Shadowmarch is a High Fantasy series by Tad Williams, originally conceived as a web-based novel but turned into the regular kind halfway through the first volume.The story starts out in the eponymous Shadowmarch castle, capitol of the March Kingdoms on the continent of Eion. King Olin Eddon, ruler of the March Kingdoms, is being held for ransom, and his family (pregnant Queen Anissa, eldest son Kendrick, and twins Briony and Barrick) quickly get caught up in a web of intrigue as some of their ambitious retainers try to use the resulting power vacuum to their own advantage. Meanwhile, the Qar, an ancient race of fairytale creatures, are plotting their revenge against mankind for driving them out of their ancestral lands, and on another continent, the mighty (and quite mad) Autarch Sulepis hatches plans to conquer Eion and add it to his already immense empire.
This series provides examples of:
A God Am I: Interesting subversion with Autarch Sulepis. Although he cultivates the public image of God-King, privately he knows very well who the true gods are.
Ax-Crazy: Daikonas Vo, as made fairly clear in the short sequences when we hear his thoughts (or his muttering). He manages to pass as "normal" (in a blood-thirsty, seriously creepy way) most of the time though.
Bittersweet Ending: The Big Bad is defeated, but at a terrible death toll. The Qar survive, but are thoroughly decimated and seem fairly convinced they won't last much longer. The Xixian invaders are defeated for the time being, but it seems like it's just a matter of time until another Autarch bent on world conquest crops up. Briony and Vansen confess their love to each other, but propriety prevents them from marrying. Barrick leaves Southmarch for Qul-na-Qar together with Qinnitan, and the latter is comatose and doesn't seem likely to wake up any time soon. Chert and Opal survive, but Flint decides to leave them, a decision that leaves Opal heartbroken. Also the fact Barrick and Briony may never see eachother again is kind of a Tear Jerker. Also the Funderling's Sacred Mysteries and temple have been filled in by the ocean. Beetledown dies making a Heroic Sacrifice. And Tinwright doesn't get the woman he loves, even though he tried so hard to keep her safe.
Blood Knight: Yasammez. Barrick gets these tendencies after getting the Fireflower. And Saqri enjoys battles a bit too much for her image.
Determinator: Daikonas Vo is the evil example, chasing Qinnitan Across Hierosol, a fair way through the lands around Southmarch, he doesn't catch her in the end, even though he hadn't eaten in a long time, had vicious pain coursing through him and the fact he had gone quite mad, he doesn't let him slow him down much. Ferras Vansen is the good example, staying by Barrick's side to the point where he actually goes to the afterlife, he ends up okay, but he takes his promises VERY seriously. Also survives the Battle against the Autarch, despite being hopelessly outnumbered, having few trained fighters and not being able to see too well in the dark.
Disproportionate Retribution: Torture, death, or severe beatings await anyone who does anything against an Autarch, from coughing too much in his presence to helping one of his hundreds on wives to escape.
The Dragon: Vash in an administrative sense, and Vo in a hitman sort of sense to Sulepis
Elemental Embodiment: Each of three non-Human races south of Shadowline represent one element: Skimmers inhabit areas near sea and worship Erivor (god of waters), Funderlings dwelve in underground tunnels and worship Kernios (god of earth and death), while tiny Rooftoppers live in high places and worship Perin (god of skies).
Everybody Hates Hades: Subverted. Kernios is an obvious paralell to Hades, as a god associated both with death and the underground, and throughout the series hints are dropped that he's actually the Big Bad but it turns out that he's soundly in hibernation with most of the rest of the pantheon- Zosim the trickster god, who was impersonating him, is the Big Bad. The Autarch, who was counting on the god he was dealing with being Kernios, gets a major Oh Crap moment when he realizes the truth.
Evil Versus Evil: In the last volume of the series, there is a war between autarch Sulepis and Hendon Tolly.
Expy: Most of the gods of Eion parallel one or more of the gods of Classical Mythology. Perin, Erivor, and Kernios are pretty obviously Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades respectively, and their father parallels Kronos; Zoria has Athena's spheres of influence but her story more closely parallel's Persephone's, and Kupilas closely resembles Hephaestus. Zosim has certain similarities to both Hermes and Dionysus but in actuality is more like Loki, a trickster from an entirely different pantheon.
Five Races: Humans, Qar, Skimmers, Funderlings, Rooftoppers. Unlike most examples of this trope, there's little in the way of fundamental differences in outlook/philosophy between the different races. While there are significant tensions between some of the races, these are mostly caused by cultural differences, xenophobia and a history of mistrust and conflicts.
Godzilla Threshold: The Qar consider the idea of a live god walking the earth again bad enough that they plan on using the Fever Egg (think fantasy version of a hydrogen bomb) to stop it from happening, even though doing so would render most of a continent uninhabitable.
Heroic Sacrifice: Gyir does this killing Jikuyin, blowing himself and the demigod up, Beetledown does it to save Brother Nickel. Also Yasammez stalls Zosim, dying in the process, so Chert's plan can come to fruition.
Jerk Ass: Chert's brother, Brother Nickel, Hendon Tolly, Yasammez is this a bit.
In a lesser extent, Barrick also qualifies: he is cold, self-absorbed and frequently insults people who help him.
Our Dwarves Are... Actually Different: The Funderlings, who share the love for stone working / mining / digging, but are otherwise fairly similar to humans and a lot more varied than the usual one-note fantasy dwarf race.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: examples include Syanese price Eneas who, despite his young age, is experienced battle commander, princess Briony who learns many skills during her adventures (such as acting and knife fighting) and king Olin who personally took command in many battles. Also Ynnir And Saqri, the Qar royalty.
Smug Snake: Daikonas Vo treats everyone he meets with contempt and, while certainly capable, tends to be somewhat overconfident. Somewhat subverted in the fact he didn't really ever fail, and went insane.
The Sociopath: Daikonas Vo. Has a very limited emotional range, cannot relate to people on any level, and hates everyone. Most White Hounds are this.
Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Qar are able to change their form (the "First Gift") - which is why they come in all shapes and sizes. Only the Changling tribe retain this.
We Have Reserves: Autarch's attitude towards his troops. During the siege of Hierosol, he ordered full scale attack through the breach in city's walls, despite being warned of massive casualties it will cause among his army. He explained that his soldiers should be happy to fight and die for their autarch.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Theron and the boy are just about the only characters whose final fate isn't confirmed in a 100 plus page section following the climax which otherwise thoroughly averts this. Also, Raemon Beck, who pops up at the end, with pretty much no explanation.
Pelaya's and her family's eventual fates are also left unresolved.