Shadowrise: Volume Three of Shadowmarch - Tad Williams For me, Tad Williams is a "comfortable author." I can rely on him to write engaging stories that don't push the envelope too far but still manage to inject enough creativity and energy to make reading enjoyable.

And he really has a handle on fairies. They're just alien enough so that you believe they're more than humans with pointed ears (unlike Terry Brook's "elves" in the Shannara series) but their motives remain comprehensible. A similar sense of otherworldliness also made Williams' earlier Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn stand out and explains, in part, the 4 stars I gave it.

I'm a little disappointed that, so far, Williams hasn't gone quite as far out on the limb in these books as he did in Memory; the series takes few risks. The northern continent of Eion differs little from early Renaissance Europe. The kingdom of Southmarch, which protects the more southerly lands from the fairies north of the Shadowline, can easily be mistaken for England (or perhaps Scotland is the better comparison). To the south, across the sea, lies Xis, a realm from the Arabian Nights ruled by a mad, Caligula-like figure, the Autarch Sulepis.

And the characters are familiar: Briony, the headstrong, spoiled daughter of Southmarch's king, who's forced to grow up when she's driven into exile; Barrick, her twin brother, crippled and lost on the wrong side of the Shadowline; Qinnitan, fleeing from the Autarch's harem and carrying the same fairy blood as the twins; Ferras Vansen, captain of the royal guard who harbors an unrequitable love for Briony; Chert, a simple Funderling stonemason caught up in events; Yasammez, the fairies' chief general, driven by a millennial anger to destroy humanity; and many others.*

But that's what makes Williams a "comfortable author." I know what I'm getting, and I know it'll be good.

He does begin to push the envelope more strongly in this third book, however, particularly in regards to the gods and the apocalyptic consequences of their return. Which is why Williams stands out among the crowd of Fantasy hacks today, and it makes him an author worth reading.

Recommended for the fantasy enthusiasts who like grand, multivolume epics and good storytelling.

* Perhaps too many "others." Williams' stories tend to get out of his control to fill up a lot of pages; he could use a good editor to prune the bushes.