The other month, I ventured back into the bowels of a Bookshop for the first time since Lockdown. I say the bowels of the bookshop, because fantasy books are always located somewhere in a cellar or right at the back of the shop, tucked away underneath a heading of science fiction and comic novels. It’s like a collection of all things nerdy has been consigned to three shelves of the bookstore on the expectation that the main bookstore user is not looking for high fantasy tomes. Quite frankly, more people should try high fantasy tomes, and I’ve found one that was so good I need to write a whole blog post about it.
The Shadow of What was Lost
The Shadow of What was Lost by James Islington was nestled neatly on one of the three rows of selected fantasy books at this first visit to a Bookstore. I was pulled in by the beautiful cover, which reminded me of the UK Stormlight Archive cover, which is a gorgeous silhouette design. Then the title intrigued me – it has an almost rhythmic quality to it and unlike a lot of fantasy books I’ve read lately it was longer than three words.
(something I’m possibly going to consider for whenever I get around to naming by ongoing novel).
On that particular day, I didn’t buy the book. I already was reading another book which I was determined to finish before I brought something else to add to the To Be Read list. So I took the name down, added it to my goodreads and kind of thought nothing more of it until I had finished the books I already had.
E-Books aren’t all bad
In the last year, I’ve been a convert to e-books. I got a Kindle for Christmas and ever since I’ve been curious about not only what books I can buy, but what I can sample. I’m quite a picky reader, mostly due to time constraints, so when I sit down to read a book I want to really enjoy it.
My first few purchases were a bit hit and miss, so I’ve got into more of a habit of sampling different books, reading the first few chapters, and then deciding whether I want to buy. It’s what I’d do in a Bookstore (a number of times I have been told to just buy the book when I’ve stood there for five minutes reading it), but in the comfort of my own home.
I will admit, The Shadow of What was Lost was not a purposeful download. I was showing my kindle to another family member so wanted to include a few more titles in the library to show how it worked, so I downloaded a number of samples from my TBR list. Then, I found myself with ten minutes to spare on one train ride to work, and so started The Shadow of What was Lost.
And then I read the book in a week, because it’s that damn good.
Why I enjoyed this book
On Goodreads, there is a lot of comparison to Brandon Sanderson’s style of writing and the Wheel of Time. Both of which are quite considerable comparisons, but I found they were true to size.
We start with the Point of View of Davian in a traditional magic school setting, apart from Davian is the only member of this school who can’t perform the magic of the Gifted. Also meet his friends, Wirr and Asha, who later taken on POVs in the story, along with the mysterious Caeden who they meet on their travels.
One of my favourite things about this book is it challenges you to learn the world and the story quickly, but it doesn’t overwhelm you with concepts from the off. I’m one of those people who enjoy being able to re-read books two or three times to pickup all the details, so it was really nice to have a story that you could follow without having to work out every detail – I can leave those to the second or third re-reads.
The other reason why I enjoyed this book is the plot. By days, not only is the plot fantastic but there are some really definitive moments which made me actually punch the air because it was just… unexpected. I’m not going to talk about them in detail but for those of you who have read the book – there is a scene with unexpected time travel and the ending scene is like dayum this is a good plot twist.
Reading for inspiration
One of the challenges I’ve had with writing is that I haven’t read enough books. It’s a common piece of writing advice that reading more will help your own creative writing projects, but it’s been a while since I’ve read a book that I’ve been truly inspired by.
One of my favourite parts of The Shadow of What was Lost is the pacing. The book doesn’t mind if the story progresses quickly, in fact I think it helps the reader stick to the interesting parts of the plot. Instead of extended lets walk from place A to place B, Islington is comfortable to jump forward in both physical distance and time in the space of a few sentences. In fact, I found the fast pacing really helped me stay engaged with the story when I was reading in short bursts. Given my short attention span for voluntarily reading additional words in my free time, that was a real bonus.
Add The Shadow of What was Lost to your TBR list!
If you’re looking for a high fantasy book to add to your TBR list, then I would definitely recommend The Shadow of What was Lost. If you’re on Goodreads, you can find it here.
Alex.J.Cobalt is a fantasy writer from the UK. When she’s not working away at her fantasy novel series, she posts free flash fictions on her website, along with regular blogs about writing.