When I started An Echo of Things to Come by James Islington, I was certain of two things. Firstly, reading a huge fantasy story that I hadn’t read before on an e-book was considerably harder because I couldn’t have easy access to the map or the glossary, and secondly I knew for certain that this book series was definitely going to fall into the “two reads” category of series.
Both of these things are good things, but both influenced the way that I read this book the first time round.
This blog is going to contain spoilers for both A Shadow of what was Lost and An Echo of Things to Come, so please don’t read further if you’ve not read the series yet and grab yourself a copy of the book to read.
Second books in trilogies always have the hard task of trying to keep the reader engaged whilst doing a lot of heavy lifting towards the final arc of the third book’s payoff. An Echo of Things To Come is like that, and it requires concentration and thought to really follow what is going on. I will admit, not having easy access to the map whilst learning a new fantasy world which has four points of view jumping around similarly named places did make it harder. However, I kept reading because I simply had to. I had to know what happened to the end, I had to see the way the intricate plot points wove their way amongst each other. And despite not having access to the glossary either (which, on reflection, made me realise how much I referred to it when reading The Wheel of Time for the first few times), I still managed to keep track of who was who…just about.
The worldbuilding in this series is deeply intricate, with multiple plotlines occurring across multiple timestreams (which then interplay with one another). But despite the complexity of the plot, as a reader I never felt like I was completely lost amongst it all. Sure, I know there are hints and clues I didn’t pick up first time as to the true identity of people, but I still could broadly follow the story.
I started this blog saying that this series was definitely a two read series for me, which for me means I have to read the series at least more than once to really appreciate it. I have this with all big fantasy tomes – even as an avid fantasy fan I still had to read Mistborn and Stormlight multiple times to fully appreciate every aspect of them. Whilst for some this might be offputting, I actually really enjoy it. It means that I can enjoy the page-turning intensity of the pacing (and Islington really is an expert in keeping the pace moving forward) without having to pick up on every clue. It means I get to re-read it and enjoy the story a second time, knowing where it ends up but now appreciating all the layers of clues that existed before I noticed them.
(Although, there are a few bits that I did guess before they were revealed, which was very satisfying indeed).
For me, the main pull of this series is the time-travel plot, because it’s the first time I’ve read something on the grand scale of epic fantasy with a key (and obvious) plot element of messing around with time like it’s a sci-fi series. I absolutely love the whole concept of fate vs individual decisions, and whether or not fate means that you have control over your actions or not. Not only does it play along with the whole concept of prophecy which is common in fantasy books, I have always held a special place for time paradoxes since my very first days of writing. People popping up when they shouldn’t and giving clues to one another and then you finding out the POV which gave that clue is simply brilliant.
The final comment I have to make is about Caeden’s story-arc. You find out at the end of A Shadow of What was Lost that Caeden is in fact the “Big Bad” from history. This means his arc is not just about finding his memories, but also finding his redemption and whether or not he earns it. It means that we delve into a complex and messy world of immortality and what this does to a person, and what it truly means to be “evil”. I love, love when authors delve into “what does it mean to be evil” in fantasy stories because it unpacks so much of the traditional “good vs evil” storyline. The fact you get this alongside an over-arcing story which is solidly good vs evil storyline is simply divine.
I’m shouting about this series to all of my friends who read fantasy, and I can’t wait to finish the trilogy so I can ear mark it to re-read again. Islington has firmly become one of my see a book by them and buy it authors.