Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Orbit (Time Warner UK)
Release Date: November 4, 2004
Format Reviewed: Hardcover
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Genre:   Fantasy

Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:

By Tad Williams

     For fantasy devotees everywhere Tad Williams needs no introduction. He has enchanted readers with his fantasy and SF and following his powerful excursion into fairyland, The War of the Flowers, (also reviewed on this site) he is back with a tubby epic fantasy. Southmarch Castle is the home of the Eddons, the rulers of an independent kingdom ringed around by plotting nations. But here also is the dread Shadowline, which divides the lands of humans from those of the Qul-na-Qar, the fairy folk who were driven back centuries before. With their father King Olin being held hostage, twins Prince Barrick and Princess Briony have to try and keep the realm together, but now the line is moving, and strange beings are riding abroad. Soon they will be under siege, not only from the Qul-na-Qar, but from powerful rulers of other countries, none of whom are at all benign.

   This is a big book in fantasy tradition, but does it contain a big story? Not as big as the canvas it is painted on, but there are many elements in here to praise. The character of Briony, for one, fiercely feminist in a very male-dominated world, but kind hearted and doing her best to rule. Also, the wonderfully eerie and unknowable Qar, totally inhuman and demonic, therefore are excellent villains. Williams has a talent for world building and once again it shows, with his meticulous descriptions of the Arabian Nights world of Xand, the medieval Shadowmarch and the underground world of the Funderlings as well as others, barely glimpsed. At times, the pace is rather slower than in his previous novels, and sometimes a shade repetitive, but as the story creeps along this does add to the feeling of realism that all of Williams' work has. Like Robert Jordan and a few others the minutiae of daily life is recorded in his books, making his fantasy worlds come alive in a way that moving from one adventure to the next can never do. I will be interested to see what happens in Volume Two.