I received a review copy of An Echo of Things to Come in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Orbit Books and James Islington.
The narrative picks up events one month after The Blinds' brutal assault on Ilin Illan which concluded The Shadow of What Was Lost. All of the four main point-of-view characters (Davian, Wirr, Asha, and Caeden) find themselves with very different objectives, however, all are hoping to put a stop to what could be an impending invasion beyond reckoning at the hands of a supremely powerful enemy should The Boundary at the edge of Talen Gol fall.
As Prince, and Northwarden of Ilian Illan, Wirr is dealing with political unrest and potential assassination attempts. Davian, an Augur who possesses once forbidden magic, has been sent on a mission to The Boundary with the aim being to stop it faltering and essentially keep it standing indefinitely so that the enemies and fabled monsters cannot make their way across to civilisation. Asha, a shadow, does lots of spying and espionage stuff but her mission is least memorable at the beginning. Finally, Caeden. Well, he's getting his memories back now albeit slowly, and normally at highly inconvenient times by meeting old acquaintances.
My favourite characters are the three friends, Asha, Davian, and Wirr and although they are still very much the same individuals we met near the start of The Shadow of What Was Lost, they have had to change drastically due to both personal and larger issues. The character development throughout the series, and even in this book in isolation is outstanding. The former college students paths do cross occasionally and I always loved their often brief conversations with the hidden subtext of "if only something utterly terrible wasn't about to happen and we could just, y'know, chat like we used to?"
Caeden is the most important character. Powerful beyond belief without often understanding how. He's searching for a legendary sword in the present. Half of his point of view narrative is him unconsciously falling into flashback sections. Initially, some of these were confusing when focusing on events from millennia ago featuring characters and places readers are not familiar with. It took me a while to get used to this but it perfectly reflects what Caeden is going through when refamiliarising himself with his previously hidden memories, and slowly fitting the pieces of the incomplete puzzle together regarding his often notorious past to recollect if he really was the person people are saying he was and also what he plans to accomplish going forward and whether it's on the side of right or wrong.
The narrative starts slowly and takes a few 100-pages to really get going. A fair amount of new characters are introduced or expanded on from the shorter almost cameo roles they had in the previous book. Andyn, Wirr's witty and mysterious bodyguard was a personal favourite. Certain side characters never feel as fully fleshed as I would have liked though and more often act as devices to point the main characters in a certain plot direction. The magic scheme is still enhanced and pretty glorious though and through Caeden's flashbacks we are given views of the phenomenal potential it can have as well as the history surrounding it and it's past users. For fantasy lovers who are looking to fill the gaps whilst waiting for Brandon Sanderson's next release then James Islington's phenomenal debut series should be their next purchase. The magic-system, world-building, and character-development are sublime. The pacing was slightly off for me here very occasionally but I criticised Oathbringer for the same reason and that's probably just my personal taste. This could end up being one of the best Epic Fantasy trilogies of the decade.
The final third sees everything speed up and previous complexities seem to make sense. There are a few tragic moments, unexpected deaths, and brief torture scenes. All the story arcs conclude in an intense and exciting fashion that has led to me already asking Orbit for The Light of all That Falls as soon as they can send it! In addition, the ending has one of the best cliffhangers I've read in a long time. The epilogue in particular. After reading it three times to make sure I truly understood what had happened (...and I had), now I've spent the last three days thinking about the consequences, complications, and the inevitability of events to come as well as what we know about the world. This one ends with a bang!
Review by James Tivendale
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