I read Tad Williams’ previous trilogy featuring Simon (or Seoman in the end) who leads an ordinary life at first and then goes on to explore the world. It doesn’t sound too special – just like any fantasy story you might say. However, Tad Williams manages to tell not just one story but many and they intertwine. Also, he manages to make all his characters come to life. Shadowmarch follows the same formula, starting with the Twins Briony and Barrick, their older Brother Kendrick and the ancient evil from beyond the Shadowline to the north that claims back its land.
I like how Williams manages to get so much into detail without sounding boring or trying to drag out the story. He switches places but stays in the same time line. So you don’t just follow one main character but four or five. You connect with them, each with their own flaws and weaknesses. Rather than having the mages cast fireballs and the druids healing the dying he tries to mix a possible real time (ancient) world with fantastic but almost scientifically possible aspects (maybe it wasn’t a spell but just fatigue making the character see things?).
The story starts with the Kingdom in uproar, the king being held captive in the far south, his son Kendrick ruling in his place. The younger siblings Briony and Barrick get drawn into a massive plot of intrigues and war. Some characters you start to like turn out to be not so friendly, other who are rather plain evolve and grow on you. It’s not your straight forward fantasy novel but you need to like fantasy to enjoy this book never the less. If you like stories with a main character, fast paced action and strong fantastic elements, don’t buy Shadowmarch. If you have lots of time and you like a complex story, intertwining story lines and multiple point of view story telling then this book is a must read. It’s hard to say whether it’s better than his previous trilogy. My expectations were extremely high. After reading the first book of the new trilogy they are (almost) exceeded. I would give it 9 out of 10. (Review by Ole Brandenburg)