This is a review for book two of Deck Matthews’ Riven Realm series. If you want to check out my review of book one, The First of Shadows you can find it here!
“You fight steel with steel. But you fight the shadow with light—or by learning to see in the darkness.”
In Dust of the Darkness, Deck Matthews successfully emulates and builds upon everything that made The First of Shadows a great book.
Sticking to the novella format, Matthews has produced another fast paced, episodic story that somehow again crams in a surprisingly satisfying amount of worldbuilding and character development whilst hurtling along like a steam train. He’s got his formula perfected and it’s a real pleasure to dive into the world of Varkas. There’s no waiting around for ‘the good bits’ or having to spend chapters mired in exposition and buildup before you feel comfortable within the world. Perhaps this is partly because the story takes place over the period of 4-5 days and picks up pretty much immediately after The First of Shadows, further contributing to this episodic feel.
Part of what makes his storytelling is a success is his ability to draw you in immediately. The First of Shadows started with a brilliant battle scene atop a cliff, whilst Dust of the Darkness introduces us to a new character, Carvesh, investigating a disturbance in the night. Prize cattle have been slaughtered by something big. It is within tense scenes that the writing shines especially brightly. I particularly enjoyed the chapter in which Carvesh and a small group venture through Jadenwood to the Rasmas family cottage after hearing troubling news – it feels creepy and suspenseful.
Dust of the Darkness layers more depth into the wider Riven Realm series, building on the mysterious deaths of the Hearthborn and adding weight to the growing mystery and conspiracy underpinning events. We see further character development of those we are familiar with, especially Palawen, and introductions to cool new characters which helps keep things fresh.
It’s difficult to divulge too much of the story with novella, without spoiling it (or giving away events in The First of Shadows) so I’ll leave the plot points there. I do feel particularly excited though to continue the story, I feel events are going to kick off on an even grander scale.
“The Heirocracy, the Great Houses, even the Ember Throne itself: they were all founded on the power of the Hearthborn. If it were to be undermined, the entire balance of power could shift. The results would be predictably catastrophic. Conflict. Rebellion. War. A riven Realm.”
Another thing I want to pick up on is how well the fight scenes are written. They always feel believable within the context of the world and avoid the copy and pasted feel you can get from some fantasy.
I didn’t make any negative notes whilst reading and don’t really have any criticisms to balance the review – I don’t believe in putting negatives in just for the sake of it.
However, for those that enjoy really disappearing into another world over the course of a few days and really getting an overload of history, lore and slow-burn, perhaps it may not be your thing. It’s not epic fantasy as such, despite the successful implementation of many of its elements. This is more Netflix series in book form. If you live a busy life this will particularly appeal. And if you do want to spend longer than 2 or 3 hours in one world, you can always just binge
watch read the Riven Realm series so far, with A Shattering of Glass also available to continue the story.
Another 5 star read from Deck Matthews. Seriously, if you haven’t started the journey with The First of Shadows, read it! And if you have, and you enjoyed it, know that Dust of the Darkness won’t let you down.