Cover Image: The Monsters in our Shadows

The Monsters in our Shadows

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Member Reviews

My thanks to Netgalley and the book's publisher for gifting me a free copy for my opinion on this book.

This book is dark, dystopian fiction, set in a post-apocalyptic world of one surviving city, Atlas, surrounded by a sky-high Wall that separates it from the death lands beyond. Some of the people within the city are cursed with a Shiver, a shadowy, hungry monster that consumes its host and then goes on to terrorize anyone else in the vicinity. Our hero, Anthem, is an Exilist, meaning his job is to trap the Shiver and its victim and toss them outside of the Wall without getting killed. It's a hideous job, but someone's got to do it. Anthem is hiding his own Shiver, and trying to keep his daughter safe in an orphanage at the same time.

I loved the worldbuilding, and really wanted more of it. Outside of the city walls, in the decaying cityscape of interstates, fallen buildings, subways and old factories - that seemed to be where most of the action was, despite its reputation that nothing could survive there. I also really loved the scene with the old lady that used wires to keep her mouth turned up in a smile - somehow this reminded me of an old X-Men villain somewhere.

I really wanted to know the origin of the "monsters in our shadows," and once it all connected into place, I'm not sure how I felt about it. As Anthem learned how to tether his monster, literally, it all seemed to connect together, including the cover image of the Shiver as a Rorschach test.

Kudos to the author for a wonderful debut novel! I would definitely read more by him.
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Title: Monsters in Our Shadows - A Thoughtful Exploration with Room for Refinement

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

"Monsters in Our Shadows" by Edward J Cembal is a collection of poetry that ventures into the intricacies of the human experience, examining the shadows that reside within us all. While the work carries moments of poignant reflection and insightful observations, it falls just shy of a higher rating due to some inconsistencies in pacing and thematic cohesion.

Cembal's exploration of mental health, relationships, and societal reflections is commendable. The poems exhibit moments of brilliance, encapsulating the complexity of emotions with vivid language and evocative imagery. The author's ability to address profound themes with sensitivity is evident, creating an emotional landscape that readers can resonate with.

However, the collection occasionally suffers from pacing issues, with some poems feeling more rushed or lacking the refinement found in others. While the diversity of themes is a strength, a more cohesive thread connecting the poems could enhance the overall impact. At times, transitions between pieces could be smoother, contributing to a more immersive reading experience.

Despite these considerations, "Monsters in Our Shadows" remains a commendable effort, offering readers a platform for introspection and a mirror to their own shadows. Cembal's poetic voice holds promise, and with a more consistent refining of execution, future works may reach even greater heights.

In conclusion, "Monsters in Our Shadows" is a collection that sparks contemplation and provides a glimpse into the depths of human emotion. While the journey through the shadows is engaging, a more refined structure and pacing could elevate the collection to a higher tier of poetic resonance.
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Thank you NetGalley & Tempus Press!

We will all die one day. Death is the only guarantee life gives us. We either cower from the inevitable or we accept it and try our hardest to live the best life possible. 

Now imagine that death is no longer out of sight out of mind. Imagine death lurking in every corner of every room you ever enter. Picture living a life where your demise is breathing down your neck day and night. Do you still cower or do you try and live life and find a solution to the possible destruction of man kind?

Edward J Cembal gives us a story that could be interpreted in a million different ways and symbolism can be found within every page. To go off the most obvious interpretation, this is a story about death, the death of loved ones and acceptance of your own literal looming death. 

While I appreciated the creativity and the outside of the box thinking I just did not love this one. Parts were unnecessarily long and even some parts were just out right unnecessary. While I did not hate this book I also did not love it. A middle ground three stars is what I rate this book.
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3.5 stars, rounding down because I'm nitpicky. 

As several other reviewers mentioned, this is a very cool premise with a somewhat lackluster execution. I don't think this book was quite ready for publication and could have really shone after another round or two of editing and proofreading. (I'm quite happy to suspend my disbelief when it comes to monsters and cannibals, but I lose the plot when you expect me to believe that one middle-aged man can cart a plastic box containing a human body and a monster clear across town by himself using just a couple of seatbelts.) 

A thinly-veiled allegory about mental health, othering, and acceptance of your shadows, made literal with actual man-eating monsters. I do enjoy a post-apocalyptic setting and this was well-done, alternately bleak and hopeful, with moments of beauty and potential amid the horror and despair. Anthem's hero's journey was engrossing, even if I did wish he'd sleep, eat, and rest more! 

I wanted more world-building from the not-so-dead Deadlands and the backstory to the Great Consumption. Certain threads, like felixodine and the "smile" directive of Atlas, came together rather late in the story, feeling like they weren't fully developed until the book was well underway and the writer and editor should have circled back to the beginning to properly lay the groundwork earlier on. 

The dialogue could have used more work as well; none of the characters had a unique voice, and their speech was oddly stilted, most of them speaking in fragmented sentences (no, I'm not referring to Rib here). Further workshopping could have given more color and depth to the characters. 

This was a quick read, with plenty of room for further development that I wish it had received. While it skims the surface a bit where I wanted a deeper dive, it was still sufficiently creepy and dreary, and an overall enjoyable read.
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Overall an entertaining read that takes an interesting approach to providing commentary on mental health issues. I struggled with Anthem lacking depth as a character, and I also felt a little disconnected during the part of the book involving Rib, a feral man, which was set up in a way that made it impossible for Anthem and Rib to have any sort of meaningful conversation together. Nevertheless, for the most part the book captured my attention and I definitely plan on reading more from this author.
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An epic horror dystopian adventure for fans of The Road, but with horrific creatures that will live in your nightmares.

We all have our shadows, but imagine if yours had a razor sharp smile and was getting closer to devouring you whole as each day passes.

That is The Monsters in Our Shadows.

Not only was this an epic dystopian adventure, but the horrific creatures and scenes in this was outstanding. The writing was incredible, and I came away with so many beautiful quotes that had no business being in such a dark book, but fit perfectly. I finished this in record time, and could not put it down, or wait to see what was next.

Honestly so excited to hear of the possibility this makes it to film, because it will be incredible
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It took me ages to really get into this book but honestly, I find most post apocalyptic books tend to ease you in slowly. The pace was quick and meaty and the build up to what the monsters are, scared me half to death!

The writing was smashing and the characters seemed to come to life right on the page. That is a serious gift in a writer. The book was a little monotonal and I wasn't a huge fan of Anthems and that is hard for me because I need to love the main character to really get into the book but all the book was a brilliant read for halloween. 

I do have to admit I don't read much sci-fi but having it mashed up in horror was definitely an experience I want again.

4 stars
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This was definitely a unique take on a dystopian world. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Gets your brain thinking about al sorts of things which I do like in these types of books.
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I think my expectations were just too high for this book to live up to. If you want apocalyptic horror, this is certainly a safe read. Personally, when I go for dystopia I want to be challenged. I want to come away having a new perspective on what makes us human. This book just didn’t have anything interesting to say. 

The last remnants of humanity are haunted by embodiments of mental illness. OooOOoOoooOo. Spooky. The gore wasn’t visceral enough to disturb me like I wanted it to. The world building was very “tell don’t show” which made it bland when there were opportunities to do something interesting. Characterization was pretty good, but unfortunately I just never really cared about Anthem (the protag) or his sob story. There wasn’t any depth to why he did the things he did besides “he has to save everyone and he loves his daughter”. There were moments that read like a 2014 wattpad fanfic. I’m talking my immortal-esque imagery. The second act was more interesting but didn’t really…. Go anywhere. I could understand if this was the first book in a series that had to lay a lot of groundwork but it isn’t. I only kept reading because right as I was about to DNR there was another mystery that popped up. I’ll give credit there - it did get me to finish. Good job, I guess.

Really it comes down to this - Any YA reader circa 2015 remembers how after big hits like The Hunger Games and such made their money there was a sudden explosion of dystopian YA. Everything trying to imitate a formula for success but doing it half as well with nothing original to say? This is like that.
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I liked the premise of this novel, but not the execution. The plot started out strong, but lost speed and direction towards the end. It felt as if there was no tension in moments that should've been filled with tension. The resolution also ties things up a little too neatly for this kind of story. I felt the protagonist himself was fine. He had complexity as a character, but I didn't personally connect with him. There are some great, creepy horror scenes towards the start, which drew me into the book, but couldn't keep my focus.
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4 stars

Wow what a wild and awesome book! This is a genre bending multi layered book. I couldn’t put this one down. I feel like this will definitely be a re-read.

Cembal is going to be a great author to keep our eyes on.
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I really enjoyed it, interesting dystopian horror. A stalker monster in the shadows patiently waiting to devour the host and an Exilist, whose job is to clean-up after. Not going to say anything more as it could be a spoiler but it's well written and one could think there's a more meaning or a representation to it. A recommended book to discuss in book clubs.
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This was a really interesting read. What if our depression was a physical manifestation? I really enjoyed the way this book was presented and made me think.
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Just when you think dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction has run its course and all the new stuff out there is a combination of recycled ideas or the bones of classics of yesteryear being picked clean, something new pops up. At first glance much of the content of The Monsters in our Shadows is nothing new, but the repackaging is exceptionally clever with Edward J Cembal delivering a very original take on the dying embers of humanity. 

The story is told in the third person by a man called Anthem, who is the Exilist for Atlas, which could be the last surviving town on the planet. The action takes place around a century from what is called “the great consumption” when most of humanity is overrun and killed by demons. These creatures, known as ‘Shivers’, play a significant role in the story and the author does a great job of providing hints and tip-bits on their origins as the story moves along. The Elitist has a very unique job, he is responsible for removing the people from Atlas who have a demon affliction. 

This is where things get very clever: each Shiver has a personal and very unique connection to a person and could manifest itself at any point. Those who are afflicted are followed by their demon, which will eventually (this takes a long time) kill them and eat them. Initially the creature is barely visible at all, but when feeding time approaches then the monster gets closer and closer no longer lurking in the shadows. I am not going to say exactly what the Elitist does, but it is his role to help the afflicted in the very final stages as the Shiver is about to pounce.

The Shivers are only one facet in what was a very quirky and original book, as we quickly find out that there are also demons who are not tethered to individuals and the story is built around a conspiracy which takes Anthem beyond Atlas in the dangerous Deadlands where nothing is rumoured to survive. To keep the Shivers at bay the dwindling population take doses of a medicine called ‘Felix’ however, supplies are running low and the ‘Architect’ (leader of the town) has a dangerous plan to acquire more with Anthem being sucked into his scheming orbit.

I loved the mythology structured around the Shivers: in Atlas it was against the law to even acknowledge their existence and to be tethered to one of these beasts was almost shameful. Why were some afflicted and others not? This was a fascinating question, much of which is explored in a novel which was a clever balance of post-apocalyptic thriller and supernatural horror novel. 

Anthem is a very sympathetic and downtrodden main character who does not see himself as a hero, but at the same time carries the burden of secrets of what the Elitist actually does and the lies the job entails. It is a job nobody wants and because of it Anthem is shunned by his fellow townspeople. In the background is his young daughter Melody, with his worst nightmare being her becoming tethered to a Shiver. This was an unnerving concept which was incredibly well described, lurking in the background could be any number of Shivers edging closer as their time to feed approaches.

Once the initial concepts were put in place the story makes a welcome jump beyond the walls of Atlas, with some clever twists, welcoming new characters and some outstanding action sequences. A further great strength of The Monsters in our Shadows was the quite simply outstanding ending, which beautifully blended action, the primal power of the Shivers and a slither of hope for humanity. There was much to enjoy in this clever novel which takes lots of familiar ideas, puts them in a food blended and the result is something which is refreshingly new. Which is more than can be said for the characters in the book, who exist on cereal bars of processed insects!
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I LOVED this book, we have already purchased it for our library and it continues to be a hit. The way the story is told leaves you wanting more.
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In Atlas, people live in a town behind a wall, protected from the dangerous wasteland the world has become. But inside the wall Atlas has two kinds of people. The Afflicted and the Unafflicted. The Afflicted, people who are followed by monsters in their shadows biding their time, waiting and waiting until the day they can feed…and if they are left to feed within the wall, they will consume everyone.
That is where Anthem comes in. Anthem, is an Exilist, and expert in peacefully getting the Afflicted outside of the wall with their monsters and keeping the people safe. But Anthem feels there must be a better way and there must be more to know about these monster that lurk in the shadows. And Anthem must find out because he has a shadow of his own, and if he wants to protect those he loves, he must find out before his shadow consumes him.

I really enjoyed this concept. The Monster in Our Shadows,  took the idea of our mental illness becoming tangible monsters and threw it into a post-apocalyptic world and flew. Anthem felt very real. Driven but flawed, he wanted to do what was best to protect those he loved. He was at times naïve and at times he was brave and others he was strong and sometimes he was weak and wanted to give up. 
I think this story was well written and creative and lot of fun despite the literal depressing subjects. It starts off a little slow, showing you the small bubble of world that Anthem lives in and how it works and I just was rooting for Anthem to save everyone the whole time. I think there are a couple pretty predictable parts, certain people I had a good idea of where there story would go and the bad guy was exactly the person I thought he was even at the end and the ending made me feel good.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants a little dystopia in their horror and to anyone who wants a book that looks at mental illness in new and creative way. I had a good and thoughtful time.
Please pick this up.
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The Monsters in our Shadows by Edward J Cembal is a raw post-apocalyptic novel that will have readers on the edge of their seat. The book premise is unique and intriguing and captures the attention of readers from the very first page. It is a human vs monster story with high stakes.

The writing style is intense and immersive, leaving readers feeling equally hopeless and hopeful at the same time. The author has done an excellent job in creating a world that is both vivid and bleak, where the remnants of humans co-exist with terrifying creatures known as Shivers. The contrast between the two is stark and makes for a captivating read.

The protagonist, Anthem, is a compelling character, struggling with his fate and the weight of his responsibilities as an Exilist, tasked with trapping and banishing the Shivers. His inner turmoil and growth throughout the book offer readers a glimpse into what it means to be human in a world where humanity is being eaten alive. 

 It is a story of humanity's resilience in a world where hope seems like a distant dream. The book also raises thought-provoking questions about our relationship with the environment and what it means to be human. Overall, it's an excellent read for fans of post-apocalyptic stories and those who enjoy character-driven narratives.
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I could have sworn I'd already given feedback on this one. This book drew me in immediately, and I enjoyed it overall. However, it had become overly heavy-handed with its metaphor and message, dipping into the realm of cheesiness. 3.5 rounded up to 4.
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Dystopian horror with a unique concept. Overall a good read but everything felt a bit rushed at the end and I feel like parts of the story could have been developed a bit more.
If you enjoy dystopian horror, worth a read.
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This book was not really able to keep much of my attention. I was not a huge fan of the main character and I found myself not caring much about the storyline. I do not think it was a bad book, I just do not think this book wa for me.
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