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Shadowmarch US Cover Front.jpg
US Hardcover Edition
Author Tad Williams
Cover artist Michael Whelan
Country United States
Language English
Series Shadowmarch trilogy
Genre Fantasy novel
Publisher DAW Books
Publication date
November 2, 2004 (full)
Media type Online (E-Book (partial) & Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 672 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN 0-7564-0219-0 (first edition, hardback)
OCLC 56781061
813/.54 22
LC Class PS3573.I45563 S53 2004
Followed by Shadowplay

Shadowmarch is the first novel in the Shadowmarch tetralogy, by Tad Williams. It was released in hardcover on November 2, 2004, and in trade paperback on November 1, 2005. A paperback edition was released in September, 2006. The second book in the series, Shadowplay was published on March 6, 2007 in hardcover and on March 4, 2008 in paperback in both the USA and the UK. The third book in the series, Shadowrise, was released in hardcover on March 2, 2010. The last book in the series, Shadowheart, was published in hardcover on November 1, 2010.

Before the Book[edit]

Shadowmarch has had a long history before appearing in print. Originally, Tad Williams conceived Shadowmarch as an idea for a fantasy movie and later a fantasy TV series, which might have been described as "Hill Street Blues meets Babylon 5 meets Lord of the Rings".[1] When both of these options fell through, Shadowmarch was reborn as an online serial. Released between June 2001 and August 2002 in bi-weekly episodes, it was an ambitious exploration of what online publishing done right might mean. Despite a vibrant (and at present still thriving) community gathering around this project, a lack of subscribers willing to pay the one-time $14.99 fee necessary to read chapters beyond the five initial free ones meant that after the first year, the online project halted, with the completed first novel (and subsequent volumes) returning to orthodox publishing.[2] The book contains additional chapters not found in the original online version, while the rest of the original material was substantially revised and edited for book publication (notably being rewritten completely to past tense, since the online project used present tense to "give it a sense of immediacy").

The Shadowmarch Saga[edit]

  • Shadowmarch, November 2004.
  • Shadowplay, March 2007.
  • Shadowrise, March 2010.
  • Shadowheart, November 2010.

Initially Williams set out to write a trilogy, but work on the final installment became so complex that he and his publishers decided to split the third installment into two novels, both released in 2010.

Plot summary for the Complete Saga[edit]

The series takes place principally in the castle and province of Southmarch. Prominent sub-plots cover connected events to the south and north of Southmarch, respectively in the land of Xis and the Qar (faerie) lands beyond the impassable Shadowline. The action centres on the troubled Eddon family, the rulers of Southmarch, the nearest human province to the Shadowline and formerly territory held by the Qar prior to the expulsion by expanding humans.

The novel begins with the King, Olin Eddon, imprisoned in a foreign land. His eldest son Kendrick is struggling to rule in his place, while his younger twins, Barrick and Briony, struggle with their adolescent emotions. The male twin, Barrick, in particular is troubled by depression and nightmares, incited by his private knowledge of a mysterious family curse. When Kendrick is assassinated, Briony shoulders the burden of ruling in her father's absence, while Barrick slips further into maudlin self-obsession.

An army of Qar cross the Shadowline to invade Southmarch, and in the climactic battle of the first book Barrick is lost in the land of the Qar. Briony's throne is usurped by her cousin, and she narrowly escapes death. While Barrick travels in the shadowlands, Briony travels around her own lands incognito, seeking allies.

Incidents both in the text and in chapter headings of the second book elucidate that the three main religions - of the Qar; the northern humans; and the Xixian humans - are based on the same violent feud within a pantheon of Gods. The three contemporary religions, though seemingly unrelated, each stems from a different perspective on the Godswar, which ended in the victory of three brothers.

The Godswar began when one of the gods married a goddess of the competing faction prompting her father and brothers to go to war to reclaim her. It is suggested in the course of the second novel that in fact she eloped, and her father, disapproving of her choice, fought to abduct her from her beloved. Long after the end of the gods war, a child of the losing faction staged an attack on those who won, sending them to sleep; this allowed the rise of mortal civilizations.

As Barrick travels in the lands of Qar he uncovers more of their beliefs, including that they hold both knowledge and power descended directly from their patron god, via a supernatural gift called the Fireflower.

Qar culture is revealed to center around a ruling family who are descended from one of the gods and who pass the Fireflower down through their generations. This family practices incestuous marriage, with each generation producing exactly one male and one female child. In order to preserve the Fireflower, which sustains the Qar, each generation of this family must present itself on reaching adulthood to the last remnant of a god still in the world, trapped, barely alive, in a cave deep below Southmarch Castle.

Barrick learns that unbeknownst to the Eddons of the era of the novels this arrangement was discreetly tolerated by the funderlings below until one of the Eddon ancestors met and desired the Qar Princess on her pilgrimage. They wound up married under disputed circumstances. She is remembered by the humans as a Queen of Southmarch, but her Qar ancestry is forgotten.

She was, therefore, unable to marry and procreate with her brother. This broke the chain connecting the Qar to the slumbering god, and began a long period of decline for them. Their siege of Southmarch is intended to regain control of the castle and the slumbering god beneath, in the hope of restoring their race and reversing the long decline.

On the southern continent, the powerful but insane Autarch of Xis also desires the power of the gods beneath Southmarch castle, whose existence he has deduced from ancient texts. In order to access that power he requires someone descended from a god and therefore has procured the imprisonment of King Olin Eddon. He is revealed to be behind much of the turmoil in Southmarch.

At the climax of the series, in the third and fourth novels, several factions compete for possession of Southmarch castle, and the deep caves beneath. The Autarch, who has launched a rapid marine invasion of the province; the Qar, who have tired of their siege and attempted to storm the castle; the usurper, holding the castle with the his own designs on the slumbering god; and two forces loyal to the Eddons, one a large army recruited by Briony advancing on the castle to raise the siege, another comprising mainly dwarf-like Funderlings holding their native higher level caves beneath the castle, initially unaware of what sleeps beneath.

An eventual alliance between the Qar and the Eddon loyalists drives out the usurper but fails to prevent the Autarch from gaining access to the cave of the slumbering gods. One of the gods is woken, but easily transcends the Autarch's control. The alliance of loyalists and Qar eventually succeeds in defeating the god.

Briony Eddon is restored to her throne. Her brother Barrick, who like all Eddons is descended from the Qar royal line and had accepted the Fireflower into himself during his time with the Qar hopes that he can restore the line his ancestor broke and allow the Qar to survive.

Characters in "Shadowmarch"[edit]

Primary Characters[edit]

  • Barrick Eddon - the prince of Southmarch; Briony's twin brother; one of the main protagonists
  • Briony Eddon - the princess of Southmarch; Barrick's twin sister; one of the main protagonists
  • King Olin Eddon - King of Southmarch & father of Barrick and Briony Eddon. Kidnapped and held for ransom.
  • Chaven - the physician of the royal family
  • Chert Blue-Quartz - a Funderling
  • Ferras Vansen - captain of the Royal Guard.
  • Flint - a mysterious child from beyond the Shadowline, Chert Blue-Quartz's ward.
  • Hendon Tolly - brother of Gailon and cousin to the Eddon twins
  • Qinnitan - An acolyte of the Hive in Xis
  • Avin Brone - lord constable of Southmarch, unofficial advisor of the Eddon twins
  • Matthias "Matty" Tinwright, a court poet to Briony Eddon
  • Shaso dan-Heza - the master of arms of Castle Southmarch.
  • Sulepis Bishakh am-Xis III - monarch of the powerful Xandian nation of Xis. Revered as a living god.
  • Yasammez - Qar noblewoman. Also known as the "Scourge of the Shivering Plain", or "Lady Porcupine" & General of the Qar armies.

Secondary Characters[edit]

  • Kendrick Eddon - the prince regent of Southmarch
  • Gailon Tolly - the duke of Summerfield, brother of Hendon and cousin to the Eddon twins.
  • Jeddin "Jin" - captain of the Autarch's Leopard Guard.
  • Prusus - Scotarch of Xis, chosen heir of Autarch Sulepis
  • Puzzle - ancient court jester to the Eddons
  • Queen Upsteeplebat - Rooftopper monarch

Races and Peoples[edit]

  • Funderlings, a little people, similar to dwarves, who are skilled in stonecraft; also known as 'Delvers'
  • Rooftoppers, tiny beings who dwell on the roofs of Southmarch castle and are known only to a few
  • Skimmers, fishlike people who live mostly in seclusion from the rest of Southmarch Castle
  • Qar, an ancient race of non-humans who were once the inhabitants of much of the known world
  • Tuani, the dark-skinned human natives of Tuan
  • Xis, the people of the southern continent, led by an expansionist ruler


The series in notable for its feminist themes.

Princess, later Queen, Briony struggles to reconcile the social expectations of her as a woman with the demands of ruling Southmarch. She initially attempts to renounce some of the trappings of historical femininity, by dressing in men's clothing, but later reconciles herself to aspects of her court's expectations without entirely accepting them.

She is shown to be significantly more grounded and responsible than her brother Barrick.

She initially resents the prospect of being married for political convenience, and later considers a political marriage of her own volition. Eventually she accepts some political limitations on her relationship with the man she loves.

The Godswar is initially presented as having started when a god abducted a goddess, prompting her family to go to war to rescue her. This is later revealed to be a victor's myth, to cover up the reality that the goddess eloped and her family fought to deny her that choice.

This is later inverted when it revealed that rather than the human king abducting and raping the Qar queen, and thus condemning her people to slow decline, she chose to elope with him.

Both events revolve around the revelation that a woman chose, rather than being forced to take, their lover. Each choice had significant consequences for the wider world.

Sneak Previews[edit]

Prior to the publication of the book in November 2004, Tad Williams' US publishers Daw Books released three Sneak Previews of Shadowmarch that contained teaser chapters for the upcoming book. These Sneak Previews were distributed for free and were designed to attract potential readers. They prominently featured artwork by Michael Whelan that was originally created for Shadowmarch, but later discarded.

Foreign Editions[edit]

  • Shadowmarch: An Epic Fantasy. Orbit Hardcover (ISBN 1-84149-288-4, 656 pages). November 2004.
  • Shadowmarch: Die Grenze. Klett-Cotta Hardcover (ISBN 3-608-93717-X, 814 pages). July 2005. Translated into German by Cornelia Holfelder-von der Tann.
  • De Schaduwgrens. Luitingh Fantasy Paperback (ISBN 90-245-5603-1, 799 pages). April 2006. Translated into Dutch by Erica Feberwee.
  • Marchia Cienia. Rebis (ISBN 83-7301-770-4, 723 pages). May 2006. Translated into Polish by Pawel Kruk.
  • Slottet i Sydmark: Skuggmark 1. B. Wahlströms (ISBN 978-91-32-33289-0, 327 pages). October 2006. Translated into Swedish by Ylva Spångberg.
  • Varjojen marssi 1: Lauluja kuusta ja tähdistä. Karisto Oy (ISBN 951-23-4782-2, about 420 pages) August 2006. Translated into Finnish by Auli Hurme-Keränen. Varjojen marssi 2: Pimeä kaupunki. Karisto Oy (ISBN 951-23-4783-0, about 420 pages). September 2006. Translated into Finnish by Auli Hurme-Keränen.
  • Stínové pomezí. Laser-books (ISBN 80-7193-216-7, 754 pages). November 2006. Translated into Czech by Petr Kotrle.
  • Les Royaumes des Marches 1 : Chateau d'Ombre t1. Calmann Levy (ISBN 978-2-7021-3792-5, about 350 pages) March 2007. Translated into French by Jean-Pierre Pugi.
  • Les Royaumes des Marches 1 : Chateau d'Ombre t2. Calmann Levy (ISBN 978-2-7021-3803-8, about 350 pages) March 2007. Translated into French by Jean-Pierre Pugi.
  • Sjenovita međa, I. dio. Algoritam (ISBN 978-953-220-548-0, 664 pages). August 2008. Translated into Croatian by Tajana Pavičević.
  • Tündérvidék: A qarok háborúja. Alexandra Hardcover (ISBN 978-963-370-174-4, 686 pages). 2007. Translated into Hungarian by Császár László.


Awards and honors[edit]

[1] Nominated in 2006 for the Phantastik Preis Award (Germany), in the category of Foreign Novel.


  1. ^ Earthbound Entertainment: Shadowmarch Project Page
  2. ^ Slashdot: Results of Another Web Publishing Experiment

External links[edit]