the book cover for The Will of the Many by James Islington
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 688 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: May 23, 2023
  • PUBLISHER: Saga Press
  • WHAT SERIES? The Hierarchy
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Will of the Many
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Body Horror, Child death (off page)
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Red Rising by Pierce Brown for the Roman feel, but try The Licanius Trilogy by James Islington if you’re looking for something equally impressively plotted

Thank you to Netgalley and Saga Press for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


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 civilized 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.

Wow. This is going to be a hard one to review, I think. If you’ve never read James Islington’s work before, you’re really missing out. The man is a master at manipulating the characters, at plotting something so tightly that you really can’t see it coming, and dang is he good at twists. Like so much so that I didn’t see a particular one coming a mile away. I loved Islington’s Licanius Trilogy, and if you haven’t read that one, please go do so. You will not regret it. But we’re really not here to discuss his previous work, are we?

The Will of the Many is just as tightly plotted as the aforementioned series, and wow, is it a stunner of a plot. There are a million moving pieces and it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all in the best way. You think you see something coming, but then something else will rear its head and change direction of the plot. I honestly wasn’t sure about this book just going off of the first synopsis that was released. It sounded boring. It sounded like something that had been done to death. (I see you Red Rising comparisons. I see you.) I can promise you right here right now that not only is it not boring, it’s got some shine to it. However, the book starts extremely slowly. I wasn’t really hooked until we got to the Academy, and that’s around 30% of the way into the book. If you start reading, and find yourself slagging — push through. I promise you won’t regret it.

Our main character is a teenaged boy named Vis. Only that’s not his real name. Nor is that one. Or that one. Vis is in hiding, you see. He was one a prince of a small kingdom that was invaded and taken over by the Hierarchy. He’s hiding because the second the Hierarchy finds out he’s still alive, they’ll kill him. Or worse, put him in a Sapper (You’ll find out what those are quite quickly into the book, but they’re essentially worse than death or prison.) Vis is stubbornly good at everything. Seriously. I don’t think we see him really struggle with anything, and if we do, he masters it quickly enough. It was bordering on frustrating, but not enough that it detracted any stars from my rating. Because of his upraising as a prince, a lot of Vis’s mastery is hand-waved. Oh, he learned this growing up in the palace, or he was trained as a kid in sword fighting, etc etc. It’s a neat way of making him knowledgeable without making it seem ridiculous. I liked Vis, and I wanted him to succeed in his goals almost immediately.

The best part of The Will of the Many is that you can’t trust anyone. Because of Vis’s background, he has to lie to almost everyone he meets. You can’t trust any of them to help without wanting something else in return. It was fascinating, and you’ll be pulling your hair out trying to figure out if everyone is as dastardly as they seem, or if they really are trustworthy. In my opinion, the best characters are Callidus and Eidhin — Vis’s best friends. Their friendship doesn’t come easily, and is more than earned by the time the book wraps up. I was also strangely found of Veridius — he’s intensely charming, and honestly kind of hard to hate. You’ll see what I mean if you pick the book up.

I can’t talk enough about how mind-blowing the ending of this book was. The last few chapters! The epilogue! I can’t say anything without spoiling, but just know that if you read Licanius, and loved how that ended, you will not be disappointed here. Everything that was amazing from Licanius is echoed in new, fascinating ways. Islington’s prowess is showing here, and I am so glad. I was more than worried I was going to be disappointed after this one, but I am not. Oh my god, I am not. Five stars, and now I cannot wait to get my hands on the next one.


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  1. I tend to be very selective about big books since I’m not the fastest reader, but I’m glad you enjoyed this one! We seem to have some favourites in similar so I am hopeful about this

    Liked by 1 person

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