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Publisher's Summary

For generations the misty Shadowline has marked the boundary between the lands of men and the lost northern lands that are the lair of their inhuman enemies, the ageless Qar. But now that boundary line is moving outward, threatening to engulf the northernmost land in which humans still live - the kingdom of Southmarch.

For centuries, the Eddon family has ruled in ancient, forbidding Southmarch Castle, guarding the border against the Qar's return, but now this powerful royal line has been dealt a devastating blow. The monarch, King Olin, is being held captive in a distant land, and it falls to his inexperienced heirs to lead their people in a time of growing danger and dread.

It is on the two youngest Eddons that the heaviest burdens fall. The twins Barrick and Briony, who in such evil times have only each other, may lose even that bond as darkness closes over them. As the Qar’s power reaches out across their land, will Southmarch Castle, the only home they’ve ever known, become in fact what it has long been called - Shadowmarch?

©2006 Tad Williams (P)2010 Brilliance Audio

What members say

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  • Overall
  • JC
  • 11-09-10

It's the characters that matter...

As a longtime reader of fantasy novels, I understand that the first book in a series is many times a bit slower paced than the later books. The author has to paint the picture of an entire world and the characters and things within it. This book however was a bit of a yawner. Williams is a tallented writer as far as describing things in the universe that he has created, but he falls far far short on character development.

There are four main story lines in the book, with most of the book concentrating on the two most uninteresting characters in the story. A spoiled prince and princess. There is a pretty good storyline about a mysterious orphan boy and a dwarf (for lack of a better word). I'd like to fiind out what happens to them. I never will though, because after thirty plus hours of listening, I don't think I could take another book with the same boring characters.

You can have an interesting story and universe, but if you don't fill it with interesting characters, characters that readers will care about, then you just have a long boring slog to the end.

The narrator does a fine job on the book. He gives the characters very definable voices and livens things up. But try as he might, this book still falls short on several different levels.

Favorite authors lately: Robin Hobb, Jim Butcher, Guy Gavriel Kay. If you are a fan of these three authors I reccomend you stay away from this one.

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Laura
  • EVERETT, WA, United States
  • 02-01-11

By Far, NOT Williams' Best

I love Tad Williams. His Otherland series is one of my top three series. This series, however, is dreadfully slow. I've tried to get through it twice and keep listening to another book instead. I've finally restarted it with the goal of perservering and finishing the thing. Its a long slog through slow plot, whiny characters and annoying writing. I have always thought Williams to be an excellent writer, but the writing in this book is bad to the point of distraction. The characters are unbelievable, cardboard and just plan annoying. They are whiny and pretulant, and the reader adds to the whiny quality in the dialogue by reading all of them (especially the females) in nasal tones that drive me crazy! To top it off, I just finished reading G.R.R.Martin's Song of Fire and Ice books, and honestly, sadly, this latest series from Williams seems a rip off of that series, The plot, characters and all are very similar in too many ways, but its a shallow, hallow shell of a reproduction. I love Song of Fire and Ice as well, so if it had been a better representation, I'd have been happy to read it. I pray the next book in this series is better, because I bought it as well.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Imaginative World

Tad Williams takes his readers to places only a master story-teller can portray - he borders the perfect edge between too much detail (George R. R. Martin - though I do love losing myself in his novels too) and too little (any of your various Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms novels). This series is a testament to the author's abilities to narrate and to enrapture his readers.

It is about time some of his novels have become audio books!

15 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Scott
  • la mirada, CA, United States
  • 08-19-11


Hours upon hours of boring description, read by the most pretentious annoying narrator they could find. Give this one a miss and save yourself a credit and part of your life.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Interesting in parts, but story drags, awful narra

What disappointed you about Shadowmarch?

I've read two previous quadrilogies 's by Tad Williams and have always had the same experience-he has a great imagination and a very well developed fantasy world, but the stories are just not tightly written or perhaps I should say lacking in editing. Way way way too much introspection. As soon as the story becomes a little bit Interesting, it grinds to a halt as the characters endlessly bemoan their fate. I also agree with other reviewers who said that there are way too many miraculous rescuings of the characters without their doing much to help themselves. Lots of interesting, tortured characters, and some very wonderful evil antagonists, but they only had small parts and very little background story about why they had become the way they were. My favorite parts were the sections about the autarch, but they are short and far between and the character that is in his hands leaves it very quickly, leaving me disappointed. I hated the Bonefall oracles and I hated the overly melodramatic, whiny narration. Perhaps I would've liked the story better if I had read it, and had been able to skim over the dragging sections

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Delete 25% at least. More about the Autarch and the shadow people

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Dick Hill?

Simon Vance

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Boredom, annoyance

Any additional comments?

The story kept me interested enough to finish the first book, but I had to keep forcing myself to listen and I won't be getting the sequels

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Bill
  • Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 11-05-12

How to Ruin a book

Let me preface this by saying that i love Tad Williams as an author, and thought i liked Dick Hill readings. After about 4 hours of Mr Hill's sibilance's and pops as he over performs, and I was looking for the fast forward button. I restrained myself, as i still have the other three books to listen, but at about the 8 hour mark i found myself seeking the off switch, as good as the story may be, the telling of it is getting in the way. I wonder if Audible would let me trade the next three, for next three in the Briar King set. How about it Audible?

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not for me

I only got about 5 hours in before I stopped listening. I am not a critic as I enjoy most books but this one was a bore!

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Adnan
  • Chula Vista, CA, United States
  • 12-23-10

Melodramatic and Whiny

It is part writing and part narration, but character seems really whiny. I realize that these characters were going through tough time, but at times it seemed that every sentence was melodramatic and whiny. I was not able to get past 3 to 4 hours of this book.

Perhaps someday i will try again, but i rather be listening to other books (even the ones i already have read).

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Roger
  • Spring, TX, United States
  • 01-22-11

Completely Incomprehensible

I've been an Audible member since 2005 and have listened to over 120 books. Some good, some bad, but I finished all of them. This is the first time I've started a book I won't finish. I've listened to the first chapter twice and still kept scanning back on the second attempt. I finally gave up after chapter three. Maybe the story would be good if I could follow it. It's just not worth the aggravation of listening to each chapter over and over until it sinks in. Maybe it's just me, but I'll skip this one.

My apology to the author, but I truly did find the whole thing confounding.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Dennis
  • United States
  • 06-22-13

It's the characters, stupid!

I'm a Tad Williams fan so I came into this series expecting to really like it but I found myself struggling to finish off the series. It's interesting to note that the idea for the Shadowmarch series started off as a pitch for a television series. In television, more than just about any other medium, the characters really matter. That's why a series like "Mad Men" -- which on the surface sounds boring as hell -- I mean who cares about the goings on at an ad agency, that sounds too much like plain old daily life, right? But that show is captivating because of the strength of its characters.

Well, Southmarch has the opposite problem -- it has a fascinating premise and an interesting setting -- but it's filled with characters that are just very hard to care about. The two main characters just never stop whining. They aren't proactive in their situations, and worst of all, they lag far, far behind the reader in figuring out important plot elements. That creates the worst kind of boring situation for a reader, when they have long figured out what's going to happen and they're just turning pages, waiting for the main characters to catch up with them.

If you loved the characters it wouldn't matter if the ponderous wheels of the plot took their time to grind along familiar paths, you'd be along for the ride, cheering for the characters. But these characters are so annoying that it makes those grinding plot wheels seem so agonizingly slow.

If it wasn't for the storyline with the dwarf-like Funderlings I would never have been able to get through these books.

There is one saving grace to the series and that is the performance by Dick Hill. That guy is amazing! The variety of unique-sounding voices he can come up with is just astonishing. I especially loved his performances of Skarne, the raven, the many Funderlings, and Sulepis the Autarch. I will definitely look for Mr. Hill's other work.

Oh, and one last thing... thanks to this series I have a new pet peeve: starting off a chapter with a quote from *any* source. I've really become sick of that practice that seems so common in fantasy literature.

I can't recommend these books to other fans of fantasy -- but don't let this review turn you off of Tad Williams' work completely -- he's got some great stuff out there. Check out the "Memory, Sorrow, Thorn," or "Otherland" series. Or if you're into supernatural gumshoe type tales, definitely check out his Bobby Dollar books, starting with "The Dirty Streets of Heaven."

Till next time....

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • thetwistedtail
  • 03-06-15

terrible narrator

terrible narrator, voice is all over the place, hard to listen to, so bad im going to return it and try the book

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Vivienne J Hornby
  • 02-29-16

Awful narrator

What didn’t you like about Dick Hill’s performance?

I found the pronunciation most bizarre- long as lawng, gone gawn, palm pawm, etc. Also his rendition made the female characters sounded like squeaky ninnies. In all I found his performance so irritating that I am hesitating whether to listen to the rest of the series, even though I loved the books when I read them years ago. I thought I would get used to the narrator, and I managed to get to the end of volume one, but it remained very irritating and detracted considerably from the enjoyment. Someone like Rupert Degas would have been a much better choice.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-02-11

There are better

Not one of Williams' best. The characters are animated by setbacks and suffering, and the reader encouraged pitying them. It makes for one-dimensional characters. This is exacerbated by the narrator's often whiny tone. It is however one of the few fantasy series for an older audience available on audio. With that in mind, a reader with the right attitude can find it can be quite enjoyable.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Stephen
  • 01-08-12

Dire and turgid

The reader was fine and actually does quite a good job but the actual book....... Slow, too detailed and turgid. The story just doesnt move forward with any pace and I actually had to give up listening and I have never done that before. I would advice staying well clear.

2 of 7 people found this review helpful