In Heaven’s Shadow by Matthew Bryan
I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Traditionally, that’s a reference to Lilith (you may want to look her up), but in Matthew Bryan’s new book, Hell can barely contain the insidious evil of one particular woman who overthrows Samael and assumes the ultimate power over the demons cast out from Grace; her name is Kalia, and forget about meeting her in a darkened alley, you wouldn’t want to meet her in broad daylight on a crowded street.
But what was sent to Hell doesn’t necessarily stay in Hell. In Bryan’s dark tale, Warrior Angels–the As’rai (not to be confused with the aquatic fairies)–are God’s soldiers on Earth; they’re here to protect mankind as best they can from the evil that seeps out from Hell in the form of demons clever and downright terrifying. It’s a delicate balance, because Bryan never forgets the idea of Free Will in Mankind. If it were as easy as Angels and Archangels swooping down and annihilating evil, it would be over very quickly. What Bryan also deftly balances is that the As’rai and many of the demons are not so different. After all, before The Fall, they were brothers. There is an underlying melancholy to the story in that demons who not so much fought, but were complicit by their silence were also driven from the Presence of God. That wound is very real and, millennia later, very fresh. That poignancy carries on through the book, and it is not difficult to suspend disbelief to let that thought sink in…
No spoilers here. An As’rai named As’hame and a demon named Mkai join forces, albeit reluctantly on the part of As’hame, to thwart the evil that is skittering, full bore, out of the Darkness. People are going to get hurt. People are going to die. There are people who need protecting, and one in particular who seriously needs finding. The human characters are believable. Paul, who’s just this guy who works the night shift at UPS and has newly broken up with his girlfriend, and Rie (short for Marie), who is struggling to recover from a horrific past and tends bar in Los Angeles, are warm and entirely believable. Their relationship is not forced, it feels as natural as breathing. Paul’s got that awkward way about him, and, while Rie is tough, she’s not kick-ass-unbelievable tough. I admire that in a character.
The writing flows well, the fight scenes are well done. Sometimes the pacing slows when new characters arrive and the action up to that point is recounted for their benefit. There’s a bit of torture in here, and, I admit, that kind of thing makes me squeamish, so I skipped ahead. That I felt the need to skip ahead, though, should let you know those parts are well-written and believable, too. While there are only so many stories in the world and sometimes you can see it coming, well, yes. Sometimes you can see what’s coming, but it’s not contrived. And, while I could see it coming, my interest was piqued in just HOW Bryan was going to get there with it.
An enjoyable read and a promising start to what will certainly be a fresh new series that will have appeal to a wide audience. I’m looking forward to Book II.
Enjoy this excerpt from In Heaven’s Shadow
A Diamond in the Dark would now like to welcome Canadian author Matthew Bryan to the blog!
AMY: Where are you from? Tell us a little about your childhood.
MATTHEW: My childhood. Pretty boring for the most part. I grew up in a small town called Granum in southern Alberta, spent a lot of time on farms or in the mountains camping. I was raised by a single mom who for having 4 boys, maintained most of her sanity. I spent a lot of time reading and writing but also played hockey on the outdoor rink in the winter and football and baseball in the summer. Even then I was a geek who was into building things with lego, magnets, electricity etc. if I could take it apart I did. That carried through until now.
AMY: Four boys? Still sane? I think the word you’re looking for is “Saint.” But, what does your family think of your writing?
MATTHEW: My family have been very supportive. My mother wrote when I was young and I have an uncle that is working on his first novel. My twin has been encouraged with the process I’ve gone through and is working on a zombie novel himself.
AMY: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
MATTHEW: Soon after I learned to write I think. I was always writing little stories. A lot of my high school essays I actually turned in as stories. My social studies teacher quite enjoyed reading about Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses as a story instead of a boring essay.
AMY: Did your childhood have a lot of influence on what you’re writing now?
MATTHEW: My entire childhood influences my writing. I grew up fantasizing about great battles between good and evil. I finally get the chance to create the ultimate conflict.
AMY: What did you read back then? Who were your favorite authors?
MATTHEW: That’s such a hard question. Tolkien was top of the list for a long long time, I’d reread the hobbit and LOTR twice a year. But David Eddings, Robert Jordan, Guy Gavriel Kay all had their places on the top of my list. As I got older, I branched out and found authors like John Sandford, James Rollins, Robert R Mccamon and so many others. Which I guess is listing authors more than books – probably because I have too many books to list.
AMY: That’s a pretty impressive list, and to read Lord of the Rings TWICE a year? I take it you liked reading!
MATTHEW: I LOVE(D) reading. My mom tells a story of my twin and I coming home first day of kindergarten and throwing our bookbags on the table and saying we weren’t going back to school “no mo” – we had a speech impediment common with twins. We were so damn cute. Anyway, when she asked why our reply was “cuz we don’t know how to read yet”. Once we started… neither of us ever stopped. I’m a pretty fast speed reader. Can fly through an entire 300+ novel in the time it takes to fly from Calgary to Cancun, Mexico.
AMY: Cancun … now you’re just being mean .. What do you like to do when you’re not writing (and flying to Cancun)?
MATTHEW: That’s a rather boring list. I grew up in a small town camping every summer so I do that when I can. I’m a computer geek so I spend a lot of time online and playing games on my PS3 or Xbox. I’m an amateur photographer as well. And of course reading. I have a library of over 500 books that are my favorites that I reread constantly.
AMY: And how long did it take for you to write your book?
MATTHEW: I worked on the book for about 2 years, start to finish. It didn’t take long to write it, a couple months. I’d write a chapter in a couple hours and then wouldn’t touch it for weeks. Editing took up the majority of time.
AMY: When you’re IN THE ZONE, what’s your routine like?
MATTHEW: I don’t really have a routine, I write when I get caught up. I need to become more disciplined in that if I want to make a career of it.
AMY: Wow. You know, chicks dig honesty like that. Discipline’s important moving forward, you know, especially because everyone is going to be clamoring for Book II. So, what sparked the idea for this book in the first place?
MATTHEW: It actually came to me, the bare bones at least, from a song. Another book I worked on came the same way. In this case it was Citizen Soldier by Three Doors Down. It’s gotten to where I can’t listen to the song without picturing scenes from my book. I can see the music video playing with scenes from the movie. That is one of things I’d like to see, my book on the big screen.
AMY: And what was the most difficult part of the writing process?
MATTHEW: Writing it was actually pretty easy, it literally just poured out on the screen, surprising me at times. The editing though… that is a totally different story. It took me almost twice as much time to edit than it did to write it. I had to force myself to create entire new scenes and that was difficult.
AMY: How did you get this book published?
MATTHEW: I looked online for a couple weeks researching self-publishing. I knew that I wasn’t wiling (or interested) in going the old school route. As it turns out I’ll be switching publishers and moving to a publisher that my editor suggested.
AMY: Any lessons learned? Any advice for aspiring authors?
MATTHEW: To just write. About anything. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. You never know when you hit on an idea that captures you and you have to run to keep up. 100% of the words you don’t write will never be read. Just write, worry about publishing when you’re done.
AMY: And, how do you hope your book affects your readers?
MATTHEW: My favorite books all share a particular feature. Somewhere in them there are scenes that no matter how many times I read them, I get chills. Literal chills, goose bumps and shivers up my spine. If I can affect one person that way, then I’ll judge it a success. My small home town library is going to carry my book and that makes me so excited. I remember what it was like to be a nerdy 15 year old living in the worlds I found in the cozy little library. If I can give that to someone then I would die happy.
And now … A GIVEAWAY! To celebrate the release of Matthew Bryan’s Book In Heaven’s Shadow, he will be giving away TWO (2) Hard Bound Copies of his book to TWO lucky comment-leavers! How to enter? Leave a comment on this post between now and April 30th for a chance to WIN! Matthew will be shipping your book to you straight from the frozen north in Calgary, Alberta (which just might be Unfrozen by then, but we make no promises). Leave a comment for a chance to WIN!
Where to find Matthew Bryan Online!