The First of Shadows by Deck Matthews

The First of Shadows book cover
Rating 8.5/10
A really good book with cinematic style, great dialog, frenetic pacing throughout, and an intriguing magic system

The First of Shadows is an exhilarating read. It’s the first in Deck Matthews’ The Riven Realm series, and his debut to boot - and what a debut! Matthews gives us pulse pounding action on nearly every page. It’s fast paced to the extreme, with no down time at all. If you’re looking for a quick, exciting read then you need look no further!

What stands out most about Matthews’ debut is the fast-paced action. At almost every turn the plot is being moved forward, important things are happening, action is taking place. To call the pacing breakneck would not be off the mark. It starts quickly and doesn’t let up until the final page. Not everyone is a fan of quick pacing, but if you like your novels with a ton of action then this is one for you. In addition to the excellent pacing, I also adored the dialog in this book. Matthews has a gift for banter that is exceptional. This book has a large cast for its short length, and yet I enjoyed each of the characters and felt like they were unique and distinguishable. That takes a good deal of skill to accomplish. The magic and setting are also intriguing. I’m hoping - and given the plot, this seems quite likely - to learn even more about the various ways magic can be used in subsequent books. For The First of Shadows, however, we’re treated not only to an interesting magic system, but to some cinematic uses of that magic. Here’s another place where Matthews’ writing shines: in crafting those cinematic action sequences. You’re on the edge of your seat with these, and they work so well with the quick pacing of the story. Cinematic writing, witty dialog, intense pacing, there’s a lot to like in this debut!

There were, however, a few weaknesses as well. I’ve already mentioned that this book crammed a fairly large cast into a small package. I’m amazed that Matthews managed this and no characters felt cheated or shorted. However, I do think there are probably too many viewpoints. While the multiple viewpoints probably keep the pacing frenetic, it also results in never quite feeling like you settle into a plotline. Cutting two or three of the viewpoints would have allowed for a tighter focus and I think that could have made the novel even better. I also would have liked to have seen a little more substance to the world building. Again, this is probably down to the brevity of the novel. Finally, there were a few tropey sort of phrases throughout, such as, “this was a man used to giving orders - and having them obeyed.” 

The First of Shadows is a really good book with cinematic style, great dialog, frenetic pacing throughout, and an intriguing magic system. It’s sure to appeal to fans of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series or Will Wight’s Cradle series. Its weaknesses mostly come from being short. I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel.

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