Dust of the Darkness by Deck Matthews

Dust of the Darkness book cover
Rating 8.0/10
Epic fantasy in the style of Brandon Sanderson, but written in small, episodic doses

Readers who enjoy fast-paced, action-packed, magic-fueled adventures will find a great deal to love in Deck Matthews’ Dust of the Darkness, the sequel to his The First of Shadows. The action picks up right where the first book left off and doesn’t let up until the final pages. There is a large ensemble cast, plenty of mystery, and piles of action all crammed into a small word count.

I enjoyed the characters in Dust of the Darkness a great deal. In particular, both Caleb and Tiberius stand out to me. Both have varying disabilities - Caleb has an injured leg that gives him a limp and makes him slow, while Tiberius is blind. While not allowing those disabilities to entirely define them, Matthews does an excellent job of allowing those disabilities to influence their character, reactions, and arcs. He also does a superb job of writing Tiberius’ perspectives, describing sounds and touch that help to paint the picture without ever describing sight. It’s very well done. The plot is also unique, partly because it is every bit as sprawling and large as what you’d find in a thick tome, but it’s delivered in very small, bite-sized episodes. This helps to keep things very fast-paced, with very little down time. This keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire novel. Those who love fast-paced adventure will adore what Matthews’ has crafted with these series so far, and particularly with this entry. Helping this along is the very compact writing style the author uses, well written with no filler. Another aspect of the novel that I couldn’t get enough of was the various ways of doing magic. There are people who can control the wind, people who conjure fire, people who have totems - a sort of familiar - and even a mysterious old magic hanging out that we don’t know much about yet. It’s a great deal of fun and I can’t wait to learn more about the magic.

My complaints all boil down to a single essential issue: this is a short book, just crossing the line into novel territory. There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself. However, because the plot is so epic and sprawling it’s hard to get everything into such a small package. There is a viewpoint character we only see in two, fairly short, chapters in this book. While the characters are interesting, we don’t see much development within this book for them because there just isn’t enough time that passes for them to develop. The brevity of the book aids in its pacing and action-packed feel, but it also contributes to its weaknesses. Those are little time for character development and enough viewpoint characters that you never quite feel like you settle into any single one. There are just so many viewpoints that in such a short book it feels like maybe they get a little diluted.

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