Shadowplay by Tad Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One shouldn't go into a Tad Williams epic fantasy romp expecting nonstop action or grimdark developments or a cookie-cutter plot. Indeed, if you decide to dive into his works, you can expect a very awesome and deeply fleshed-out worldbuilding with enough history to choke a horse.
This isn't a bad thing. Indeed, I'm rather floored by how much love and care has been put into every single detail herein. From the plays and the poetry to the deep past, the corruptions of history, the way the remembrances of the gods fail to match up to their appearances in the novel, or the amazing depth and complexity each of the regular characters, be they human or fae, exhibit.
Indeed, aside from a failed expedition, plenty of warcraft between the shadow peoples and the humans who have apparently been squatting on the land out of antiquity, of a few certain characters' captures and settlement behind enemy lines, and gender-bending playacting, this novel could be described as a deep history lesson. I'm learning so much of this place! :) As a wonderful whole-cloth piece, I've rarely been treated to so much rich unique mythology, art, and exploration of such different peoples.
I include the shadow races here. Most of the novel takes place away from the human lands and in deep shadow.
I should mention that the shadow is a real thing, an actual line of demarcation, and monsters and fae live on the far side. In this novel, we're treated to a deep look into them and the gods of this world. Some of those gods are still alive and some of their ancient artifacts are still rather functional. Don't mistake this aspect as some kind of knock-off to a thousand other fantasy novels, however. The world-building is very rich and I can't find cause to complain.
However, I should mention that these books DO require a modicum of patience. The things that are most praiseworthy can sometimes be a chore to break through. :)
All in all, this is rather rewarding, if long. :) Of course, that's sometimes a decent selling point, too. :)
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