Book Reviews

The Shadow of Theron: Age of Shadows, Book One

The powers of old are fading. A new Age is dawning. Holy relics are all that remain of Theron’s sacred legend. Now those relics, the enchanted weapons forged by the Three-Faced Goddess to help Theron defeat the wicked Sorcerer Argoss, are disappearing. Lysandro knows the village magistrate Marek is responsible, and he searches for proof disguised as the masked protector the Shadow of Theron. But when Marek wounds him with an accursed sword that shouldn’t exist, Lysandro must find a way to stop Marek from gaining any more artifacts created by the Goddess or her nemesis. The arrival of the beautiful newcomer Seraphine, with secrets of her own, only escalate their rivalry. As the feud between Lysandro and Marek throws Lighura into chaos, a pair of priestesses seeks to recover the relics and return them to safekeeping. But the stones warn that Argoss is returning, and they must race to retrieve Theron’s most powerful weapon. While they risk their lives for a legend, only one thing is certain. The three temples to the Goddess have been keeping secrets: not just from the faithful, but from each other.

I enjoy a good fantasy novel. I also enjoy a good superhero story. While the two genres don’t cross over as often as they could, The Shadow of Theron: Age of Shadows, Book One, written by Kathryn Troy, is one such exception. As it chronicles the adventures of the heroic, titular Shadow of Theron, a guise adopted by nobleman, or Don, Lisandro, as he battles the villainous magistrate, Marek. What follows is a book packed with classic derring-do, in the spirit of Tyrone Power in The Mark of Zorro, Adam West in Batman, Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride.

While Lisandro is indisputably The Shadow of Theron’s protagonist, both the aforementioned villain Marek, as well as Lisandro’s romantic interest, Seraphine, prominently feature in the book’s narrative, with the three forming its trinity. All three characters are entertaining to follow, but I should note that none of them has a strong character arc. While all three characters are incredibly enjoyable, and I found myself invested in their story, they do not exhibit any growth throughout The Shadow of Theron. Each character fits their archetype: Lisandro as the hero, Marek as the villain and Seraphine as the love interest. While well-written, the author has opted to paint these characters in black and white without the shades of grey. This may irk some readers who expect more depth in their characters, but this trio fitting snugly within their archetypes with little variation serves the story well. The Shadow of Theron is escapist entertainment, with its characters fitting the spirit of the works I mentioned above. The book’s world is populated with engaging characters, all of whom will entertain the reader.

At points, The Shadow of Theron is fairly heavy on dialogue, but none of it feels expository; instead, each character’s dialogue constantly delights. It is clean and always  easy to follow. Every character sounds distinct from the others, and in the passages where Troy doesn’t use dialogue tags, the reader can readily identify which character is speaking. The dialogue feels believable in context of the book’s swashbuckling, fantasy world. The conversations move along at a nice pace, popping as the characters go back and forth. Marek is particularly distinct, with a cadence that sounds like a pantomime villain, which perfectly suits the book’s world.

At 450 pages in paperback (or an estimated 452 pages on your eReader of choice), The Shadow of Theron is a reasonably lengthy read. While the plot is a classic tale pitting good against evil that on first glance doesn’t need 450-odd pages dedicated to it, its length comes from its switching perspectives between the main characters, offering equal time to both the action-adventure narrative, and Lisandro and Seraphine’s romance. This balance works well, with the two through lines building as the book moves towards its climax. The book is paced wonderfully, keeping the story moving forward while increasing the pace in the more exciting parts, and taking its time to luxuriate in the quieter moments, particularly in the love story. The closer the book gets to its finale, the more this pace increases, yet the romance thread doesn’t interfere with the flow of the book’s adventure. While neither the adventure tale or romance add anything new to the genre, this book takes joy in the tropes of its genres, and this joy is entirely infectious.

Much like the dialogue, Troy’s prose is a delight to read. It is clear and concise, and easy to follow throughout. The opening sentence put a smile on my face, and it returned throughout my time reading the novel. While the author uses flourishes sparingly, every time these flourishes appear, they are fantastic, imbuing the book with many witticisms, all of them delightful. As much as I enjoyed The Shadow of Theron’s story and characters, the prose stands out as it guides the reader through the story, as if it were its own character.

Troy has made an interesting decision in setting The Shadow of Theron in the fictional world of Lighura. The use of honorifics like Don and Doña, and Signor and Signora are pooled from Italy’s history, yet sit within the book’s fantastical world. I can’t speak to how the social mores in the novel compare to the Italy of old, but in some ways, had the author refocused the book’s mythology, it could have made for an enjoyable historical fantasy. Having said that, I enjoyed the setting of Lighura and truly appreciated diving into a fantasy world where the world’s inspiration isn’t England during the Middle or Dark Ages. Throughout the novel, Lighura feels like a living, breathing setting, lived in by its residents. The mythology and belief systems set out in the book add further colour to a world already full of vibrancy that suits both the story and its styling beautifully.

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, The Shadow of Theron reminds me of Batman, The Princess Bride, The Mark of Zorro and The Adventures of Robin Hood stories. This is a world where a privileged man puts on a mask and rights evil’s wrongs. It is a world where nobody can recognise this hero, well known in his civilian identity, through the cunning disguise of a domino mask. While it lacks realism—and that’s without stopping to consider the book’s fantastical elements, including magical artefacts, resurrected skeletons and a three-faced goddess—the need to suspend disbelief isn’t an issue. Just like those classics I referred to, The Shadow of Theron captures a timeless feel. However, while such timelessness is usually appropriate for audiences of all ages, this book is less so. Although the action is reminiscent of those stories, it results in violence that is a little more graphic, and the book features an amount of language. Sex is part of the book’s world, and its villain weaponises it. Although none of this subject matter is gratuitous, given the timelessness of the novel and the pangs of nostalgia that come while reading it, it lacks the innocence of those stories. It remains appropriate reading for readers in the lower teens, but if you’re reading it from a love of classic hero versus villain stories, you may wish to be aware of its subject matter.

As the novel’s subtitle, Age of Shadows, Book One, gives away, this is the first book in a series. If you’re concerned about investing in the first part of a series, in case you would need to read the remaining books for a complete story, allow me to allay your fears. The Shadow of Theron tells a complete tale, and a substantial one at that. This book provides an ending that rewards your investment. There is certainly more story to be told after this book, but any further adventures are a promise of more wonderful times with these characters, instead of finishing a story that this just started.

The Shadow of Theron doesn’t feature in-depth characters, and it doesn’t reinvent the tropes that come with fantasy, derring-do action, or romance. It doesn’t need to, because it captures a timeless feel from stories told in bygone decades. Those stories are considered classics for a reason, and this novel captures their spirit wonderfully. If you’re a fan of those classics, you will be a fan of The Shadow of Theron.

Favourite Passage

Everything felt right in the world. Kissing her was like coming home. They knew each other here, here there was no pretense. Only desire. The thrill of their embrace sizzled through him from his fingertips to his toes. When she ran her fingers through his hair, it sent its heart spinning in its cage. His breathing hitched as their tongues met and their kiss deepened. It had been so long since he tasted her. Gods, how he had missed her.

He could have worshipped at her sumptuous mouth forever. But his paradise was shattered when she clutched his forearm and her fingers pressed unwittingly into his stitches. He tore himself away from her in agony. The speedy retreat of pleasure for pain was dizzying, and he swallowed against a wave of nausea that threatened to overtake him.

The Shadow of Theron: Age of Shadows, Book One, Chapter 23

The Shadow of Theron: Age of Shadows, Book One was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.

The Shadow of Theron is available in physical and eBook forms from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon).

You can follow Kathryn Troy online, via:

Note: I do not post scores on reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:

Interested in purchasing The Shadow of Theron?

Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.

The Shadow of Theron (Age of Shadows Book 1)

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