Dust of the Darkness (The Riven Realm #2) by Deck Matthews - Book Review

Write on: Tue, 29 Sep 2020 by  in Jordan's Reviews Read 2921

Dust of the Darkness picks up right where book one left off, and takes us on another whirlwind adventure. Once again Deck Matthews has packed a story into a sleek mold, making for a fast-paced and overall enjoyable read. If you liked the First of Shadows you’ll definitely appreciate the continuation of the Riven Realm series.

There are a few trade-offs to be made when you are condensing an epic fantasy into novella form, and this has pros and cons for the story. The pros are that the narrative is crisp and concise, even at the low page count, Matthews does an excellent job of arranging a complete story arc so that the conclusion feels satisfactory. On the other hand, with so much going on in such a short amount of time, the characters get a little lost in the shuffle. There just isn’t enough room to dive deep into character motivations, feelings, goals, etc. Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is there, and it is handled well enough, but it isn’t immersive enough to sink its teeth in on a visceral level. Character deaths and struggles don’t really elicit an emotional reaction. And that’s ok. Honestly, I don’t think that is really this story’s goal. It straightforward and plot driven, and it works.

I would like to feel, by the end of the second book, like I have a pretty clear picture of what this series is about, but I still haven’t really gotten much more of the big picture than 1) there are shadow demons on the loose and 2) there are secret artifacts that are also important. 

Once again, the highlight of this series is its pacing. These books breeze by. And before you suggest that it is only the page count, be absolutely assured that I have read a single page that felt like an eternity. Short books don’t necessarily feel that way. This one did. Matthews cuts to the quick, whittling away the inessential to deliver an action-packed adventure story that is simple, and very enjoyable. It almost feels like a guilty pleasure, harkening back to Dragonlance novels or maybe David Eddings, without all the cringey dated crap, and frankly with significantly better prose. The sentences are vividly descriptive and the dialog feels genuine.

Dust of the Darkness pairs classic, medieval fantasy worldbuilding, with a cinematic, almost action-movie story structure, culminating in a big finish. There are mysteries, intrigues, and slowly revealed backstories to keep it fresh. Even with a slim page-count there are multiple story lines, a host of unique characters, and several flavors of interesting magic. Bottom line, if you want a book that feels kind of like the cliff notes of the Wheel of Time, give this series a spin. I enjoyed this book and I’ll be back for the next installment of the Riven Realm.


Jordan Loyal Short is an author of epic fantasy, an inveterate nerd, and a small business owner. He has worked in a variety of industries, as a waiter, bartender, copywriter and more. These days, Jordan lives in Washington state with his wife where he is currently daydreaming about the end of the world. Books by Jordan Loyal Short: The Skald's Black Verse The Weeping Sigil Travels in the Dark

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