Today I am interviewing James Islington, author of the new epic fantasy novel, The Shadow of What Was Lost, first book of The Licanius trilogy.
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DJ: Hey James! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
James Islington: Hi, and my pleasure! So I’m 35, Australian, married and with a daughter who’s just turned one. I’ve been writing for about five years now (though this is the first time The Shadow of What Was Lost is getting an ‘official’ release, I initially self-published it all the way back in 2014).
DJ: What is The Shadow of What Was Lost about?
James: In a lot of ways it’s a traditional epic fantasy, following a young group from humble beginnings into this huge, world-threatening conflict – think the tone of The Wheel of Time series. So there’s coming-of-age stories, multiple intersecting plots, plenty of magic and action and intrigue as you’re introduced to the world. But at its core, it’s about this dark threat against the world, and the main characters figuring out what it is and how to deal with it.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Shadow of What Was Lost, and The Licanius trilogy?
James: The series I just mentioned, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, is probably most easily identifiable as an influence on the book. Another big one would be Brandon Sanderson’s work on Mistborn and Stormlight Archives.
Of course, other stories generally – including genres other than fantasy, and media other than books – are always influences too. If I’ve really enjoyed something about a narrative, I think it’s inevitably going to shape how I look at my own work!
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them? (aka What makes them compelling?)
James: There are four main characters. Three of them – Davian, Asha and Wirr – are students at a school for the Gifted (the most common type of magic users of the world). Davian has a bit of a dark back story and Wirr has something from his past that he hides from everyone else, while Asha is forced to deal with a terrible, life-changing event early in the book. But I think the main reason they’re compelling is that they’re also just normal people – good kids – who are thrown into this conflict and have to figure out how to deal with it all.
The fourth main character, Caeden, is a lot more of a mystery. When they meet him, he’s been accused of some pretty horrible murders – but he has no memory of whether he committed them. So he’s constantly trying to figure what happened to him and where he fits into everything that’s going on.
DJ: What is the world of The Licanius trilogy like?
James: It’s quite a large world and most things – people, religions, governments and so on – vary significantly from country to country, so I won’t get into that too much.
For Andarra – which is the country where much of the first book takes place – probably the most notable thing is that it’s pretty rough for people who can use magic. Twenty years ago, the Gifted were running things, but then a massive rebellion nearly wiped them all out. Now they’re allowed back into society, but with some pretty serious restrictions – and because of that conflict a generation ago, they’re still despised by a lot of the populace. So for the most part, they keep themselves quite isolated, and there’s a lot of tension between them and everyone else.
DJ: Can you tell us more about the “Gifted” and the “Augurs”? What are the Augurs’ “much-feared powers” and what is the “Gift”?
James: The Gifted have the ability to manipulate their own life force, their ‘Essence’, to physically affect things around them. They’re not especially uncommon in Andarra, though their numbers were decimated twenty years ago by the rebellion.
The Gifted used to serve under the Augurs, a much smaller group (about a dozen people at any one time) who had much more powerful abilities – they could read minds, manipulate time and, most importantly, foresee a future that would inevitably come to pass. They were the rulers of Andarra until their abilities started to mysteriously fail them, which is when the rebellion became possible.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Shadow of What Was Lost?
James: In retrospect, probably the world-building – figuring out how all the unusual aspects of the world would/could fit together, and then how they might impact society, history, and pretty much every other aspect of the story. It’s a fun ongoing mental exercise that you don’t get to engage in anywhere near as much for sequels.
DJ: The Shadow of What Was Lost was originally released as a self-published ebook, but is only now getting a traditional publisher release in hardcover. Normally, I’d ask what you’d think readers will talking about, but you already know! XD
What has been the general opinion from readers so far? What have reviews, readers, and bloggers been saying about it?
James: The response has been fantastic – certainly reviews from both readers and bloggers have been very complimentary. I think people have really enjoyed that it’s got a lot of the traditional elements that makes fantasy so fun to read, but it also puts them together in a unique, fast-paced and interesting way. Probably the most telling aspect of the response has been the word-of-mouth effect on sales – I didn’t do any kind of advertising when I self-published back in 2014, but to date the book’s sold more than 100,000 copies. I figure that has to be a pretty good sign!
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Shadow of What Was Lost that you can share with us?
James: One quote that I’ve always liked is an inscription one of the characters comes across in the story:
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.
DJ: Now that The Shadow of What Was Lost is released, what is next for you?
James: I’m in the middle of editing the sequel, An Echo of Things to Come. It should be released sometime next year!
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Orbit page: http://www.orbitbooks.net/shadow-lost/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/James-Islington/e/B00ME7ACR8/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Shadow of What Was Lost that we haven’t talked about yet?
James: Perhaps one thing people have noted in a positive way, that is sometimes hard to tell from blurbs and even reviews, is that this is a relatively ‘clean’ book – it’s much closer to Brandon Sanderson’s style than GRRM’s (though there’s nonetheless quite a bit of darkness and violence, so it’s absolutely still aimed at adults). It’s just not in the gritty, ‘grimdark’ style of the genre that has become quite prevalent in recent years.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
James: Thanks for the questions, it’s been fun!
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*** The Shadow of What Was Lost is published by Orbit and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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As a Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything.
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…
And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir.
James Islington was born and raised in southern Victoria, Australia. His influences growing up were the stories of Raymond E. Feist and Robert Jordan, but it wasn’t until later, when he read Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series – followed soon after by Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind – that he was finally inspired to sit down and write something of his own. He now lives with his wife and daughter on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.
For more information, or to contact James, please visit his official site at www.jamesislington.com.