Reed's Recommendation Corner: The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson, Book One of the Eidyn Saga


Cover art for The Lost War predominantly in green and white, with the five main characters. A young man in the back has in axe slung over his shoulders. A woman in white has a sword on hers, and to the right of her is a man in monk robes. In the front are two people in green, one with magic power surrounding his hands, and another carrying a bow in front of her.


The use of "fuck" as a starting sentence tells you that something is about to happen, something already happened, or someone's about to get into some trouble. And oh boy, there is a whirlwind of fuckery happening in this novel that you don't see coming from the first few chapters. 

First, Aranok, the King's Envoy and draoidh (pronounced somewhere between drowee and drigh, according to the author, and are the magic users in this world), is cantankerous and surly (rightfully so). He's also got a heart of gold and a way of getting stuff done that makes him an excellent leader, whether he believes it or not. His bodyguard and not-so-secret lover Allandria is fierce with a bow and with her duties. Vastin is a young blacksmith, who has lost his parents in the war that is the backdrop for this novel. Glorbad is an old, drunken soldier who is filled with suspicion and prejudice about magic users and especially about Aranok. Nirea, his companion, is a sailor who misses the sea, but who is deadly with her swords and her sharp tongue. Meristan is a monk and leader of the White Thorns, the knights of his religious order. He travels with his adopted charge, Samily, who is herself a White Thorn with a mysterious power.

The book really starts when Aranok plans to defy a direct order from King Janaeus, who wants him to rescue a deposed queen and help get her back on the throne. Instead, Aranok plots to go check on his parents, who are in a town threatened by the Blackened. The Blackened are highly contagious "zombies" who form hordes to chase down their victims.  Even though Aranok has a contentious relationship with his family, due to his magical abilities, he still cares. He's willing to go out of his way, defy a direct order from the King, and potentially get himself killed, to check on their safety. 

The journey is fraught with dangers, disagreements, and revelations. While I was reading, there were hints that something far larger was happening, and that Aranok and company were missing something important. They fight creatures bred from cocoons (and humans) that they don't ever remembering seeing before, but that Allandria can remember the name of if she searches. They find Reivers (the equivalent of raiders and wildfolk in this world) with crests that imply they are allies and not foes. 

The relationships between the characters also really carry this story. Samily and Aranok are two ends of the religious spectrum. Samily has absolute faith - she's the Lawful Good paladin in a lot of ways, and it shows in how she throws herself into battles and defends those who can't defend themselves. Aranok is a grizzled Atheist, battle-scarred and unwilling to trust faith over scholarship. Glorbad follows the King so loyally that he continually demands that they return to their original mission, despite the clues that Something Isn't Right, while others find their priorities shifting from politics to humanitarian efforts.  

I really, really enjoyed reading this book. I was really actually bothered by the clues Anderson was dropping throughout that Something Was Not Right. I had NO idea what was about to happen, and for me that lent a LOT of excitement (and dread) about getting to the end. Fortunately, I was NOT disappointed. This book also has re-read value, which is something that doesn't normally happen when you have important reveals. I want to go back and re-read it JUST to see how the reveals affect the rest of the novel. 

Another thing I would like to highlight about this book is that it was initially self-published. Works like that often go unrecognized in the publishing world, and I really want to highlight that here. The publishing world is very, very competitive! The book originally won the 2020 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off competition, and was picked up by Orbit for a four-book cycle. Justin Lee Anderson has proven that he definitely has the ability to entertain and intrigue, and I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the Eidyn Saga!

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this novel. It is officially available on May 18th, 2023. It can be ordered here or from any local book retailer. Support your local bookstore and pick up (or pre-order) a copy!