3 out of 5
Shadowheart is the fourth and final installment of Williams’ Shadowmarch series. All of the major characters converge on Shadowmarch castle for several final showdowns, both above and below ground. It is difficult to go into much more of the plot without giving spoilers. Basically Briony and Prince Eanas, Barrick and the Qar, Vansen and the Funderlings, and the Autarch with his followers, all have their parts to play in the battles ahead. By the end all of the various plot lines are tied up if not in a way that the reader expects. There are several problems with the story. First Briony’s growth does not match that of her brother, she does go through major changes but at times still comes across as a spoiled brat. Barrick’s changes are much more pronounced, he becomes a full adult who struggles with balancing both of his worlds. Second the novel itself is just too long. There are large portions that could have been cut without harming the story. It left me with the feeling that the editors were using kid gloves. Third while some characters’ secrets are slowly shared others are just dropped on the reader at the end, mainly Flint’s. Throughout the series Flint’s oddity was noted but considering the size of the novel and the time spent on other lesser characters, I felt that more time could have been spent on who/what this child is. I would recommend this series as it is a good story but don’t expect to finish it quickly.
4 out of 5
The Shadowmarch series continues with Shadowrise, the third novel in the series. The author notes that he had planned on this being a three novel series but found the third novel was too long so he added a fourth. The stories of the main characters from the first two novels continue. Barrick and Briony are on seperate life changing adventures as the Autarch of Xis continues his voyage to Shadowmarch with it’s King. The Funderlings find unusual allies in their fight to keep the Qar out of their underground city and more is revealed about the strange mirror’s. What I truly love about this series is Williams is able to create a very complex society with a handful of characters. One of my biggest complaints about certain fantasy series’ is too many characters, too many plot lines, making it difficult to keep track of whose who, especially when it can be several years between novels. Williams has managed to keep the side stories relevant to the main characters. My only complaint would be that the growth and changes seen in Barrick are not duplicated in his twin sister Briony. Barrick’s adventures seem to prepare him for the major change he undergoes. Despite all of her hardships and adventures, Briony still comes across as a character that things are done to rather than one who makes decisions that lead to change.
3 out of 5
Shadowplay is the second in the Shadowmarch series and continues the stories of the Eddon family, the Xis Autarch, the Qar, and everyone connected with them. The series is starting to feel like a puzzle missing the edge pieces. The reader knows each plot line is connected but can’t see the whole picture. Briony and Barrack are separated for the first time in their young lives and face experiences much beyond those of normal prince and princess. Qinnitan has escaped the Autarch and is trying to build a life, be it a lowly one, in a foreign land. King Olin builds friendships among his captors. Chertz the Funderling is dragged into events much to big for him. The Autarch begins to reveal his plans and finally attacks the great city of Hierosol. More is shared about the Qar including what the mysterious mirror is and why they want Shadowmarch so badly. Unfortunately there were sections that seemed to drag or be dragged out, Barrick’s time beyond the Shadowline being one. It just felt as though it took too long to get to the climax of his time being kept as a prisoner. Briony’s time with the acting troupe also seem to be padded. I wasn’t quite sure what the point was of her becoming an actor when being a stagehand worked just as well for getting her from point A to point B safely. Too much time was spent on things like her learning her lines and while the banter between the actors was fun it was played up excessively. Mr. Williams is a master of description and the world he has created is vivid. He intertwines the themes of life and death throughout the book giving it a feeling of grayness, of sadness that is amazing. I am looking forward to seeing how he manages to pull all of these plot lines together in the next two book.
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.