The Will of the Many by James Islington might just be the finest book I read all year. I was hooked on the premise that it was a fantasy story set in a Roman inspired world – for those that read my own books you’ll know my long love of the period.
This is so much more than that though. It’s a redemption tale, a coming of age, a boy rising to become a man and exact revenge upon an empire that brought down his family. It’s utterly magnificent.
Vis Telimus – as he is introduced to us, is a boy that works in a prison. The Catenan Republic, or The Hierarchy – rule the world. There are pyramids within the Hierarchy, with the people on the bottom forced to cede their Will to those on top. It takes a while to get your head around the premise (well; it did me anyway) but once you do, it’s just something else that makes the story all the more compelling.
Vis refuses to cede Will. He is a boy in an orphanage, who works in a prison where the prisoners are attached to Sappers, the Sappers taking their Will, forcing them into living vegetables, no energy to move, speak or do anything at all. Vis sees this and despises it. He fights in underground tournaments (again, like the Romans had unauthorised gladiator fights after they were banned throughout the empire, roughly around the time Christianity became the foremost religion of Rome)
Vis has a secret, and slowly across the opening third of the book, it begins to unravel. I won’t go into all the details here for fear of spoilers, but safe to say Vis is not the boy’s real name, and he is certainly no common orphan. It is clear he has no love of the Republic, and as the opening part of the book draws to a close he is recruited by a man who wishes him to enter the Catenan Academy, a school for the children of the highest ranking members of the Republic. Vis agrees, and what follows is one of the most immersive magical school stories I’ve ever read.
Hogwarts is probably the most famous of the magical schools used throughout fantasy, this one book though has more action, intrigue and character growth in it then seven Harry Potter books. Vis must learn to compete with those brought up in privilege. He must learn something called the Labrynth – again, I won’t go into details for fear of spoiling it, but by the end of the book you realise just how important it is!
And most of all, he must unearth a conspiracy that has raged for a thousand years. What was the world before it was a Republic? Who ruled before there was a Hierarchy? At the end of the book, we’re part way there – but the ending itself is nothing more than a new beginning, and I can’t wait to see where book two takes us!
Read this book!
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