Book Review

The Will Of The Many By James Islington

The Will of the Many

  • Author: James Islington
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publication Date: May 23, 2023
  • Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press
  • Series: The Hierarchy #1

Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery/Saga Press for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: blood, violence, gore, murder, suicide, bullying, grief, harm to an animal

At the elite Catenan Academy, a young fugitive uncovers layered mysteries and world-changing secrets in this new fantasy series by internationally bestselling author of The Licanius Trilogy, James Islington.


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’ve been on a big fantasy kick lately, so when I started this book, I wasn’t quite sure if it would live up to all the other amazing reads I’ve finished recently. However, I had nothing to worry about, because this book turned out to be one of the most incredible reads I’ve found lately. It’s kind of like what I’d expect from Red Rising if it was set in a fantasy world instead of in space. 

The story is told through the eyes of a 17 year old boy, Vis. He’s an orphan who hates the Catenan Republic and the Hierarchy and everything it stands for, but is trapped by it. The world building in this story is so creative and unique, and it speaks to Islington’s talent—despite how much information is shared, he never info-dumps and always presents the information in bite-sized chunks that make it easy to understand and absorb as it arises. The entire Hierarchy depends on people ceding their Will to higher-ups in the pyramid, creating a corrupt system where the people at the top, with the most Will benefit, and the people at the bottom contribute the most and get the least out of it.

Vis is adopted by someone rather prominently placed in the Senate, from a well-known and distinguished family line. But once he’s adopted, he realizes that his adoptive father has an ulterior motive—to send Vis to the Academy to find answers about something he can’t find out in any other way. Vis also gets pulled into a resistance movement, not fully willing to join but unable to say no without experiencing damning consequences. 

The complex layering of plot and subplots is incredibly engaging, leaving us wrong-footed as to who, if anyone, Vis can actually trust. Everyone seems to have their own agenda, both inside and outside of the Academy, and there’s dangers lurking around every corner. I loved seeing how Vis handled all of these situations, and trusted his own judgment in a world stacked against him. 

It’s easy to empathize with Vis, and his journey is an emotional one. I loved the side characters, especially the ones that we got to know well over the course of the story. Their personalities are fleshed out well, and Islington did a great job of capturing the cliquey feeling of a school setting, especially one where competition is encouraged and it can get vicious, especially with the way these boundaries are maintained outside of the school setting with the different groups within the Senate. 

The story is fast-paced. There’s plenty of action throughout the book, and more than a little scheming. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was shocked to realize that the story was going in a completely different direction, and I loved not being able to predict what was going to happen next. It left me constantly on the edge of my seat, and thinking about this book when I had to put it down. There’s a heavy Roman-inspired influence on the story, and I loved how it was incorporated into so many aspects of the story. It kept things feeling fresh and unique, and I can’t seem to find enough ways to rave about this book.

This is an absolute chonk of a book, clocking in at close to 700 pages. However, it never felt like it could have been shorter, I loved every single page, and I was disappointed when it came to an end. I didn’t fly through it at my usual fast pace, but that was because I wanted to take the story in and really savor it. There were so many twists and turns, and I think this is easily the highest gasp factor I’ve ever seen. And there’s a cliffhanger ending that left me desperate for the next book, even though this one isn’t even released for another month.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 41

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