Resuming normal life after a rebellion isn’t easy. King Janaeus of Eidyn is trying to get the country back on track and he has a mission for the King’s Envoy, and best friend, Aranok. Janaeus wants Aranok, his bodyguard, Allandria, the head of the army, Glorbad, and the head of the navy, Nirea, to travel across the country, retrieve a deposed foreign Queen and escort her back to her home country. But Aranok is loath to waste his time on such a mundane task when bigger problems of demons, famine, and “the blackened” (victims of a wasting plague) threaten Eidyn. Will Aranok choose his country or his king? And how will his choice affect the rest of the group as they each try to do what they think is right in a dangerous and uncertain climate? Find out in Justin Lee Anderson’s exciting debut novel The Lost War.
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Orbit for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of The Lost War contains some spoilers!]
A country torn by war, still in danger
The war is over, Janaeus is now king. But danger still threatens Eidyn. So many citizens were killed in the war that there aren’t enough people to keep the economy going. Demons still threaten the villages and Reivers travel the countryside raiding whenever they can. Mynygogg is trapped but his draoidh powers seem to be able to reach past his prison.
Janaeus’s Envoy, Aranok, is also a draoidh. Life as a draoidh hasn’t been easy in Eidyn. While Janaeus has made changes since he seized power, the prejudices of the people are slow to change. With the difficult life of discrimination that Aranok has led, he has a big chip on his shoulder. He also holds himself to a very high level and feels extreme guilt every time he is less than perfect. His high expectations are coupled with a high level of confidence in his position and his ability. This makes for a volatile mix when he disagrees with how others want things done.
Take the King’s plan to have Aranok, Allandria, Glorbad, and Nirea retrieve the hidden Queen and escort her home. Aranok wants to go check on his family after reports that the town has been overrun by Blackened, but the king is adamant that Aranok goes nowhere near the town. Seems like the king should have known his best friend a little better. Of course, he ignores the king’s orders and makes a detour. What Aranok finds in his hometown baffles him and sets him on a new and completely different mission. The country is facing a new and hidden danger, can Aranok unravel the conspiracy and save the country? Or will war again consume Eidyn?
The Lost War has an engaging story that’s just a little off
The Lost War pulled me in right from the first word. I found every single character very engaging and well-written. And the story was a well-done mystery. Things kept feeling just a little off, and when I wasn’t reading The Lost War, I was trying to puzzle out exactly what it all meant. I really love how I kept thinking that the original mission was being practically forgotten about, and wondering how that was going to pay out. And then it played out in the most perfect way. It wasn’t forgotten about, it became a part of the bigger story in exactly the right way.
A funny aside, I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking things like “How can they just go off mission like this?” and “Won’t Janaeus realize it’s taking too long?”. Then I’d remembered that hundreds of years ago people would go off on missions for their kings and be gone for months or even years with no real word, especially if it was supposed to be a secret mission. The whole instant communication that we live with now didn’t exist. I just kept thinking how very weird that was. But also grateful because if they’d had an iPhone, Aranok would never even have left the capital and this whole book would have been ruined before it got started.
And then there’s the twist. It was perfect because this twist absolutely made sense of everything that was off throughout the book but wasn’t completely given away by the author. I knew something along those lines was coming but didn’t quite see his whole endgame, which was a nice change! With all the reading I do, it can be hard to surprise me so when it happens, I’m always excited.
Great characters in Anderson’s The Lost War
There is not a single character in The Lost War that Anderson skimped on. Each member of Aranok’s crew is a fleshed-out, three-dimensional, living, breathing person. They each have their own quirks and personalities, shortcomings, and strengths. Their interactions are in turn both hilarious and tense. Happy and heartbreaking, depending on what the situation is. But they all feel real. And they all are very engaging.
I had a hard time putting this book down for multiple different reasons. Not only was the story and mystery provocative, but I wanted to spend more time listening to Allandria’s sass and exasperation with the man she loved. I wanted to watch Glorbad and Vastin’s father-son-like relationship grow. I wanted to see Nirea and Allandria bond with Samily and try to pull her out of her shell. There wasn’t a part of this group that I didn’t want to spend some time with.
Eagerly awaiting Justin Lee Anderson’s continuing series
Now Justin Lee Anderson’s wonderful debut novel isn’t actually just now being published. The Lost War was first published in the UK in 2019. But it is only now making its way to the States. I’m a little sad that we’ve had to wait 4 years for this amazing book but it’s here now and that’s what matters.
I know that fantasy readers will gobble this and the remaining books in the series up. I am already eagerly awaiting The Bitter Crown, the next installment in Anderson’s series. Even those who don’t necessarily count fantasy as their favorite genre will enjoy The Lost War for its witty banter and strong mystery vibes with an excellent twist at the end. I highly recommend it to everyone.
My Rating: 10/10
The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson is available now! Are you interested in reading it? Let us know on Twitter or in the Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review of An Unkindness of Magicians!