4 out of 5
Shadowmarch is the first novel in the Shadowmarch series and the first novel by Tad Williams that I have read. Williams has created a complex world and a complicated story or stories to be truthful. The main story takes place in Shadowmarch, the seat of the most powerful ruler in the Northern countries. A second story line occurs in Xis, an empire on a southern continent. The world of Shadowmarch is set in a medieval western world with Kings and Queens, swords and pikes, and where Princesses such as Briony are expected to wear gowns and marry for political convenience. The empire of Xis is on the other hand an eastern world with God Kings and concubines, mysticism and magic, and palaces larger than cities. Both worlds are well developed as are the many characters. At first I had misgivings as I opened the book to find a rather long prologue detailing the history of both worlds but as the story progresses it becomes apparent that this was necessary to avoid constant explanation during the story. My only complaint would be that the ending doesn’t provide any type of conclusion to the various story lines. Questions are answered but the novel ends in several cliff hangers which tends to annoy me. Other than that I definitely recommend this book and plan on reading the rest of the series.