The Shadow Roads (Swan’s War #3) ★★★★ ½

shadowroads (Custom)

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Title: The Shadow Roads
Series: Swan’s War #3
Author: Sean Russell
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: Digital Edition



Hafyyd, having made his deal with Death, now faces Alaan and Elise and unleashes his fury. He wants to deliver his father, Wyrr, who is sleeping in the river, into Death’s hands. The other two thwart him in that and so Hafyyd returns to the normal land and begins his conquest.

Tam is given an arrow with a magical jeweled head and instructed to shoot Hafyyd in the eye and that that will kill him. This is accomplished and the Rennes and the Wills start trying to figure out a way to have peace between their families. The most promising way looks to be through intermarriage of Lord Caral and Lady Lynn.

It turns out that everything was precipitated by a magical Black Swan who fell in love with Tusival, Hafyyd, Sainth and Sianon’s grandfather. She had 3 children by Tusival, 2 sons (Wyrr and Aillyn) and one daughter. The daughter was taken by Death in a bid to to gain the Swan’s Love. That lead to Wyrr and Aillyn walling Death up which further led to the Swan trying to gain her daughter back by any means necessary, including selling out Tusival, her sons and her grandchildren.

With Hafyyd dead, Alaan begins researching the spell to wall Death in and to strengthen it. Elise retires to a small island on the river to watch over 2 children who have been possessed by Wyrr and the Swan’s dead daughter but who now are their own. Tam, Baore and Fynnol return north.


My Thoughts:

A lot gets packed into this book. First book deals with the Rennes and the Wills and the introduction of the Children of Wyrr. Second book introduces Wyrr and Aillyn and now in this book we deal with Death incarnate and everybody’s magical Grandmother. It went wicked deep into Fairytale territory.

Russell’s style of writing took some mental adjustment on my part. I couldn’t race through. I had to read at the pace he set. It was this way with each book and yet each time it came as a surprise.

I think my only gripe is that the 3 young men from the North, Tam, Baore and Fynnol, were not main characters. They were important secondary characters, but the story had moved beyond them and I missed having the bulk of the story from their view. They were the Everyman of the story. The Rennes and the Wills were nobility. Hafyyd, Alaan and Elise were all possessed by magicians. It was hard to relate to any of those, whereas Tam was just a young man suddenly thrust into an adventure far beyond his imagining.

I would sum up this trilogy with the word “Melancholy”. It wasn’t depressing, it wasn’t necessarily sad but everything was tinged with Melancholy. The pacing of the story definitely added to that feeling. To finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this re-read as much as the first time and suspect I’ll enjoy it as much again in another decade or so. Definitely worth owning the hardcovers.

★★★★ ½


  1. The Shadow Roads (2009 Review)
  2. The One Kingdom (Book 1)
  3. The Isle of Battle (Book 2)

The One Kingdom (The Swan’s War #1)


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot,, Booklikes & Librarything and linked at Goodreads & Mobileread by  Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title:        The One Kingdom
Series:     The Swan’s War #1
Author:   Sean Russell
Rating:    5 of 5 Stars
Genre:     Fantasy
Pages:      544
Format:   Digital Edition




Magician’s don’t die. If they’re powerful enough, they can exist without going through Death’s Gate.

Hundreds of years ago, the children of the most powerful magician the world had ever known were each given a gift from their father. Their choices split the One Kingdom and resulted in death and devastation.

Now, the families of the Renne’s and the Wills have their own feud that could tear apart the fragile peace of the land. One of the Renne’s is determined to make the peace last while his family plots to assassinate him for such thoughts. The Wills plot to strengthen themselves through marriage with an outside family, the Innes. The Innes are being “guided” by a man who is much more than he appears and much more dangerous than they know.

At the same time, 3 young men from the Northern Vale take a trip down the river to buy horses. They come across a man name Alain and their misfortunes/adventures start. They come into contact with a Naga, the embodiment of the daughter of the magician.

The Naga, Alain and the Guide are all so much more than the people around them know. Can the land survive the return of the Children?


My Thoughts:

I went into this really wondering if I was going to like it as much as I did back in ’09. Thankfully, this lived up to my memories and my current expectations of a good book.

This is a slow book. It meanders like the river that much of the story takes place on. In many ways, the river itself is a character, at times benevolent, at other times very malevolent.

Besides being a slow book, it is also very character driven. The Valemen trio start out as the main characters, but Russell deftly moves from group to group, from individual to individual in such a way that I never felt either bored or wanting something else. There is a lot of description of landscapes and what surrounds the characters but for whatever reason I didn’t blow by it like I usually do in other books. I was able to sit back and take it in.

Where I have described Patricia McKillip’s writings as “silk”, Russell’s writing is like a river. Some times meandering, some times fast and furious, some times appearing calm, some times dragging you along a current you don’t even realize you are in. I felt like I was sitting in a boat going down a river while reading this. Why I was intrigued instead of bored, I do not know. But I loved this story.

I also like how Russell portrays magic. It is something dangerous, subtle and never good. It destroys those who use it and hurts those around them. It is not flashy fireballs or the calling forth of demon lords. It is influence, power, strength, persuaviness and the ability to bend others to your will. It is scary.

So another fantastic re-read. Definitely glad that I bought this in hardcover.




  1. Review from 2009

The Shadow Roads

The Shadow Roads
The Swan’s War #3
Sean Russell
4 stars
433 pages

The conclusion to The Swan’s War trilogy.

Alaan, Elise and their respective groups face off against Hafydd and his. Death, also known as Meachi, is trying to get free from the spell that walled him in from the living. Everything comes together quickly in the end and Death is walled in again, Hafydd goes back to the river and Alaan and Elise go their ways. The groups all go back to their ways of life, forever changed. To be honest, it seemed a bit too pat and quick. I enjoyed the ending, but with such humble beginnings[the feud between the Will’s and the Renne’s], to escalate things to Death himself trying to walk the earth again, it just seemed almost anti-climactic.

Well written, well thought out though. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this trilogy and am looking forward to re-reads already 🙂

The Isle of Battle

The Isle of Battle
The Swan’s War #2
Sean Russell
5 stars
467 pages

Absolutely fantastic.

Haffyd goes after Alaard to kill him and Elise chases after Alaard to save him. Fills out the picture in regards to the Children of Wyrr, who have taken on human hosts to live again. Engaging, quick [not slow like

The One Kingdom] and opens up an even bigger world than we thought. Wyrr, and his Brother Aillyn are at odds.

I know this is a trilogy, so I have to wonder how Russell is going to wrap everything up in 1 book.

The One Kingdom

The One Kingdom
Swan’s War #1
Sean Russell
5 stars
517 pages

A land was torn asunder in the distant past by 3 siblings. Today the land groans under a schism of two families. But the Siblings’ spirits have returned to finish what they could not last time, conquer all. Follows the adventures of different people caught up in this whirlwind. 3 people have been “possessed” by the ancient siblings and those are the characters we follow.

VERY slow for the first 9/10th’s of the book and no huge gratuitous displays of magic. Which is a nice changeup for me in a fantasy trilogy. I’m looking forward to the next book.