Tad Williams is a great talent at world building, and for no more other reason than that, he is brilliant at what he does. Fantasy has always depended upon an author’s ability to create a believable world with easily defined characters to make up for all the fairies, elves, gnomes, dwarfs and magical monsters that inhabit the world they create. The success of The Lord of Rings trilogy as a book series and movies always hinged on how much real humanity you brought to the characters.
However, at times, much like the late Robert Jordan, these authors get so wrapped up in their universes, that the books become bloated and so long that you wonder if the a good editor needs to stand up and say, enough is enough.
This series, originally planned as trilogy, but became a tetralogy (much like his Otherland series) due to many things, I’m sure. And I praised the last book, Shadowrise, as a book that moved swiftly and felt that there was not much Williams could have cut to shorten to a trilogy. But for the first time reading Williams, I feel he went on too long. Shadowheart, at 722 pages, goes on forever. To me, it’s about 300 pages too long (the first half took me forever to get through).
We do see all the puzzle pieces finally falling into place, as we begin to understand why Southmarch is so important to the Gods of this series. The characters, and there are many, are separated into so many stories –some less interesting than others- that the action is sometimes forgotten for these little character pieces. Which is not say I don’t like a well-drawn out tale of character plotting; it just that when you are approaching the finale, some of these stories should have been ended by now, or at least truncated.
Still, I give Williams accolades for ending the series in a less than happier way. It reminds us that while war, power and death are some horrible aspects of life, it never ends with everyone living happily ever after.