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College of Shadows

Cambridge Gothic, Book 1
Narrated by: Howard J. Davey
Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
Categories: Teens, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
4 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Cambridge is home to the brightest minds...and the deadliest monsters.

Working-class rugby player Nick feels out of place at university. The hallowed halls of Cambridge seem impossibly huge and far beyond the Mansfield of his youth. But Nick has much more than fitting in to fear, when he's attacked by a creature straight out of his worst nightmares.

Emotionally scarred by the sudden death of her parents, Annabel buries her feelings deep in her studies. But after barely surviving a freak accident, the shy girl begins to fear she's cursed. And when her new friends nearly fall prey to a monstrous beast that shouldn't exist, she's terrified that her bad luck could bring their demise. 

As Nick and Annabel plan to trap the creature, they stumble upon a long-held Cambridge secret. And the otherworldly truth is less pass-fail than do-or-die. Can Nick and Annabel banish the beast before freshers’ week becomes their last?

College of Shadows is the engrossing first novel in the Cambridge Gothic urban fantasy series. If you like haunted heroes, unspeakable horrors, and parallel worlds, then you'll love Mark Wells's atmospheric tale. Buy it today and hear about their adventures with the supernatural, today!

©2019 Mark Nicholas Wells (P)2019 Mark Nicholas Wells

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Starts off slow, then picks up, then off the track

This started off slowly and I only kept with it because of the excellent narration. Way too many players introduced without any action. Once things pick up it became very entertaining. The author does great conversations and each main character was distinct and interesting. Near the end some dumb decisions were made by the professor that made no sense and at the very end someone is revealed to have disappeared a long time ago and no one even noticed, even though she was significant. Lost me at the end. Also, apparently two scientists hid their greatest discovery, it was never rediscovered and think it still isn't safe now. That was not believable to me at all. Not sure why this is a series either. I will read the next book's description and go from there. I received this for free and the above is my honest review.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Really pleased with this story-sequel plz!

Wow what a great story! I'm a fan of fantasy and really enjoy UK fantasy for the gothic overtones. Probably a big reason I loved the Harry Potter Series. It feels timeless. While this is set in a modern day college environment (cell phones and Facebook references) you still get that other worldly feeling of the old gothic college that I'm entirely unfamiliar with living in California and that creates a bigger appeal for me. The narrator was brilliant as well. Incidentally American, Davey pulls off accents seemingly flawlessly. With a British novel of this nature, having those accents feel authentic is really important and he did the American accents flawless too LOL.

When the story unfolds and we're introduced to the first set of characters, I DID have a sensation of wanting a British dictionary. There were many instances where I had to take a guess or look up a term to confirm the meaning. Much of the campus descriptions of architectural features were familiar but some of the character roles were not (like bedder, Porter etc) That aside, I DID hop on Google Maps and took a virtual tour of some of the key landmarks in the story and it made a bit more sense and helped a lot in suspending disbelief. The college became real and the characters as if they were real students attending university.

The characters were well developed as was the subtext into their interpersonal interactions. Young people navigating the murky waters of social dynamics without the cringy teen angst and tedious dialogue usually found in YA novels. Honestly this did NOT feel like a YA novel and I say that in a good way. There wasn't anything inappropriate for the audience but it didn't feel like the author was holding back for the sake of age appropriateness. There was a few curse words (totally fine for me) and again, that lent it to being ideal for a broader audience.

Annabel and Nick, kids from totally different backgrounds and life circumstances, come together accidentally and become fast friends. There's a naivety about both of them that makes you as the audience a little frustrated because of the tension it creates but its a necessary part of the story. We bounce back and forth between them and a few other sets of characters; Giles and his climbing pals, Rochel, a foreign woman looking for her missing brother, a few key service staff members on campus, a few subplot students and a few important professors. We also do a bit of non-linear timeline jumps with a few professors but unless you're not paying attention, its pretty easy to determine when we're reminiscing a past event and when we're present day.

At first there seems to be complete story wrap up at the end but then there's some plot twists thrown in there to leave plenty of room for the next installment of the Cambridge Gothic series to unfold. Honestly, knowing this is a debut story, it was a pleasure to listen. The author feels experienced and well versed and doesn't go overboard with padding or fluff. He adds just the right amount of detail. A strong storyline coupled with complex character development, Wells has a true talent for captivating storytelling.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

An interesting plot with a cool ending

While it was a little slow to start, I loved the narrator's performance, and the complexity of the story. There were a lot of character threads going on at once that came together in a cool way at the end. The ending leaves you excited to read the next book. Overall it was a good read, and I had a great time with the book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fun new series!

College of Shadows mainly features three loosely connected groups of protagonists. A pair of freshers (first year Cambridge students) Nick and Annabel; a trio of older students including Giles, Ying and Trevor; and a pair of elder professors, Robert and Ravi. The first half of the book is mostly slice-of-life living at Cambridge. The plot really picks up in the second half as the disparate groups begin to pull together to confront a deadly otherworld threat. The author leaves a lot of room for a sequel. Loved the epilogue. Recommended for fans of 14/The Fold. This book was given to me for free at my request and I provided this voluntary review.

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  • Angela
  • 11-28-19

Beautiful Backdrop to a Well Written Story

This was a good story set in the the beautiful city of Cambridge. With its history and old buildings, it makes a fantastic backdrop for a fantastical mystery. Wells does a good job interweaving the array of characters and the more otherworldly aspects of the story. The plot itself is quite a slow burner but the world building is genuinely lovely to read. His knowledge of Cambridge is truly astounding and he captures the beauty of it with his writing.

Although I have thoroughly enjoyed the story, I think this is one book where it would be best to read in physical format (I can imagine the maps included in a print copy already, and I love a fantasy map) rather than listening to the audio.
The narrator has a melodic voice but it doesn't really suit this kind of book. Whatever action does occur is kind of lost as there is no urgency in the narration, making it difficult to differentiate between the various characters.

The recording itself could do with a bit of polishing, can hear mistakes and stumbles from the narrator which have not been edited out. The pitch is sometimes 'off' which can make the reading quite disjointed. Quite often it sounds like the volume has been upped on the recording, and sometimes it even sounds like there is more than one narrator as the pitch changes that much.

One aspect of the writing - literally one word - really stood out for me as well. For whatever reason, Wells uses the word 'feebler', which is appalling use of English and really stood out in what was generally excellent prose.

A good story and for the most part, beautifully written, but I feel the audio needs editing as at present it does spoil the writing.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request via Audioboom and have voluntarily left this review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Dave Barfield
  • Dave Barfield
  • 11-24-19

Gripping from the start

Love this so very much! A fantastic, descriptive and gripping gothic tale from start to finish. The level of detail and description whisks you into a very real world with a monstrous twist. The description of Cambridge and St John's makes you feel like you are actually walking the grounds with Nick and Annabel as they embark on a journey neither expected.

Narration is very good and thoroughly enjoyed this version!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful