The Will of the Many by James Islington

The Will of the Many (The Hierarchy Trilogy, #1)

by James Islington

At the elite Catenan Academy, a young fugitive uncovers layered mysteries and world-changing secrets in this new fantasy series by internationally bestselling author of The Licanius Trilogy, James Islington.


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.

Reviewed by annieb123 on

4.5 of 5 stars


Originally posted on my blog Nonstop Reader.

The Will of the Many is the first book in The Hierarchy by James Islington. Released 23rd May 2023 by Simon & Schuster on their Gallery/Saga Press imprint, it's 640 (!) pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. Paperback due out in 4th quarter 2024 from the same publisher. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. 

This is a very promising start to a sweeping epic political fantasy based on the Roman Empire during the middle expansion, it's not an alt-Earth copy of people and places, but an impressive and massive whole cloth reconstruction. The author manages to imbue the main and secondary characters (and they are legion) with relatable motives. There's an often brutal tragic dichotomy between survival and compliance and especially the main character, a prince in exile, is often faced with the difficulty of keeping his head down and surviving to live another day. 

It's a dangerous political game of cat and mouse and there are an impressive number of layers to the jockeying and juxtaposition of the juggernaut of might that is the Empire contra individuals and their needs and desires.

Wrapped inside this huge overarching from-the-ground-up world, the author drives the plot with an engaging murder mystery and espionage thriller, by inserting MC Vis Telimus, into the foremost academy in the Empire to gather intelligence and report back to his spymaster (who is also his adoptive father/patron in the pragmatic Roman sense of the word). 

Four and a half stars. Highly recommended to fans of political campaign fantasy. The second book in the series is teased for release in 2024/2025, but no definite publishing info is available at the current time. Language/culture nerds will also find a lot to love here since the author has a lot of fun with Latin and ancillary Empire adjacent languages, including Gaelic. An excellent choice for public library acquisition. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes. 

Last modified on

Reading updates

  • 6 April, 2024: Started reading
  • 6 April, 2024: Finished reading
  • 6 April, 2024: Reviewed