Monday, January 16, 2012

Shadowrise (Tad Williams)

(The Shadowmarch series, Book 3)
Tad Williams
Fiction, Fantasy
***** (Great)

DESCRIPTION: Between the warships of the mad god-king Sulepis of Xis to the south and the wrath of the ancient faerie Qar to the north, the mortal land of Eion suffers greatly... but worse may be coming.
In the north, deep in the perpetual twilight beyond the Shadowline, the lost Prince Barrick struggles to reach the faerie king in Qul-na-Qar - the only hope of sparing Barrick's former home, the castle Southmarch, from the faerie armies encamped on its doorstep. His faerie guide lost and his mortal companion long gone, he stumbles from one disaster to the next, narrowly avoiding a hundred deaths, under the unreliable guidance of the raven Skurn. Even as Barrick struggles to make sense of this mad world in which he's trapped, he fears he may already be too late.
Barrick's twin sister, Princess Briony, is once more adorned in the robes and honors of her station in the Syannese court of Tessis... but is in more danger than ever she was fleeing Southmarch in a peasant boy's guise. The king is a fool, his mistress a viper, and the royal court itself an ever-shifting maze of allies and traitors, always with too few of the former and too many of the latter. Briony quickly realizes she's out of her depth, a rustic and suspiciously ungirlish oddity whose name has already been tainted by agents of Southmarch's usurpers, the Tollys. Her dreams of securing assistance to reclaim her throne dashed, all she can hope for now is to escape with her life.
Meanwhile, the autarch Sulepis continues to rain terror on Eion, following his own mad and inscrutible plans as he reaches for a prize none of his ancestors, omnipotent as they were, dared achieve: true immortality itself. Such a lofty goal cannot happen without sacrifices, naturally, but what mere unwashed mortal wouldn't happily lay down their life for the pleasure of the Chosen One?
All eyes, all armies, all hopes and fears seem to fall upon Southmarch, where a long-forgotten force lies waiting to be awakened... or utterly destroyed.

REVIEW: Williams crafts an excellent, gripping continuation of the Shadowmarch series, which eclipses even his excellent Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy in sheer scope and sense of wonder. He begins, as he did in Shadowplay (Book 2), with a brief synopsis of the series thus far - a welcome refresher to remind old readers where things stand and help bring newcomers up to speed. (Many authors seem to forget that reader memories can fade between published installments.) From there, he picks up right where he left off. Ancient tales and religious tracts that were once mere background color become integral keys to the plot, as the wars of the long-absent gods stand poised to replay themselves upon the earth. The cast of characters is large, but never too large to keep track of, each one adding a unique and necessary thread to the overall tapestry. By the end, much has changed, and the stakes are higher than ever. I can hardly wait to get my hands on Book 4!

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