With Shadowheart (Canada, USA, Europe) coming out in a few short days, I knew it was high time to finally sit down and read Shadowrise. Like most Tad Williams fans, I was quite eager to read the conclusion to the Shadowmarch series. And like most of them, I was a little disappointed when it was announced that the final volume would be split into two installments to allow the author to tell the story in full.

My concern stemmed from the fact that, though Shadowplay moved the plot forward, all the major storylines and the cool stuff had seemingly been reserved for the last volume of the trilogy. Hence, cutting that one in half could result into another less-than-fully-satisfying reading experience. I was unsure if it would be possible to structure Shadowrise in a manner that would permit the author to make it a terrific read, and not keep all the major plot points for Shadowheart.

If you've read my reviews for both Shadowmarch and Shadowplay, you are aware that, even though I feel that the Shadowmarch series shows great potential, it has yet to fulfill the promise shown thus far. Back when I wrote my review for Shadowplay, I opined that given the way the storylines had been moved and the lack of resolution, Shadowrise had the potential to be one of the "must read" fantasy books when it was released. By adding a fourth volume to the series, I feared that Shadowrise would be another single instead of a resounding homerun.

Shame on me, I know. I've been reading Tad Williams for about two decades, so I should have known better. Ye of little faith and all that crap, I get it. Yes, I had a feeling that Williams had peaked out, that nothing he would write could capture the imagination the way Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn and Otherland did. Well, with Shadowrise Tad Williams set the record straight, at least where I'm concerned. He really did hit this one out of the ballpark, setting the stage for a rousing finale that could well be one of the very best speculative fiction novels of 2010.

Here's the blurb:

With King Olin imprisoned and Prince Kendrick slain, the royal twins Barrick and Briony have been forced to flee their homeland. But both families and nations can hide dark and terrible secrets, and even if Barrick and Briony survive learning the astonishing truths at the heart of their own family and of Southmarch itself, they must still find a way to reclaim their kingdom and rescue their home- from traitors, tyrants, a god-king, and even the angry gods themselves.

The worldbuilding is head and shoulders above what is the norm in today's SFF market. In Shadowrise Tad Williams is at the top of his form. A definite mythic resonance permeates the entire novel, demonstrating just how vast in scope and vision this series truly is. Loads of revelations are made, as Shadowrise continues to expand the concepts which were introduced in Shadowmarch and Shadowplay. Once again, I particularly enjoyed the depth with which the author elaborated on the variety of gods and the part they played in the past and the role they will play in the future.

Williams is a notorious slow starter, no question about it. Both Shadowmarch and Shadowplay suffered from bouts of sluggish rhythm, and I was wondering when the tale would kick into high gear. Not so with Shadowrise, which moves at a fluid pace throughout. Indeed, this could be the Tad Williams work featuring the best rhythm to date. Which bodes well for the forthcoming Shadowheart. The end game promises no dull moments from start to finish!

The characterization was the facet that I felt left the most to be desired in the first two installments. Which was due to the fact that the bulk of the tale was told through the eyes of both Barrick and Briony, two young adolescents who were not at the best of times endearing POV characters. Especially Briony, who more often than not was an annoying whiny brat. I'm pleased to report that character growth has transformed Briony into a more mature -- and hence more likeable -- POV character. I'll never fully like her, true, but I didn't find myself gritting my teeth every time I realized that I was starting yet another Briony chapter. As hard as it is to admit, Briony is slowly coming together as a believable young woman of royal lineage.

Still, it's Barrick's storyline which carries the entire book. We saw glimpses of his importance in both Shadowmarch and Shadowplay, but in Shadowrise he truly takes central stage. It appears that the entire Qar plotline will revolve around him, promising a lot more to come in Shadowheart. The same could be said of the Autarch, whose mad plan is finally revealed. Vansen also emerges as a main character, and his storyline takes the reader along unanticipated paths. Qinnitan continues to be the most intriguing protagonist, and it will be interesting to discover how and where she fits in the bigger scheme of things.

With this book, Williams proves once again that he deserves his place among the best epic fantasy authors writing today. Shadowrise is hands down Tad Williams' most impressive work since Sea of Silver Light.

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

1 commentaires:

Cecrow said...

Wow, glad to hear he's pulling it out of the fire. I'm a long time fan of TW, but I hadn't been enthused by reviews for this series so far. Now I'm more confident it's worth picking up. Another example of the fine services you provide to us fans!