The kingdom of Southmarch has been overtaken, King Olin is a Hierosoline prisoner, his oldest son - Kendrick - is dead, Barrick (Olin's younger son and heir) is behind the lines in the Shadowline - and on an unknown errand for Yassamez - a Qar leader. Meanwhile, Briony has escaped from Southmarch with the help of Shaso.
Beyond Southmarch and Hierosoline, Sulepis (the Autarch of Xis) has plans of his own. Part of these plans involve Qinnitan, a girl who had pledged herself to the "Hive" and ran away once Sulepis had made her his junior wife.
I found the individual stories - Barrick's, Briony's, Chert Blue Quartz's (a Funderling), and a couple other characters - very interesting for different reasons. Barrick's because of the dichotomy in his personality, how he interacts with Ferras Vansen (a captain in the guard that is intent on protecting Barrick - even from himself) and Gyir (a Qar and also called "The Storm Lantern", who was found - wounded - by Barrick and Vansen). What was also interesting to me about this particular vein in the story is how their relationship changed as they traveled and after they were captured by Jikuyin's (a demigod) troops.
Briony's story was interesting to read because the reader sees how a princess "grows up" and learns more about the world she lives in beyond what she has learned in the Castle. It is how she interacts with those she travels with, is a guest of, and is aided by that makes her a wonderful character.
Chert's story is also interesting because, due to his circumstances, he lives on a bit of a razor's edge. He is a Funderling - a dwarf - who's life intersects with the "tall people's" more than the older, more senior Funderlings would like. It is a balance that, not unlike Briony, gives him a wider perspective beyond the town he lives in, even as he tries to live within the rules.
While I did enjoy the individual storylines, and the world Mr. Williams has built, I found Shadowplay to be a smidgen ponderous and the intersections that the storylines take to be just a touch tangled. There was also something about the storyline (could very well be timing on my part) that didn't quite connect for me. I would, however, recommend reading the books in the quartet as a whole as opposed to standalones.
Darkness has fallen on the lands of the sun as an army of misshapen fey spill out from beyond the Shadowline. At their head is Yasammez, dark creature of nightmare. A furtive bargain was struck at the gates of Southmarch and the castle was spared, but centuries of enmity will not be set aside so easily.
Meanwhile, Barrick, heir to Southmarch and cursed with madness, has crossed the Shadowline into the realm of his people's ancient enemy. There are stranger things than death here — stranger and older.
Much further south, shadow is also falling over the reign of the Autarch: god-king and supreme ruler. Quinnitan, junior wife, must flee the royal household or die, her greatest secret as yet hidden even from herself. Ancient blood flows through her veins and she will become a unique weapon in the fight against the approaching darkness.
And beyond the ken of all but a chosen few, the gods are awakening and the world is changing.