|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
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