the pace of danger and confusion. Having no other way, they decided to reach Ilin Illan and find a way to uncover some hidden memories. The way was neither simple, not with all of them traitors to the tenants at the moment nor with monsters trying to stop them on every step. When they finally reach Desriel, every horror that they heard about the place became a reality. Yet, knowing that Desriel is the only way to their destination, they continued. In between fogs and attacks, Davian is separated from others and somehow ends up in a void, travelling a century back in time. He meets Malshash, an Augur who trains him and helps him ease some questions and at the same time raise 100 more.

Asha, who was mysteriously left alive during the attacks on school, met with a tragic fate. Having nowhere else to go, she found herself in Tol Athian. Having no memories of the attack or her friends, she is left with more questions. The unfamiliar environment or people didn’t help much either. But she found herself witnessing a murder and striking a deal with Scyner. And she finds herself as a Representative of Tol Athian in the palace. Her position is questioned often but no one dares to question Duke Elocien Andras. Soon Asha found herself working with some other Augurs and planning to stop the attacks and make the world a better place for the Gifted.

The capital is relaxed and no news of the attacks to the schools or other warnings can damper their relaxed attitude. But when the Blind attacked the kingdom, they have no other option but to change the Tenants that kept the Gifted in binding and the Shadows to lead them to victory. A victory that did cost loss of life, changes in political hierarchy and new things to be scared of.

The concluding chapter of The Shadow of What Was Lost opened a new truth and unravelled the mystery that one did not see coming.


Oh, my freaking gosh, what a ride The Shadow Of Lost Things was.! And the fact that The Shadow of what was lost was James Islington’s debut novel will never stop being awesome. This book has everything. There are different paths all leading to one whole plot, there is a heist, there is hidden royalty, there is mind-control, there are deaths, there is loss of memories, political uproar and Time Travel. It was a complete package.

“What did you find?” it hissed mockingly.

“You are false.” He said it calmly, staring defiantly at the dark mass. “Completely, utterly false.”

The Shadow of What Was Lost had been sitting in my library for ages and then finally one fine day, my brain decided that we are reading this series and oh damn…I wish I was there sooner. Like all epic fantasy books go, the beginning was a bit slow. But I was to admit it was still quicker than most books that I previously read. As I progressed, if there is one thing that I was in awe of was how vast world Islington has created. There is something you are constantly learning and at the same time, there is something that is continuously in progress.

“All that I wanted, I received
All that I dreamed, I achieved
All that I feared, I conquered
All that I hated, I destroyed
All that I loved, I saved
And so, I lay down my head weary with despair, for;
All that I needed, I lost”

Starting with things that I enjoyed. I really enjoyed the detailed and vast world-building. It was so detailed and maybe the theme was a bit used but the abilities were so raw. The disappearance of Augurs and then reading about their existence was so beautifully explained. I wanted to know about them. I wanted to learn everything about them. The way they disappeared and why. How they hide, careful to keep their secret hidden. Everything about it made my curious heart go lalalala.

“If you are a good man now…well, what you did in the past is in the past. There is no reason you can’t continue to be a good man in the future.”

Islington’s writing was simple. It wasn’t confusing. It wasn’t wrapped in layers. It didn’t talk in a flowery language where you fall in love with writing and not the story. The writing was simple, straightforward, confusing because of the nature of the story but just perfect. I can go into heavy detail about how much I enjoyed the minor details but it’ll at times hamper the mood. I think this is a beautiful book to just go blind in.

“Everyone has a darker nature. 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.”

Two tropes that I found in this book and I can’t help but fall in love with them: Time-travel & Amnesia. I am not a fan of time travel. It isn’t because of something that I read or saw. It’s just Time is a wonderful, brilliant and complex concept that I love to ponder upon. But recently, I read a couple of time-travel books and I am fascinated by how beautifully, creatively and spectacularly, Islington has wrapped it in The Shadow of What was Lost. Just brilliant. And it made me a fan of some brilliant time-travelling stuff to look forward to. And amnesia. I generally see this used in a romantic setting or at times in thrillers. It was a treat to watch this in Fantasy. And more than that it was so interesting to see the shades of how some memories would just come hitting him and episodes when the frustration grew. The helplessness of not knowing his name, his memories, his purpose, the reasons. It was just wow. With every memory that hit, on one hand, it got closer and clearer to understand him but the confusion just didn’t seem to die. I was on the edge every moment.

“Because it strikes me that a man needs to know what he believes before he can really know who he is.”

Now, despite my love for this book, there are a couple of things that didn’t work for me. First is the after-effects. There are traumatic scenes in motion but instead of the person changing or having shifted, their life just goes on and on. No, don’t get me wrong, the characters do grow throughout the story but it is as per what their character needs to do not on the basis of their experience. (I’ll give an example below in the spoiler zone).

And at times the characters lack a place to hold themself. I mean they all had important roles to play and their roles are distinct. But at times, I’ll look at them and find myself wanting to know more? More invested in their personal journey and not just the plot in general.

Putting aside a couple of problems that I personally felt, I think The Shadow of What was Lost was one of the most interesting debut novels that I have read. I read a couple of times that it is a perfect book for the fans of Mistborn and The Wheel of The Time series. While, I still have to read the Wheel of the Time (It’s something I want to do this year, let’s see how it goes) I love Mistborn a lot. So, I have to agree on that part. I would urge everyone to pick The Shadow of What Was Lost and enjoy the new world.

Instagram Reel featuring The Shadow of What Was Lost Aesthetics.


Caeden. For me, he was the hero. Every moment, every piece of his lost life, every recollection of his memories, every moment of his helplessness when he had no clue who he is and every struggle to not be the man everyone thought he was. I loved it so much.

I was almost positive that it was him teaching Davian about Augurs. And I screamed when I found that I was right.

When the school was attacked and Asha was the only one who was alive. That started a series of things or what I say is the point of real beginning and when she was turned into a Shadow..! I did not see that coming. It was amazing.

Out of the three of them, Asha’s story was so different and so compelling.

But what I meant when I said that I would love some more reaction from them. Be it any character, there seems no reaction about what they went through. Davian found the whole school was killed- he thought Asha was dead, someone whom he consider like a mother was dead and yet we don’t see him…reacting? We see him crying but no reactions as such?

I would very much like some violent reactions.

The story with Duke Elocien Andras was an amazing twist that I did not foresee but loved the twisty detail. I love and feel how scary it is when Augurs can at times see their own death and how what it seems is not exactly how it is. Somehow the visions and reality are so near, so close yet situations so damn different than what you can imagine.

REVIEW FOR An Echo of Things to Come and The Light of All that falls 

Another Time-Travel story: The Surviving Trace series by Calia Read (At least that’s the only one I have read and enjoyed).

You can read my character direction on Alizayd here.

You can support my content and buy me a Ko-fi.

READING CHALLENGE: Read this for Add-on Prompt: A Book With a Question Word in the Title

The reading challenge is hosted by Shalini (kohleyed.com) #readingwithmuffy

Instagram Reel featuring The Shadow of What Was Lost Aesthetics.


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