Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Shadowmarch Shadowmarch and Shadowplay
by Tad Williams

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Alicia Ponder

Every so often I take a deep breath and immerse myself in what can only be described as Epic Fantasy -- with capital letters. This is unashamedly such a series.

The king Southmarch has been kidnapped, and the world (and its many kingdoms) are threatened, not only by an evil ruler who believes he is a god, but by an incursion of fairies. Not the nice, sweet ones many people grew up with, but big, nasty, dangerous ones, who are moving the borders of their territory (the "Shadowline") onto land occupied by humans.

There's a feisty princess -- yes of course there's a feisty princess otherwise why would any girl ever pick up such a book? -- and she's kept pretty busy even as her twin brother is beset by nightmares, and unsurprisingly eventually finds himself on the wrong side of the fairy "Shadowline."

In the end, the weaknesses are those that can be expected in this strange genre where writers aren't thinking in hundreds of pages, but in thousands. There's a boring spot about half way through Shadowplay where I was terrified it was going to turn into one of those, "walking, walking, walking," epics where nothing happens. Fortunately it didn't, but it could have done with a strong-handed edit, and a few less typographical errors.

The strengths of the series are those that can only be appreciated by people who aren't immediately put off fiction because there might be fairies and gods and ... doesn't Shakespeare have such things? --

Anyway, if you love fantasy, and just can't get enough, or you want your fantasy-loving teenager to be invisible for several days, this is the series you're looking for. Plenty of blood and gore and violence for the boys -- without straying too far into graphic realism. There are definite characters, a sense of adventure, and our protagonists must surmount to enormous challenges to cope with events that, despite their best efforts, keep spiralling out of control.

There's a certain grandness about this series that you could only get with an author in his prime, and fortunately, I've been assured Tad Williams is in good health, so unlike David Gemmel and Robert Jordan, he should manage to finish this series ... I look forward to it.

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