Shadowmarch (Shadowmarch Series #1)

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Shadowmarch begins Tad Williams' first epic fantasy trilogy since his best-selling Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Rich with detail and exotic culture, and filled with a cast of characters both diverse and three-dimensional, Shadowmarch is a true fantasy achievement, an epic of storytelling by a master of the genre.

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Shadowmarch (Shadowmarch Series #1)

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Shadowmarch begins Tad Williams' first epic fantasy trilogy since his best-selling Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Rich with detail and exotic culture, and filled with a cast of characters both diverse and three-dimensional, Shadowmarch is a true fantasy achievement, an epic of storytelling by a master of the genre.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Tad Williams's wildly anticipated return to epic fantasy after more than a decade's hiatus, takes place in a mythical realm on the brink of utter chaos. With their father being held for ransom, the young twin regents Barrick and Briony must deal with a kingdom unraveling at the seams. While powerful foreign conquerors plot to annex the kingdom and factions within Southmarch scheme to usurp the vacant throne, Barrick and Briony are forced to deal with a much more frightening foe. The Qar, a race of nightmarish non-humans who have lived behind the mysterious Shadowline for centuries, are now on the move and killing every living thing in their path. Their objective is clear: to retake what was rightfully theirs for eons before the arrival of the humans -- the lands of Southmarch.

Williams is world renowned for complicated multivolume sagas like Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and Otherland; and this series is no different. With dozens of major characters and literally hundreds of important races, places, and historical events, it's no surprise that the book includes a 14-page appendix. The numerous main characters in this story are all so skillfully portrayed, so fully realized that, on a purely emotional level alone, readers will not be able to put this book down. And Williams's use of surreal and poetic descriptive terms for the Qar and its Twilight Lands throughout the book gives the story the spectral ambiance of a fantastical horror not unlike an Algernon Blackwood or H. P. Lovecraft tale.

Breathtaking in scope, lyrical, frightening, intriguing, and -- above all -- wildly entertaining, Williams's Shadowmarch is, simply stated, a magnificent literary achievement. Paul Goat Allen

Publishers Weekly
In the impressive opening installment of his first new high fantasy trilogy in a decade, Williams (the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy) injects hope and humor into an end-of-the-world conflict that pits "the strange, pagan Qar," a race of fairy folk, against the humans who forced them behind the Shadowline (the line of demarcation between the Qar and the human lands) and claimed their ancient stronghold of Southmarch (aka Shadowmarch) on the continent of Eion. The March kingdoms, whose ruler, King Olin, is held captive by the empire of Hierosol's Lord Drakava, are in turmoil after the assassination of Prince Regent Kendrick, whose twin siblings, Briony and Barrick, must struggle to keep their domain together. Soon after the fairy war begins, the Qar dump a mysterious boy beyond the Shadowline, where he's discovered by Chertz Blue Quartz, a little "Funderling," whose stone-working people live beneath Southmarch. Packed with intriguing plot twists, this surreal fantasy takes the reader on a thrill ride from a haunted wood where madness dwells and the sun never rises, to drafty castles and adventures deep underground. Much of the imagery seems inspired by Arthur Rackham with a hint of Edvard Munch. The author's richly detailed world will enchant established fans and win new converts. Agent, Matt Bialer. (Nov. 2) FYI: Williams's most recent novel is a stand-alone fantasy, The War of the Flowers (Forecasts, Apr. 28, 2003). Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Fantasy lovers waiting to immerse themselves into the next great epic will be thrilled with Shadowmarch. Williams' three-part volume takes readers to the world of Eion and its many kingdoms, including Southmarch, just beyond the Shadowline that divides the twilight land of Qar from the human lands of the light. In the main plot, King Olin of Southmarch has been kidnapped, leaving his oldest son Kendrick to rule in his stead and to raise the ransom money demanded by his captives. When Kendrick is brutally murdered, his twin siblings, young Barrick and Briony, must take over the rule and free their father. In one parallel story line, Qinnitan is a priestess of Nushash in the southern continent kingdom of Xis who is chosen to leave her order and become the bride of the God. In yet another story line, the Chert, one of the small people who specialize in stonecraft, realizes that the Shadowline is moving, encroaching on the human land. Williams shifts from story to story, building the plots to the point where they meet. Magic and suspense weave through each chapter, and Williams' attention to detail, including maps and a glossary for support, brings his world into sharp focus, a place where readers can walk among the many characters and live for a while in their lands. Complex and meaty, Shadowmarch is for the serious fantasy reader who can tether multiple plots together for a rich reading experience. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Penguin, DAW, 656p. maps., Ages 12 to 18.
—Michele Winship
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756403591
  • Publisher: DAW
  • Publication date: 9/5/2006
  • Series: Shadowmarch Series, #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 816
  • Sales rank: 274,027
  • Product dimensions: 4.14 (w) x 6.81 (h) x 1.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Tad Williams has held more jobs than any sane person should admit to—singing in a band, selling shoes, managing a financial institution, throwing newspapers, and designing military manuals, to name just a few. He also hosted a syndicated radio show for ten years, worked in theater and television production, taught both grade-school and college classes, and worked in multimedia for a major computer firm. He is cofounder of an interactive television company, and is currently writing comic books and film and television scripts as well. Tad and his family live in London and the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find Tad Williams at 
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Interviews & Essays

Explorations Interview with Tad Williams

Paul Goat Allen: For those who don't know how your Shadowmarch saga got started, can you elaborate a little bit about what motivated you to write an episodic fantasy online?

Tad Williams: We had tried Shadowmarch with some TV people, and it got to a certain point in management and then hit the confusion zone -- they didn't really get fantasy. So, since I really liked the story, I was anxious to find another way to do it. At the time I was in the middle of the Otherland books, so I began to think about doing it in some other way. The idea of a serial novel online seemed very exciting.

PGA: As a longtime fan of your work, one of the things that particularly stood out in Shadowmarch: Volume One was the extraordinarily diverse cast of characters. I can't think of another novel that has so many -- for lack of a better word -- cool characters! The crippled and tormented prince Barrick and his headstrong sister, Briony; the terrifying Qar warrior Yasammez; Ynnir the Blind King; Qinnitan the ill-fated acolyte; the courageous Rooftopper Beetledown; the dutiful Funderling Chert Blue Quartz and his foster son, Flint; the enigmatic potboy Gil; the completely misunderstood Shaso dan-Heza...the list goes on and on. How much fun was it to write this story with so many compelling characters to work with?

TW: One of the things that I like best about big books is the chance to create complex worlds. One of the ways that a writer can give depth to a world is to view it through the eyes of many different characters. Having so many characters is also a bit like making a lot of new friends (and enemies) -- you don't always know what's coming next, you meet someone, you don't know how important they'll be to you, then after a while it turns out you're going to be living with them as much as your family. It's strange and interesting.

PGA: The Shadowmarch web site ( is impressive to say the least -- the detailed history of the Shadowmarch realm, the tremendous collections of artwork, extensive message boards, etc. I've read in past interviews that you wanted to create an online community based in part around Shadowmarch. Did you accomplish what you set out to do with the web site?

TW: Certainly one mark of how true that proved to be is that we stopped putting the book installments online over a year ago, and the community continues to exist. I'm looking forward to a new round of discussion when the novel comes out as well, and I hope that new people will find their way to the site, and especially the bulletin board, which is a very energetic and welcoming community.

PGA: I've heard that the site has gotten almost half a million posts. Is that true?

TW: I have no idea. But I do know that it's become my home on the Net: It's the one place on the Internet I visit every day. (Well, there are also the hard-core giraffe bondage sites…)

PGA: It seems to me that with such a vast and fertile landscape to play in, the Shadowmarch saga could go on for several volumes. Is this fantasy sequence a work in progress or have you already plotted out roughly the number of volumes that you're going to write?

TW: This will be three volumes. I have a good (although not absolute) idea of what's going to happen in the rest of the story, but I like to leave room to make discoveries along the way.

PGA: What books initially got you interested in science fiction/fantasy? Any favorite authors and/or series while growing up?

TW: Tolkien is the most obvious, but I was also very influenced by Ray Bradbury, especially The Martian Chronicles, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, Ursula Le Guin, Theodore Sturgeon, and Philip K. Dick.

PGA: What books are on your reading list at the moment?

TW: I'm reading one of Steven Brust's faux-Dumas books, The Paths of the Dead, which is lovely; and I just finished an Iain Rankin Inspector Rebus novel -- I really like the grit of his Inspector Rebus -- and I've gone through a bout of Irvine Welsh. At the moment, I'm having trouble shedding a Scottish dialect. As always, there are another half-dozen books on the go, but I can't think of them right now.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 80 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 81 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Best book of his Career!

    Let me start by saying I have a very biased opinion when it comes to Tad Williams. He is my favorite male author. Period. To review this book, Shadowmarch, I say first that the only problem I had with the Memory, Sorrow & Thorn series, was the sluggish beginning. Since then, as he continued to write brilliant books, he has refined his craft, becoming better at introducing his detailed & complex stories.
    His characters are all well-rounded & all equally interesting in the depth & complexity. Not since Tolkien has a writer organized his world so carefully. You can learn new days of the week, names of months, new holidays, & 4 separate, distinct but connected religions. Tad also doesn't create a world then franchise it; he creates anew, each time, a new world with as much depth as our own.
    This is the story of royal twins, Briony & Barrick, she attempting to prove her worth alongside any man while their kingdom is surrounded by hungry forces. Barrick, eventually on his own adventure, is plagued by a possible hereditary curse passed down by their imprisoned father.
    Ferras Vansen, Captain of the Royal Guard, who loves the princess more than he should, also struggles to prove himself after a horrific failure.
    Chaven, normally a sage man, also immersed in his addictions to a powerful unknown force he doesn't fully understand.
    Chert Blue Quartz, a diminutive earth shaper (but don't call them dwarves!), caught up in the whirlwind events after adopting Flint, a mysterious lost boy who comes from beyond the Shadowline, but may have some connection to the royal family.
    Yasammez, Scourge of the Shivering Plain, a warrior of the Qul-na-Qar, the lords of the otherworldly faery races, leads her inhuman army to attack the world of man.
    Shaso, the disgraced warrior who tries to guide the royal children in the only way he knows how.
    Qinnitan, a lowly caste girl, selected by the powerful Autarch, the ruler of the entire Southern continent, who hungers for more, leaving the twins trapped between his forces & the Qar.
    These are just the main characters of the beginning story. I don't need to go into depth about the different castles, landscapes & empires where there are many other people living within this strange but familiar world.
    I cannot recommend this book enough. It's tad's finest work to date.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2006

    Shallow and boring!

    First, let me say I loved Memory, Sorry, and Thorn and have re-read them many times. Tailchaser's Song was fun, and I liked The War of the Roses as well. I slogged through the Otherland series and enjoyed parts of it. Shadowmarch is disappointing to the extreme. I honestly would have stopped reading it if I had had another new book to read. The characters and plot are boring and predictable, the attempt at intrigue and political manuever clumsy, and the development of the various cultures lacks compelling realism. I'll finish this one eventually, but unless the story picks up in the second half I'll leave the rest on the shelf.

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2004

    A great read!

    I'm not normally drawn to this genre, but had the book given to me which was fortuitous, as I absolutely loved the book, and spent a few late nights reading through it. The first in a trilogy of the rulers of the mythical March Kingdom, the book is full of well-rounded complex characters, deeply detailed and entertaining historical backgrounds, and personal struggles. Wonderfully entertaining, I enjoyed it very much, and will be counting the days until Volume 2 is released!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2004

    Sparkling Fantasy!

    Wonderful and engrossing! Brilliant and suspenseful, Williams tells us enough but not too much. It is full of the unexpected yet it's all there: the foreshadowing; the hints; the well-developed plot; action; and life-like characters, young and old, with personally relevant inner struggles. They 'reveal' themselves through their 'lives' and choices. Their complex motives are drawn from very human tendencies and the paradoxes of power and of love.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2005

    Tad Williams does it again

    Another great book by Williams. I think this series will prove to be on par with Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. I'm impatiently waiting for volume II.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2005

    Absolutly Brilliant!!!

    This book is absolutly amazing, the characters are so real and detailed. I cant wait for the next volume! my advise to buyers is to read this book, you wont regret it!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2005

    Great Williams finally back to epic fantasy!!

    I saw this book and was debating buying it till I read the cover. I loved reading his Otherland Series and The War of the Flowers but I have to say his best series previously written was Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy. This book was intriguing from word go and has a deep plot that will keep his wonderfully rich characters busy as well as his readers absorbed into the series to come.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Shadowmarch: a forgettable and average piece of wonderfulness

    Tad Williams is a master of giving the reader exactly what they want in a book, no more and no less. There is action, developed characters, a strong plot, intrigue and most of all entertainment.

    This was exactly the kind of book I wanted to read, exactly when I wanted to read it. It's the type of book that transports you to a different world, and then disappears from your thoughts when you aren't reading it.

    It's certainly not going to stick with me months down the road, and it's no Lord of the Rings by any stretch of the imagination (although there is a large portion of the book devoted to a short semi-human walking and walking), but it is an entertaining read.

    One thing this book made clear however, was my exact problem with Warbreaker. This book took me a couple of weeks to read, and Warbreaker took me only a few days. Yet I enjoyed this one a great deal more. I couldn't figure it out at first because Shadowmarch wasn't really that much better.

    The writing in Shadowmarch is, in my opinion, better and I cared about the characters more. I certainly felt, for instance, that Briony was a fully realized female protagonist (as compared to say Vivenna). But it wasn't that much better. And it certainly didn't read as quickly (which goes back to Sanderson's greatest strength, writing action sequences).

    So again, I wasn't clear on what was making me enjoy Shadowmarch so much more, until about the third scene from "Lady Porcupine's" point of view (okay a tangent here, but come on Tad, can't you come up with a better name than that? She's supposed to be born for war, how is a porcupine terrifying?). Yasammez, who for those who haven't read the book is the same character, an evil elf princess type who is totally badass ( hm.. I guess lady porcupine is not that bad) is a great villain. She's a perfect foil to Briony and Barrick: where they are young, innocent forces for change, she is the embodiment of an ancient and simmering desire for revenge.

    For me, at least, epic fantasy needs this kind of good and evil tension to be epic. You need the crazed god king (another antagonist in this novel) and the badass elf princess consumed with revenge to balance out the noble protagonists. Warbreaker spends 490 pages building up the cultural excesses of one culture (the Hallandren), and then boom, the Phan Khal turn out to be the bad guys. It was a total let down. I didn't buy these guys as bad guys as nefarious evil masterminds, and hell they didn't even buy themselves as such either. I mean what is epic about a bunch of crony old men and servants tricking two countries into war?

    Epic is the fantasy equivalent of pre-medieval England being pinned between a crazy god-emperor and a magic wielding army of evil elves.

    This is not a fantastic book, but it is a totally satisfying book. I will certainly sign on for the next installment, and probably the third as well, and I would suggest it to anyone looking to waste a week in guilty pleasure reading.

    For more reviews, including one on warbreaker, check out

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2004

    Tads Return to High Fantasy

    With his MEMORY, SORROW & THORN series Tad Williams has written one of the modern classics of the fantasy genre which helped breathing new life into many old and tired tropes. Now, 11 years after the publication of 'To Green Angel Tower' Williams returns with the first volume of a brand-new fantasy trilogy. And 'Shadowmarch' has everything you could ask for in an epic fantasy novel. An interesting cast of characters (the royal twins Briony and Barrick are particularly well done), a strong and mysterious plot that moves along quite nicely, and detailed world-building. However, with two more volumes to come this is just the beginning of the story. Anyway, I am sure this will become yet another winner for Tad!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2014


    After reading Mr. Williams Otherland (which i liked) series and Dirty Streets of Heaven, I figured since I've been longing to read a good fantasy series (after reading Lord Of the Rings as a teenager) I would give this series a try...Unfortunately I struggled to get to page 75 before I gave up. Mr. Williams does get long winded at times but bearable enough for me to continue.

    The characters for the most part were depressing, dysfunctional, and forgettable. They walked around having conversations about nothing that seemed important to the story. Maybe I am impatient but I was truly bored to death.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2013

    I really liked hlo I REA I really like how long the story is 680 pages best book i have ever read

    I really liked how long the story is 680 pages best book I have ever read. Well in my opinion second best book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    I enjoyed reading this. In the beginning it felt a little slow t

    I enjoyed reading this. In the beginning it felt a little slow to catch my attention. As I read on it got better as more of the picture came together. Just ordered the 3 other books in the series.

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  • Posted March 25, 2013

    Love fantasy? You won't want to miss this unique world.

    Tad Williams enjoys twisting traditional fantasy 'rules' up. Shadowmarch is a world where fairies aren't the cute little forest loving fliers we've become accustomed to. In fact very little is as it should typically be.
    Don't skim over paragraphs thinking you know what the hero will do to defeat the encountered foe, like you might with another author. I urge you to read every word on every page or you will miss "it".
    Well, I'm anxious to find out what's next for my newly met odd residents of Shadowmarch. Journey on.....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    I would recommend this book

    Very enjoyable reading,great story line

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2012


    I read the reviews and thought this woud be something I would like, at least be able to read......this book is so boring that I can't even finish it. Sorry Tad, I had read such wonderful things about you!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2012

    This book is amazing!!!!!

    When I bought this book, I just wanted a quick easy read. I ended up finishing it in ten days because I just couldn't put it down. I would reccomend this book to anyone with time to just sit down and read, because if they are like me, they're life will revovlve around reading. I am very excited to read the other books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2012


    In "Inheridence" (christopher paolini) he says to read ted williams. :-)

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2011


    I loved the aseries Td williams did called Otherland, so I was very excited to see this new series. Unfortunately it is boring me to tears. I've made itto page 467, and I still don't cre agout any of the charaters enough to keep reading. It is very rare I don't at lest finih a book, but I a afraid I'm going to hve to pit this on down.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 3, 2010

    Christopher Paolini talks about Tad

    Deborah Beale here (Tad partner & wife): we recently received this rave review from Christopher Paolini, and I thought I would take the liberty of posting it here. "Tad Williams is a huge inspiration for me. He's one of the main reasons I started writing fantasy. His books are epic, exciting, and filled with fascinating characters. When it comes to inventing imaginary worlds, he's as skilled as J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert. "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is one of the great fantasy epics of all time. I can't even remember how many times I've read it. It kept me so enthralled, I plowed through the last book in just one sitting! Here be magic, dragons, sprawling battles, thrilling feats of derring-do, ancient mysteries, hidden secrets-all the things a good story needs. These are the books, along with a few others, that led me to write Eragon. "Otherland is an awesome sci-fi story. The scale of Tad Williams' ambition and accomplishments as a storyteller in this series is amazing. He weaves together so many characters, locations, and unique worlds, you can't help but be impressed! Also, with Otherland Tad predicted the rise of the internet and online gaming long before it was invented. "Tad Williams' work is an essential part of any science fiction and fantasy library. I look forward to each new book he writes. If you like exciting, thought-provoking fiction, you owe it to yourself to give Tad a try. "His books are thick enough to stop a bullet! I know!" - Christopher Paolini

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Very Boring

    I bought this book about 8 months ago because the cover looked interesting and the review on the back sounded good. Unfortunately i still have not been able to finish this book because it is VERY boring. I stopped reading about halfway through and picked up a different series because I could not get hooked on this book. I still have about 100 pages left now because i can only force myself to read it if I have nothing else to read. The plot moves very slow and i still have not figured out the reason for many of the characters. The only character that i have a slight interest for is Barrick. Even he gets boring most of the time. The book picks up a little in the second half, but i still would NOT recommend buying this book. It is not worth the time or money.

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