''Shadowmarch'' is a HighFantasy series by Creator/TadWilliams, originally conceived as a web-based novel but turned into the regular kind halfway through the first volume.

The volumes are:

# ''Shadowmarch''
# ''Shadowplay''
# ''Shadowrise''
# ''Shadowheart''

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:

* AGodAmI: Interesting subversion with Autarch Sulepis. Although he cultivates the public image of God-King, privately he knows very well who the true gods are.
* AlwaysSaveTheGirl: [[GenreSavvy Autarch]] concludes that one of his wives and his bodyguard DID have some kind of affair because the bodyguard didn't admit they have even under horrific torture. A man who didn't care about the girl would've blamed her just on the off chance that it would ease the torture.
* AnyoneCanDie: Oh dear.
* AxCrazy: 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.
* BadassNormal: Shaso Dan-Heza, Ferras Vansen, Daikonas Vo, Prince Eneas. [[spoiler:Barrick]] later [[TookALevelInBadass takes a level in badass]] and qualifies too.
* BadBoss: Autarch makes most Bad Bosses look gentle and caring. Also Hendon Tolly.
* BatmanGambit: [[spoiler:Zosim's]] plan to mislead Sulepis. [[spoiler:It works.]]
* BeneathTheEarth: Funderling town and the labyrinth of caverns below Southmarch castle.
* BFG: Immense cannons used by Autarch in the siege of Hierosol. They fire from across a wide bay, way out of range of Hierosol's own cannons, and knock a hole in walls so immensely thick and hard that they were considered invulnerable.
* BigBad: [[spoiler:Zosim, the in-universe TricksterArchetype god.]]
* BigBadWannabe: Hendon Tolly to Autarch Sulepis. [[spoiler: Autarch to Zosim.]]
* BittersweetEnding: [[spoiler: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 TearJerker. Also the Funderling's Sacred Mysteries and temple have been filled in by the ocean. Beetledown dies making a HeroicSacrifice. And Tinwright doesn't get the woman he loves, even though he tried so hard to keep her safe.]]
* BloodKnight: Yasammez. [[spoiler: Barrick gets these tendencies after getting the Fireflower. And Saqri enjoys battles a bit too much for her image.]]
* TheCaligula: Sulepis. Most Autarchs are this.
* CharacterDevelopment: Plenty, even for relatively minor characters - something that's to be found in nearly all Tad Williams novels.
* CoolSword: Whitefire, sword wielded by Yasammez. Originally wielded by ''Sun god''.
* DeadpanSnarker: Barrick (somewhere between this and a KnightInSourArmor).
* {{Determinator}}: Daikonas Vo is the evil example, chasing [[spoiler: 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 [[spoiler: 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.]]
* DisproportionateRetribution: 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.
* TheDragon: Vash in an administrative sense, and Vo in a hitman sort of sense to Sulepis
* EarnYourHappyEnding: More like earn your BittersweetEnding, but yeah. Considering the bad end would have everyone enslaved or killed by an AxCrazy fire god, could be worse.
* ElementalEmbodiment: 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).
* TheEmperor: The Autarch.
* EverybodyHatesHades: Subverted. Kernios is an obvious parallel to Hades, as a god associated both with death and the underground, and throughout the series hints are dropped that he's actually the BigBad [[spoiler: 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 BigBad. The Autarch, who was counting on the god he was dealing with being Kernios, gets a major OhCrap moment when he realizes the truth]].
* EvilOverlord: The Autarch.
* EvilVersusEvil: In the last volume of the series, there is a war between [[spoiler:Autarch Sulepis]] and [[spoiler:Hendon Tolly]].
* {{Expy}}: Most of the gods of Eion parallel one or more of the gods of Myth/ClassicalMythology. 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 [[spoiler:but in actuality is more like Loki, a trickster from an entirely different pantheon]].
* TheFairFolk: The Qar.
* FingerLickinEvil: [[spoiler:Zosim]] does this. ("Splendid! It tastes like worship!")
* FiveRaces: 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.
* GetAHoldOfYourselfMan: Prince Barrick receives one from Captain Vansen.
* GodzillaThreshold: 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.
* GreyAndBlackMorality: In general. In war between Qar and Humans there is no right side, but Autarch, Daikonas Vo and [[spoiler: Zosim]] are rather unapologetically evil.
* HeroicSacrifice: [[spoiler:Gyir does this killing Jikuyin, blowing himself and the demigod up, Beetledown does it to save [[JerkAss Brother Nickel]]. Also Yasammez stalls Zosim, dying in the process, so Chert's plan can come to fruition.]]
* HonorBeforeReason: Shaso dan-Heza gave a promise not tell anyone of a conversation he had with [[spoiler: Prince Kendric]] and so he doesn't even though doing so would clear him of murder charges and allow others to realize there is an actually darker plot going underneath.
* IdiosyncraticEpisodeNaming: Each volume is called Shadow[something] being both {{One Word Title}}s and {{Portmantitle}}s.
** Shadowmarch
** Shadowplay
** Shadowrise
** Shadowheart
* JerkAss: 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.
* KansasCityShuffle: So who's the actual BigBad? Not only are there several candidates, they also try to out-wit each other, and then the actual BigBad turns out to have [[MagnificentBastard misled everyone else from the very beginning]].
* LadyOfWar: Queen Saqri. More literally is Yasammez, who seems to make war her goal in life and carries a pendant called the Seal of War.
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: And [[AnyoneCanDie nobody is safe]].
* MagicMirror: Used to communicate with the sleeping gods. A lot of the mirror-users don't seem to be aware of this and get manipulated by those gods as a result.
* TheManBehindTheMan: [[spoiler:Zosim]] is the man behind Sulepis who is the man behind Hendon Tolly.
* NoOntologicalInertia: The Mantle disappears after Yasammez dies.
* NotQuiteDead: [[spoiler:Gailon Tolly]], it turns out. This is something of a subversion - earlier hints lead the reader to think the mysterious wanderer is [[spoiler:Shaso]].
* OneManArmy: Gyir The Storm Lantern, [[LadyOfWar Yasammez]], [[spoiler: later Barrick and [[BadAssNormal Ferras]] [[{{Determinator}} Vansen]] and Saqri]]
* [[OurMonstersAreDifferent 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. They also object to the term "Dwarf" since it refers to someone disabled. One Funderling even shows his human step-son a Funderling with dwarfism (who is really small) to illustrate the difference.
* PowerAtAPrice: [[spoiler: Prince Barrick is cured and given strength he would have had hadn't he been injured at the cost of ability to feel love or sorrow. He can however summon those emotions, causing his arm to become weak and twisted again, but it isn't easy.]]
* TheReveal: Happens on a regular basis.
* RoyalsWhoActuallyDoSomething: 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 [[spoiler:acting and knife fighting]]) and king Olin who personally took command in many battles. Also Ynnir And Saqri, the Qar royalty.
* SmugSnake: 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, [[spoiler: and went insane.]]
* TheSociopath: Daikonas Vo. Has a very limited emotional range, cannot relate to people on any level, and hates everyone. Most White Hounds are this.
* StandardHeroReward: Subverted. [[spoiler:Vansen gets the Princess but not the kingdom]].
* TheStoic: Vo again. Also [[spoiler:Barrick after getting the Fireflower rarely shows much emotion outwardly.]]
** NotSoStoic: The poison really bring out his AxeCrazy side.
* StormingTheCastle: One of the several concurrent battles during the climax.
** Also the autarch's storming of the Mysteries, which quickly becomes a pitched battle.
* TemptingFate: [[OneManArmy Yasammez]] tells how she, a demigoddess, [[spoiler: barely survived a lesser god's wrath during a divine conflict, and that it is pretty much the only thing that scares her. [[HeroicSacrifice She gets to fight same god in the climax, knowing she cannot win, bu hoping to stall him long enough for others to destroy him.]]]]
* TheChessmaster: Avin Brone plays the Shadowmarch court as a fiddle and knows what's going on even when removed from office and under almost constant surveillance and suspicion.
* ThePlace: The first volume is named after its setting. Shadowmarch Castle.
* TookALevelInBadass: [[spoiler:Barrick]] after meeting the 3 sleepers. Technically gets another when he [[spoiler: gets Ynnir's Fireflower, giving him millenia of knowledge and experience, which makes him a OneManArmy.]]
* TouchedByVorlons: Barrick after accepting the Fireflower from Ynnir.
* TrainingThePeacefulVillagers: Under Ferras Vansen's command the peaceful Funderlings hold off Qar army for a long time, and give Autarch's army a run for their money too.
* TheUnfettered: Daikonas Vo does not have any scruples about completing the mission given to him by the autarch.
* UnreliableNarrator: What really happened between Qar and human gods. At first it appears that Qar know the real story and humans were just given propaganda by the winning gods. Then it appears that Qar get some things wrong too, and Xandians have their own, rather different, version of the myth. Since every nation also prefers to whitewash their gods, things get muddled.
* UnwittingPawn: [[spoiler: Chaven, unfortunately, he ends up being controlled by Zosim and completes his EvilPlan.]]
* VoluntaryShapeshifting: 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.
* WeHaveReserves: Autarch's attitude towards his troops. During the [[spoiler:[[StormingTheCastle siege of Hierosol]]]], he ordered [[spoiler:[[ZergRush 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.
* WhatASenselessWasteOfHumanLife: The fierce war between Qar and Humans happens partially because [[spoiler: of misunderstanding and Qar royalty's inability to imagine that their daughter could fall in love with a human (which they should have known better, since they always remember the divine conflict that started when a human goddess fell in love with a Qar god, while other human gods declared it rape). Stemming from which is another reason - [[PoorCommunicationKills lack of communication]] about ''why'' the Qar need to enter the tunnels beneath the Castle.]] The war leads to massive casualties on both sides, and puts both races at huge disadvantage [[spoiler: when [[EnemyMine the Autarch arrives and they have to team up.]]]]
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse: [[spoiler: 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 [[spoiler: pops up at the end, with pretty much no explanation.]]
** [[spoiler: Pelaya's and her family's]] eventual fates are also left unresolved.
* TheWisePrince: Prince Eneas of Syan.