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Publisher's Summary

How long must we pay for the crimes of our youth?

It has been almost 10 years since Matthias graduated from the elite Blackburne School, where his roommate and best friend, Fritz, fled into the woods, never to be heard from again, in the middle of their senior year. Fritz vanished just after an argument over Matthias' breaking of the school's honor code, and Matthias has long been haunted by the idea that his betrayal led to his friend's disappearance.

Years later, after hitting the fast lane in New York as a successful novelist - then falling twice as hard - Matthias is stuck, a failure as a writer, a boyfriend, a person. When he is offered the opportunity to return to Blackburne as an English teacher, he sees it as a chance to put his life back together. But once on campus, Matthias gets swiftly drawn into the past and is driven to find out what happened to Fritz. He partners with a curmudgeonly local retired cop and tries to solve the case, dealing with campus politics, the shocking death of a student, Fritz's complicated and powerful Washington, DC, family, and his own place in the privileged world of Blackburne.

©2017 Christopher Swann (P)2017 HighBridge, a Division of Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Performance

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

One of the finest books I've heard on Audible!

This is a fine work by Christopher Swan, and very well narrated by James Anderson Foster. It is a complex work--partly (mainly the first half of the book) a coming-of-age story taking place in an all male boarding school in Virginia, partly an intriguing thriller.

The author has crafted it as a first person account by Matthias Glass, who is a at first a student in the school, alternating in time with about a decade or so later, when he is a teacher there. The story explores the profound relationships that form during the adolescent years in this school, and particularly focuses on a trauma that Matthias undergoes when his best friend suddenly disappears. Later, when he becomes a teacher at the school, there is a parallel incident that reopens all his earlier pain, and he decides he must take on the mystery of the unsolved mystery from his earlier time there. He feels he cannot rest until he can uncover what happened years ago to his friend and roommate Fritz--which leads to some frightening incidents.

I loved the writing, especially the way it is filled with literary references. The author has an excellent ability to pace the story so that it never lags and the vivid descriptions left me feeling I was right there. The ending was certainly something I could not have predicted. This is an excellent book, and I'm hoping that Mr. Swann already has another book in the works!

I'd give this book 10 stars if I could. Just when I thought there were no more original stories left, I'll have to say that this author is both extraordinarily creative and writes in a way that makes for compelling (reading) listening. It was a little slow getting started--there are a lot of characters and background to get in place. But I just spent the entire day listening non-stop, because I just didn't want to turn it off for a minute! Highly recommend!

162 of 169 people found this review helpful

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

Prep school intrigue

A well written story, maybe a bit too much plotting in the latter half of the book, which detracted from the characterization. I enjoyed the prep school setting and the dynamic between students. Narration was adequate, nothing special, but not distracting either.

57 of 61 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great character development and unexpected plot twists

I really enjoyed this book. I instantly liked the narrator and felt his passion for finding Fritz and sharing his love of English. It was reminiscent of Dead Poet's Society but then the twists and turns became even more exciting. I can't wait to read the author's second book. Bravo!

34 of 37 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book

Not only is this an interesting, well written novel but the narration is excellent - kudos to both Mr. Swann and Mr. Foster.

41 of 45 people found this review helpful

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

Good story but a bit of a weak ending

Great story about a young boy at a preppy east coast boys boarding school. When he returns as a teacher, it brings back skeletons out of the closet.
Well written except for the ending. Seems like he wasn't sure what to do with the lose ends.

Narrator was very good.

39 of 43 people found this review helpful

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

Five star beginning, disappointing conclusion

I rarely write reviews, but I knew after the first couple of chapters that I'd be writing one about this book. I fully expected it to give it five stars and to write nothing but praise. The first half or more was beautifully evocative of prep school life, the intensity of adolescent friendships, the first steps and missteps as boy meets girl. The shifting perspective between Matthias as student and Matthias as teacher ten years later was handled deftly and fluidly, each shift resonating in both worlds and illuminating details we might not otherwise have noticed. The writing is elegant and descriptive. The setting almost becomes a character in itself. The beauty of the story's first half is in its nuance.

And so I was disappointed when the last third's focus turned to an almost cartoonish villainy on various fronts. The resolution was over the top -- and yet it was dealt with only perfunctorily. After making a huge emotional investment in the first part of the book, I'd have liked to experience the characters' emotional resolutions. They aren't there. The very last minutes (I'd guess the last page in the print edition, though I don't have it to check) are pure exposition, explaining to the reader at least in part the emotional place Matthias finds himself in. We're told about it, though, rather than shown, and given the events immediately preceding the last scene, what we're told is unconvincing.

In all, Shadow of the Lions is almost like two books cobbled together, jarringly different in tone, style, in the dimensions of characters and events. The first part holds great promise for subsequent books Christopher Swann might write. I hope to see more, and I hope that he'll trust his gift for creating nuanced characters and relationships to drive his plots.

James Anderson Foster's narration is excellent. I hope to hear him narrate a growing body of literary fiction. His voice is well-suited to it.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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

too quick

there was a ton of buildup and towards the end it seemed like they were rushing to fill in all the gaps they had missed to end the story.

29 of 33 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • P. Bowen
  • New York, NY United States
  • 08-17-17

Tedious and predictable

What would have made Shadow of the Lions better?

I picked this because of the reviews, but this was a slog. Pretentious and predictable, the novel was like a generic thriller. Every surprise was telegraphed pages before hand. And his "expose" of boy's prep school was filled with every cliche, from Tom Brown's School Days to A Separate Peace, with mock surprise and horror at teenage drug usage and child abuse. Indeed its fear of being homoerotic made the whole thing teeter on on edge of homophobia.

Would you ever listen to anything by Christopher Swann again?

NO

Would you be willing to try another one of James Anderson Foster’s performances?

No

69 of 87 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mark
  • Waltham, MA, United States
  • 03-04-18

decent school life / mystery novel

I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. It felt almost like three separate stories. Matthias is the protagonist and narrator. This is a story about his years at Blackburne School, an exclusive private boarding school. His time there is marred by the disappearance of his roommate, Fritz, and by Matthias's guilt over a cheating incident. The second story occurs when Matthias returns to Blackburne as a teacher, nine years after graduating. He deals with all the normal first year teaching issues, plus he begins to look more into the disappearance of Fritz. That snooping leads to the third segment of this novel - a serious and dangerous investigation of what happened to Fritz. As a prep school teacher, I especially enjoyed the school aspects of this novel. It captured boarding school life very well! I'm not sure if I would have liked this book as much without my natural interest in school life. After a quite believable and entertaining 10 hours or so, the novel becomes too much - just not realistic at all. Because I was invested by then, I did suspend belief, and enjoyed the absurd but fun final quarter of the novel. My biggest criticism is with the end of the story. No spoilers here except: I didn't like it. Overall, in spite of the novel's flaws, I found it an entertaining book. The narrator was good, and felt just right for the character he spoke for.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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

Not great, but pretty good. Weak ending.

This book started out strong. I thought from the very beginning that I would like it. About two thirds of the way through it kind of lost ground as the protagonist seemed to have gone from a pretty smart individual to one who was less-than. The entire book rested on an unanswered question which was ultimately answered, and in a way that I had not anticipated. For me, it was still somewhat anti climactic and the ending just seemed to fizzle out. I cannot write and admire and appreciate those who do so so I always feel badly leaving less than stellar reviews, but want to be honest.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful