Review: An Echo of Things to Come by James Islington

“AS SHADOWS RISE, A DARKNESS AWAKES

An amnesty has been declared for all Augurs – finally allowing them to emerge from hiding and openly oppose the dark forces massing against Andarra. However, as Davian and his new allies hurry north towards the ever-weakening Boundary, fresh horrors along their path suggest that their reprieve may have come far too late.

Meanwhile, Caeden continues to wrestle with the impossibly heavy burdens of his past. Yet as more and more of his memories return, he begins to realise that the motivations of the two sides in this ancient war may not be as clear-cut as they first seemed…”

So for those of you who read my review of TSoWWL (read here), you’ll know that I was a huge fan of the first volume of this trilogy. That book had me hurtling into the sequel, eager to continue these characters’ journeys, but it also breeds expectation. There was a lot of pressure on the sequel for it live up to its predecessor and to maintain that level of storytelling.

I’ll get this out of the way quickly: Islington knocks this one out of the park.

The heroic fantasy tone continues from the first book, even as the stakes rise and the peril increases. There’s an emotional weight to everything happening, but Islington manages to keep to that heroic tone and make the reading experience enjoyable. There’s a wonder and optimism to this story that, despite the death and danger, reminds me of how transportive good fantasy fiction can be. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following these characters and getting lost in their world.

Each POV character continues to bring something to the story, and again I didn’t experience any POV fatigue while reading. The characters continue to grow and struggle and it’s all written remarkably well.

The pace of this volume is slightly slower than the first, but is by no means slow. Our understanding of the characters and the world deepens at every turn, and there’s so much here to learn and explore that it’s evident this series will benefit from multiple read throughs. I’ve been slightly stunned at points by just how well the magic system has been thought out and implemented into the narrative, and I can’t wait to see how things develop in the final instalment. On the flip side of this, the reader looking for casual entertainment from this novel may be deterred by the sheer amount of names and places and plotlines, not all of which can be tracked using the book’s map and glossary. However, I do think there’s a “surface level” entertainment value to be had, and that the novel more than rewards a close read.

It’s worth mentioning the use of time travel in this novel, too. It was incorporated wonderfully in TSoWWL, and by necessity it is brought into more focus in the sequel. I had a lot of fun mapping the various timelines in my head while reading, making connections and fitting so many puzzle pieces together, but I can see how there could be an argument that Islington has painted himself into a corner with this. There’s a seeming inevitability to the narrative now going into book three which may put some readers off, however I believe Islington has built enough trust over these two volumes that I’m more than willing to follow the story through to its conclusion – and to be fair, so much of this story revolves around the nature of choice and fate that the notion of inevitability is constantly called into question (by the characters and readers alike). I’m not willing to place a bet on the outcome.

As you can probably guess, An Echo of Things to Come gets a solid five stars from me. Often the second book in a trilogy can be the weakest, but I found this novel to be an improvement on an already fantastic first book. Everything I loved about the first one has been ramped up, and it was as if my vision were being widened at every turn – the complexity of this story has always been there, but this book gives further insight into it all. Remarkable. I’ve already pre-ordered the final volume The Light of All That Falls, scheduled for August 2018.

An incredible read.

You can learn more about James Islington here, and An Echo of Things to Come is available from Amazon.co.uk here. I read the UK Hardback edition.

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