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Shadowplay (2007)

Shadowplay (2007)

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3.86 of 5 Votes: 3
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0756403588 (ISBN13: 9780756403584)
daw hardcover

About book Shadowplay (2007)

Tad Williams’ Shadowmarch trilogy is a guilty pleasure of mine.The trouble with plain-vanilla high fantasy is that it’s been done so much that none of the new stuff is particularly original anymore, and Shadowmarch is no exception. You’ve got your castle, you’ve got your conniving nobles, you’ve got your twin royals sent into exile, and the army of fairies that would like to take over said castle. Add to that a good sprinkling of battle scenes, women wearing trousers (shocking!) and a black guy who comes from Very Far Away and everybody thinks he’s incredibly exotic. Heck, the book’s even got dwarves. He calls them Funderlings but I know what you’re getting at, Mr. Williams.On top of that, it’s got a sprawling Los Angeles of a plot. If you were planning on reading Shadowmarch and Shadowplay, I hope you weren’t in too much of a hurry because Tad Williams is going to bloody well take as long as he pleases to get where he’s going. The first two books of the expected trilogy, which are really one story split into two volumes to make them possible to lift, are at 1000 pages and counting. He has … let’s see, now … at least twelve POV characters. This is the sort of book that comes supplied with an index at the end.Conditions like this typically make me want to throw the book across the room. So why can’t I stop reading?It’s the characters. To tell the truth, Tad Williams is a talented storyteller. About halfway through the first volume I’d had just about enough of Prince Barrick whining about some family curse and I was on the point of throwing the book across the room. But– but– what was going to happen to Chert Blue Quartz? He isn’t some high-strung noble at all, but this, er, dwarf who’s just trying to do his job as a repairman to the vaults under the city. It’s obvious his wife Opal is the light of his life, he’s worried about this human kid he’s semi-adopted, and he’d really rather not get caught up in all the castle’s machinations and probably killed. Was Chert going to be okay?Williams has such a knack for warm, human, likable characters that you want to forgive him everything. Yes, even the saucy barmaid. And the buffoonish poet. And the princess who’s pretending to be a boy. Even though they sound like stereotypes, they come across as real people.And did I mention that Gyir is awesome? He’s a fairy. And if you confuse him with the sugar-dust-and-tutu type of fairy it’ll probably be the last thing you do. He’s a badass sword-wielding human-sized dude, one of the Fey Folk, from out of those old folktales where people called fairies the “good people” because they were so terrified of offending them. He doesn’t have any nose or mouth, so he breathes out of slits just behind his ears.The second volume, Shadowplay, has so much more to offer than the first. The Shadowmarch trilogy is the opposite of those trilogies that sag in the middle; now that Williams has finished introducing us to everybody, which took him 500 pages or so, interesting things are starting to happen. There is something to be said for letting things unfold organically like this. The people in this world start to feel like old friends of yours. The last scene had me pumping the air when a certain highly sympathetic Vuttlander does not get killed off by the plot yet*. The final irony is that nobody knows when the third book in the trilogy, Shadowrise, is going to be published.Is everybody going to be okay?* I would bet money that Captain Vansen is going to bite it. It’s like he’s walking around with a bull’s-eye taped to his armor.

This is the second book in Tad Williams's Shadowmarch trilogy, and picks up where Shadowmarch left off. As the second book in a trilogy, it has neither a beginning nor an end, but it does have lots of surprises and twists. The characters go through many changes, as does their world. The fantasy element mixes a very alien, almost Lovecraftian, fey and an epic story of a huge pantheon with many and varied gods. I think it's safe to say if you enjoyed the first book, you will want to read this as well. I can't wait for Shadowrise, the third and final book of the trilogy. Tad Williams has created an epic backstory (in the form of an epic poem) of a long-ago war of the gods, then created a medieval world still reeling from the repercussions of that half remembered event.This book follow the points of view started in the first volume: the severed twins Prince Barrick lost in the Shadowlands and Princess Briony on the run from usurpers; Chert, the Funderling with the adopted human "son," who was raised in Twilight; Ferras the guard captain who follows Barrick into Shadow; Matty the poet, living in the twins castle now run by the usurpers; Pelaya, a young noble girl in a besieged city who befriends Barrick and Briony's captive father; Qinnitan, ex harem girl on the run from a mad god-king; Sister Utta, Briony's old tutor, left in a castle surrounded by a fey army, Vash, the "paramount minister" to the mad god-king, and Vo, a psychopath sent by a mad god-king to retrieve Qinnitan.Vo is a new point of view character, the rest continue from the previous book. Each scene is told from one of these characters points of view, and the reader is brought in very close, getting the feelings and thoughts of each. Some get more attention than others, but all are drawn together as events bring them into each others orbit. By the end of the book, threads that had no relation to each other in the first book have become tightly interwoven.This trilogy is often compared to George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. Both are fantasy retellings of England's War of the Roses with scary magical threats from the north and south (African for Williams, Mongolian for Martin). Both of lots of point of view characters and plenty of high stakes drama. Williams spends more time with alien magic on stage, with Barrick and Ferras in his Lovecraftian-Fey north, while Martin is still (so far) keeping most of it off stage. Williams doesn't kill off his point of view characters so frequently as Martin does. Unlike Martin, Williams doesn't restrict each chapter to a single point of view. I think most readers of one would be interested in the other. I know I'm hooked on both.

Do You like book Shadowplay (2007)?

Excellent followup to Shadowmarch! I really miss having fantasy elements and adventure in epic fantasy novels these days. So many are political intrigue novels that, while they are enjoyable as well, don't quite live up to my favourite because they simply don't have enough magical elements. My favourites are still the stories that take me to strange new lands, with magical (scary, cute or otherwise) creatures, where characters learn about themselves on a quest-like adventure. The trend these days is for novels in the vein of A Song of Ice and Fire and while I think they are excellently written novels, I do miss the more 'typical' elements of fantasy that are a bit more obscure in those novels. I am glad to say that Tad Williams manages to mix both political intrigue, quest-like adventure and magic in this series to excellent effect. The 'typical' fantasy elements are there, but don't feel cliched, but rather quite inventive. I feel that this second part in the 4 part Shadowmarch series was even better than its predecessor, widening the world, the mystery and the magic involved and as always creating characters that I just can't help but care about. Looking forward to the concluding 2 novels for sure!

Shadowplay by Tad WilliamsThe book chronicles the clash between Fae and Mortal as well as the machinations of a China like empire. As I mentioned after the first book in the series, Shadowmarch, this book has a bit of the flavor of the last Williams book I read, The War of the Flowers. The story continues where Shadowmarch left off. Repeating myself from the Shadowmarch review, the complexity of Williams world crafting is just amazing. He provides detail and then he provides details on the detail. I revel in his carefully crafted characters and environment. Williams writes with a gourmand attitude on his characters. There is a wealth of personalities and foibles. His characters are alive and become more real page by page. They have flaws and faults and demonstrate both laudable and despicable behavior.The sibling relationship between Barrick and Briony is nearly severed by circumstances beyond their control. Each of them is now developed as more of a stand alone character rather than a matched pair. Chert and family are back and in the center of the Shadowmarch conflict. Barrick’s quest pairs him with Ferras and Stormlantern, one of their enemies. There are almost too many wonderful characterizations even the crow has surprising aspects. Again this book is definitely a banquet not a lunch. The settings are painted with a clarity that makes you shiver in the unnatural Fae fog. This is the 2nd book in the Shadowmarch series and I will look forward to reading the rest. I highly recommend the book and the series.
—William Bentrim

I liked the first book in this series because each chapter ended with a cliffhanger. That kept me going through the abundance of detail and lack of plot progression. The chapters in this book were short just like the first book, but they ended on a bland note instead of an exciting one. After too many pages of characters walking, characters walking, characters talking, characters walking some more, and, surprise, more walking, I couldn't take it any more. It's unfortunate because I really liked the world presented here and I was curious about how things would turn out. I just can't sit through a few thousand more pages of little to no plot progression. This series definitely had potential, and if it was written with a little more oomph and a lot less walking I would have continued reading the series. I do appreciate that the author chose to create characters that weren't perfect, and were at times even irritating, but the characters alone couldn't carry this.

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