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
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: JSRecommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Penguin, DAW, 656p. maps., Ages 12 to 18.
VOYA - Kevin Beach
This is the third of four lengthy books in Williams's Shadowmarch series. The final volume, Shadowheart (DAW, 2010), has also already been released. The books chronicle the political upheavals of the last remaining human city in a land full of faeries, immortals, giants, ghosts, gods, and various magical talking creatures. The primary characters are the two young heirs to Shadowmarch, twins Briony and Barrick. They have a series of adventures avoiding capture after their father is kidnapped. Briony is disguised and following a troupe of actors through a neighboring kingdom. Her brother battles evil forces in a place called Greatdeeps. In fact, a great deal of the novel takes place in various underground locations that also pose threats to Shadowmarch Castle. As with the author's previous series about cyberspace, Otherland (DAW), this verbose but very creative saga is populated with scores of characters; at least six stories are told concurrently while intertwining on occasion. This method allows for the inclusion of mini-cliff-hangers at the end of every chapter, encouraging readers to read on. Characters also relate myths and lore of their lands within these episodes. This reader found this very confusing, but fantasy fans will no doubt eat up all the complicated races, names, and languages. (The inclusion of an appendix of all the names and some maps is helpful.) Ultimately, it is the gods themselves, presently in a sleep state, who may be awakened by a mad man to threaten the very existence of the world. This is an essential purchase for those invested in the series. Reviewer: Kevin Beach