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Shadowheart(CD)(Unabr.) [Audiobook, CD, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Tad Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 2 2010 Shadowmarch Series (Book 4)
Thousands of years ago the gods fought and fell in the deeps beneath what is now Southmarch Castle, then were banished into eternal sleep. Now at least one of them is stirring again, dreaming of vengeance against humankind. Southmarch haunts the dreams of men as well as gods. Royal twins Barrick and Briony Eddon, the heirs of Southmarch’s ruling family, are hurrying back home as well: Barrick now carries the heritage of the immortal Qar inside him, and Briony has a small army at her back and a fiery determination to recover her father’s throne and revenge herself on the usurpers. The cruel and powerful southern ruler known as the Autarch of Xis wants the power of the gods for his own, a power he can only gain if he conquers Southmarch. And nobody knows what the Qar want, only that the mysterious fairy - folk are prepared to die for it — or to kill every living thing in Southmarch Castle and in all the lands around. It will come to an apocalyptic conclusion on Midsummer Night, when the spirits of the haunted past and the desperate struggles of the present come together in one great final battle. Many will die. Many more will be transformed out of all recognition, and the world will be forever changed.

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'A fourth volume that nails everything you could want from the conclusion of an epic fantasy yarn... rich in detail and exploding with imagination' SFX --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Tad Williams is a New York Times and London Sunday Times bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction, with novels translated into more than twenty languages and a global readership. He hosted a syndicated radio show for over a decade, co-created the first completely interactive television program, and is currently involved in film, television, comic books, computer games and other multimedia projects. He and his family live in California.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Great series Dec 7 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Hey Jordan (and Sanderson) this is how you write series. Long enough to be enjoyable, but not too long as to become tedious.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shadowclimax Aug. 25 2011
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I really wish there were more authors like Tad Williams. He has spent three very long books slowly building up a fantasy epic to its climax, and at last the many different forces around Shadowmarch are about to clash. "Shadowheart" takes a LONG time to work its way to the climax, but it's still a brilliant, wrenching finale.

Picking up where the last book left off: Briony and Prince Eneas are leading a ragtag army to the castle, and the exiled Barrick is struggling with the effects of the Fireflower in a Qar citadel. And no sooner has Barrick recovered than he and the Qar queen Saqri set out on a journey into the gateways of the gods and the worlds of dreams, so that they can make their way to Shadowmarch.

Unfortunately, the Autarch Sulepis and the treacherous Tolly have virtually seized control of Shadowmarch Castle, and are planning to (separately) awaken gods for their own power. Allies and family are killed, treachery is unveiled, and the most terrifying enemy imaginable is about to attack all of them...

Like his Otherland and Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, the Shadowmarch series expanded into a quadrilogy when the third book got too huge to actually be printed. Fortunately, this doesn't really throw off the balance of the book, since it merely feels like the last chunk of a vast, epic story.

And Williams' writing is sublime -- he twines together a dozen-plus plot threads into a shimmering, atmospheric tapestry. His prose is lush and almost dreamlike, and full of vibrant descriptions ("vines that bore nodding black flowers and leaves as purple as a bruise"). Actually, this book has some of the best writing I've ever seen from Williams -- the scenes where Barrick drifts through the misty fields of the dreaming dead are just exquisite.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  74 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars strong 4, series ends in good fashion Dec 15 2010
By B. Capossere - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Shadowheart is the concluding fourth volume of Tad Williams' most recent trilogy (yes, yes, I know), following Shadowmarch, Shadowplay, and Shadowrise, the last originally intended to finish the series but instead being split in half, leading to Shadowheart. The first book, Shadowmarch, started off a bit slow and had some issues I thought with pace and cliché. Shadowplay was a large improvement in nearly all facets, Shadowrise kept to the higher quality, and Shadowheart, I'm happy to say, mostly ends it all in strong fashion.

The plot, which has been wide-ranging in terms of geography and multiple plot strands, has narrowed to a single point, centering on the Eddon family's seat, the castle Southmarch, whose caverns below the castle were the site of an ancient battle between gods which resulted in the gods being banished and the portal closed behind them. But the mad Autarch of Xis has forged his empire as a weapon to slice open the path to the castle so as to gain the power of the gods for himself, and in Shadowheart he's finally reached his goal. One Eddon twin, Briony has returned with a small army she's managed to collect thanks to a young prince hoping to wed her. The other Eddon twin, Barrick, has returned as well, but is more Qar (faerie) than human thanks to the magical Fireflower inside him which gives him all the memories of past Qar kings, as well as some level of authority among them. Meanwhile, under Southmarch, the human captain Ferras Vansen leads an ever-dwindling group of Funderlings (Qar dwarfs) in an impossible battle against the Autarch, hoping against hope that the Qar army, which had originally come to battle the humans, will join with them against the greater threat. There are a few other plot lines as well, along with dozens of characters, but that quick little summary gives a rough idea of the main story line.

With everything coming to a head here, Williams has sacrificed some of his plot variation (a strength in the earlier books) for a much more streamlined storyline. What he loses in variety, though, he makes up for with a greater sense of urgency as nearly everybody is in a race against time, with the fast-approaching deadline of Midsummer's Eve (when the Autarch can perform his rite) looming over all. While this makes for mostly compelling reading, I do think Williams would have been better served had he managed to cut out 200-300 pages from the last two books and thus allowed for an even faster pace, one that matches the urgency a bit more faithfully. And I'm not sure all the juggled plot strands are actually necessary here. One, involving the usurper Tolly, for instance, adds very little to the story (is basically a weaker echo of the Autarch story) and could have been cut (along with its little spin-off plots) without losing much. Another plot, involving a sort of "ultimate weapon" also bears little fruit, feeling much more like an afterthought rather than a built-in storyline. Cutting these two, and perhaps a bit more, would also have let us spend a bit more time with some more rewarding characters who get lost a bit, such as Chert, one of my favorite characters from the earlier novels.
Briony's storyline is relatively strong as she tries to find her place in this upside-down world: is she queen of the Eddons now, with her father and brother gone? Is she tag-along to the prince who hopes to wed her? Can she regain the throne from the usurper Tolly and is that even the biggest priority anymore?

Barrick's plot, until the near-end, is less action-oriented than Briony's, more introspective, as he must find some way to integrate the Fireflower into himself before its power and knowledge and alien nature kills him. His slow movement away from his human self, and his growing relationship with the Qar queen (as well as her sister) is mesmerizing and as captivating as the battles being fought (though his own battles are great in their own right).

But for me, the best part of the plot was that involving Vansen and the Funderlings, who know they're pretty much fighting a losing battle but plan to lose it as slowly and in as costly a fashion as possible. Their slow retreat ever downward is a tour de force, pretty much the opposite of those grand battles we've grown used to in epic fantasy but no less thrilling and in many ways much more moving.
The climax of the novel is truly epic in scale, involving gods and giants and magic swords and desperate plans and a brave bat and . . . yes, I said a brave bat. It all works but what is most surprising about it all is that it doesn't come close to ending the novel. Williams takes a big risk here and goes on for another 125 pages or so, giving us ending after ending. I can't say we needed all 125, but 100? Sure.
Beyond the plot, the characterization is mostly sharp, especially Vansen, King Olin Eddon, the two Qar royal sisters, several of the Funderlings, the Roof-Toppers, and several others of the Qar. Interestingly enough, while I enjoyed following the main characters (most of them), I thought Williams best characterization was done with the side characters, who were revealed in efficient fashion with vivid moments of dialogue or gesture, as compared to the main characters where sometimes I wished I were told less of their thoughts or changes and could have been allowed to simply witness them.

Finally, one of my favorite aspects of Williams, here and elsewhere in his writing, is how his view of the Faerie world is so much more diverse than most other fantasy authors. Where all too many give us the usual tall, lithe, and fair (not to mention good with a bow and with animals) stock type, and occasionally someone will give us two or three variants on that (their "dark" cousins), with the Shadow series they vary in size--some giant, some small enough to fit in your hand, color, shape, limbs, even substance and form as some seem mere flames in their armor. Even better, they vary in their politics and personality: rather than the usual monolithic portrayal, we see them fighting among themselves, mistrusting each other; and instead of the typical "aloof elf" presentation, we get funny Qar, nostalgic Qar, and bad-tempered Qar. In other words, we get an author willing to mirror the human range. It's an incredible palette of creativity and my only complaint is we didn't spend more time with them.

The Shadow series isn't without its problems. The first book starts off slowly, there are pacing issues throughout, the entire series probably could lose 300-400 pages, some of the actions and characters are a bit familiar, but the prose is always sharp; the characters grow, the plot picks up, emotions ride deeper, the worldbuilding is vivid, and by the end, you've been more than fairly rewarded for the time put into reading the entire series. Well-recommended.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shadowclimax Nov. 30 2010
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I really wish there were more authors like Tad Williams. He has spent three very long books slowly building up a fantasy epic to its climax, and at last the many different forces around Shadowmarch are about to clash. "Shadowheart" takes a LONG time to work its way to the climax, but it's still a brilliant, wrenching finale.

Picking up where the last book left off: Briony and Prince Eneas are leading a ragtag army to the castle, and the exiled Barrick is struggling with the effects of the Fireflower in a Qar citadel. And no sooner has Barrick recovered than he and the Qar queen Saqri set out on a journey into the gateways of the gods and the worlds of dreams, so that they can make their way to Shadowmarch.

Unfortunately, the Autarch Sulepis and the treacherous Tolly have virtually seized control of Shadowmarch Castle, and are planning to (separately) awaken gods for their own power. Allies and family are killed, treachery is unveiled, and the most terrifying enemy imaginable is about to attack all of them...

Like his Otherland and Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, the Shadowmarch series expanded into a quadrilogy when the third book got too huge to actually be printed. Fortunately, this doesn't really throw off the balance of the book, since it merely feels like the last chunk of a vast, epic story.

And Williams' writing is sublime -- he twines together a dozen-plus plot threads into a shimmering, atmospheric tapestry. His prose is lush and almost dreamlike, and full of vibrant descriptions ("vines that bore nodding black flowers and leaves as purple as a bruise"). Actually, this book has some of the best writing I've ever seen from Williams -- the scenes where Barrick drifts through the misty fields of the dreaming dead are just exquisite.

But on the downside, the beginning is a little draggy (especially since it takes forever for Briony to actually do anything). And at the end, Williams is a little hasty in wrapping up some of the plot threads, like the ones about Anissa or Flint.

Williams further develops his massive cast -- a strong-willed princess, her tormented brother, a strange little boy, doughty Funderlings, ethereal Qar royals, and a runaway concubine -- and gives them all distinctive personalities. What's more, some of them evolve in very unexpected ways, but they all are stronger and better for the experience. Some of the conclusions are kind of unsatisfying (Quinnitan), but most of them are quite nice (Briony, Barrick).

It's kind of slow at times, but "Shadowheart" is a satisfying grand finale to Tad Williams' richly-imagined fantasy series. Compelling, powerful and beautifully-written.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Personification of Epic fantasy Dec 12 2010
By Kindle Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With this final installment in his latest series Tad Williams has vaulted into the ultimate echelon of epic fantasy authors. Fantasy series have become a 'dime a dozen,' largely uninspired and oftentimes banal and trite. This series is anything but average. While Mr. Williams has a style all his own, the way he weaves the plot, distills his characters, and makes an entire universe come to life, is reminiscent of other contemporary gifted fantasy writers like Donaldson or Hobb. But where his talent stands out is in his remarkable ability to make you feel as if you are standing there with his characters, immersed in their lives, sharing their struggles. They are real people, flesh and blood--and their conversations and thought processes are commensurate with the life they are leading. His story arc is tremendous; the characters in the story are fantastic.

The danger with finishing an epic series like this is that it is tempting to go back over it in order to nit-pick and be hypercritical about specific plot twists and character flaws, biasing one's critique toward the balance of personal wishes. When it was all said and done I wished Barrick more immediate happiness, better resolution or explanation regarding Flint, and improved development surrounding Anissa and her specious dealings. But those are biased, personal complaints and should not for a moment hinder a prospective reader from delving into this saga. Had those threads been changed it would have likely made for a less impressive or ultimately satisfying read. That is why Tad Williams is the author he is. Shadowheart, and the Shadowmarch series, is on the whole a five star experience. I can only hope he has one more left in him....
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I adore Tad and was very excited for this, but I didn't love it. Feb. 18 2011
By Catapillargirl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Character development and attachment in Tad's novels are great and it was no different with this one. Overall, this fourth book was harder for me to get through than the previous 3 and different, more specifically targeted as opposed to varying storylines. I feel like the direction was harnessed during this finish and a lot had to be accomplished and reigned in (a lot of storylines, subplots, characters).

Also I found some names being brought up in this book that I hardly remembered. It was a shame, I name names and cause spoilers, but I found this bringing back of characters unnecessary. I don't even remember who they were at this point! Also, too much talk of the fireflower and gods. Some of it was a little much for me and I am a TRUE Tad fan.

I'm happy with the way the book finished and I do not regret investing in this trilogy turned series, however, it wasn't exactly what I had hoped for with Tad. Something about it felt rushed and forced this was reinforced by the typos. Too much pressure to tie it all together neatly I guess. The first 3 books had much more variety and this 4th was very focused. Something just didn't sit with me quite right about it. I will still look forward to Tad's next work!

I adored Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn and War of the Flowers. I would like to see another series like it. Shadowheart felt very young adult and G rated. I almost want more gore and less innuendos involving sex.
Couldn't quite get through the Otherland series.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shadow March (and march, and march) Dec 28 2010
By Annandale - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Though as a whole the four books were pretty good, I agree wholeheartedly with the other reviewers who noted that probably hundreds of pages could have been cut from this four (!) volume series, and kept it to the originally-planned trilogy. I had to slog through the final volume as every plot strand was dragged together, including the identity of the mystery man. SPOILER: why in the world drag Gailon back into the book? I could barely remember who he was!
In any case, it seems Tad Williams has developed the verbosity of some other writers, which is rather painful. Of course, it wasn't as painful as the Otherworld books (yipes!) -- I like TW but he, like some famous others, really needs a good editor and a publishing house able to enforce limits. He will benefit from it, tho' perhaps some pocketbooks will suffer slightly.
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