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Shadowmarch: Shadowmarch Trilogy Book One (Shadowmarch Quartet) Paperback – 2 Mar 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; New Ed edition (2 Mar. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841494437
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841494432
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Skilfully merges world-building description with intriguing plots ... a sublime piece of storytelling (SFX)

A page-turner full of character, atmosphere and action (Starburst)

Book Description

The launch of the most exciting new epic fantasy series of the decade.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Tad Williams obviously has a rich imagination and the world in which Shadowmarch is set is very well thought out. The inhabitants of this world are also enigmatic and interesting, there's the dwarf-like Funderlings, the fairy-like Rooftoppers, the mysterious Twilight People, as well as countless warring factions of humans.

But the book falls down in the huge number of characters that Williams throws in, then singularly fails to do enough with. He jumps between story threads, flicking from one character to another, but never dwells too long on any of them, revealing little to the reader. He only really scratches the surface of the main characters and after a great deal of reading you feel as if you hardly know any of them.

Because of this thin characterisation it becomes difficult to establish any attachment to the characters and you find your interest in the story starting to fade. Considering this book is a stamina-sapping 800 pages you can't help but feel Williams could have done much more to engage the reader with the characters, there seems far too much padding here.

It's a pity as the central storyline is a good one and certainly has the depth to stretch over the length of a trilogy, but the lack of any real standout characters, with the emphasis seemingly more on quantity of characters rather than quality, let's the story down and leaves you with no real urge to read anymore in this trilogy.
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Format: Paperback
Tensions wrack the court of Southmarch Castle. King Olin has been captured by the bandit rulers of Hierosol in the distant south and is being held for ransom, but raising the money is beggaring the kingdom. Olin's heir Prince Kendrick is trying to hold the country together whilst his younger twin siblings, Barrick and Briony, have their own problems to face.

Meanwhile, in the far north, beyond the enigmatic Shadowline, the Twilight People are raising fresh armies to return to the March Kingdoms and avenge their defeat in a war three centuries ago. Far to the south, on the continent of Xand, a common girl is taken to wife by the Autarch, the god-emperor of Xis, for reasons utterly unknown to anyone. And far below Southmarch Castle, ancient secrets wait to be discovered...

Shadowmarch is the first book in the four-volume series of the same name, and is epic fantasy at its most straightforward. Tad Williams made his name with Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, a big series which arguably helped establish the modern fantasy paradigm (Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire followed in the trail it blazed) before switching to the far more original SF cyberfable Otherland. With Shadowmarch, Williams has returned to his roots, going once again for that big fat fantasy sweet spot.

This is a questionable choice for those who are familiar with the genre, since there are elements of Shadowmarch which recall not only other big fantasy series, but Williams' own prior work. With the best will in the world, it's hard not to feel that Shadowmarch Castle is a rebuilt Hayholt, a feeling enhanced by the presence in both works of sinister faerie folk and a race of diminutive good guys.
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Format: Paperback
I [...]
In Shadowmarch, though, unlike MS&T, the menace is ratcheted up until you almost feel you're reading a ghost story. Williams knows how to build an uncomfortable atmosphere until you're scared - but not quite sure what of - now THAT's brilliance.

Williams' talent isn't so much about inventing new things to go into high fantasy, it's in the quality of his writing - he's writing high fantasy in a different manner. He can really write, and I can see how he's improved (which doesn't make me a whit less enamoured of his earlier works). If Williams wrote in any other genre he'd win the Booker prize, or something equally prestigious, for Shadowmarch.

But don't let that put you off if you hate contemporary literature! Williams' writing isn't contrived or showy, just quietly brilliant. He's always focused on telling the story and, I'm sorry, I disagree that he switches viewpoints too often - I think my fellow reviewer just is snatching too-small pieces of time for reading, and though I sympathise, you really have to give an author a chance. You wouldn't intermittently listen to your mp3 player at the theatre, would you? That's why Williams 'caught' him later than other readers would be caught - because he WILL catch you.

I think this would be a good book to read as your first ever fantasy novel, which is the highest praise I can think of. Other than that, just read it, people! (NB the first book in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is 'The Dragonbone Chair' - and don't forget Tad Williams' stand-alone book 'The War of the Flowers', or his more sci-fi-y 'Otherland' series - all are more than worth your time).
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Format: Paperback
This book screams quality. The author has created a believable world and populated it with interesting, well rounded characters. The story is slow to get going, but stick with it and you will be rewarded with a tale that promises to make an excellent trilogy.

My one complaint about this book is that, particularly at the start, it skips between characters so fast it is difficult to develop a rapport with them. I don't think the number of characters is a problem, as it is good to have a large cast for an epic fantasy series - it is just a bit frustrating to read only a few pages at a time on each character before being whipped off to a different one. This doesn't by any means ruin the book, but it prevents it being as good as it could have been.

On the whole, an excellent novel that I hope is the start of an excellent series.
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