Shadowheart by Tad Williams (Shadowmarch Quartet: Book 4)

Shadowheart is the concluding book of Tad Williams's Shadowmarch Quartet and I can happily say that I it was a wonderful and fulfilling journey from the beginning of the first book all the way up until the completion of this fourth and final instalment. We finally see all the plot lines come beautifully together and also find out just how big a part people’s motivations played in the unfolding story.

Barrick Eddon, prince of Southmarch, is no longer entirely human. He has vowed to safeguard the legacy of the dark Qar race, and must now decide where his loyalties lie. His twin sister Briony has a difficult choice of her own. Her father, King Olin, is held captive by the Autarch, a mad god-king who plans to use Olin’s blood to gain unlimited power. And the castle of Southmarch still remains in the possession of Hendon Tolly, Briony’s murderous relative. As time runs out, will Briony decide to save her father's kingdom… or her father? As the foretold Great Defeat draws near, history is stripped of its costume of lies. Poets and players, mortals and fairies, warriors and gods, all will have their roles to play as the fate of the known world hangs in the balance.

Thanks to the previous three books in the Shadowmarch Quartet (Shadowmarch, Shadowplay and Shadowrise) we know that everyone from Briony and Barrick Eddon to Sulepis the Autarch of Xis are - or soon will be - heading towards Southmarch, the castle that has a much larger history than any of its human hosts are aware of. The Qar are already there, fighting the Funderlings, led by the returned Ferras Vansen, in an attempt to keep Southmarch safe from the invaders. In Shadowheart we get to read about new allies coming together, old pacts being re-invoked, and old hatreds, if not forgiven, then at least being set aside.

Shadowheart is a rich, rewarding book and it was great to see the characters still growing and evolving as they adapt to their new situations, and as they come to greater understanding as bits of the puzzle are slowly revealed. As the book progresses towards the end game it becomes a real page turner. This is due to the author cleverly leaving you never clear as to who will survive, who will triumph and who may be killed along the way. Where it could have been predictable it managed to surprise.

The Shadowmarch Quartet, from Shadowmarch through to Shadowheart, is a must read fantasy series and although I would love to mention more about what happens in it I would only ruin your own enjoyment of it… I cannot recommend these books highly enough.

10/10 The Shadowmarch Quartet, from Shadowmarch through to Shadowheart, is a must read fantasy series.

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