Shadowheart (Shadowmarch Series #4)

Shadowheart (Shadowmarch Series #4)

by Tad Williams

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"When it comes to inventing new worlds, he's as skilled as J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert." -Christopher Paolini, bestselling author of Eragon.

Southmarch Castle is about to be caught between two implacable enemies, the ancient, immortal Qar and the insane god-king, the Autarch of Xis. Meanwhile, its two young defenders, Princess Briony and Prince Barrick, are both trapped far away from home and fighting for their lives.

And now, something is awakening underneath Southmarch Castle, something powerful and terrible that the world has not seen for thousands of years. Can Barrick and Briony, along with a tiny handful of allies, ordinary and extraordinary, find a way to save their world and prevent the rise of a terrible new age-an age of unending darkness?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101475089
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: 11/30/2010
Series: Shadowmarch Series , #4
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 880
Sales rank: 128,431
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Tad Williams has held more jobs than any sane person should admit to—singing in a band, selling shoes, managing a financial institution, throwing newspapers, and designing military manuals, to name just a few. He also hosted a syndicated radio show for ten years, worked in theater and television production, taught both grade-school and college classes, and worked in multimedia for a major computer firm. He is cofounder of an interactive television company, and is currently writing comic books and film and television scripts as well. Tad and his family live in London and the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find Tad Williams at 

Read an Excerpt

Something hammered Ferras Vansen hard in the back and knocked him forward so that he spilled Jasper and several of the warders like skittles. Vansen lost his spear and was feeling for it when something grabbed his collar and wrenched him another few paces across the stony cavern floor.

“What . . . ?” He struggled to his knees, but before he could turn to see what had grabbed him, a nightmare shape lurched out of a dark place along the wall, a glowing obscenity that Vansen could not even under¬stand, twice as big as a cart horse and with more legs than anything that large should have.

“Perin’s Hammer!” he shouted in sudden fright, shoving himself up¬right and stumbling backward from the huge creature so quickly that he lost his balance and fell down again. All around him the Funderlings were also retreating, howling in dismay and amazement.

It was a monstrous spider or insect, something Vansen could not rec¬ognize and would not be able to see at all except for its own green-blue glow. It lumbered toward them with frightening speed, its armored body making a noise like the creaking of bellows-leather; when he saw it whole, he wished he hadn’t. The indistinct outline had not only spiderish legs but claws like a crab’s and some kind of huge tail swaying above its broad back.

“Have you fire?” a voice said from behind him. “They fear it a little. I chased one away with a torch, but that has long burned away.”

Vansen put a large, round stone between himself and the creature, then took a swift glance backward. The light from his coral lamp fell onto a strange, long-jawed, bearded face—the Qar scout, Spelter. “No fire,” Vansen said. “Where is the rest of your company?”

“Dead or lost.” Spelter spoke the language surprisingly well—one of the reasons he’d been chosen to travel with the Funderlings, no doubt. “We were separated hours ago when the first of these things came out of a tunnel and took the leader and two of the others. Crushed them with its claws. The rest scattered. I tried to get back to Ancestor’s Place, to our temple-camp, but found this thing between me and the way back.”

“That was you who grabbed me, then?”

“Yes. I heard your voices coming. I did not know exactly where it was waiting, and I was afraid to call because it hunted me, too.”

The creaking, whistling monster abruptly tried to clamber up onto the boulder that shielded Vansen and the drow; the monster’s scent, musty and slightly fishy, filled Vansen’s nostrils. Its huge claws clacked above their heads as he and Spelter scrambled backward. Vansen thought for a moment that they might be able to make a run for the passage that had led them to the chamber, but the creature backed down off the rock and began making its slow way around the wide boulder again, searching almost blindly. Then it lurched forward again, astonishingly fast, this time scraping around the side of the rock where Vansen couldn’t see it; an instant later it scuttled back with a screeching Funderling warder in its claw. The little man struggled helplessly, and although his comrades stabbed at the monster with their heavy spears, the blows could not pen¬etrate the thing’s armor. The Funderling was pulled into the dark region at the front of the head. Vansen heard a hideous crunching noise, and the screaming abruptly stopped.

Sledge Jasper had managed to climb up on top of the boulder, where he was stabbing almost dementedly at the creature. It spread its claws and lifted its front section onto the rock, then the long, lumpy tail quivered as if in preparation for a strike. Vansen jumped up and caught at Jasper’s clothing, yanking backward so that the Funderling fell on top of him only inches ahead of a swipe from the deadly tail. Vansen could smell the venom, a sour, hard smell like hot metal. Some of it spattered onto Sledge Jasper, who screamed and began writhing on the floor as if he’d been burned. The Qar, Spelter, leaped to help him.

Vansen stood. “We can’t let it keep us pinned down!” he shouted to the others. “Get out into the center of the cave!”

He led the warders to a spot in the middle of a small forest of stone spikes. He grabbed at one with his hand and was able to break off the very tip, but decided that the spikes were thick enough to give some protec¬tion. He turned back to help Spelter drag Jasper into the center of the open space he’d chosen, then quickly set the terrified Funderlings into a tight-packed arrangement, spears pointing outward like the spines of a hedgehog.

The monstrous, green-glowing thing came stilting toward them again but could not immediately pass between the stone spikes. It stopped short a few paces away from Vansen’s side. He leaped out and stabbed hard at the place he thought the thing should have eyes, but his gurodir only skimmed off hard plate. The tail lashed at him. He danced back out of its reach and his coral lamp fell off his head. Strangely, the monster’s glow dimmed, as though some inner light had guttered and almost failed. Van¬sen snatched up the headband and jumped back into the forest of stones, putting his back against the nearest Funderlings as he pulled his lamp into place. The creature was glowing brightly again. It was too big, too strong, too well armored. Vansen could see no way to defeat it.

But what else could they do except fight? From what Spelter had said, this many-legged beast was not the only one of its kind, and even if they could hold it off, that would only bring more unsuspecting Funderlings out in search of them, no better armed against such a horror than they had been.

What would be useful against this thing? Fire, likely—Spelter had said he drove one away with a torch. But what else? It seemed like nothing short of a rifle ball would pierce it and the Funderlings did not have such things. There was Chert’s bombard, the one that had devastated the at¬tacking Qar, but they hadn’t brought one of those along on this expedi¬tion. Still, if they survived, it would be something to think about . . .

So—spears and my sword, and a few rocks. If they couldn’t beat the crea¬ture with the long, strong gurodir spears, they certainly weren’t going to be able to kill it with a few small stones . . .

A sudden idea came to him—an unlikely one, but Vansen was growing more desperate by the moment. The many-legged monster had tired of trying to butt its way through the stalagmites and was attempting to climb over them instead, and was slowly, awkwardly succeeding. The faces of Vansen’s Funderling allies were full of hopeless terror.

“Spelter,” he called to the Qar scout. “How is he?”

The langedy-legged man, as Jasper had called him, looked up. “He’s burned, but most of the venom is on his plate. . . .” He jabbed at the armor with his finger where it lay in a heap beside Sledge Jasper, who was murmuring and twitching as if in a deep fever.

“Leave him. One of the others can see to him.” Vansen told the drow scout what he wanted him to find. “I can’t see well enough, Spelter, but you can. Go, find it for us! We’ll keep the thing’s attention here.”

Spelter went so quickly that he seemed to vanish like a ghost at dawn. Vansen turned back to the rest of the men, who were crouching as far back from the approaching beast as they could. “Spears up and jabbing!” he ordered. “If you can’t find something soft to jab at like a joint or an eye, just whack at the cursed thing as hard as you can! And shout!” He didn’t even know if the creature had ears, but he was leaving nothing to chance.

The monster was almost upon them, teetering on a high spike of rock, legs flailing as it sought purchase to pull itself off the pinnacle. The shouts of Vansen and the Funderlings became louder, fueled by panic. The thing actually caught one of the warders in a sweeping claw, but with the Funderling in its grip it could not pull its claw-arm back. Two more warders leaped at it, prying at the crablike claw until the wounded man fell out onto the ground, gasping and coughing, bleeding in a wide band across his chest where his mail shirt had been crushed against his flesh.

The monster tipped and slid backward a little, then could not get up onto the pointed stone again. Heartened, the Funderlings redoubled their efforts, cracking on the beast’s armor so hard with the ends of their heavy spears that they made a noise like high-pitched thunder in the echoing cavern.

Vansen had his spear in one hand and his sword in the other. Once he even managed to get his spear into the thing’s bizarre mouth, but could not drive it in more than a few inches, and although the monster shied back it did not seem badly hurt. Another moment he saw a black spot that he thought must be an eye on the side of the weird, flat head, but when he tried to reach it with his sword, the beast almost took his head off with a flailing leg and he had to retreat behind a stalagmite.

Vansen was tiring and knew the Funderlings were tiring as well, but the monster did not seem to tire. They were running out of time.

The creature took a few many-legged steps back to find another angle of attack, and as it did, it moved beyond the Funderlings’ reach. The clat¬ter of spear on shell stopped, and in that moment of comparative quiet Vansen heard Spelter calling them: “Here! Here! Come now!”

“Follow his voice,” he hissed to the warders, then bent down to scoop up the small but solid body of Sledge Jasper and toss him over his shoul¬der. “Go—now!”

The Funderlings ran deeper into the cavern, away from the center where the stone pinnacles sprouted everywhere. Only a moment passed before the monster realized what they were doing and came legging after them.

“Here!” shouted Spelter. He was standing near one of the sloping walls of the cavern, half-hidden behind a large, mostly rounded stone many times his size which looked to have been rolled there when the world was young by some god playing at bowls. “Here, help me!”

Vansen got there last and carefully lowered the senseless Jasper to the ground. “It’s too big. We’ll never move it!”

“Balanced. Not so difficult—if we work hard!” Spelter said breath¬lessly. He had clearly begun already. Vansen and several of the Funder¬lings hurriedly clambered onto the curving shelf of rock beside him and jammed their spears into the space between the round stone and the wall.

Vansen set his booted foot against the stone and leaned back hard, testing the flexibility of his spear. If it broke, he might well kill himself or one of his fellows with the shards before the monster even reached them, but for the moment it was holding together.

“Everybody!” Vansen shouted. “Now!” The other Funderlings did their best to find a place to throw their own weight and strength against the perched stone, their spears bending like saplings. Vansen felt blood in his temples threatening to boil and burst out, but the stone was not mov¬ing and the glowing, spiderlike monster was moving toward them, in no hurry now that it had them out from behind cover and against a wall with nowhere else to run.

Something was pulling hard at his leg. For a terrifying moment Vansen thought it was another one of the creatures, then he realized it was the half-naked form of Sledge Jasper, with armor and helmet gone and a blis¬tering burn up the side of his face, trying to use Vansen’s leg to climb up and help.

“Give me room, you cursed, gawky upgrounder!” Jasper cried, then shoved the butt of his spear into the crack between stone and floor and lifted his legs off the ground, swinging on the spear until it bent nearly double. The others, too weary now to do anything but keep pulling, leaned back into their own spears. Vansen shoved his back down against the wall so he could use both legs at the same time. The creature lifted its snapping claws, each the size of a fiddler’s bass viol, and reared up on its hindmost legs. Then the stone moved.

Vansen had only a moment to notice that nothing was holding him up before he fell heavily to the floor of the cavern, Funderlings tumbling all around him like frozen sparrows dropping from winter branches. The boulder tottered, then tipped and rolled down the short incline. At first it seemed to move so slowly that Vansen thought it was impossible the monster would fail to evade it, but either the thing’s tiny eyes or its weak wits betrayed it, and it only waved its claws impotently as the rock, three times the monster’s height, rolled over it and crushed it with a dreadful, wonderful wet crunch. By the time the boulder came to a halt again some twenty paces on, part of the monster was still stuck to it, but most lay in a ruined smear of shadow on the cavern floor, only a leg or two that the stone had missed still showing any last, fitful movement.

“Go!” Vansen shouted. “Back the way we came in, before another one finds us! Go now, and stay together . . . !” The indescribable smell of the thing was so strong as they ran past it that Vansen had to stop shouting and clamp his teeth together to keep from being sick.

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Shadowheart 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 75 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The Eddon family have lived in Southmarch castle and ruling the Marchlands for centuries. Now they are scattered because Hendon Tolly took the throne forcing the twin co-regents Barrick and Briony to escape if they want to live. Southmarch is at war with the Qar (fairy folks) because since the usurpers took over they persecuted the fairy and forced them to erect a Mantle curtain and settle on their own lands. In the middle of the battle, the Qar stop fighting because a greater foe is marching to conquer Shadowmarch. ------------------- Both Tolly and the ruler of all the conquered lands in the south, the Autarch of Xis Sulepis, know that the Sleeping Gods are located deep below the Funderling Town where the group of small dwarf like creatures lives. The pair plans to attack the realm of the Gods and use a magic ritual to make one of the gods their slave. Brionye is safely staying with the Prince of Syan Eneas who loves her and vows to help her get home. When they arrive Eneas and his men fight to gain control of the throne that rightfully belongs to Briony. All parties interested in waking the Gods and those who oppose collide as Briony and her Syanese allies take the fight to those loyal to Tolly.--------------------------- Shadowheart is a grand epic finish to a great grand fantasy saga that like its three predecessors is filled with action, but character driven as the audience anticipates the climatic ending.h Tad Williams has not let us down as he springs one shocker after another to a spellbound audience. Barrick is more Qar than human because of a ritual ro save his life although he fights on the side of the humans who want to restore Shadowmarch to its previous glory. Briony has come a long way from the youth foolishly challenging Tolly to a duel as her inner strength remains powerful but matured with experience. All the major subplots come together as apocalypse now has converged on Shadowmarch.------------- Harriet Klausner
Deborah_Beale More than 1 year ago
Deborah Beale here (Tad partner & wife): we recently received this rave review from Christopher Paolini, and I thought I would take the liberty of posting it here. "Tad Williams is a huge inspiration for me. He's one of the main reasons I started writing fantasy. His books are epic, exciting, and filled with fascinating characters. When it comes to inventing imaginary worlds, he's as skilled as J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert. "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is one of the great fantasy epics of all time. I can't even remember how many times I've read it. It kept me so enthralled, I plowed through the last book in just one sitting! Here be magic, dragons, sprawling battles, thrilling feats of derring-do, ancient mysteries, hidden secrets-all the things a good story needs. These are the books, along with a few others, that led me to write Eragon. "Otherland is an awesome sci-fi story. The scale of Tad Williams' ambition and accomplishments as a storyteller in this series is amazing. He weaves together so many characters, locations, and unique worlds, you can't help but be impressed! Also, with Otherland Tad predicted the rise of the internet and online gaming long before it was invented. "Tad Williams' work is an essential part of any science fiction and fantasy library. I look forward to each new book he writes. If you like exciting, thought-provoking fiction, you owe it to yourself to give Tad a try. "His books are thick enough to stop a bullet! I know!" - Christopher Paolini
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I started reading the Shadowmarch Series about 4 months ago and what a journey it has been. I thought the first two books could have been placed in one and still had the essence of the land and the people. But the third book was something else. I started to care about Barrick and his story. I am looking forward to this fourth and final installment.
aleahmarie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I would like to propose that Tad Williams stop writing trilogies and tetralogies. Why does the awesome have to stop? Take a cue from Robert Jordan and keep those bad boys coming. I realize I'm a nobody in the grand scheme of Tad Williams' publishing life. I'm making this proposal based on completely selfish reasons. It's a flimsy, pathetic argument at best, but there it is.Clearly it's with a sad heart that I finished this, the fourth and final book in Williams' Shadowmarch tetralogy. Trying to summarize the plot of this densely written 722 page brick is almost more than I can bear at the moment. So, I'll be brief(ish). The twins Barrick and Briony Eddon continue to wander separately across Eion. Briony Eddon has come across a powerful prince who is not only smitten with her but also well outfitted with a small army of troops. How convenient. The prince and his soldiers serve as her loyal escorts as she makes her way back toward her Southmarch home. Barrick Eddon has been changed by the mysterious Qar and is figuring out how to survive in this new self. He, too, discovers a need to return to Southmarch with an army of Qar in tow. Did I mention that the nasty god-king of Xis has King Olin Eddon held prisoner and a small country's worth of soldiers waiting outside the gates of the castle? Gods are waking up, ambition is upsetting the delicate balance, and family loyalties are being tested. Soapbox time. As a card carrying feminist I was put off by the fact that Qinnitan and Briony's virginity seemed to carry such importance. They "saved" themselves for their true loves, yadda yadda. Briony and Qinnitan were both strong, capable young women... why ruin it by making them chaste? And I already mentioned in a previous review my distaste for the depiction of the homosexual characters in this series. Briony's travelling troupe of buds has not one but two old, lascivious sorts the apparently prefer young lads while the evil Autarch was sexually abused by his Uncle. A familiar stereotype, for sure. But I know Williams' is capable of much more than these overused and quite worn out tropes. If you've made it this far into my review you must think I'm bonkers. I first declare my undying love for all things Tad Williams and then rail against his depiction of women and homosexuals. Well, there it is. I DO love Tad Williams' stories. In fact, I am so comfortable in the worlds that he creates I can't help but start feeling it's my right to move around the furniture. It's a well-meaning sort of badgering and if Tad Williams' were to ever stumble across this review I hope he'd take it in the spirit of sisterly poking in which it's intended. I recommend this series to all lovers of the epic fantasy genre. Happy reading!
randalrh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just like Tad Williams. As I wrote in a review of one of the other of this series, he can pretty much go off anywhere he likes and I'll follow him. There's a bit too much unending battle in this finale, but Williams does an even better than usual job of bringing his loose ends, revelations, and character relationships all back together in the end.
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Endureil More than 1 year ago
Another block in the Shadowmarch series and it looks like book 5 will be the closer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: Shadowpaw<br> Age: 8 moons<br> Gender: &female<br> Rank: Apprentise<br> Mentour: Bluestar<br> Pelt: jet black with left ear white, electric blue eyes<br> Personality: leader, troublemaker, friendly, bubbly, clever<br> Kin: Bluestar-mom, Shadowwater-dad, Whitestar-adopted aunt, Snowpaw, Lionpaw, & Darkpaw-adopted cousins, Silverpaw & Stripepaw-sisters, Firepaw & Duskpaw-brothers, Everkit, Skykit, & Swirlingkit-halfsisters, Talonkit, Forestkit, Opalkit, & Winterkit-halfbrothers<br> Crush: Lightningpaw<br> History: short<br> Facourite Song: Fallin' for you/Colbie Caillat<br> Favourite Warrior Name: Shadowheart<p> Anything else? Ask me!
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igotapig More than 1 year ago
You feel the pain of all the characters misfortunes throughout the series, but the finale is very much worth it.
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Tad williams rocks!!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've really liked everything I've read by Tad Williams, including this series. However, I was disappointed in the last volume. Nearly a third of the book had all of the main characters involved in a battle with mass slaughter on both sides, to the point of tedium. After a while I didn't care who won, as long as it was over soon. Not a satisfying ending.
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Debkni More than 1 year ago
I just finished the last of the series and I am so sad that it had to end! This was an awesome read! I can't believe how everything fit together at the end- like a "puzzle"