Shadowmarch (Shadowmarch #1) by Tad Williams
Publication Date: September 5th, 2006
The maze-like castle of Southmarch stands sentry along the border between the human kingdoms and the land of the immortal Qua. Now, the darkness from beyond that border has begun to enfold Southmarch - or Shadowmarch - the Qua's ancient home. To stop the darkness falling, the Southmarch royal family must face their human enemies, supposed friends and the family curse. Twins Barrick and Briony shoulder impossible burdens as their father is imprisoned and their brother murdered. Briony flees towards her father and the slave armies of the Autarch, while her brother Barrick crosses the Shadowline gripped by madness.
This book has been sitting on my shelves waiting to be read for nearly a decade. I remember how much I was drawn in by the synopsis when I saw it in the bookstore but then never read it. Until now that is.
Why do I do this to myself? Buy books that excite me and then not read them for ages only to find out that my original assessment was correct and it actually is a great read! Well I guess this is yet another book to add to that list. Do you think I will ever learn? No, probably not.
All that being said… Yes, I had such a great time reading this book. It was a great introduction to the world and our vast cast of characters while not giving time to get stagnant or info-dumpy. I was honestly only expecting a few POVs but there were tons in this book and each and every one of them was distinct and had a purpose for the story. Standout characters for me however would be Briony, Vansen, and Qinnitan. I can really see the scope of potential with their stories and cannot wait to watch the progression. On the opposite side of things, my least favourite characters would have to be Barrick and Chert. Barrick’s constant emo whining really got on my nerves for most of the book while Chert’s POV felt a bit forced and long at times. The age of Briony and Barrick also seems a bit young to me considering the age of everyone else for the most part but I am hoping the scope of the trilogy will account for that.
There is so much going on in terms of the history of this world and the current political turmoil and beginnings of war. I love the magical elements and how the types of creatures that Williams included on either side of the Shadowline. You can really tell that he put a lot of effort into the creation of this world and the driving forces behind each of the factions. With magic, religion, politics and so much more, this world comes to life. There is some seriously sketchy and suspicious stuff going on and I want to figure out what it is and how it is going to affect everyone.
While Shadowmarch anchored me in the world and let me find my bearings on either side of the Shadowline, the end of this book opens up to an adventure narrative with plenty of opportunity for some expert political moves. I love a good adventure book and the pairings of who is with who and in which direction they are going has me both worried but also excited.
One of the things I am happy knowing about this series is that it is a trilogy so I won’t have long to stress about the fate of everyone! I am also definitely going to be sure to pick up more of Tad Williams’ work in the future.