The Will of the Many by James Islington (Hierarchy #1)

Vis, the adopted son of Magnus Quintus Ulcisor, a prominent senator within the Hierarchy, is trained to enter the famed Catenan Academy to help Ulciscor learn what the hidden agenda is of the remote island academy. Secretly, he also wants Vis to discover what happed to his brother who died at the academy, further, he’s sure the current Principalis of the academy, Quintus Veridius Julii, a political rival, knows much more than he’s revealing.

The Academy’s vigorous syllabus is a challenge Vis is ably suited to meet, but it is the training in the use of Will, a practice that Vis finds abhorrent, that he must learn in order to excel at the Academy. Will—a concept that encompasses their energy, drive, focus, initiative, ambition, and vitality—can be voluntarily “ceded” to someone else. A single recipient can accept ceded Will from multiple people, growing in power towards superhuman levels. Within the hierarchy your level of Will, or legal rank, determines how you live or die. And there are those who are determined to destroy this hierarchal system, as well as those in the Academy who use it to gain dominance in international bestselling author James Islington’s wonderfully crafted new epic fantasy series. 

PUBLISHER: Gallery / Saga Press
YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 688 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Partial Queer Rep Summary: No canon queer rep.

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

DNF 27% in.

I found myself struggling to get through THE WILL OF THE MANY, and I ultimately did not finish reading it. I enjoy doorstoppers and I like long books, the length is not the issue. I can like a slow burn story when I have an idea of what the slow burn is building to, but while I mostly understand why Ulciscor is doing what he's doing, I don't understand what Vis (the protagonist) is doing or what his goals are.

The character's background is conveyed mostly through his thoughts, and at first I thought it was going to be gradually revealed in bits and pieces. Having made it a quarter of the way through the book before stopping, it doesn't really seem like more is forthcoming (at least not in time for it to feel meaningful). 

The Will system is interesting, it's well-described and has some fascinating implications for the world. I appreciate how the exploitative nature of this power is combined with a colonialist empire. It's a synergy between the political and magical in a way that makes sense as to why things are as bad as they are for almost everyone in the system, with the magic and the exploitation feeding into each other in a horrible self-reinforcing loop.

Ultimately the pace was slow enough that it broke any sense of momentum that I had while reading, and I'm just not interested in finishing it.

Graphic/Explicit CW for confinement, slavery.

Moderate CW for dementia, physical abuse, emotional abuse, bullying, child abuse, excrement, blood, violence, injury detail, medical content, torture.

Minor CW for fatphobia, vomit, murder, suicide, parental death, death.

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