What started out as a seemingly straightforward classic adventure fantasy quickly evolved into a complex story with countless dynamics and twists and turns. I ended up liking it ten times more than I thought I would — it’s easily one of the best I’ve read this year.
I wouldn’t call this series an “easy” read as it required more concentration than average, but it’s certainly worth the effort. I don’t pretend I always knew for certain what was going on when some of the time-travel elements were introduced, but Islington quickly earned my trust in his ability to tell a good story and reveal things on a need-to-know basis. Instead of stressing about figuring things out, I finally just sat back and enjoyed the thought-provoking and entertaining ride.
The setting shared similar elements with series such as Sword of Truth and the Stormlight Archives, but they were integrated in a way that felt fresh and original. What’s more, I feel as though the author has barely scratched the surface of what this world has to offer in these first two books. I’m always a sucker for such in-depth world building, so I’m cautiously optimistic that the third will blow my mind. It’s not just the world building that makes it unique but also the overall atmosphere. The power plays and dynamics between the heavy-hitters in this series set an almost tangible ominous overtone. It was fantastic.
My only criticisms (which kept the overall rating from a solid five stars) are pretty nitpicky. The end of the first book had a lot of repetitive word choice that was noticeable enough to become distracting, and I think the pacing could have been a tad tighter. The second book had a bunch of flashback scenes which killed the momentum a bit. Even though the flashbacks usually advanced plot and built character, they made the book feel longer. However, what book two lacked in pacing it more than made up for with an absolutely killer ending. At this point, I don’t think it’s fair that we have to wait a year before the final book.
As the Licanius Trilogy is responsible for some of my favorite reading experiences of the year so far, I’d recommend it to any fantasy reader who isn’t afraid of a slow-burn plot with lots of dynamics. My recommendation is especially strong to those who love the feel of classic fantasy but want something a little more complex.
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