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The Lost War

THE LOST WAR by Justin Lee Anderson from @orbitbooks #BookReview #fantasy

THE LOST WAR by Justin Lee Anderson.

Orbit Books. p/b. £9.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

The front cover for The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson. The page is divided by a diagonal line running from the middle of the left hand side up the to the top quarter of the right. The bottom slice is white with four figures walking on it. Two are clear as they are wearing dark clothes. The other two are wearing white and harder to define. Behind them is a green forest.

Home, back in Haven in the shadow of Greytown Castle, the king’s envoy and his faithful bodyguard enjoy a moment’s peace. Only a moment, mind. Draoidh Aranok thought the fighting was over, but it seems Allandria will be forced to draw her bow once again. This time it is for the salvation of a young orphan over taxes owed by his father. It is time Aranok paid a little visit to King Janaeus.

Mynygogg, wielder of terrible and unique powers, raised armies of the dead and plagued the land with demons. Aranok worked hard to help his best friend take the throne and banish the Draoidh, but it seems peace will be harder to come by than he thought. The queen must be brought to Haven and Janaeus has called for the best military minds in the land to travel together. Along with high-ranking members of both navy and army and even a knight of the Order of the White Thorns, Aranok and Allandria find themselves on the road again.

The Lost War has a very traditional premise and pays homage to the great classic writers of the past. We have a collection of adventurers fighting their way past obstacle after enemy. Mix in a magical relic and an archive of histories and magics, archers and axe wielders, demons and shapeshifters, and a plot that twists and shifts as it unravels to shock and impress by the end.

Aranok takes the lead and has character flaws enough to be believable, and indeed for the reader to empathise as he faces each knock back, though for this reader it was a shame Allandria did not shine more, given she plays such a key part in his journey. That is not to say the female characters are not well represented. Unlike classic fantasies of the past, Nirea, of the navy, and Samily, a knight, take on point of view roles and play significant parts in the greater story, which they do with grit, strength and no tolerance for foolery, adding a nice dimension to the relationships and confronting traditional stereotypes along the way.

The primary focus of the narrative is very much on the characters and the dynamics between them, though as the cast of characters swelled in each location, more page time was perhaps needed to ground the lesser roles in the narrative. As a result, at times the action felt rushed or arranged a little too neatly – though that may have been the author’s intention given the knowledge the reader is granted in the last few chapters. Without any spoilers, it is at this point where Anderson sheds the classic tropes and delivers a big twist to delight the modern reader.

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