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Title: The First of Shadows (#1 The Riven Realm)

Author: Deck Matthews

Published: 22nd of January 2019 – Echo Enduring Media

Format: Kindle Edition – 143 pages

Hello Hello! How are you?

My second review of the week is yet another @The_WriteReads #BlogTour yay! Today I’m bringing you my review of The First of Shadows by Deck Matthews, the first book in the Riven Realm series. The books in this series are more “fantasy novellas” than actual full-fledged novels, so it was a really interesting experience to have a short fantasy story for once.

Thank you so much to Dave for having me on this tour, and thank you for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Thank you also to the author for providing the next two books in the series in a bound-up edition of the trilogy, I’m going to be able to dive into this world again soon. Keep on reading for my thoughts on this book.


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 by Deck Matthews is the first book in The Riven Realm trilogy. It’s a fantasy series in which we meet quite a lot of characters right at the start, I think the most important one, however, was Caleb Rusk. I was really drawn to this book because the blurb sounded exactly like what I tend to lean towards in fantasy stories, and I’m glad I gave it a go.

This book was actually quite different to what I was expecting. Before I actually opened the ebook on my Kindle, I was expecting a normal-length fantasy series, so the fact that this first book has only 143 pages was quite new to me. I’ve read fantasy novellas before, but never as the introduction into the series. I’m the type of person who really loves very long books and for some strange reason, I always gravitate towards chunky volumes, so I have to admit I was a bit sceptical going in.

We do meet quite a few characters in this book, and I think that because it is so short, it was a little bit jarring to me to keep jumping from one character and setting to the next just as their story was getting going. I would have preferred for instance Caleb’s point of view and Avendor Tarcoth’s point of view only because I got a little lost and confused a few times.

Also, there is a lot going on in this book, and usually, I like books that have a lot jammed in, but I found it a bit overwhelming because of how short this book is, I know it goes directly into the next book in the edition I have, but I still found it to be a lot. The world in this book is a bit hard to explain because there is a lot of world-building, but again, for my taste, the book was much too short to make anything of this world-building.

I got really intrigued in one story and one character and would just understand the setting, the politics, who the characters were and what was going on, and then it would go on to another one and I would have to start all over again. Unfortunately, this took me out of the narrative a little bit and it was a bit like reading tiny short stories that weren’t linked. Once I got to the end of this first book, I could see how the stories could possibly intersect, but I needed precision and more detail in a less info-dumpy way during the whole book.

I can’t really say much about the characters because it feels like we’ve only been introduced, I am, however, very intrigued by Caleb, he seems like a very interesting character to me, and I’m hoping that the next book will give me more time to get to know him a bit better. I’m also intrigued by the drifters, I don’t really understand who they are or what they do, but I want to find out more! There are loads of characters in this book, and unfortunately, because it was so short but so full of things, I’m afraid I can’t really remember anything precise about them, I’m hoping that I’ll get more detail and insight in the next book though.

As for the actual world, what is happening, the magic system and all the other intricacies, I’m a bit lost as well. I feel like I was just getting to know everything around the characters, my mind was making this setting around them and I was understanding what was happening, but again, as there was just so much, I can’t really make sense of the plots individually. I do think that I prefer the parts in Taralius though, I want to know more about what’s happening there.

I’m also intrigued about the magic system of this world and I wish that this book had been twice the length so I could know more about everything in a slower way as it just felt rather info-dumpy to me. I know there are more books in the edition I have, but there is a clear distinction for me between the first and second and third (etc) books in a series and I see them as individual books that continue on, if that makes sense.


Overall, I did enjoy this book, however, I was fairly confused and a bit overwhelmed by the different settings, the different characters, their lives, what’s going on, and I feel like I would have preferred if the two main plots were completely separated and in different books because it was very heavy for me personally. And I would also have preferred a full-length fantasy book instead of a fantasy novella just because I think that there is too much to know about this whole book to have it in a tiny novella.

I can definitely see that this series, world and characters have potential, but for my personal taste, it just felt a bit clunky, info-dumpy and rushed maybe. I would have loved it to be twice as long and for it to take the time to situate the characters in their setting, to get a better feel of their lives, to figure out what’s happening in maybe a more suspenseful way instead of getting thrown into everything. I also feel like there was minimal backstory and that’s something I look for in every story I pick up.

The writing style was nice though and even though I was pulled out of the various narratives and jumped around back and forth all the time, I did find it to be well-written and it did make me want to continue on reading, despite the jumps it was fairly fluid and each individual chapter and plot drew me in while I was in their chapters, but then I didn’t get to know them enough before I was pushed into a new plot again.

I gave this book 3 stars, you can find my ASPECTS rating breakdown below. I am going to continue on with this series and I hope that it’s going to be a bit slower and take the time to go over the characters and the world because I feel like I’m missing a lot of information even though it was kind of thrown at me while I was reading. I need to know more about what’s happening because it seems really interesting to me, especially the magic system and what’s happening with people in the Capital.

Thank you once again to Dave and to Deck for letting me be part of this tour. I’m hopefully going to be able to pick up book 2 soon and I’m intrigued as to what’s going to happen, and where all the characters are going.

That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this post, see you soon, stay safe,

Ellie xx


Atmosphere – 4

Start – 3.5

Pacing – 4

Ending – 5

Characters – 3.5

Theme – 5

Style – 5

Total = 30


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.

Deck’s Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK (affiliate link) – Amazon FR (affiliate link) – AbeBooks (affiliate link) – Amazon US

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  1. Great review! I agree with you completely. I haven’t read the other books in the series because of the reasons you mentioned. The story itself was great and the magic system is different than anything else I’ve read.

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I want to read book 2 to see if my questions are answered, but it’s a bit hectic for me honestly.

    1. Yeah, it’s a shame because each book seems to be really short, i’ll have to see if book 2 gives me more answers!

  2. Great review Ellie…And I really wish too that this book is longer because it can be overwhelming. But at least we already have book 2 and 3. I’ve read book, by the way and I liked it as much as liked this one. 🙂

    1. I know, it’s supposedly a “high fantasy novella” that serves the purpose of an actual novel, it was just too short for me though!

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