Book Review - THE WILL OF THE MANY by James Islington

(Title: The Will of the Many / Author: James Islington / Publisher: Saga Press / Publication Date: May 23, 2023 / Total Pages: 688)

Back Cover Blurb
The Catenan Republic  - The Hierarchy - may rule the world now, but they do not know everything.

I tell them my name is Vis Telimus. I tell them I was orphaned after a tragic accident three years ago, and that good fortune alone has led to my acceptance into their most prestigious school. I tell them that once I graduate, I will gladly join the rest of civilised society in allowing my strength, my drive and my focus - what they call Will - to be leeched away and added to the power of those above me, as millions already do. As all must eventually do.

I tell them that I belong, and they believe me.

But the truth is that I have been sent to the Academy to find answers. To solve a murder. To search for an ancient weapon. To uncover secrets that may tear the Republic apart. 

And that I will never, ever cede my Will to the empire that executed my family.

To survive, though, I will still have to rise through the Academy's ranks. I will have to smile, and make friends, and pretend to be one of them and win. Because if I cannot, then those who want to control me who know my real name, will no longer have any use for me.

And if the Hierarchy finds out who I truly am, they will kill me.

I am such a sucker for stories that involve an ancient cataclysm mystery. I mean, I love it so much and want that kind of plot injected directly into my brain. That is just one of the many intriguing storylines that acclaimed fantasy author James Islington has weaved into his latest upcoming novel THE WILL OF THE MANY. Not only that, Islington has also managed to create one of the more emotional journeys of any main character that I have come across.

Coming off of the brilliant Licanius Trilogy, I wasn't sure just what to expect from this one. Would it still give me that same magical feeling I got when I read that series? Well all I'll say is Islington has proven that he has some of the best ideas and writing chops in the game after finishing this utterly spellbinding first book in the Hierarchy series. It shouldn't have been as effortless as it was for me to fly through this almost 700 page book, but it was. And that's just a testament to the magnificent storyteller that James Islington is. 

Part of the excellence of this book stems from just how many layers of mystery are involved. Just when one might look like it is solved, another pops up and often takes the story in a wholly unexpected direction. The Hierarchy is portrayed as yet another group of megalomaniacs who after conquering a weaker kingdom, now rules with absolute and unquestioned authority. They also rule by way of a super cool magic system that enables them to gain power by sucking the "Will" from those they capture and imprison. It kind of reminded me of the magic system in David Farland's Runelords series but with a slightly different and unique twist. Those with the most Will, Princeps, are ranked highest in the Catenan ruling class, followed by Dimidius, Tertius, Quartus, well you get the picture. It is by this transfer of Will that the Hierarchy is able to remain in power and maintain their seemingly invincible stranglehold.

And yet main character Vis believes all is not lost and that by infiltration into the famed Catenan Academy, he might be able to uncover vital information that could reveal potential vulnerabilities in the Hierarchy's armor. This is where the book really had me in its grip as Vis happens upon so many instances of near capture, death, and being exposed as an agent of the resistance that I wasn't sure whether he was going to even survive past the first half of the book to be completely honest. Is this a fool's errand, or can one person really hope to overturn and reverse the forces of tyranny that have taken over a battered and beaten homeland?

Wow, what an extraordinary read this was. I can't get over how many twists and turns this book took and how completely off balance I was for the vast majority of it. The thing that I liked best was not knowing who in the story was truly trying to help Vis and who was just being friendly only to bide their time until they could thrust a short blade in his back. There's so much deception involved and it's the exact type of fantasy book that I love to read. And while Islington reveals small pieces of the larger picture, he tantalizingly leaves so much still hidden and open for conjecture for the story that is still to come.

THE WILL OF THE MANY is a stunning achievement from one of the most talented epic fantasy writers in the game right now. To me this opening book in Islington's brand new series has further shown that he has the staying power to continue to create breathtaking new worlds, brilliantly realized magic systems, and characters who we can both root for and despise. Simply a wonderful book that made me all the more desperate to have the next one in my hand. It's the kind of story that stays with you long after completion and makes you hunger for more. I still have so many questions and cannot wait to continue on with this series. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a masterfully told tale with all of the elements that constitute a compulsive read.



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