Sunday, December 12, 2010


Shadowheart by Tad Williams
DAW, Penguin Group; November 2010
Hardcover , 730 pages
Shadowmarch Series , #4
ISBN-13: 9780756406400
Very Highly Recommended

Synopsis from cover:
Thousands of years ago the gods fought and fell in the deeps beneath what is now Southmarch Castle, then were banished into eternal sleep. Now at least one of them is stirring again, dreaming of vengeance against humankind.
Southmarch haunts the dreams of men as well as gods. Royal twins Barrick and Briony Eddon, the heirs of Southmarch’s ruling family, are hurrying back home as well: Barrick now carries the heritage of the immortal Qar inside him, and Briony has a small army at her back and a fiery determination to recover her father’s throne and revenge herself on the usurpers.
The cruel and powerful southern ruler known as the Autarch of Xis wants the power of the gods for his own, a power he can only gain if he conquers Southmarch.
And nobody knows what the Qar want, only that the mysterious fairy - folk are prepared to die for it — or to kill every living thing in Southmarch Castle and in all the lands around.
It will come to an apocalyptic conclusion on Midsummer Night, when the spirits of the haunted past and the desperate struggles of the present come together in one great final battle. Many will die. Many more will be transformed out of all recognition, and the world will be forever changed.
My Thoughts:

Shadowheart by Tad Williams is the fourth and final book in the Shadowmarch series. This volume includes five maps, two appendixes (the new one is of the gods), and synopses of the three previous Southmarch novels at the beginning. At 730 pages, the final volume is a hefty conclusion to the series. And may I add: Whew... I've been reading a whole lot of Tad Williams this year!

The Shadowmarch novels together are a huge, epic fantasy series depicting good against evil. They encompass an enormous cast of characters, a large, well developed world, and numerous story lines that all converge in the end. Williams' skillfully handles all the various plots and subplots without losing track of his ultimate ending.

The characters are all well developed (and after so many pages, they had better be!) and I was pleased to see some personal growth displayed by all the major characters. Since the plot is full of action, but really character driven, this is essential. In Shadowheart all the characters and their storylines converge at Southmarch on Midsummer Night. The action takes place in a long series of climactic events as Williams skillfully brings the series to a very satisfying conclusion.

Ultimately, Tad Williams' writing and ability to continuously develop his characters and plot made the Shadowmarch series a success. I think the final two concluding volumes were stronger than the first two books in the series, but perhaps part of that assessment is due to simply the investment I had in the characters and the story by the time I reached the third book.

While I was determined to read all four volumes back to back, in hindsight it might have been better if I had taken a short break between novels. By the end of the fourth novel, Shadowheart, I was becoming a bit tired of the series. Since I was still highly interested in what was happening, I totally think this was my own fault. I should have taken a break between the four volumes, perhaps reading the first two followed by a break before tackling the two concluding volumes. (Also, for future reference, this time of year may not be the perfect time for me to undertake a long, complicated series without feeling somewhat distracted anyway.)

Finally, the whole Shadowmarch series does not have any objectionable language or adult situations so I'd feel quit comfortable recommending the whole series to a younger reader who felt ready to tackle a saga of this length. (I actually have one in mind.) very highly recommended

As a whole, I'd have to say that the Shadowmarch series is very highly recommended.
However, I think between the two, I personally like the Otherland series more.

Special thanks to Deborah Beale and Tad Williams for sending me a copy of Shadowheart. There are witnesses that saw me do a little dance of joy when it arrived.


It was all he could do not to scream at the unending storm of thoughts. He clenched his teeth and curled his hands into fists as he struggled to hold onto the Barrick Eddon at the center of it all. pg. 3

"We will see. If the Fireflower leads you to share our fate, you will be able to judge for yourself what kind of immortality our gift gives to us." pg. 9

"You saw what a court is like. You heard them whispering about you.You saw what they did to you, because you are from a quieter, smaller place and not used to their ways." pg. 16

"And just like that, it all goes. You think it will never change but that's a lie. Things can change in a day." pg. 19

Here, Nature squandered its blessings without discrimination, as if to say, "The way you and your people live is small and sad. See here, how for my own amusement I shower my riches on mere beasts and savages!" pg. 21

"....but there is no escaping it - this man's danger must be faced. For he comes here to wake a god on the night of Midsummer, but down in the place you call the Mysteries there is more than one god waiting to be awakened, and many more of them are angry with all the living." pg. 44

"Ah, yes, the gods may hate the Qar," Saqri said, an invisible shape in the darkness beside him, "but I cannot help wondering how they feel about your folk?" pg 54

"For a long time I did not know whether to hate or forget. I have come now to believe hate is useless... but so is forgetting. Those who forget too easily are the toys of fate." pg. 366


samantha.1020 said...

I love doing happy dances when books arrive :) And I'm really beginning to enjoy fantasy so it looks like I should add this one to my TBR list. Great review!

Lori L said...

If you like fantasy, then you'll very likely enjoy the series, Samantha, especially since William's creates a whole world populated with well developed characters.