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, the king’s children Princess Briony and Prince Barrick, are both trapped far away from home and fighting for their lives.
Barrick is lost behind the Shadowline, facing all the terrible dangers and mysteries of that magical twilight land. Briony is alone in a treacherous foreign court, struggling to survive with no weapon left to her but her wits. And in the midst of all this, something unbelievable is awakening underneath Southmarch, something powerful and terrible that the world has not seen for thousands of years.
In this third volume Barrick and Briony, along with Qinnitan — the Autarch’s desperate, escaped slave — a loyal soldier named Ferras Vansen, and a tiny handful of other folk, ordinary and extraordinary, must find a way to save their world, or else witness the rise of a terrible new age — an age of unending darkness.
About the Author
Explorations Interview with Tad Williams
Paul Goat Allen: For those who don't know how your Shadowmarch saga got started, can you elaborate a little bit about what motivated you to write an episodic fantasy online?
Tad Williams: We had tried Shadowmarch with some TV people, and it got to a certain point in management and then hit the confusion zone -- they didn't really get fantasy. So, since I really liked the story, I was anxious to find another way to do it. At the time I was in the middle of the Otherland books, so I began to think about doing it in some other way. The idea of a serial novel online seemed very exciting.
PGA: As a longtime fan of your work, one of the things that particularly stood out in Shadowmarch: Volume One was the extraordinarily diverse cast of characters. I can't think of another novel that has so many -- for lack of a better word -- cool characters! The crippled and tormented prince Barrick and his headstrong sister, Briony; the terrifying Qar warrior Yasammez; Ynnir the Blind King; Qinnitan the ill-fated acolyte; the courageous Rooftopper Beetledown; the dutiful Funderling Chert Blue Quartz and his foster son, Flint; the enigmatic potboy Gil; the completely misunderstood Shaso dan-Heza...the list goes on and on. How much fun was it to write this story with so many compelling characters to work with?
TW: One of the things that I like best about big books is the chance to create complex worlds. One of the ways that a writer can give depth to a world is to view it through the eyes of many different characters. Having so many characters is also a bit like making a lot of new friends (and enemies) -- you don't always know what's coming next, you meet someone, you don't know how important they'll be to you, then after a while it turns out you're going to be living with them as much as your family. It's strange and interesting.
PGA: The Shadowmarch web site (www.shadowmarch.com) is impressive to say the least -- the detailed history of the Shadowmarch realm, the tremendous collections of artwork, extensive message boards, etc. I've read in past interviews that you wanted to create an online community based in part around Shadowmarch. Did you accomplish what you set out to do with the web site?
TW: Certainly one mark of how true that proved to be is that we stopped putting the book installments online over a year ago, and the community continues to exist. I'm looking forward to a new round of discussion when the novel comes out as well, and I hope that new people will find their way to the site, and especially the bulletin board, which is a very energetic and welcoming community.
PGA: I've heard that the site has gotten almost half a million posts. Is that true?
TW: I have no idea. But I do know that it's become my home on the Net: It's the one place on the Internet I visit every day. (Well, there are also the hard-core giraffe bondage sites…)
PGA: It seems to me that with such a vast and fertile landscape to play in, the Shadowmarch saga could go on for several volumes. Is this fantasy sequence a work in progress or have you already plotted out roughly the number of volumes that you're going to write?
TW: This will be three volumes. I have a good (although not absolute) idea of what's going to happen in the rest of the story, but I like to leave room to make discoveries along the way.
PGA: What books initially got you interested in science fiction/fantasy? Any favorite authors and/or series while growing up?
TW: Tolkien is the most obvious, but I was also very influenced by Ray Bradbury, especially The Martian Chronicles, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, Ursula Le Guin, Theodore Sturgeon, and Philip K. Dick.
PGA: What books are on your reading list at the moment?
TW: I'm reading one of Steven Brust's faux-Dumas books, The Paths of the Dead, which is lovely; and I just finished an Iain Rankin Inspector Rebus novel -- I really like the grit of his Inspector Rebus -- and I've gone through a bout of Irvine Welsh. At the moment, I'm having trouble shedding a Scottish dialect. As always, there are another half-dozen books on the go, but I can't think of them right now.