Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Shadow of the Lions” as Want to Read:
Shadow of the Lions
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Shadow of the Lions

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  1,238 ratings  ·  211 reviews
How long must we pay for the crimes of our youth? It has been almost ten 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's breaking of the school's honor code, and Matthias has ...more
Hardcover, 356 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by Algonquin Books
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,238 ratings  ·  211 reviews

Sort order
Diane S ☔
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dramatic and suspenseful, set in the elite world of a prestigious boy's private school. When Matthias is first brought to the school as a young teen, he feels abandoned by his parents. Through the next four years he will become acclimated, make a very good friend, and be accepted into college. In his last year, after a confession and argument his friend disappears. Ten years later, after a stalled writing career, broken relationship, he returns to the school as a temporary teacher. He vows to fi ...more
”The two lions crouched on top of their pedestals, frozen in preparation to leap. One was snarling, its stone teeth menacing in the late-afternoon shadows, while the other stared out with disdain at the broad sweep of empty soybean fields that lay just across the state highway, a disdain made all the more pointed because the lion was missing its left eye.

“The missing eye was their only flaw.“

A well-respected all-boys preparatory school, where young men are trained for their promising futures
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
You know when you try to do too many things at once and end up somewhat unfocused? This is that book for me. Is this a mystery? A tale of adolescence? A story of salvation? A crazy caper? Yes to all of the above.

For every yang in this book I found a corresponding yin. The story was quite good, but a little heavily plotted and the twists became increasingly improbable and just a smidge melodramatic. It was also a literary entry in the mystery genre, yet suffered from a bit of overwriting that was
Wilhelmina Jenkins
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I probably bumped this book up a half a star because I have a few personal reasons that I loved it so much. First, the author based much of the description of the boarding school in this book on a school that is dear to my heart - Woodberry Forest School. My son attended this school with the author, his stepson attended as well, and my grandson is there now. I do not know the author, although others in my family clearly do. The author writes beautifully and his descriptions of life at the school ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio
I listened to the audiobook version but let me tell you I think if I'd been reading a physical copy I would have thrown it across the room.

I cannot remember a book ever giving me such mental whiplash and I mean that in not a good way. At the 50% mark I was CERTAIN this was going to be my first 5 starrer in a dry spell of meh. It's totally my wheelhouse: boarding school in Virginia, troubled youths, a bit of mystery in the backstory.

Then the second half of the book the dang wheels just fell off.
Kate Olson
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Algonquin for the advance copy of this title for review - all opinions are my own.

SHADOW OF THE LIONS is a breath of fresh air in the suspense genre - it is supremely intelligent and definitely lives up to its description as a literary thriller. The prestigious boarding school setting provides a dramatic backdrop for Mathias' story, both as he describes his time there as a student and while he is navigating that same world as a failed novelist returning as an English teacher. Swann
Elizabeth A
Oct 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017, audio, dnf
DNFed at 47%.

I listened to the audiobook which is well narrated by James Anderson Foster.

Every year when the air gets chilly and the leaves start to fall I find myself in the mood for a campus novel. This one is set at elite Blackburne, a boys boarding school, with two main timelines, one when the main character is at the school as a student, and one where he comes back a decade later as a teacher. It does have an atmospheric setting, but this is mislabeled as a thriller. Yes, there is a myster
Alice-Elizabeth (marriedtobooks)
Read as an e-book via Scribd!

T/W- Violence, Death, Drugs

The first 50% of Shadow of the Lions was an interesting set-up to a thriller novel. But the second half ultimately fell flat for me. The novel revolves around a character called Matthias who as a student at his boarding school, breaks one of the codes by cheating in a test. After confessing to his best friend Fritz, he runs off and is never seen or heard from again. Ten years later, Matthias is a bestselling author, called back to his old b
Rhiannon Johnson
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read my review on p 34 of the August issue of Perimeter North Lifestyle magazine:

or check it out on my blog:

Two massive concrete lions have guarded the front entrance to Virginia’s Blackburne School for more than a century. Respected and revered, they symbolize the school’s fiercely held traditions, especially its honor code. After Matthias Glass confesses his honor code violation to his best friend, Fritz Davenpor
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, suspense
Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann

The lions sit on either side of the gate to Blackburne School, a boarding school with "fierce traditions" and a fervent belief in its honor code. A code that Matthias has violated. The prologue has Matthias jogging in place in front of the lions, overcome with guilt and trying to justify his actions. The tension from this information already has the reader apprehensive.

Matthias is joined shortly by his best friend Fritz; they argue and in the heat of ange
Christopher Swann
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Some early reviews and blurbs:

"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." --Foreword Reviews

"Suspense, mystery and the risks of
Eva • All Books Considered
Review originally posted at All Books Considered: 3 STARS

This was on the verge of being really interesting but the big reveal was just such a letdown for me. I still enjoyed this, even though it meandered quite a bit, and it was a fast read. The book started off great - a snapshot 10 years back in time at the boarding school when the MC's best friend just vanishes off campus before graduation. Fritz's disappearance sets of a downward spiral for his family and for Matthias, the MC, which culmin
Becky Zagor
Aug 29, 2017 rated it liked it
I have to say that I was really liking this book and following every twist and turn for uncovering where the missing Fritz had gone and why. Well written prose with authentic prep school setting and great current and past day transitions and stories.
The last 1/4 of the book just lost me and unraveled as I could no longer connect the dots and find plausibility in certain circumstances and outcomes. Like a roller coaster that doesn't quite make it up the last hill, I was left feeling less than sat
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Failed writers, boarding school students, boys with daddy issues, rodeo clowns
An odd choice that I only picked up because I like books where the writer makes a writer the main character. In this case, Matthias Glass, who is not exactly an author-stand-in (as far as I can tell), but Swann is clearly drawing on his PhD in Creative Writing and his boarding school background to create characters he knows. Matthias graduated from the elite Blackburne School, a middle class kid who earned a scholarship to go to school with a bunch of (mostly) rich classmates, became a writer, w ...more
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
4 1/2*****A moving, nostalgic read. Christopher Swann has captured life at a boys' prep school in Virginia: the friendships, the quarrels, and the pranks. It is the story of a close friendship between two of the students, Matthias and Fritz, the mysterious disappearance of Fritz during his last school year, and its effect on Matthias' life 10 years later. At that time, following a short marriage and career as an author in NYC, Matthias is back at his prep school as a teacher. 'Coming of age' sag ...more
Nicole (TheBookWormDrinketh)
Although the mystery in this book kept me interested, I couldn’t get behind the characters. They just weren’t relatable to me.. I know! How could privileged rich kids at a prestigious boarding school and their rich and powerful families be something that I could NOT relate to?!

The author’s voice and word choices seemed somewhat snooty much of the time, and all I could picture while reading was someone writing these with a sweater tied around his neck and a tennis racquet propped against his huge
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a riveting, eloquently written novel! A pitch perfect literary thriller that I could not put down. Swann brilliantly weaves a tangled web of secrets and unrealized expectations, slowly revealing clues behind a prep school student's mysterious disappearance to the roommate who never stopped searching for him. Truly, this book is a must read!
Jennifer kettle
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
great book very interesting story but it is very sad
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, real-books
16 AUG 2018 - I won! I won! How exciting. Book arrived today - thank you, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill and GRAmazon(TM) - (I thought up this name ages ago). I will begin tonight. WooHoo!

24 AUG 2018 - a good debut. I was mistakenly drawn in by the book blurb - this is not my genre. That said, I did not really care for this book. When I put the book down, I had to force myself to pick it back up again. Others have enjoyed the book and you may refer to their reviews. As for me, 3 stars is what I
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm a sucker for books set at boarding schools and if there is a mysterious death or disappearance all the better. This one didn't disappoint. When the wealthy Fritz vanishes his best friend Matthais can't let it go. Ten years later as Matthais takes a job teaching at the same school he starts delving into the mystery once again. The story is full of twists and surprises and a fair bit of action. Matthias gets himself into some pretty sketchy, dangerous situations and thankfully he doesn't respo ...more
Stacey A.  Prose and Palate
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-books
Secrets, intrigue and deception abound in this astute literary thriller debut. This book starts off as a very slow simmer, so much so that I worried that it might be too slow paced for my taste. Multiple characters are introduced and extensive plot development is provided during the first half of this book. But mid-way through, the slow simmer of the story boils over and consumes everything in its path and I was RACING through the pages to find out what would happen next. Matthias has returned t ...more
Abby Cronin Huling
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a well written, mystery/thriller, that kept my attention from the first chapter to the last. The twists and turns in this book kept coming, and just when you think you've figured something out, you're sent for another loop. I highly recommend this one!
Millicent Nigrosh
A Welcome New Novel

Finally a well written book by an articulate educated author. The subject matter was a bit different than the usual run of the mill suspense genre.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
First two thirds are quite good reading but at the end it bogged down a bit. Some lgbtq.
Ilyssa Wesche
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Whenever I read a book that takes place at a boarding school, I always fix it in my mind in about the 1950s and it is VERY DIFFICULT for me to think otherwise, which can be very distracting. I think I made this same comment when I read Secret History by Donna Tartt. Which now that I think of it didn't even happen at boarding school but at college. Anyway...

I liked Matthias. Even if he was kind of a self-centered jerk sometimes, he also seemed pretty self-aware of his faults. I got enough backsto
Kathleen Gray
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Yes it's a novel set largely in a boys' boarding school but it's also an interesting mystery and meditation on adolescents. Swann has made an impressive debut. His writing is clear, there are wonderful literary references (found myself looking a few things up to reminisce), and the characters are believable. Both Mathias and Fritz are realistic young men which is important in this type of novel, which sometimes goes wonky. THere's humor and pathos but never is it twee or overdone. Mathias is so ...more
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
While not perfect (so few are) this is a STRONG debut novel. Swann's world held my attention from the first page to the last.

I can't wait to get my hands on Swann's next book, which is a funny thing to say a few days before the official pub date of this novel.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shannon Minninger
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A coming-of-age story in many ways, but also heavy (in a good way) with themes of friendship, forgiveness, and loss, I really enjoyed this read. I don’t usually associate suspense or mystery with literary themes so I was pleasantly surprised when this one pulled it off beautifully. It didn’t even seem forced. I especially enjoyed the delayed coming of age of the main character, Matthias Glass. Usually it’s a teen ritual and I’ve never really thought about it, but suddenly I am all the more aware ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
fiction files redux: Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann 4 22 Jun 20, 2017 06:32AM  
  • The Zero and the One
  • The Tenth Circle (Blaine McCracken #11)
  • The Christmas Carol Murders
  • Go-Between
  • Welcome, Chaos
  • The Sussex Downs Murder (Superintendent Meredith, #2)
  • Morning Glories: Deluxe Collection, Volume 1
  • The Last Cowboys of San Geronimo
  • Write to Die
  • In Other Words...Murder  (Holmes & Moriarity, #4)
  • Heart of a Lion: A Lone Cat’s Walk Across America
  • Uncorked (Uncorked, #1)
  • In the Land of Milk and Honey (Elizabeth Harris Mystery #2)
  • Hell
  • Fear City (Repairman Jack: The Early Years, #3 )
  • Antonia Lively Breaks The Silence
  • The Verdict
  • Children of the Street (Darko Dawson #2)
Christopher Swann is a graduate of Woodberry Forest School in Virginia. He earned a B.A. in English from Washington and Lee University, an M.A. in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State University. He lives with his wife and two sons in Atlanta, where he is the English department chair at Holy Innocents' Episcopal S ...more
“Love can be a hell of a draw, the emotional holy grail. But love also exposes our flaws, can even draw out the worst in us. People want to perform heroic deeds, commit flagrantly dramatic acts for love. What they don't realize is that the daily grind is what is required. Instead of a single extraordinary act--slaying the dragon, throwing yourself in front of a bus--it is the repetition of small gestures over a course of years that makes love work.” 6 likes
More quotes…