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Literature / The Licanius Trilogy

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"The old saying is wrong, you know — a common enemy does not a friendship make. You can only ever be as good as the people you are willing to fight beside."

"All that I wanted, I received.
All that I dreamed, I achieved.
All that I feared, I conquered.
All that I hated, I destroyed.
All that I loved, I saved.
And so, I lay down my head weary with despair, for;
All that I needed, I lost.
― Tal'Kammar Deshrel, The Shadow of What Was Lost

The Licanius Trilogy is a series of High Fantasy novels with a subversive Time Travel spin, and the authorial debut of Australian writer James Islington.

The trilogy consists of the following volumes:

  1. The Shadow of What Was Lost
  2. An Echo of Things to Come
  3. The Light of All That Falls

The first instalment was released in 2014, and the final installment wrapped things up in 2019. Islington has announced some side stories set in the same world as the original trilogy.

In the country of Andarra, it has been twenty years since the rebellion that saw the dictatorial Augurs deposed and replaced by the previously token monarchy. While the Augurs were exterminated, the Gifted — their Essence-wielding enforcers — were spared and bound to a set of Tenets that limit their abilities and force them to obey Administration. Nobody knows who will become Gifted, but anyone who wields Essence develops a Mark and is sent to an Academy, where Elders teach them to control their power under the watchful eye of Administration. If they fail their tests, they are turned into Shadows: Powerless ex-Gifted cut off from their Reserves, who sprout black veins on their faces.

The story follows a trio from a Gifted Academy in Caladel: Davian, a bright young man with a block that prevents him from wielding Essence, his suspiciously talented Best Friend Wirr and his kind-hearted love interest Asha.

On the eve of his Trials, Davian makes peace with his inevitable failure, and enjoys a last, pleasant evening with his best friends before sleeping peacefully for the first time in months. He is awoken by Ilseth Tenvar, an Elder visiting from Tol Athian, who brings shocking news: The Boundary that has protected Andarra from Aarkein Devead's forces for 2000 years is failing, and Davian is needed to help repair it. He also knows Davian's biggest secret — That he's an Augur, with the ability to tell when anyone lies to him.


Given a mysterious glowing cube to guide his way, Davian embarks immediately to discover how he can help. Before he leaves, Wirr catches him and shakes him down for information. Unwilling to let Davian go it alone, Wirr packs his bags as well and the two head out on a secret mission to save Andarra. The next day, Asha wakes to find everyone in the Academy brutally massacred. Before she can figure out what's going on, Tenvar turns her into a Shadow and wipes her memory. Confused and heartbroken, she sets out on her own journey to find answers, unaware that she's surrounded by enemies.

Meanwhile, in the northern forests of Desriel, a young man named Caeden wakes up covered in blood with no memory of who he is. Accused of a horrifying crime, he sets out to recover his memories while avoiding the gil'shar, who want to make an example of him. Marked with the ancient symbol of a wolf's head, the mysterious nature of his returning memories only prompt more questions about his identity. And he doesn't always like the answers...


As journeys unfold and mysteries unravel, their paths cross — Through present, past and future — And the intertwined themes of morality, immortality and inevitability begin to drive the story.

The Licanius Trilogy contains examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: Zig-Zagged. Taeris, Elocien, Driscin and even Kevran lend a supportive hand at one point or another, but by the end Davian, Asha and Wirr are the only ones fighting against Shammaeloth and the banes.
  • Aerith and Bob: Somewhat present. Names like Fessiricia, Gassandrid, Isiliar, Breshada and Nethgalla only exist in-universe, while other names like Davian, Torin, Caeden, Ashalia, Aelric and Dezia are all real, but relatively rare and fantastic-sounding.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Augurs can read minds, but they can lose themselves in memories that aren't theirs and can even die if they get too attached.
    • Forced reading can also severely hurt the target, even causing them to become brain-dead, as Davian accidentally does this to Ilseth Tenvar.
  • Anyone Can Die: Not even all the main characters survive the story, and even most of the important supporting characters are toast. Despite the Loads and Loads of Characters, you can count the named characters that survive on your fingers.
  • All Deaths Final: Played with. Essence can be used to heal someone up until the brink of death, but cannot cause a resurrection.
    • It can, however, summon a denizen of the Darklands to inhabit the person's body and take on their memories.
  • Amplifier Artifact: Concentration Vessels help their users concentrate more effectively, which can help them create improved concentration Vessels, which helps them concentrate even more effectively, and so on.
  • Anachronic Order: Naturally, for a time travel story.
    • Davian's first visit with Malshash takes place about 90 years prior to the rest of the events in the book.
    • His trip to Zvaelar precedes the plot by thousands of years.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The main plot, especially Caeden's story, is neatly tied up at the end, but makes it clear that the main characters have plenty to deal with in the future.
    • Wirr has to lead the Andarran reconstruction effort, Asha has to negotiate with the Lyth to prevent them from chasing her and Davian (unbeknownst to him) has a big reunion with his mother in store.
  • And This Is for...: Davian says this about Caladel when he throws Raeleth into the rift.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Asha and Davian to each other, right before his final journey into the rift.
  • Another Dimension: Zvaelar exists in a pseudo-reality space where time is extremely dilated, complete with a blood-red moon and magically-enhanced metal.
    • It's really a massive time bubble, playing out the destruction of the city in incredibly slow motion.
  • Anti-Magic: Shackles are a wearable Restraining Bolt that prevent Gifted from channeling.
    • Tol Shen's amulet apparently has a similar effect on kan, as do the general environments of Ilshan Gathdel Teth and Zvaelar.
  • Apocalypse How: The Darecians were eradicated by Aarkein Devead and his forces, through the use of pillars, massive Vessels that drained their entire territory of all its essence.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Essence, though kan becomes much more important as the plot progresses.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: Davian and Wirr stop at a few of these at the start of their journey into Desriel. Trouble ensues.
  • Bad Future: Implied in Asha's vision of Davian that carries an Ominous Message from the Future. The reality is more nuanced, as Davian contacts her before the Venerate have actually succeeded in their plan.
  • Balance of Good and Evil: The inevitability of events and lack of free will in the world is seen as a result of the stalemate between El and Shammaeloth in the Genesis War.
  • Batman Gambit: Davian's plan to stop Rohin is entirely contingent on contriving a specific scenario, then perfectly predicting his actions.
  • Begin with a Finisher: Asha's strategy when fighting Diara. Complicated by the latter's immortality.
  • Big Bad:
    • Aarkein Devaed. Not really, as he switched sides and is actually one of the four POV characters.
    • El/Shammaeloth fits this role much better by the end of the story.
  • Big Damn Reunion: Presumably happens offscreen between Davian and Niha, as Caeden gives her instructions on how to find him once the ilshara falls.
  • Black-and-White Insanity: The gil'shar and more extreme Administrators believe that all Gifted are permanently cursed, and should be executed for their own benefit.
  • Black Magic: Kan is directly tied to El/Shammaeloth and the Darklands, and only accessible through the rift of Deilannis.
  • Blessed with Suck: Gifted have immense power, but are bound by the tenets and therefore can only use it on other Gifted. They're also treated as low-class citizens.
    • Post-Revolution Augurs have it even worse, as they are usually turned in to authorities for a miserable fate (if not outright killed) by their own villages as soon as their powers become evident.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Darklanders don't necessarily hate humans, but their actions are driven by their desire to escape their place of origin. That often involves harming humans.
  • Brain Bleach: Try not to think about how al'goriat are made.
  • Break the Haughty: Wirr attempts to change the supercilious perspective of Administration's leadership, including his mother, by proving that Gifted are not all monsters.
    • Unfortunately for him, they all die before he can make much headway.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several items that play a key role in the ending are introduced earlier on.
    • The ring Vessel found by Asha in Tol Athian's armory is an excellent self-defense tool, but it eventually provides Caeden's past self with the tools to summon Davian through the rift in Deilannis.
    • The locket in Tol Shen's secret armory is first used to strip Rohin of his Augur powers. The effect is replicated on Davian, allowing Caeden to close the rift without needing to kill his friend.
    • The Essence-sharing Vessel initially allows Asha to share her reserve and power the Tributary using Ilseth Tenvar's brain-dead body. Its ultimate use is providing Davian with the essence needed to stay alive without using his Augur abilities.
    • Early on in the story, it's established that Davian's source was extinguished well before the story started, that he has been able to survive this by using kan to draw Essence from external sources, and that his lack of a source is what allows him to traverse the time rift without being destroyed. Later on, it's further established that a shapeshifter can only assume the forms of those whose sources they have personally extinguished, and Caeden is cut by a Named blade that extinguishes his source, which he survives by using the Essence-sharing Vessel. All this comes together at the very end of the story, when Caeden realizes that he was the one to extinguish Davian's source (during the evacuation of Zvaelar, while Davian was still an unborn babe), and that he can go back through the rift, assume Davian's form, and take Davian's fated death on himself.
  • Church Militant: The gil'shar are technically a religious organisation, but they spend most of their time tracking and killing Gifted and eventually openly engage Andarra in combat.
  • Citadel City: Ilin Illan, along with most of the Builders' great works. Deilannis is actually a giant weapon, albeit not the traditional kind.
  • Collapsing Lair: Though not really a lair, this happens to Deilannis once the rift is closed, and Davian, Asha and Wirr need to make a quick escape.
  • Common Tongue: Andarrans and Desrielites have certain words which are different, but share their basic language. Justified as Desriel is an offshoot of Andarra founded after the Boundary was raised.
    • Not the case with Nesk, which has its own language.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: The record of the prewar Augurs' visions is conspicuously missing several entries in the back half. They were stolen by Tol Shen, and used for political gain.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Davian and his fellow Augurs initially aren't thrilled to discover their powers, but quickly embrace their potential to use their abilities for good.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Shapeshifting is handy but incredibly painful, as it involves literally reforming the user's body into another one, cell by excruciating cell.
    • Users can only shapeshift into people they have personally killed as well.
  • Darkest Hour: Occurs for Wirr when his Augurs are captured, his army is eradicated, the Essence-sucking pillars are erected, and the ilshara falls, with no backup in sight.
    • Luckily, Dezia shows up just in time to save his hide.
  • Dark Is Evil: El/Shammaeloth, kan, and the Banes all have direct ties to the Darklands. The first literally turns the area surrounding Deilannis black as night in his final approach.
  • Decapitated Army: Played with. There is no specific leader of the Banes, but once the rift in Deilannis is closed, they die immediately because they can no longer access Kan.
  • Deconstruction: The Hero's Journey is anything but traditional for any of the main characters. They fear their own power, feel dread during moments of self-sacrifice, and struggle to come to terms with their ultimate fates.
  • Devil, but No God: Shammeloth is very active throughout the story, but we never see the real El acting.
  • Doomed Hometown: Caladel makes it all of 5 chapters before an escherii (sha'teth) shows up to murder everyone except Asha.
  • Door Stopper: The books in the series are anything but slim, usually reaching up to 700-800 pages in length.
  • Dramatic Irony: Subverted heavily with Caeden's vision at the end of Book 2. It seems like Davian will have no clue that Caeden killed him, but it's actually common knowledge among the Venerate, and they tell him right away.
  • Duel to the Death: A common form of entertainment in Ilshan Gathdel Teth. Davian is forced to enter a contest, though it ends surprisingly when his opponent impales himself with his own sword.
  • Dynamic Entry: Elocien's preferred method of entering a meeting is to kick the door down.
  • Eldritch Abomination: El/Shammaeloth, the sha'teth and all of the Banes, to some degree.
  • Elective Monarchy: The royal family of Andarra requires the support of the other Great and Minor Houses to stay in power. If they lose it, they can be replaced by one of their contemporaries.
  • The Empire: The Eastern Empire is mentioned, and lightly described as a less-than-pleasant place to live (gladiatorial arenas are their preferred entertainment), but they play no role in the story and aren't shown on the map.
  • Energy Being: The Lyth are made of pure Essence. This occurred due to a malfunction of the Jha'vett, which eroded all of their physical properties.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: The Blind's choice of entertainment as it passes through villages is grotesquely cruel.
  • Evil Only Has to Win Once: El/Shammaeloth cannot be destroyed by any known method, and only needs to reach the rift in Deilannis once to unleash the Darklands upon the world.
  • Evil Sorcerer: The common people's gut perception of many Gifted and Augurs.
    • Sometimes justified by the likes of Rohin, or the actions of sociopathic prewar Gifted in the absence of their overseers.
  • Evil Tainted the Place: Zvaelar. What parts aren't patrolled by terrifying al'goriat or insane dar'gai'thin might just be full of Dark, a poisonous, corrupting black liquid that progressively kills those it touches.
  • The Evils of Free Will: Often debated. Some believe the lack of free will in the world is a result of Shammaeloth corrupting it to escape his imprisonment, others believe it is El protecting it with a divine plan.
    • A major theme of the series is how the existence of the Augurs ability to see the future implies a lack of free will in the universe. This is often used by the Venerate to excuse any evil they've done: to them it is not their fault, and they have been promised that success will create a new universe with free will, and any who died in the old one will be saved. Shammaeloth is exceptionally good at using this argument to sway otherwise good people into commuting atrocities, "for the greater good". Eventually the main cast choose to interpret time as only a lens to make sense of events; while you may not be able to change the future, in the end everyone still makes the choices they make, and everyone must live with the evils they commit. The philosophical quandary is solved anyway when the rift is destroyed, severing any Kan powers, including the ability to see the future. No one can cheat and see how future events turn out anymore.
  • Fantastic Racism: Due to their previous positions as the Augur's enforcers, the Gifted are discriminated against by the general population.
    • Complete with 'Bleeders', the in-universe swear word that refers specifically to them.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in Desriel, which has undergone a continuous genocide of the Gifted population due to their extreme religious views.
    • Shadows are despised by normal people due to their association with the Gifted, and by Gifted due to their presumed inability to properly control Essence. This causes many of them to take refuge with the Shadraehin.
  • Fantastic Nuke: The pillars drain the Essence from everything in a set radius. They were used to wipe Dareci entirely off the map.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Appliance: While most Vessels are for military and espionage purposes, some have normal uses.
  • Fantasy World Map: Included at the beginning of every book. Andarra takes up the central part of the continent, with Talan Gol to the northeast, Desriel in a little pocket to the west, and Nesk over the mountains in the southeast.
  • Fate Worse than Death: El/Shammaeloth's real goal is to allow the Darklands to spread into the world, forcing every living being into a fate of eternal anguish and suffering.
    • Unrelated, but Gifted see being turned into a Shadow as the worst possible fate they could suffer.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Played with to a heavy extent. By the end of Book 2, it's already revealed just how and when Davian will die ...or is it?
  • Foreshadowing: A truly insane amount, given that this is a Time Travel story.
    • The prologue teases Caeden's plan, and makes the reasons for his change of heart very clear. It even foreshadows his fascination with Davian as the main catalyst.
    • Wirr's cryptic message to his father before leaving Caladel hints at his royal origins.
    • Deilannis features an eerie skull mounted on one of its arches, which gives the group a good scare. The skull actually belongs to Davian justifying his unsettled reaction.
    • During their trek through Deilannis, the group encounters a savage beast that attacks their party, but leaves Caden and Davian alone. This is because Caeden is the one who created it (he named it Orkoth), and Davian has already been cleared to it by Malshash in his journey through time.
    • Davian's first encounter with Malshash is rife with this.
      • Malshash's use of the silver ring Vessel indicates that it will be of great significance to Davian. It ends up representing both his love for Asha, and his relationship with his parents.
      • His horror at Davian's ability to shapeshift into another man is due to his knowledge that Davian had to kill this man in order for it to be possible.
      • The sadness he exhibits at Davian's progress comes from the belief that he was responsible for killing Davian, and his remorse for his actions.
    • Throughout Book 1, multiple characters comment on how odd Elocin's total about-face regarding the Gifted and Augurs was. Near the end of the book, it's revealed that he was being Controlled.
    • When lighting the funeral pyre near the Boundary at the end of Book 2, Karaleine sings a strikingly somber dirge. This teases her murder and replacement by Nethgalla, as these songs were a favorite of Elliavia as well.
    • The Venerate's claims that Davian's head will be on a pike, and their warnings that Caeden will kill Davian, take on a new significance once his death at Caeden's hands is revealed.
    • Raeleth's similarity in appearance to Davian hints at their actual relationship of father and son.
    • Davian is somehow the only person who can access kan in Zvaelar. He also arrives there 3 months after everyone else. This is because, like the al'goriat, he was created there (allowing him to touch kan), and subsequently spent about 3 months in Zvaelar as a fetus (so his 'time signature' already counted those months and delayed accordingly).
  • Freedom from Choice: All events and choices in this world are pre-determined. This ensures that the Augurs' visions always come to pass exactly as they have been foreseen.
    • A major subject of debate in the story is whether this invalidates the choices and existence itself, or whether they are still meaningful regardless of their inevitability.
      • Interestingly, at the end of the series, with the rift closed and the Augurs/Venerate gone, it's no longer possible to see the future. It's left unstated whether or not this means actions are no longer predestined, or whether it's simply impossible to tell.
  • Functional Magic: Two different kinds:
    • Essence is an energy generated by all life, and required by it to survive. Gifted have a Reserve of Essence over and above what their bodies need to survive, and can shape this Essence to heal themselves or others, strengthen themselves, go long periods without sleep, move objects, or generate light and heat.
    • Kan is a Background Magic Field that radiates out from the Deilannis rift. In its natural state, kan consumes Essence, but it can also be used to shape and direct Essence with more finesse than Gifted are capable of, or to manipulate various non-physical things such as thoughts, memories, and time.
  • Glass Cannon: Gifted fit the Squishy Wizard category — they are capable of unleashing destructive magic, but they're easily countered by Finders and they are no different than any other human in terms of defense.
  • A Glitch in the Matrix: Asha experiences this fairly frequently in the dok'en, but she is fully aware of them and able to patch them up herself.
  • Great Offscreen War: Three, in fact.
    • The Genesis War is essentially the Creation Myth, and took place between El and Shammaeloth at the beginning of time.
    • The Eternity War was a defacto Götterdämmerung, which occurred when Aarkein Devaed led his forces from Talan Gol against the highly advanced Darecians and eradicated them.
    • The Unseen War took place right before the story, when the ruling-class Augurs of Andarra were overthrown, the royal family gained real power, and Administration and the Tenets were created to keep the Gifted in line.
  • Gossip Evolution: Rumors travel and exaggerate quickly and in Ilin Illan, especially so where Wirr is concerned. Sometimes to his benefit, but often to his detriment.
  • Great Way to Go: Once the conflict is over, the heroes reminisce about their fallen comrades (there are many), how they died and the impact they left on the world.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: In the conflict between the Venerate, each side knows that they are doing terrible things, but justifies it through their belief that the other side will do worse if they are successful.
    • The idea of 'Grey' actions is thoroughly criticized by Raeleth in a conversation with Davian.
  • Grim Up North: Talan Gol, to the north of the continent, is a desolate wasteland with a few military installations.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords:
    • Initially downplayed. In Book 1, only Caeden and Aelric are shown to be competent with swords. The others, including the main trio, use Essence or Vessels to fight.
    • As the story progresses, Davian and Ashalia receive enough sword training to be quite deadly as well.
    • Swords aren't hero-exclusive, though. Many of the Venerate use them as well.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Several examples, mostly due to the Augur's visions of the future.
    • The defining example is the story of an Augur who saw he would be hung for treason. To avoid this, he ran away from his position in the king's court only to be caught and hung for treason.
    • Happens to both Kol and Fessi. They Saw their own deaths, then later recognized the circumstances of their death, panicked, then accidentally instigate it.
    • The most extreme example belongs to Gassandrid. When he was a boy, his home city was destroyed while he was out in the desert hunting. His life purpose is to go back in time to find out what happened. His attempt to do so actually caused the incident and destroyed the city in the first place.
    • The gil'shar do this by activating the pillar Vessels that drain the Essence from their surroundings, including their own soldiers and commanders — In spite of Taeris' warning.
    • Assumed to be the cause of the Builder's extinction. Their final creation, the Hall of Mirrors, showed them a truth so powerful they simply couldn't go on.
  • Hypocrite: Essence is untouchable for the gil'shar, but Banes and world-destroying Vessels are fine.
  • Indy Ploy: Despite his optimism, Caeden has no clue how he's going to save Davian when he goes through the rift for the last time, but he does it anyway.
    • Averted through much of the rest of the series, as a defining characteristic of the series is the fact that nearly everything that is happening is part of a millennium-old plan and that generally the characters are excellent strategists.
    • The bonds he's forged with his friends and an encounter with both Niha and the real Elliavia finally push him in the right direction.
  • In Name Only: The Andarran military has a boundary outpost, but it's been deserted for generations because Devead's forces haven't mobilized in a very long time.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Licanius in its dominating first use against the Blind army.
    • Later Downplayed, as Caeden has to rely more on plans, traps and combat ability to kill the rest of the Venerate.
  • Kill It with Fire: The only conclusive way to dispose of eletai and people who have been killed by them.
  • Kryptonite Factor: The Blind soldiers have Telesthaesia, armor that drinks in Essence. The Banes have similar protection as well, making them hard to fight with Essence alone.
  • Kudzu Plot: Highly Downplayed, despite introducing time travel, multiple POV threads across different time periods and alternate dimensions, almost everything is neatly wrapped up with solid answers by the story's end.
  • La Résistance: Despite the Venerate's total control of Ilshan Gathdel Teth, there are citizens highly critical of their practices and rule. The more vocal ones are either sent to Zvaelar or forced to fight in gladiator battles.
    • It is later revealed that Raeleth's writings were the founding text for the entire movement.
  • Last Stand: Our heroes make several over the course of the story.
    • Defending Ilin Illan from the Blind's army, and again from the eletai. Caeden saves the day singlehandedly both times.
    • The battle against the gil'shar, who are about to activate their pillars results in this for the Andarran forces. They're barely saved by Nesk.
    • Protecting the Jha'vett from El/Shammaeloth requires our heroes to fight a seemingly-endless endurance battle against a horde of Banes.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Omnipresent. Character and location details are lightly mentioned, but more or less left up to the reader's imagination.
    • As a result, the plot gets on rather quickly, with consistently fast developments and twists.
  • LEGO Genetics: Each of the Banes reflect a species that inhabits the world. You Do NOT Want to Know how some of them were made.
  • Light/Darkness Juxtaposition: Downplayed for a High Fantasy series. Darkness is invoked as the main motif of many antagonists, but Light Is Not Good.
    • In fact, when El/Shammaeloth first appears to Caeden, it's as a being of pure light.
  • Love Triangle: Davian, Asha and Ishelle form a Type 4, with Ishelle as the odd woman out.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Even includes a character glossary at the back of each book to keep track of them all.
  • Loophole Abuse: A particularly chilling example, as an Administrator's twisted interpretation of the Tenets almost successfully force Wirr to make all Gifted in Andarra commit suicide.
  • Lost Technology: Many Vessels remain from previous eras, but nobody is sure how to use them. They're usually stored in vaults for safekeeping.
    • The cities built by the Builders and Darecians as a whole.
  • Magical Accessory: Some Vessels are wearable, like Asha's wind ring.
  • The Magic Comes Back: Almost all of the Augurs were killed during the war, but they keep popping up. There is a hard limit of 13 Augurs, and when one has died a new one will always be born to replace them.
  • Magically Binding Contract: The Four Tenets, a set of oaths imposed upon every Gifted by a powerful Vessel. Certain non-Gifted, known as Administrators, also bind themselves to the Tenets. Near the end of the book, Davian and Wirr work together to modify them.
    • The First Tenet forbids the Gifted from using Essence to harm non-Gifted.
      • The amended version permits the use of Essence for self-defense or defense of Andarra.
    • The Second Tenet forbids the Gifted from using Essence to deceive, intimidate, or otherwise work to the detriment of non-Gifted.
      • The amended version likewise permits the use of Essence in self-defense or defense of Andarra.
    • The Third Tenet forbids Gifted from harming Administrators in any fashion, and prevents Administrators from harming Gifted in any fashion as well.
      • This tenet is left unaltered.
    • The Fourth Tenet requires the Gifted to obey any order given by an Administrator.
      • This Tenet is abolished, as it almost resulted in the death of all Gifted.
  • Magitek: Some of the Builder's cities, as well as the Darecian's warships, use Essence in a highly technical fashion.
  • Meaningful Name: This is the case for many Darecian names.
    • Licanius roughly translates to Fate. Fitting, as it is used to seal the fate of the Venerate once and for all.
    • Shadreahin roughly translates into Leader, as in Leader of the Shadows. The full meaning provides more context, as it is a call to action as well.
    • Aarkein Devaed roughly translates to The fate of all that must come.
  • Manual Labour Builds Character: The main reason why the Elders at Caladel are so eager to give Davian endless tasks to fetch supplies from the nearby town.
  • Medieval Stasis: It's been a few thousand years since the fall of the truly advanced societies including the Builders, Shalis and Darecians, but Andarra is still vaguely in the medieval/renaissance stage of development.
    • Justified as the authoritarian bent of the Augurs' rule was focused on establishing the domination of magically-enhanced humans, rather than spurring any sort of technological advancement.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Downplayed significantly. While men consist of the majority of soldiers, Andarra is generally equal-opportunity when it comes to the military, Administration and politics.
    • Women comprise a significant portion of combat leadership for the Tols and Shadows as well.
  • Mordor: Talan Gol is usually given this treatment by those in Andarra.
    • The reality is much more subdued, Davian's trip into Ilshan Gathdel Teth indicates that the citizens there are mostly normal, just under the thumb of the Venerate's oppressive government.
  • Mutant Draft Board: The Tols and Academies conscript anyone who shows signs of being Gifted. Their parents and neighbours are usually terrified by the development and happy to send them off.
  • Near-Villain Victory: A perpetual one. El/Shammaeloth has been very close to reaching the rift for thousands of years, only blocked by the ilshara.
    • In the more traditional sense, it arrives right outside the boundary of Deilannis, only held at bay by the four POV characters.
  • No, I Am Behind You: Davian gives the Tol Shen Elders a good scare by appearing behind them.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Thell is baffled that Asha and Breshada were able to survive the fall into the Lantarche, and had completely written them off as goners.
  • The Nondescript: Echoes strike by acting completely normal until their target drops their guard for a second.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: In the end, the boundary has fallen, the Banes are dead, Northern Andarra is destroyed, and both the Augurs and Venerate are no more. Regardless of what happens next, some major restructuring will be happening in the world.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Uses this line of rhetoric with Davian in an attempt to invoke We Can Rule Together. It falls flat due to Davian's moral conviction, though.
  • No Warping Zone: Inverted with the Wells of Mor Aruil, which can only be accessed through portals.
  • Now or Never Kiss: Common, as romantic moments are often interrupted by crucial plot events.
    • Wirr plants one on Dezia right before she leaves to rescue her brother from his debtors.
    • Davian does the same to Asha before he leaves to rescue Ishelle from the other side of the ilshara.
  • Numerological Motif: Five banes, five Augur powers, and they are all related.
  • Obstructive Bureaucracy: Administration seeks as to impede Wirr in his role of Northwarden at basically every turn.
  • Oh, My Gods!: Characters use expressions coloured by their world religion. Examples: "Fates!", "El-cursed/Fates-cursed" and "El with you/Fates with you".
  • Ominous Message from the Future: Halfway through book 1, an older Davian warns Asha that in the future nearly everyone has been Read, he will be imprisoned and she will be wanted for capital punishment.
  • Our Mages Are Different: Doubly so, with two kinds of mages.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: The Banes are all a twisted version of some living creature with kan-enhanced strength or senses.
    • Al'goriat are disfigured, semi-translucent former humans with ludicrously sharp teeth, murderous instincts and time manipulation abilities.
    • Dar'gait'thin are a twisted combination of human and Shalis bodies, with scales that absorb and negate Essence.
    • Eletai are a swarm of wasp-like creatures that act as a unified Hive Mind. Humans forcefully inducted into their ranks are assimilated though a process of Mind Rape and individuality erasure.
    • Shar'kath are described as wolf-like and dangerously intelligent. They aren't seen often in the main story, though one apparently kills Fessi, and Caeden takes great care to avoid them during his trip through Seclusion.
    • Tek'ryl are scorpion-like, amphibious creatures with powerful stinging tails. Their Always Chaotic Evil nature means they attack just about everything in sight, and even the Venerate can barely control them.
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: Time travel mainly occurs through the Jha'vett, the Darecian Vessel at the heart of Deilannis. It opens a rift through time that allows the traveller to go to a specific point in the past. Actions taken in the past have already happened, though, as they must always follow a Stable Time Loop.
    • Travellers cannot remain in the past for very long, as their body remains anchored in the present, and will eventually starve if they do not return to it in time.
    • Further complicating things, only people who are actually dead (who survive by using Kan to draw Essence from their surroundings) or dar'gai'thin (though they lose their minds) are able to pass through the rift. Anyone else will age at an accelerated pace and die instantly.
    • One notable exception is Gassandrid, who is able to briefly open "safe" rifts to the past on his own — Though that doesn't necessarily mean he can provide a safe return trip.
  • Outside-Context Problem: All that is mentioned about Nesk is their geographic location and hostile attitude towards Andarra.
    • The rumblings of military mobility in Book 3 preclude what seems like an invasion, but they are actually a friendly force.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: Erran's initial (over)reaction to Asha as she takes most of her clothes off in preparation to swim towards the Tributary.
  • Poisonous Captive: The two sha'teth held in Tol Athian's dungeon wreak havoc on Ishelle's mental state and attempt to shake Caeden's moral conviction.
    • They're actually there to destroy the Tol's defenses from the inside.
  • Power Levels: Gifted and Augurs have some variation in the amount of power they can unleash, but it doesn't affect relationships between them and has no bearing on leadership, which is mainly decided by intelligence.
  • Precursors: The Builders were an ancient civilizations that went extinct long before the story began. They were incredibly gifted architects, and Andarra uses many of their works to house cities and institutions.
    • The Shalis were immortal serpent-like beings with mastery over essence. They went extinct after the Builders, but during Caeden's lifetime. That's because he killed them.
  • Prisons Are Gymnasiums: Played completely straight with Davian.
    • His imprisonment in Ilshan Gathdel Teth provides him with ample time to work out.
    • His time scavenging and lifting metal buckets in Zvaelar give him an even more effective exercise routine.
  • Punctuation Shaker: Darecian words and names make heavy use of apostrophes.
    • Prominent examples include gil'shar, Jha'vett and dar'gai'thin.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: A frequent result of military conflict.
    • In Book 1, Ilin Illan is able to successfully fight off the Blind's Invasion, though it happens at the expense of thousands of soldiers, many political and military leaders, and considerable destruction to the city.
      • Tragically taken Up to Eleven in the fight against the Banes in Book 3, as the Eletai kill everyone who doesn't make it into Tol Athian and Caden is forced to raze the city to the ground to stop them.
    • In Book 2, our heroes are able to fix the ilshara, but not until after the entire guardpost is massacred, Davian, Fessi and Ishelle are trapped in Talan Gol, and thousands of Banes have infiltrated Andarra.
    • In Book 3, Wirr's forces successfully engage and defeat the gil'shar and their Banes, but at the expense of nearly all the soldiers, Augurs, Gifted, Shadows and Administrators in their army.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: A few examples, mainly due to the Power Perversion Potential of magic in this universe.
    • When the Augurs temporarily abdicated their positions, many Gifted took the opportunity to Control the general populace in highly unethical ways.
      • This was a large motivator for Elocien and Kevran to instigate their rebellion, and taints their view of the Gifted for decades afterward.
    • Implied to be something Rohin enjoys, as his abilities allow him to compel anyone to do his bidding with just a few words. Davian is disgusted by this admission.
  • Resistance as Planned: The revolution that sacked the ruling-class Augurs twenty years prior was actually orchestrated in secret by Nethgalla and Jakarris, the leader of the prewar augurs.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Bureaucratized: Subverted, as instead of continuing to wage war against the Gifted the rebels made a highly bureaucratic organization to manage and police them instead.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Isiliar tears through Ilin Illan to try and goad Caeden into battle, where she can exact retribution for his accidentally leaving her in the Tributary for 2000 years.
  • Royalty Super Power: Certain members of the royal family are given the authority to change the Tenets.
  • Scary Impractical Armor: Zig-Zagged with the Blind. Their armor would be impractical for anyone else, as it lacks eye-holes. It doesn't bother them, as each squadron has a leader that sees for all of them.
  • Screw the Rules, It's the Apocalypse!: Wirr invokes this to convince the Gifted, Shadows, and Administrators to fight on the same side in Andarra's defense in Book 3.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: Tol Shen and its council of Elders is incredibly secretive.
    • For good reason, as they've been using forbidden Vessels and stolen Augur Visions to manipulate the king and bolster their reputation.
  • Serpent of Immortality: Caeden's flashbacks reveal that the Shalis could always be revived after death, but if they aren't revived in about a day's time, they will go completely insane.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: A major motivator for several parties.
    • What the Darecians unsuccessfully tried to do, leading them to build the Jha'vett.
    • This is the Venerate's mission statement, and their excuse for all the atrocities committed in their name.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: Nethgalla makes Davian strip to avoid this when he tests out his dar'gaithin transformation Vessel so that the new clothes she got him aren't destroyed. She doesn't look away, either.
  • Shmuck Bait: Far back in Caeden's memory, his town of residence pays hefty bounties for killing giant scorpions. Of course, they travel in massive packs and kill just about everything with their deathly venomous stingers.
    • Naturally, people are shocked when Caeden returns every night with several corpses — so much so that he becomes a local celebrity. They don't know he's immortal, of course.
  • Simple, yet Opulent: The architectural design philosophy of the Builders.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Inverted to an insane degree in the Shining Lands during Caeden's flashbacks. Alarais considers those who personally serve him to have earned the highest honour possible, and treats them as equals.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: A few times.
    • Wirr gets a big one from Breshada, though it's not romantic in nature. Aelric and Dezia have a good laugh at his expense afterwards.
    • Davian gets a much more romantic one when he apologizes to Asha for using her Reserve to stay alive.
  • So Proud of You: Niha's initial reaction once she discovers that her child is actually Davian.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: Licanius. As the only tool that can kill the Venerate, Caeden can't progress his plan without it.
  • Sword Fight: The Song of Swords is an international competition of blade masters. Aelric represents Andarra, finishing in second place intentionally.
    • On a more serious note, several sword duels occur between Caeden and the Venerate, necessitated by Licanius' effects.
  • Take a Third Option: When faced with the two terrible choices of allowing Shammaeloth to reach the rift or sacrificing Davian, Caeden opts to non-violently remove Davian's Augur abilities, and sacrifice himself instead.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Happens often.
    • Tal gives a big one to the mysterious entity in the prologue of the first book. Not for the last time.
    • Zig-Zagged with Garadis' speech to Caeden when he retrieves Licanius. It lists the terrible things he's done to the Lyth, but also their confusion for the ways in which he's helped them.
    • Davian gives an especially poignant one to Caeden, which finally motivates the latter to change his ways and face the truth. It's poignant because it's actually Caeden himself, calling out his own mistakes.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: On his journey out of Deilannis, Ishelle provides a very hungry Davian with a free meal. It's full of a sleeping drug, meant to non-violently subdue him until Driscin can return to make the case for joining Tol Shen.
  • Teleport Interdiction: Asha's initial strategy in her battle against Diara is to set up numerous Essence traps that will explode upon the latter's arrival.
  • Temporal Paradox: Averted. Time travelers can take basically any action in the past because they have already done so. They can even come into contact with past versions of themselves.
  • There Are No Coincidences: Everything that happens to Davian in the first book is a result of Caeden's plan. This includes oddities like Breshada's sudden choice to save him, and his summoning through the rift.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The gil'shar's military leadership are the first to be turned into dust when they finally activate the pillar Vessels, despite being warned that they would immediately die.
  • Tracking Spell: A variation. Every Gifted has a unique Essence signature that can be tracked, though it requires specialty knowledge to actually do so.
  • Training from Hell: No quick training montages to be found in this series.
    • Malshash is a very fast-paced tutor, pushing Davian to learn Augur tactics that would take most people years to use in a few weeks' time. Even more so during their second round of training in Zvaelar.
    • Asha's training from Elli requires fighting against al'goriat and learning to parry their time-dilation attacks. It actually works, but after plenty of painful failed attempts.
  • Training the Gift of Magic: Most Gifted and Augurs require a significant training period to gain proper control over their powers. Those who cannot demonstrate it are stripped of their ability to use Essence.
  • Trap Is the Only Option: Davian and Fessi suspect their journey to rescue Ishelle from across the boundary might be one-way, but they refuse to abandon their friend.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Comes into play a few times.
    • Asha's plan to expose Iselth Tenvar involves baiting him into revealing his true intentions in a private conversation. It's not mentioned that another Tol Athian elder is hidden in the same room using her invisibility Vessel.
    • Davian's plan to stop Rohin is a Batman Gambit that plays out like this. Rohin uses his Control to get information out of Driscin and acts accordingly, but it isn't mentioned that Erran partially wiped Driscin's memory until Erran emerges from hiding and the locket is placed on Rohin.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind: Despite posing a serious threat in the first two books, the POV characters can dispatch Banes with incredible ease by the end of the series.
  • War Is Hell: Military conflict in this series is anything but glorified. Plenty of Scenery Gorn, Squick and the deaths of many named characters always follow.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Human lives compared to those of the Venerate, or the Shalis.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Downplayed with Orkoth, as its fate is speculated upon during the final trip to Deilannis, but never confirmed.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Asha is very mistrustful of Caeden and his intentions after learning that he will be responsible for Davian's death.
  • Wham Episode: Caeden has a very significant flashback at the ends of both Book 1 and Book 2, re-contextualizing all of his past actions and drastically changing the direction of the narrative.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: A major theme of the story.
    • Caeden's inability to die causes him re-live the guilt and horror of his wedding night over and over again.
      • This motivates him to join the Venerate, and commit terrible acts in the name of El/Shammaeloth, and subsequently to join Andreal in the quest to kill the Venerate, and rid the land of immortals.
    • The Impossible Tasks of Alarais Shar illustrates the consequences of immortality. It's also the not-so-subtle backstory of Alaris.
  • Wizarding School: Both Tol Athian and Tol Shen, complete with faculty, leadership and student ranks.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Another major theme of the story.
    • Malshash's personal opinion on trying to change past events. From personal experience, and due to his stance against the Venerate.
    • Whenever an event has been Seen by an Augur, it plays out exactly as it does in their vision. Even when it is happening to them, they can't alter anything about it.
    • The main reason for the violent split between the Venerate:
      • One group wants to go back, change all their mistakes and undo all of the world's suffering, at any cost.
      • The other believes the past shouldn't be altered; that mistakes should be owned and repented for instead.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: The heroes hold off El/Shammaeloth and its armies from reaching Deilannis until Caeden can finish his business with the Jha'vett.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: How the universe inside a dok'en works. While nothing inside is technically real, everything can still inflict real pain.

Alternative Title(s): The Shadow Of What Was Lost