REVIEW: Shadowplay by Tad Williams
Reviewed by Andrew Williams
Thankfully, Tad Williams abandoned his increasingly tedious multivolume venture into cyberpunk, and returned to what he does best – fantasy. Shadowplay is the second volume in a new trilogy, so read the first, Shadowmarch, before attempting this, as they don’t stand alone well.
The Shadowmarch series covers a similar overall theme to his wonderful Memory, Sorrow and Thorn – short lived humans occupying a land once owned by faery races. For the humans, the war against the faery is a distant memory, but for the long-lived faery, the butchery and near genocide leaves festering hatred that erupts into war over the course of this series. It evokes parallels in our world in places like Kosovo and the Middle East, where ancient atrocities that most of us have forgotten still cause conflict. Is revenge for an act committed centuries ago justifiable today, against the perpetrators’ great grandchildren?
In addition to the human/faery conflict, there’s a complex cast of characters, with reams of politics, romance, and treachery, to keep you turning pages late into the night. Tad Williams is also very good at making the alien really VERY alien. The faery aren’t humans in funny bodies, they are genuinely mysterious – some facets are familiar, others baffling. I just wish he’d write faster – Shadowplay took three years to arrive, so I had to re-read Shadowmarch to refresh my memory. I’m looking forward to reading them both again when book three turns up.