The Will of the Many by James Islington

The Will of the Many Cover


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 civilised 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.


The Will of the Many is a book that is on the top of many people’s tongues and top of many TBRs. For good reason. Islington’s voice and worldbuilding shine, and though this wasn’t entirely a book for me, I do see why many people will fall in love with it.

The plot centers around Vis, a young noble living in exile after escaping the massacre of his family at the hands of the Hierarchy. Through Vis’ perspective, we learn a lot about the world, schemes, and most of all Vis himself.

This first book focuses on a slowly unwinding plot that involves a group of terrorist rebels, somewhat dark academia, and the truth of what happened in several of the character’s pasts.

Let’s start with the good. Islington does a great job drawing the reader in and inviting them into the world. The secondary characters all shine and there are many inventive obstacles for the protagonist to overcome. I found the first third of the book a bit difficult to get through. But by the end I felt like I was on the edge of my seat. I even looked for time to spend with this work.

The world is fully realized and detailed and feels believable. I was surprised by how much insight the political machinations gave me into the way the real world works (how many of us are in “pyramids?”). 

I enjoyed the magic system even though I’m often adamant I don’t typically enjoy that sort of thing. In The Will of the Many, certain people can siphon power from others lower than them in the pyramid but also can be siphoned by those who are higher. This can be used for physical enhancement or a sort of mechanical enchantment. 

The plot is very much a first book. There are mysteries and intrigue that we won’t get the answers to until later in the series. Similarly, there are characters with motives we haven’t been able to unpack yet and the intrigue seems like it will continue into the next work.

So there we go. I’d like to get to my negatives. Honestly, you might have a very different opinion than me on these things, and if they don’t bother you, this will likely be your new favorite book. I know our very own Quinn definitely disagrees with me on these points.

  1. The Main Character. I mainly liked Vis. He wasn’t as insufferable as Kvothe from The Name of the Wind, but he was too “perfect.” He was the smartest, strongest, best fighter, hyper-linguistic, and every other thing you could imagine. Some of the obstacles felt kind of silly because you knew that he was going to be able to pull something off. After all, he’s Vis. Plus, he loves reminding us exactly how smart and perfect he is. I’m getting tired of the Main Characters being well-versed in dead languages that only a few people know. The one truly egregious example of this is the time he beats the national champion of a very specific fencing (who by everyone’s admission is truly amazing) with very little practice. You could argue Vis knows how to do other types of fencing and that the other person didn’t take him seriously, but that leads me to my next point…
  2. Because Vis is good at everything or can pick it up easily, he’s never actually in danger. There are a few exceptions to this, and those were by far the best parts of the book. But there were several times when he faced overwhelming odds where my immersion was broken by the thought “Some odd coincidence or brilliant Vis moment will solve this.” A few times were ok, but it was a lot.
  3. The ending. There was almost no resolution and a ton of mysteries thrown at us with very few tools to unpack it. An example of a good way to do this was “The Way of Kings” by Brandon Sanderson. We may not have understood exactly what it all meant, but we had threads at our disposal to theorize with. I didn’t feel that way with this one. So much was left up in the air for the next or future books. This is a big bone of contention between me and Quinn who loved it.

This may seem insurmountable, but I did really enjoy the book. Truly, it wasn’t until the ending that I felt like I couldn’t look past some of the flaws. And really, many times I felt like I wish we got more from the side characters and less from Vis.

If you enjoy The Name of the Wind or Empire of Silence and love those main characters, you will probably fall in love with this.

If, like me, you are weary of perfection, you may be a bit cooler.

So how do I rate it?

At times. I thought it was going to be 4.5 stars. At other times it could have been closer to 2 stars.

To me, the good mostly outweighs the bad and I’m giving this 3.5 stars.

Excellent writing, cool ideas, not entirely for me, but I will probably continue