Mathion by Jeff Shanley (The Mavonduri Trilogy: Book 1)

4/10 A lot of promise but failed in it's execution.

In an ancient time long lost to legend, a race of men known as the Wolven inhabited the land of Ánovén. To the north lay the land of Kânavad, home to a brutal, savage race we know today as Werewolves.

At the age of seven, the Wolven prince Mathion encountered a dying White Wolf, and received two gifts that would forever change not only his life, but the course of history itself. Centuries later, now with a White Wolf at his side, Mathion gathers together a small band of warriors, consisting of both friends and family. Their mission: help the city of Kihar defend itself against an advancing army of werewolves. Along the way, Mathion learns of a secret that he has carried with him his entire life, and a power that can change the tide of a war that has raged between the Wolven and the Werewolves for over twenty thousand years. Little does Mathion know that his enemy is well aware of this secret.. And they will do anything to obtain the final piece of a puzzle that, if completed, could condemn the world to eternal darkness. When someone close to him is captured alive by the enemy, Mathion attempts the impossible: to venture into the enemy's homeland itself, and infiltrate the stronghold of Lord Azgharáth, the oldest and strongest of the werewolves. With this choice, events are set in motion that will hurtle these lands toward a final confrontation, and an epic journey is begun that will change everyone's lives forever.

The advent of ebooks has seen the number of self-published authors rise significantly over the past few years. Author's like Amanda Hocking, Michael J. Sullivan and Moses Siregar have all come from the self-published ranks and their success gives confidence to readers like myself that the next hidden gem might also come from the same place. So when I read and became intrigued by blurb for Mathion by Jeff Shanley, I was ready to give another self-published author the opportunity to make a real impression. Unfortunately for Shanley, Mathion is not the next hidden gem, falling well short of my expectations by delivering a story that had a lot of promise but failed in it's execution.

This story documents the war between the Wolven and the Werewolves, two very similar races that are fighting for domination in a violent world. Mathion, a young Wolven prince and the central character of this story, has put together a small force of specialist Wolven warriors in an attempt to defend their lands from the Werewolf invasion. When his brother-in-law is captured and taken deep into Werewolf territory, Mathion decides to mount a rescue mission, inadvertently setting in motion a number of events that finally bring this war of attrition to a head. This is a story with a lot of potential but just lacking something to set it apart from everything else. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. It has the traditional triad of protagonist, antagonist, and relationship character. It doesn't have any glaring plot holes. It is a solid story with some tight plotting. That is normally ok when the author is trying to be adventurous in other areas such as world building or characterisation, but with that lack of risk taking in those other areas the story became the focal point, and for me it just didn't do enough to separate itself from a very large crowd.

While Shanley may not have taken any big risks in worldbuilding, it certainly wasn't from a lack of effort. The world of the Mavonduri has been painstakingly constructed almost to the extent of what underpants every character was wearing every day for the course of 1000+ years. Shanley has gone to a huge amount of effort defining history, culture, back stories, back stories to the back stories, a brand new language and new alphabet - it is the accumulation of ten years spent world building and the amount of work here is phenomenal. Shanley has also slightly redefined the origin story of the werewolf, mixing some classical genesis with a few of his own ideas for a very interesting take on the werewolf mythos. But that is about as adventurous as it gets for Shanley's world building, because other than that there isn't much of interest to talk about despite the hundreds of years of history being provided to us. It was just dying out for a cataclysm, a singularity, an event that completely redefined the world they lived in. All the work has been done building the world, show me how it will react when I drop a meteor the size of the moon on it.

The characters in this story follow a similar fate to the plot and worldbuilding in that they just didn't do enough to separate themselves from a large crowd. Mathion is your typical hero, he is royal, a natural leader, heroic, and selfless to fault. He is a well rounded character with his own motivations and he only wants to do what is best for his people. The problem for me is that I have seen this typical hero so many times in so many stories since I started reading fantasy almost fifteen years ago. The bigger problem for me is that the support cast are very close to being carbon copies of Mathion, they all speak with the same voice they all share the same motivations and they all share the same qualities. Even the villains are very similar to Mathion, and while they have some evil motivations that involve world domination / destruction, they too speak with the same voice and share the same qualities as Mathion. The poor characterisation here really lets down all the work that was done by Shanley in building an incredibly detailed world and a solid story to exist in it.

The last thing I will comment on here is the writing, an area that needs a significant amount of improvement if I am to read anything else by Shanley. The writing in this story did not allow me to immerse myself in the story, I was constantly being pulled out by the multitude of very complex yet very similar names and places that littered the world. Every character name rhymed and sounded the same, so when coupled with all the characters having the same voice I really had trouble figuring out who was who and what they were doing. For every page of plot progression, there would be at least two pages worth of history lessons, sometimes to explain what happened in the plot, sometimes because an unfamiliar name was mentioned in the plot. It stopped me from getting into a good rhythm with my reading and resulted in me rereading a lot of pages and skipping even more.

Mathion is a novel with an interesting premise that could have been a great book if Shanley had executed his technical skills with a bit more precision and taken a few risks with his story telling, world building and characterisation. He has obviously gone to a huge amount of effort in creating this world, and there is enough potential in there for Shanley to tell some really good stories. But at the moment this book and Shanley's writing doesn't stand up to the classics or the plethora of new fantasy authors that have come on the scene in the last few years.

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Jeff Shanley's The Mavonduri Trilogy series


Mathion

The Mavonduri Trilogy: Book 1
4/10

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