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Review of Shadowmarch by Tad Williams

Review of Shadowmarch by Tad WilliamsShadowmarch by Tad Williams
Series: Shadowmarch #1
on 2006-09-05
Genres: Epic, Fantasy
Pages: 816


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...

I read this book at the request of my sister. She’s been begging me to read this for over a year. I had checked out a sample and developed the suspicion that I wouldn’t love it as much as she did, but after she kept bugging me, I finally agreed. I guess I know myself pretty well.

I’ve said it in another review: My sister and I don’t always agree on books. She’s an extremely patient person who embraces tiny details and pages of description. When she tells a story, nothing is left out. Because I adore her, not to mention I’m a great sister, I tease her about this whenever I can. After I read this book, I figured that my sister tells stories the way Tad Williams writes. Me? I’m a more of a let’s get to the point type person. If it’s cloudy, just give me a quick description, not the number of clouds, the shapes, and which direction the wind carried them.

About the only negative thing I can say about this book is that it was just entirely too long winded for my taste. There’s no doubt in my mind that Williams is an exceptional writer. But for me, his descriptions and scenes are too drawn out. I’d normally consider this a tiny negative, something I can easily overcome. After all, I’m a master at skimming heavy descriptions. But it’s not just the settings that are lengthy, it’s everything. I couldn’t skim and still understand the story. So for me, that’s an instant turn off.

Because it was too involved for my taste, I never latched on to a character. I was mildly interested in Prince Barrick, which was the sole reason I kept reading. I’m actually kinda frustrated with it, if I’m being honest. The Shadowlands were thoroughly interesting and would have been delightful to read about and tag along on adventures. I’m afraid by the time we got to the fun, I was so distant I was skipping to the chapters with Barrick so I could find out his secret. Princess Briony was a good female character, strong if not young and naive at times. There were some other characters that (and I admit this with some shame) I never read. I skipped right over them because I was disconnected.

I’m sure I went into this with the wrong mindset. I probably talked myself out of it before I even picked it up. I’m sure there will people, like my sister, who gobble this up, and I can understand why they would. There’s a good story in all those words, potentially great creatures and worlds. I could almost feel it out there with the certain sections I read. If you can get into the prose, no doubt you’ll end up loving it.

In the end, this is the result of a reader who likes shorter prose. Again, Williams is obviously talented, and I can respect and admire his abilities, and he did spin a good story, but for this reader, it just wasn’t something I loved.

About Tad Williams

Tad Williams has held more jobs than any sane person should admit to—singing in a band, selling shoes, managing a financial institution, throwing newspapers, and designing military manuals, to name just a few. He also hosted a syndicated radio show for ten years, worked in theater and television production, taught both grade-school and college classes, and worked in multimedia for a major computer firm. He is co-founder of an interactive television company, and is currently writing comic books and film and television scripts as well as novels.

Tad and his wife, Deborah Beale, live in the San Francisco Bay Area with their children and far more cats, dogs, turtles, pet ants and banana slugs than they can count.

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