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Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite
Of Myth and Shadow is a multi-layered and truly epic fantasy adventure novel penned by author Matthew S. Cox. Focused on the sword and sorcery area of the fantasy genre, this highly complex and intelligently designed adventure takes place in the kingdom of Aegaan, where the initial surface tension is brought about by the separatist nature of human and elven races. Whilst young elves are raised to believe that humans are a terrible and dangerous species, human towns suffer at the hands of elven raiders when their defenses are weak. Deeper than this, there are followers of the Destroyer, who seek to find a leader prophesied to bring darkness with their incredible powers, but this leader is only a child. As these overarching tensions guide the changing world of the magical kingdom, an ensemble cast of adventurers, both human and non, set about their own personal quests, with both figurative and literal demons to slay.
Author Matthew S. Cox has created a truly epic read which seems daunting until you actually sit down and take on the beast, so to speak. It came as no surprise to me to find out later that the author is a GM (role-play games master) because the custom world created as Aegaan is rich with culture, history, politics, and social norms, as well as lavishly described in its many towns and physical wilderness. The more you know, the more you want to know, and Cox certainly gives more on every single page. His wordplay keeps the narrative moving nicely from paragraph to paragraph, but every chunk is illuminated by small details in passing that give an immersive and cinematic feel to the overall tale. Once you’re in Aegaan and immersed in its culture, it becomes easier and easier to read on and never want to leave.
Character development is an essential component for an ensemble cast piece, and Cox doesn’t skimp here either. Of Myth and Shadow has several interesting and passionately drawn leading characters, including the outcast half-blood Anrael, the sweet and nervy Kylie and the apparently gallant knight Thaelwyn. My personal favorite was the story of Jhelan, the bandit king, whose emotional arc was surprisingly deep and connected with me very much. That’s to name but a few in this short review. Suffice to say that Cox gives each character room to breathe and become their own person, introducing them in segments and giving us time to know them by their actions, struggles, and triumphs. Dialogue helps a great deal too, and I was impressed by the unique qualities of each voice despite such a large cast to tackle. In the way that these characters come together and inform the overall plot, Cox delivers a fantastically epic tale that turns all the popular tropes of fantasy and D&D style storytelling into a very real and relatable tale at its heart. Overall, Of Myth and Shadow is every fantasy fan’s dream read to get lost in for a long while indeed.