Shadowmarch: Volume 1
Daw, 2005 (2005)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
was enchanted many years ago by Tad Williams'
, which put him on my
shortlist of fantasy authors. I loved his
Memory, Sorrow & Thorn
trilogy as well, but somehow missed the
books. And though I enjoyed
The War of the Flowers
, it was not as much to my taste as Williams' earlier works.
, first in a new series, has fully engaged me once more.
n some ways it's reminiscent of George R. R. Martin's acclaimed
Song of Ice and Fire
- a northern family, the House of Eddon, rules a contentious kingdom bordering on a perilous land of fairy; they live in the ancient seaside castle of Southmarch, with kingdoms in conflict to the south. But it's only a surface similarity between the two series. Overall, Williams' creation, while having its share of ruthless leaders and battles, is not as dark or as ghoulish as Martin's. In
, the fairy folk (
) once lived amongst humans until they were blamed for a devastating plague, slaughtered, and the remnant driven north to desolate, forested lands. There they have stayed for two centuries behind a misty boundary called the
. Humans who ventured beyond it disappeared or lost their wits.
his tale begins when the blind king of the Qar sends a human child across the
. He's taken in by old Chert and Opal of the small
. They name him Flint, and grow to love him. Other non-humans in Southmarch are thick skinned
, who've adapted to water, and tiny
. The king of the land, Olin Eddon, is being held for ransom by the treacherous Lord Protector of Hierosol. His elder son Kendrick rules in his absence. Twin fifteen-year-olds, Briony and Barrick Eddon, share everything except a secret that the prince has kept since an
left him with a crippled arm. After a delegation arrives from Hierosol, a treacherous blow leaves Briony and Barrick as co-regents. Competent guard captain Farras Vansen (who's also a dreamer) secretly loves Briony and feels deeply his failure to prevent the disaster, which is quickly blamed on a previously trusted Eddon retainer, Shaso.
ut that was only the beginning. The Qar are on the move across the
, striking towards Southmarch, where betrayal already lurks, waiting the chance to strike. The twins are separated, Barrick journeying in the land of fairy, of which he's dreamed. And it seems that old gods are awakening. In a parallel storyline, on the southern continent, young bee acolyte Qinnitan is suddenly plucked from her peaceful life in the Hive temple in Xis to be a
of the all-powerful, cruel autarch, the expression in whose eyes daunts her. She's taken into the
, a kind of harem. A eunuch and a guard captain, who were her childhood friends, choose to help her. Qinnitan and the reader wonder why she was chosen and what the vile concoctions she's forced to drink daily are intended to do.
t's a wonderful beginning to a fantasy series. Williams gives us a well realized world embroiled in war, magic, secrets, and treachery. I especially like the strong female characters (Briony and Qinnitan), each seeking to control her own destiny, and the non-human folk caught up in a war not of their making. I can't wait for the next book in this exciting new epic.
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