Shadowplay is the second book in Tad Williams‘ massive epic fantasy series, Shadowmarch. The plot was just starting to get really interesting when the first book ended, so I was eager to start Shadowplay. Things have gone awry in the March Kingdoms. Book two starts in chaos and things only go downhill from there. I’m not normally a reader of classic epic fantasy, since I often find things like family lineage, court politics and over-dramatic heroic battles boring. This series has all of this, but this time it seems to work for me. I’m being entertained despite the fact that this is territory I’ve visited many times before.
The story picks up right where Shadowmarch left off. You would think the second book in such a massive series would suffer a bit form middle book syndrome, but Shadowplay does not lull in the least. The point of view switches between several characters as they each deal with the changing world around them, so this keeps the story fresh without getting confusing.
There is a simple purity to Tad William’s writing that’s difficult to put my finger on, but the characters are what really make Shadowplay great. Princess Briony is continually challenged to adapt to new situations. The annoying independent streak she displayed as a noble child is the only thing keeping her alive as she fumbles through the places she now finds herself in. Then there is her twin brother Barak, who is not as likable. In fact, Barak is probably the least likable character in the entire story. The fact that his storyline pairs him with two other very strong characters is the only thing that keeps me from losing interest in him entirely. There are many other characters we follow as well, and all of them have their own enjoyable qualities that add to the overall narrative.
I have often been told that Tad Williams is an amazing writer, and it was that reputation alone that got me started on this series. I’m certainly glad I gave it a chance. I listened to this on audiobook by Brilliance Audio. It was narrated by Dick Hill, who does a wonderful job. Every character has a unique voice (that is very difficult to do when you have so many characters). Mr. Hill makes it a fun and exciting listen. I will be sure to keep my eye out for more books read by Hill.