This doorstopper epic fantasy and trilogy opener was originally self-published in 2014.
The details that give this ingeniously plotted yarn its backbone emerge gradually—and are not always entirely clear. Twenty years ago, a war swept away and annihilated the tyrannical Augurs when their formidable magic inexplicably faltered. Their servants, the Gifted, whose lesser magic derives from Essence (Islington has an irritating habit of capitalizing things), were forcibly constrained to obey the Four Tenets, meaning they can no longer use their magic to cause harm even in self-defense. At a school-cum-sanctuary-cum-prison for the Gifted, three 16-year-old friends, Davian, Wirr, and Asha, face their final tests. Though an excellent student, Davian cannot use Essence and faces a cruel exile. He decides to abscond. Wirr believes Davian’s an Augur whose higher-order magic blocks his ability to channel Essence, and he insists on joining him. Ilseth Tenvar, a seemingly sympathetic Elder, gives Davian a mysterious magic box to guide his progress. The next morning Asha wakes to a nightmare of her own. On the road Davian encounters the strange, scarred Gifted Taeris Sarr, who three years ago saved his life (Davian doesn’t remember the incident) and supposedly was executed for his pains. In the far north an ancient evil stirs, while in a related development, Caeden wakes in a forest to find himself covered in blood and with no memory of anything. So, in time-honored fashion, nobody is what they seem to be, everybody has a secret agenda, and the key players all lack pivotal memories. And while there’s nothing much new here, Islington’s natural storytelling ability provides incessant plot twists and maintains a relentless pace. The characters have well-rounded personalities and don’t make decisions or errors merely to advance the plot, even if they all sound and act the same youngish age.
A promising page-turner from a poised newcomer who’s well worth keeping tabs on.