How do you kill a shadow?
As a raging storm descends on the Blasted Coast, the crippled young rigger, Caleb Rusk, meets a stranger on the road. Little does he know that the encounter will pull him into a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear—and change the course of his life forever.
Meanwhile, in the Capital of Taralius, a string of inexplicable deaths have captured the attention of the Ember Throne. Second Corporal Avendor Tarcoth is tasked with uncovering the truth behind a danger that could threaten the very fabric of the Realm.
The First of Shadows is the first book in The Riven Realm series by Deck Mathews. In the beginning of this debut, the reader is being thrust into a high fantasy world without really knowing what is going on. The scenes are very vivid and you feel like you’re actually there and see what happens for yourself. The first chapter captured me with a very intense fighting scene – against no other than a demon! While I was still trying to figure out where we are and who we are with, the fight scene made me turn the pages faster. I wanted to find out what was going on.
What we get in the following chapters is different storylines by different main characters (whose lives are, of course, intertwined in some ways.) We meet Caleb Rusk, a disabled man who works as a rigger on an airship; Tiberius, a blind sage; and Shem, a mysterious drifter. I have to admit that I usually tend to shy away from this type of storytelling because I often end up confused as to who is who and why they are connected, and it felt to be a bit like this here, too. However, Matthews does know how to write high fantasy in a way to keep you entertained, so there was a bit of a clash for me here, and it’s therefore hard for me to write this review.
Since we don’t really get a proper introduction to the world, I had a bit of a difficulty of getting into it at the start, mostly because I kept losing track of the names and places and had some trouble visualising the world properly. Even though we do get a lot of information and a lot of things are happening in such a short book, I missed clear introductions and explanations at times.
One of the things I liked most though was all the magic we get – even though I have to say not everything about it is 100% clear to me yet, so I’m looking forward to finding out more about it in the next two books in the series, when I can hopefully connect all the dots. One element I don’t think I’ve ever come across in a book before was totems (that come in the form of animals here). Caleb, one of our MCs, for example, had an owl. Then, of course, we have shadows – as the book’s title suggests. I’ve always loved reading about shadows – something about them I find really fascinating, so that was a big plus as well.
Another big plus comes before the book even really starts. We get a gorgeous map – and who doesn’t love a nice map in a fantasy book?! It’s really well done and detailed, and I was fascinated by what was about to come before it even started.
The issue I had with the book though is that it is a bit too much packed into too little pages, if that makes sense. Like, we are introduced to a world of high fantasy, but the actual introductory part is missing. Some scenes could have been developed more and I often caught myself thinking – I would like to know more about this or that, more background about this character or that storyline. Since for this tour we got the whole series in one book I’m hoping we will find out more about these missing elements in the rest of the series, and that all my remaining questions will be answered.
All in all I can say that on this journey through this first book in the Riven Realm series I was introduced to a set of characters I found interesting and a storyline set in a world I found fascinating. With quick, short chapters and a great ability to write good scenes Matthews managed to keep me interested until the final page. I would have wished for more developed scenes at times and a bit less of ‘let’s throw the reader into the unknown,’ but overall I liked this book and think it’s a good start to a fantasy series that fantasy (and also sci-fi) lovers will not want to miss!
Despite the issues I had with this book I’m still curious about what’s happening next, so that’s definitely a good sign! If my remaining questions will be answered and we get a bit more background information I think the rest of the series could deserve more than the 3.5 stars I’m giving now.
Big thanks to Dave from TheWriteReads for having me on this tour and the author Deck Matthews for gifting me an ecopy of the whole Riven Realm series that I can’t wait to continue. Receiving the book for free for this tour did not influence my rating.
Deck Matthews is a pseudonym for one particular Matthew Ward. He is a life-long reader who fell in love with writing and fantasy in middle school. He remains an avid reader, a casual gamer and a dabbler in the visual arts. He has worked as a designer and currently spends his days neck-deep in code as a front-end web developer.
He also holds a Master’s degree in English Literature and currently resides in Ottawa, Canada with his wife, two daughters and one little fluff ball of a dog named Wicket.
You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. and find out more about his books on his website.