Shadowheart - Tad Williams Shadowheart is the final volume in Tad Williams' Shadowmarch tetralogy, and it provides a satisfying conclusion to the story: The good guys win and the bad guys lose but all the sides are satisfyingly complex that characters are not simply archetypes and motivations are believable (i.e., people don't do things just because they're "evil"). If there's a deeper meaning to the plot it may be the dangers of religious fundamentalism.

Or not. There's no need to impose any deep meaning on this material but, for those who need some justification for their fantasy, the above might do.

I am reminded of the ending of Michael Moorcock's The King of the Swords, when Kwll and Rhynn destroy the Gods of Chaos but then go on to kill the Gods of Law for good measure:

Corum's vision was even more blurred. But through a pink mist he saw Kwll come, a grin upon his jeweled face.

"Your Chaos gods are gone," said Kwll. "With my brother's help I slew them all and all their minions."

"I thank you," Corum said thickly. "And Lord Arkyn will thank you, too."

Kwll chuckled. "I think not."

"Why - why so?"

"For good measure we slew the Lords of Law as well. Now you mortals are free of gods on these planes."

"But Arkyn - Arkyn was good..."

"Find the same good in yourselves if that is what you respect. It is the time of the Conjunction of the Million Spheres and that means change - profound alterations in the nature of existence. Perhaps that was our function - to rid the Fifteen Planes of its silly gods and their silly schemes."

"But the Balance...?"

"Let it swing up and down with a will. It has nothing to weigh now. Your are on your own, mortal - you and your kind. Farewell."

Corum tried to speak again, but the pain in his thigh swamped all thought. At last he fainted.

Once more Kwll's many-toned voice sounded in his skull before his senses were engulfed completely.

"Now you can make your own destiny."

A few more points:

IMO, Williams does need an editor. The plot is too digressive; it could have been more tightly plotted without taxing reading enjoyment.

By the end of the series, I had come to loathe Briony Eddon and had come to dread the chapters that focused on her. Which was unfortunate as she is one of the main characters. But she never seemed to grow up - she remained a selfish, willful, obnoxious jerk. I could never believe that not one but two men could fall in love with this twerp. It didn't help that Williams repeatedly emphasized how she had grown and developed as a person due to her travails. Perhaps he felt it necessary as her actions certainly didn't show it.

Despite their length and a few missteps like Briony, I recommend the series. They're fast paced and easy to digest, perfect for bedtime reading or long air flights.