Review: Of Myth and Shadow by Matthew S. Cox

Of Myth and Shadow by Matthew S. Cox cover
Of Myth and Shadow by Matthew S. Cox cover

Self-published by Division Zero Press (August 21, 2019)
Series: standalone
Cover Artist:
Genre: Epic Fantasy

Trigger Warnings:Murder, violence, beating, bullying, childhood abuse, harassment, implied rape, sexual content, abuse, self-harm (sexual content)

Synopsis:
Aegaan is a vast and righteous kingdom, yet darkness gathers in the distant corners of the realm. Elven raids on small towns have inflamed racial tensions with humans, pushing distrust to hatred and the brink of war.

Anrael wanders the woods alone until a chance meeting tempts him to set aside his contempt for those who scorn his half-elven blood.

When Kylie, a naive elf terrified of humans, is thrust among them against her will, she begins to question her mother’s tales of dread.

Having lost everything dear to him, the bandit king Jhelan lives only to seek challenge in battle… until he finds himself willing to die protecting that which he hates the most.

The diabolical mystique of the dark elves cloaks L’an Thal’Sara in protection, but the cruelest lie she tells is to herself.

Thaelwyn, a virtuous knight, sets out to discover the source of the Elves’ aggression, but faces a much greater test within his mind.

Beneath the chaos, minions of the Destroyer search for their promised leader, a child possessing power beyond their years. If the innocent falls to darkness, a kingdom rife with hatred will surely crumble.

Add it on:
The StoryGraph | Goodreads

Review


The short story…

Multi-POV: Characters begin their distinctive journeys while something connects them. Each one is different as can be so there’s literally a character for everyone;
Political unrest: Warring factions of elves and humans create political unrest in this fantasy world, explored in its social consequences;
Diverging societies: Elves and humans have extremely differing societies, with very well-crafted customs, traditions, and viewpoints of the world;
Supernatural force: Epic magic powers, who doesn’t love them? AND demons;
Elven lore: The elves have their own distinct systems, distancing themselves from common tropes. The dark elves put poison in their food as a custom of challenge, how cool is that?
Character-driven epic fantasy: A detailed world built by the mosaic of its characters.


My Thoughts

At around 1480 pages, Of Myth and Shadow is an intimidating book before you even open its pages. 

When I saw the announcement for the tour organized by Blackthorn Book Tours, I was intrigued by the premise, and curious to read how an epic fantasy (which I usually like to be quite fast-paced —to a point—) would maintain consistency for the entirety of its almost 170 chapters. I was also curious to test my resolve in reading a book so huge, something I haven’t done in a long while, or probably ever. 

Blackthorn Book Tours banner

I want to thank Blackthorn Book Tours for providing me not only with this thought-provoking read but also with the opportunity to test my reading focus! It was a challenge, to say the least, but it also gave me something to think about, in a multitude of ways, and showed me to a new world of magic, conspiracies, and political interest.

Of Myth and Shadow intersects magic and mayhem with an intimate look at the lives of a varied cast of characters.

Perhaps due to its size, it’s one of those books that takes its sweet time with every part of the story. Setting up its world, building up its characters and the societies they revel in, it paces itself as slow as the condensed saga it reads to be. 

It wastes no time establishing a shared narrative between our POV characters: Anrael, a half-elf shunned by his home village; Leah, a mysterious thief with a secret; Kylie, a forest elf who is forced to discover the harsh truths of the world; L’an Thal’Shara, a dark elf with her own agenda; Jhelan, a bandit king; Thaelwyn, a righteous knight to a wicked king; and Serelin, an orphan mage who finds herself in the grasp of a cult.

In this slow-paced, character-driven world, there is literally a POV character for everyone. 

Each of these characters is forced to navigate a world rife with the tension that arises from the political warring between humans and elves. This political tension is first established through the “ordinary” lives of our great cast of characters (or well, as ordinary as the lives of magic-users, mercenaries, thieves, reluctant bounty hunters, and rage-prone wanderers can be). 

It was a noteworthy change of scenery for a genre that many times deals only in glittering courts and legendary heroes. Of Myth and Shadow manages to deal in both. 

The demon lunged at Anrael in a six-armed flurry of flashing claws.

Since it is one heavy tome, the story’s beginning takes on a pace that at times feels glacial and directionless.

I am one of those readers that is driven by the plot and world, as much as characters have a heavy impact on whether I like a book or not, so I like my books to start with a bang in the very first chapters. But I also thrive in the details, and those were the defining vines tethering me to this world.

Of Myth and Shadow managed to take its hold on me nonetheless, because the cast has something so human about them (even the elves, go figure) that it made me want to see where their journey went. 

Journeys these that take a while to converge. During the first chapters, there are countless fights and sex scenes with no defining plot objective to the overall story. 

It takes its time establishing the characters and their day-to-day habits (or the surprises to it), so if you’re the kind of reader who thrives on a story that very slowly embeds its world into you, you’ll love how Of Myth and Shadow gives you detailed character insight.

You’ll quickly fall in love with them, as they are beautifully crafted, with all the nuance of real people from our world.

“It is quite simple, Father. You chose to avoid their hatred by turning your back on me.”

Touching on this, I can’t help but mention one particular scene featuring L’an that at first almost had me give up on the book. As much as this moment repelled my engagement, it gave me enough pause that I was mulling over it for quite a while. 

I realized how the POV, in that moment, focused exclusively on L’an, her feelings, her thoughts, her construction as more than a character, a person who was deeply affected by that moment in many different ways. 

I thought back on it and found myself thinking, how many times have women/women-identifying queer people/even nb people, forced themselves to act something like this, programmed by the expectations and intrusive sexual ideologies society brands on us? How many times are we convinced that our role is often to suffer for the pleasure of others? 

I thought long and hard about how it was the setting of that specific moment that prompted me to even think about these matters in this way, instead of dumping a shocking moment on me that would have done nothing for the story or its reader. The fact that I was even considering these issues prompted me to see the story in a new way and furthered my drive to keep reading it.

L’an was one of those deeply real characters that add a tint of complexity and I found myself drawn to her future.

He is dead. Why does he haunt me?

I found that my favorite aspect of this story was how it combines the elements of kings and kingdoms so native to fantasy, but does so by focusing on the social and intimately personal moments which impact the commonfolk characters

For me, it was just that I didn’t know where the plot was going for at least 20 chapters (which, in hindsight, is probably akin to the first three chapters of a smaller book), and at times my attention demands to be caged in the very first chapters of a book. My interested rose and fell, but intrigue always pulled me further.

I do believe setting the stage is important, and this is a book that manages to take a broad genre of indented tropes and give them its own little twist. At first glance, these elements may appear to serve under the commonality of their concepts, but Of Myth and Shadow crafts its originality from its details.

It surprises and enchants the reader with the customs and traditions of its characters, the intersectionality of its narratives, and of its societies, and even the satisfying amount of epic magic, conniving political machinations, and suspenseful action scenes.

I dare say, if you’re brave enough for a very chunky book, lose yourself in this one. 

Ps. My review was fully honest and unbiased. Thank you Blackthorn Book Tours and Matthew for the opportunity to read a copy of the book!

Of Myth and Shadow is available at
Indiebound | Bookshop | B&N | Amazon | Book Depository

About Matthew

Matthew S. cox author photo
Matthew S. Cox author photo

Originally from South Amboy NJ, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Since 1996, he has developed the “Divergent Fates” world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, The Awakened Series, The Harmony Paradox, the Prophet of the Badlands series, and the Daughter of Mars series take place.

His books span adult, young-adult, and middle-grade fiction in multiple genres, predominantly science fiction, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, and fantasy.

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, developer of two custom tabletop RPG systems, and a fan of anime, British humour, and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of humanity, reality, life, and what might happen after it.

He is also fond of cats, presently living with two: Loki and Dorian.

3 thoughts on “Review: Of Myth and Shadow by Matthew S. Cox

  1. Pingback: Review: The Boy Who Walked Too Far by Dom Watson – The Bookwyrm's Guide to the Galaxy

    1. I don’t think I’ve read anything this big in a while, or will in the future for a while too. Definitely a challenge but it was fun too because there was a lot of room for things to go wrong or unexpected. Thank you for reading and for your comment 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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