Swann does a wonderful job depicting these lost boys, the puzzling kinetics of friendship, competition and status . . . Blackburne feels like an unmanned ship where anything could happen.
Swann deftly manages a dual narrative . . . It’s a swift tale well told, and at times eloquently so.
Swann has written a thoughtful and highly enjoyable literary thriller . . . Ultimately, this is a book about dealing with the past, growing up and moving on, as well as a lesson about what friendship and family loyalty really mean. It’s well-written and nicely paced, and the mystery is satisfyingly challenging . . . I hope he is working on his next novel.
A wonderful coming-of-age story, a taut emotional rollercoaster, and a hell of a debut. Christopher Swann hits the sweet spot with a novel that has a gripping plot, beautifully rendered characters, and an accomplished style. I loved it.
—DAVID LISS, author of The Day of Atonement
Swann’s tightly knit debut novel is a moving coming-of-age story with a noir twist that will appeal to readers of John Knowles’s A Separate Peace, N.H. Kleinbaum’s Dead Poets Society, and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.
Swann spins out an enjoyable little potboiler from this premise, and his ending comes alive with action and intrigue.
—WALL STREET JOURNAL
Devastating and captivating, Shadow of the Lions is an addictive mystery of corruption and redemption. Filled with secrets and betrayal, Blackburne is the perfect setting and has a gritty and noir atmosphere. Flashbacks connect Matthias back to the school through his relationship with Fritz. Matthias is a compelling lead, a lost soul desperately searching for answers and racked with guilt. His search for answers gives Matthias closure and a second chance. The mystery unfolds with twists and turns, with clues in the most unexpected places. It’s a serious read that pulls you into Matthias’s dedication until you’re as determined to know what happened to Fritz as he is. A must-read debut!
Shadow of the Lions is masterful in the way it builds suspense through character . . . Packed with references to influential works of literature, the narration of Shadow of the Lions nonetheless moves swiftly, pausing occasionally for the writerly flourishes one expects from a literary novel . . . Swann, who attended a Virginia boarding school and now teaches in Atlanta, knows his material well and marshals it to good effect. Shadow of the Lions offers a gripping mystery while exploring two fundamental questions that drive fiction: how do good people make bad decisions, and how can they learn to live with the repercussions?
Shadow of the Lions is Christopher Swann’s debut, but it unfolds with a maturity characteristic of works by more seasoned novelists . . . Unsettling and beautifully written, Shadow of the Lions challenges the idea that we ever truly leave high school behind.
An unsolved mystery plunges the best friend of a missing person into sinuous intrigues 10 years later in this confidently plotted literary thriller . . . [Swann’s] tale keeps the reader guessing until it offers up its final revelations.
A twisty tale that surprises at every turn, Shadow of the Lions will keep you turning pages compulsively into the wee hours, cursing Christopher Swann for the inconvenience.
—JONATHAN EVISON, author of This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
Christopher Swann is a gifted storyteller, a master at the twisty tale. Swann’s must-read debut, Shadow of the Lions, is written with depth and mystery, transporting the reader through the gates of an elite private school and into the heart of an unsolved student’s disappearance: a novel that gives us the privilege of walking through the world with Matthias and his astute observations—the childhood ache of loneliness at a boarding school; a first love; a best friend’s disappearance; a career that should be more than it is, and eventually toward a shocking reckoning of who he is meant to be. Under Swann’s deft hand, ultimately, Shadow of the Lions explores the timeless complexity of deep friendship—how it shapes us, destroys us and sometimes remakes us.
—PATTI CALLAHAN HENRY, author of The Bookshop at Water’s End
If you were to throw A Separate Peace, Dead Poets Society, and The Secret History into a literary blender, you might get something like Christopher Swann’s Shadow of the Lions, a novel which manages at once to be both a poignant coming-of-age tale and a suspenseful mystery. Set in the persistently alluring environs of an elite prep school, where the idealistic image of striving achievement is always in conflict with the dark realities that trouble even the most privileged of lives, Shadow of the Lions illuminates the complexities of friendship, love, loyalty, and duty with remarkable wisdom and compassion.
—ED TARKINGTON, author of Only Love Can Break Your Heart
This intriguing novel is truly one worthy to be declared a “page-turner,” especially when the halfway-point of the story is reached. From then on, the reader won’t wish to put it down until that last word has been read. Lingering nostalgically on flashbacks of how their friendship began, to the moment of that devastating break-up, Shadow of the Lions is a chronicle of gaining, then losing boyhood ideals, as well as a paean to the friendships cemented during those adolescent years.
Fast-paced and full of unexpected turns, Christopher Swann’s Shadow of the Lions pulls readers into the dark underworld looming beneath a prestigious boys’ boarding school.
—MIRA JACOB, author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing
Swann’s deft mastery of language and his sense for academia come through the novel strongly. Shadow of the Lions is believable, tense, and rich. Blackburne’s insular community is the perfect stage for this literary thriller, which earns positive comparisons to Dead Poets Society and The Marriage Plot…Witty, fast paced, and satisfying, Shadow of the Lions is a perfect literary thriller for back-to-school season.
Shadow of the Lions qualifies as a promising, well-crafted debut. Swann has a remarkable gift for describing fleeting experiences. As the minutes tick toward a dreaded hazing ceremony, Blackburne freshmen “cower in the lecture hall, waiting for the stroke of doom.” Later, when tensions erupt with Fritz, Matthias feels “locked into a terrible moment at the edge of our friendship.” Such flashes of lyrical agility suggest a bright new talent ready to roar.
The characters are well drawn, and the first-person narrative pulls the reader along with Matthias on his emotional roller-coaster ride in search of redemption. Swann’s masterfully measured debut novel is a powerful coming-of-age tale in the tradition of A Separate Peace and will appeal to readers who enjoy literary fiction with an air of mystery and suspense.
With Matthias narrating, Swann toggles between his character’s student and teacher periods, showing how intense friendships and cruelty can mark adolescence indelibly and exploring how people deal with the memories and wounds as adults.