Thursday, November 02, 2006

Shadowmarch - by Tad Williams

Shadowmarch is the first installment in yet another epic fanstasy trilogy from Tad Williams, the man who gave us the excellent Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and Otherland tales.
An ancient war between humanity and the Qul-na-Qar saw the faerie people exiled to the Twilight Lands in the north, separated from the world of men by their protective veil of the Shadowline, a magical barrier through which no man may pass and return sane. Southmarch Castle has been the last bastion of defence for hundreds of years, guarding the lands from those beyond the Shadowline.

But now, with King Olin held hostage in the south, the rule of Southmarch is left in the hands of his children and it isn't long before those envious of the crown seek to take control for themselves. Meanwhile, far to the south in the land of Xand, the Autarch is also looking to extend his empire and his eye also falls on the lands of the North.

While the prospect of peace looks bleak for the people of the North, things take a turn for the worse. The Qul-na-Qar, the Twilight People, have chosen this time to begin a campaign of revenge against those who wronged them so long ago. . .and the Shadowline has begun creeping South.

Initially conceived as an idea for a fantasy movie and then a TV series but when both of these fell through, Shadowmarch was launched as an online series way back in 2001. But poor subscription take up meant it didn't get past its first year and the project moved into print with this as the first volume.

Williams has another huge hit on his hands with this one. It's a great mix of political manoeuverings of the noble families, the dark plans of a despotic emperor in the South and the mystical faerie peoples as they begin to wage their final war on mankind. There are basically three threads to this volume and, while they don't all come together here, they certainly develop well and are definitely heading in the right direction but with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing what's going to happen next or what the characters are planning.

Shadowmarch contains a rich world of diverse races with their differing cultures, histories and mythologies and Williams has begun weaving them all together into what should turn out to be a classic series.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, War
ISBN: 1-84149-443-7
My Rating: 9/10

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