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Shadowmarch: Shadowmarch: Volume I Mass Market Paperback – September 5, 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Shadowmarch Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series established Tad Williams's preeminence in fantasy. Now, after an absence of more than a decade, the New York Times bestselling author has returned to high fantasy with his Shadowmarch trilogy. Exciting, ambitious, intricate, and insightful, Shadowmarch: Volume 1 demonstrates that Williams is still America's best high fantasist.

Shadowmarch: Volume 1 introduces a world conquered by humans, who have driven the Qar, or fairy folk, into the far north. There, the Qar hide behind the "Shadowline," a mysterious veil of perpetual mist, which drives mad any human who dares enter it. Bordering that mist and named for it is Shadowmarch, the northernmost human kingdom.

Shadowmarch has lately fallen on hard times. Its king has been captured by a rival kingdom, the regent has been mysteriously slain, and the new regents are callow fifteen-year-olds. Moody, crippled Prince Barrick is uninterested in their responsibilities and haunted by eerie dreams. His twin, Princess Briony, takes their new duties seriously, but is hot-tempered and headstrong. How can they defeat the greatest threats in Shadowmarch history? Their nobles plot to overthrow them--and the plotters may include their pregnant stepmother, seeking the throne for her own child. The expanding empire of Xis has sent its agents into Shadowmarch. And, for the first time since it appeared centuries ago, the Shadowline has starting moving. As the maddening mist spreads south over Shadowmarch, it does not quite hide the powerful, uncanny, and vengeful Qar army of invasion... --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Williams opens another of the intricate, intriguing sagas that are his stock-in-trade. In a once turbulently conflicted land of humans, elves, and dwarves, an old truce is starting to unravel. The frontier called the Shadowline, between the Twilight Lands and those of humans, is being breached. The first Marchlands kingdom in the path of Twilight invaders is in disarray, for its king is a prisoner, and not all accept his elder son's regency. What's more, the cruel empire of the south is moving north. So the Marchlands are caught between two foes while having to deal with internal intrigues and inexperienced rulers. When the prince regent is killed, apparently by one of his closest advisors, the surviving regents are an impetuous princess and a disabled prince. Trust at court and in the kingdom dwindles even as Twilight forces attack, and responsibilities the princess never dreamed of or prepared for fall upon her. A page-turner, if you can keep the who, where, and when straight (the appended lists of people and places help). Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Shadowmarch (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 816 pages
  • Publisher: DAW; Reprint edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756403596
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756403591
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.7 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Former singer, shoe-seller, radio show host, and inventor of interactive sci-fi television, Tad Williams is now a full-time writer. His 'Memory, Sorrow and Thorn' series established him as an internationally bestselling fantasy author. The series that followed, 'Otherland', is now a multi-million-dollar MMO launching in 2012 from dtp/realU/Gamigo. Tad is also the author of the fantasy series, the 'Shadowmarch' books; the stand-alone Faerie epic, 'The War of the Flowers'; two collections of short stories ('Rite' and 'A Stark and Wormy Knight'), the Shakespearian fantasy 'Caliban's Hour' and, with his partner & collaborator Deborah Beale, the childrens'/all-ages fantasy series, the 'Ordinary Farm' novels. Coming in September 2012 are the Bobby Dollar novels, fantasy thrillers set again the backdrop of the monstrously ancient cold war between Heaven and Hell: the first is 'The Dirty Streets of Heaven.'

Tad is also the author of 'Tailchaser's Song': his first novel spawned the subgenre of cats and fantasy that we see widely today. 'Tailchaser's Song' is currently in preproduction as an animated film from Animetropolis/IDA.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Having read everything by Tad Williams to date, I have come to the conclusion that he does best with epics, be they fantasy or sci-fi. 2003's _War of the Flowers_ left me a little cold, as did his breakout debut, _Tailchaser_. His Otherland and Memory, Sorrow & Thorn sagas, however, are some of the most satisfying reads you will ever avail yourself of.

I won't rehash the plot; that's been done plenty elsewhere. What I will say is that Williams take familiar elements and does wonders with them. His plotting and pacing are relentless, compelling you to read more in one sitting than is good for you.

The only thing I could have done without was one character's time underground, which reminded me a bit too much of Simon's escape in _The Dragonbone Chair_. But that comes late in the book, and by then you'll be hooked.

If you're looking for some excellent fantasy while waiting for George R.R. Martin's _A Feast for Crows_, this is just the thing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Shadowmarch, the second fantasy novel that Tad Williams has written since completing the SciFi "Otherland" series, is the first such entry in an entirely new series. I believe the major, non-spoiler plot points are either addressed in the publisher's description or through other reviews. With that in mind, I'll focus on this book when compared to the rest of his works.

In contrast to his pedigree (see the first two hundred pages of "The Dragonbone Chair" or the entire book that was "City of Golden Shadow"), the book is long on plot and short on in-depth character development.

Let me explain.

As a reader, and fan, of Tad Williams' works, the opposite tends to be true. He focuses, primarily, on a few highly borne out characters (Orlando, Renie, Simon, Miramele). This can lead to sequences that, to the impatient reader, paint a very detailed caricature while moving the/a-semblance-of-a plot forward minimally. Of course, as evidenced in "The Dragonbone Chair", even during those long initialization sequences, very pertinent information is divulged (eg the statues as visited by a young Simon).

In "Shadowmarch", the opposite track seems to have been taken. Swarms of characters dart in and out (Briony, Barrick, Qinnitan, Chert, Chaven, Yassaminez, Flint, Vansen) in very short sequences-- most such 3rd person limited perspectives are 1-2 pages; the exception being Qinnitan whose 'perspectives' take an entire chapter (although even her average chapter length is only 7 pages). This serves, in a contrarian form to his early works, to progress the well-thought out and multi-faceted plot forward at a swift clip (especially for Tad Williams). However, and most disappointedly as I see it, only Briony and Chert are painted at more than 'sketch-level.
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Format: Paperback
I don't normally review books on amazon, but I really couldn't believe the reviews I was reading here. I found this book excellent and on par with William's other writings, which means better than 99% of the fantasy that is on the market. No, this isn't a dragonlance book with sword fights and fireballs on every other page, but that is why it is good. I didn't find it slow in the least. Williams took a lot of time putting detail into the characters, culture, and history of this world.

If you want an action novel light on atmosphere, don't read this book. If you want a thickly layered imaginative fantasy novel, you'll enjoy this very much.
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Format: Hardcover
I just finished Shadowmarch. To be honest, I wasn't very impressed. Not that it was a bad book, but it wasn't up to par with Williams' usual quality of writing.
The Good Points:
-The prologue was excellent, mysterious and gripping, and really drew me into the book. The blind king and motionless queen were very intriguing.
-Williams did a good job of creating many more questions than answers in this book so you want to keep reading to solve the mysteries. Especially at the end of the book, the world is in upheaval, all the characters are embarking on journeys, and I would like to see what happens to everybody in the next book.
-The scenes describing the Qar were interesting and well written. I especially liked the descriptions of their main stronghold, where Williams really shows off his imagination and powers of description.
The Not So Good Points:
-VERY few of the human characters were exceptional or even interesting in any way. I didn't care about these characters nearly as much as I did about those from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and Otherland. Indeed, a good half dozen of the characters seem like boring remakes of characters from MS&T. Barrick and Briony seemed to me like annoying versions of Simon & Miriamele, right down to the colour of their hair! I won't bother to mention all the others...The only human I really liked was Ferras Vansen--he's such a darn nice guy. Also, Chert and Opal Quartz were pretty endearing.
-I felt that there were a couple too many POVs. It diluted the story. Especially Quinnitan's story--if Williams was going to include her, shouldn't he at least have hinted by the end of the book what on earth she has to do with anything?
-The setting of Southmarch didn't seem very interesting to me.
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