Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams
Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn trilogy was one of the first fantasy series I ever read and it's still one of my favorites.
The writing style is very pleasant and the pace is slow enough to be savored, but characters actually accomplish things by the end of each book (you know what I mean).
The characters are well-developed and lovable but not annoyingly perfect. This is a classic epic fantasy plot: Simon the kitchen boy saves the world. But please don’t roll your eyes — this was written in the 1980’s — before it was a cliché. Even though he's now a cliché, Simon is still charming and you can't help but love him.
Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn is on my list to read again, and along with Robin Hobb's Read More
Tad Williams(1957- )
Tad Williams has held more jobs than any sane person should admit to — singing in a band, selling shoes, managing a financial institution, throwing newspapers and designing military manuals, to name just a few. He also hosted a syndicated radio show for ten years, worked in theatre and television production, taught both grade-school and college classes, and worked in multimedia for a major computer firm. He is co-founder of an interactive television company, and is currently writing comic books and film and television scripts as well. Tad and his family live in London and the San Francisco Bay Area. Read excerpts and Tad Williams’ thoughts about his novels at his website. Read Amanda’s interview with Deborah Beale (Mrs. Tad Williams).
Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn — (1988-1994) You can get the two parts of To Green Angel Tower (Siege and Storm) in one (huge) omnibus edition. Publisher: Simon is an ordinary kitchen helper who is taken under the tutelage of the magician Morgenes. When King John Presbyter dies and his son Elias ascends the throne, the way opens for a long-dormant evil to enter the realm. Elias, a pawn of the black magician Pyrates, moves to eliminate his brother Josua, and the brother-against-brother, good-versus-evil clash begins. Simon is thrown in with Josua and muddles through adventure and peril, maturing into a hero by book’s end. Williams weaves all of the classic ingredients of fantasy into his tale — trolls, giants, elf-like sithi, and dragons. Simon must travel from drought-stricken lands to ice-bound peaks as he follows his far-seeing dreams. The land of Osten Ard is well created, and readers quickly become immersed in the story.
Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams
Shadowmarch — (2004-2010) Publisher: Williams opens another of the intricate, intriguing sagas that are his stock-in-trade. In a once turbulently conflicted land of humans, elves, and dwarves, an old truce is starting to unravel. The frontier called the Shadowline, between the Twilight Lands and those of humans, is being breached. The first Marchlands kingdom in the path of Twilight invaders is in disarray, for its king is a prisoner, and not all accept his elder son’s regency. What’s more, the cruel empire of the south is moving north. So the Marchlands are caught between two foes while having to deal with internal intrigues and inexperienced rulers. When the prince regent is killed, apparently by one of his closest advisors, the surviving regents are an impetuous princess and a disabled prince. Trust at court and in the kingdom dwindles even as Twilight forces attack, and responsibilities the princess never dreamed of or prepared for fall upon her.
Shadowmarch by Tad Williams
Shadowmarch is the start of yet another epic fantasy trilogy by one of the genre's better known authors. While I wouldn't personally equate Shadowmarch with Tad Wiliams' earlier masterpiece (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn), it does stand above much of what is being written today. As is typical of fantasy, for that matter most genre novels, there are echoes of earlier works by the same author and other works by different authors. One grows to expect that; it isn't the complete and utter originality that often makes a work but what one does with the similar situations/characters. By that comparison, Shadowmarch does quite well, for the most part.
The basic premise is the Southmarch lands border the Shadowline, a magica... Read More
Shadowmarch by Tad Williams
The plot of Shadowmarch is rather complex, but the basics of the story are simple. Three groups vie for time in the main storyline. First and foremost are the lands of Southmarch, ruled for many generations by the Eddon family. Directly to their north are the lands of the Q’ar. The Q’ar are the fairy folk, long ago driven out of the southern regions by humans. The Q’ar have not let the many years soften their bitterness and hatred of humans. The third group involved in the story inhabit the desert kingdom of Xis to the far south, and they are ruled by the not so nice god-king Autarch. The fairies want their land back, and the southern-based god-king wants everything. The Eddons and the people of Southmarch simply want to survive. The narrative flows back and forth mainly between these three locations, telling the story from the perspective of several individuals in each of the three geo... Read More
Shadowplay by Tad Williams
On the surface, Volume 1 of Shadowmarch has all the makings of a fully realized epic fantasy: maps, appendix, a rich background history, excerpts (Book of Regret, The Book of the Trigon, Revelations of Nushash) to preface each chapter, a huge cast of characters, races, locales, gods, goddesses and much more to bring the world of Shadowmarch to life.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot more involved in making a great fantasy and I felt that Shadowmarch was sorely lacking in some areas. First and foremost, the overall story is clichéd, uninspiring and predictable. Sure, some plotlines are interesting to follow like Quinnitan’s arc in the kingdom of Xis or Chert’s fun adventures, not to mention the concept behind the Shadowline/Shadowlands which offers something a bit different, but for the most part S... Read More
Shadowplay by Tad Williams
Shadowplay is the second book in Tad Williams' massive epic fantasy series, Shadowmarch. The plot was just starting to get really interesting when the first book ended, so I was eager to start Shadowplay. Things have gone awry in the March Kingdoms. Book two starts in chaos and things only go downhill from there. I'm not normally a reader of classic epic fantasy, since I often find things like family lineage, court politics and over-dramatic heroic battles boring. This series has all of this, but this time it seems to work for me. I'm being entertained despite the fact that this is territory I've visited many times before.
The story picks up right where Shadowmarch left off. You would think the second book in such a massive series would suffer a bit form middle book syndrome, but Read More
Shadowrise by Tad Williams
Shadowrise is Tad Williams' third and thus concluding novel of the Shadowmarch trilogy, begun in Shadowmarch and continued in Shadowplay. So in this final volume… wait, hold on… I’m now being told that Mr. Williams, clearly feeling a sense of fantasy author peer pressure, has decided that, yes, while this is the “concluding volume,” it has in fact been split into two (hmmm, where have I heard that before), making this trilogy, in usual fantasy fashion, four books. At least. Maybe five. Who knows?
In truth though, I’ve found the degree to which this sort of thing annoys me is in direct inverse relation to the quality of the books themselves. And I can’t say I found myself particularly upset that Williams has extended Read More
Shadowrise and Shadowheart by Tad Williams
ABOUT SHADOWRISE: Southmarch Castle is about to be caught between two implacable enemies — the ancient, immortal Qar and the insane god-king, the Autarch of Xis — while its two young defenders, Princess Briony and Prince Barrick, are both trapped far away from home and fighting for their lives. Barrick is lost behind the Shadowline, facing all the terrible dangers and mysteries of that magical twilight land. Briony is alone in a treacherous foreign court, struggling to survive with no weapon left to her but her wits. And in the midst of all this, something unbelievable is awakening underneath Southmarch, something powerful and terrible that the world has not seen for thousands of years. In this third volume, Barrick and Briony, along with Qinnitan — the Autarch’s desperate, escaped slave — a loyal soldier named Ferras Vansen, and a tiny hand... Read More
Shadowheart by Tad Williams
Shadowheart is the concluding fourth volume of Tad Williams’ most recent trilogy (yes, yes, I know), following Shadowmarch, Shadowplay, and Shadowrise. The last was originally intended to finish the series but instead was split in half, leading to Shadowheart. The first book, Shadowmarch, started off a bit slow and had some issues I thought with pace and cliché. Shadowplay was a large improvement in nearly all facets, Shadowrise kept to the higher quality, and Shadowheart, I’m happy to say, mostly ends it all in strong fashion.
The plot, which has been wide-ranging in terms of geography and multiple plot strands, has narrowed to a single point, centeri... Read More
A Stark and Wormy Knight by Tad Williams
I’ve been a fan of Tad Williams since I read MEMORY, SORROW AND THORN many years ago — a series I loved back then and need to revisit soon to see if it’s as wonderful as I remember. I’ve also enjoyed a few of Williams’ short stories that I’ve come across in anthologies — especially one that was one of my favorites in my very favorite anthology: Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance. So I was eager to read more of Tad Williams in his story collection A Stark and Wormy Knight. Most of these 11 stories have been printed elsewhere, and I had read a couple of them previously, but if you don’t already own them, this is a nice eclectic mix and a good introduction to an excellent author. Here are the stories you’ll find i... Read More
Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois
Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance is the best anthology I’ve ever read. These stories will be enjoyed by any SFF reader, but they’ll be ten times more fun if you’ve read Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, because they are all written in honor of that fantastic work. Each tale is written in the style of Vance, which is quite amusing in itself, and each takes place on the Dying Earth, that far-future wasteland in which natural selection means survival of the cleverest, nastiest, sneakiest, and most self-serving.
Songs of the Dying Earth was written by “many high-echelon, top-drawer writers” (as Mr. Vance says in the preface):... Read More
The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology by Christopher Golden (ed.)
FORMAT/INFO: The New Dead is 400 pages long divided over nineteen short stories. Also includes a Foreword by the editor Christopher Golden, and biographies on all of the anthology’s contributors. February 16, 2010 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of The New Dead via St. Martin’s Griffin. Cover art provided by Per Haagensen. The UK version will be published on February 18, 2010 via Piatkus Books under the altered title: Zombie: An Anthology of the Undead. Subterranean Press is also producing a limited signed edition of The ... Read More
Warriors by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (eds.)
FORMAT/INFO: Warriors is 736 pages long divided over twenty short stories and an Introduction by George R.R. Martin. Each short story is preceded by biographical information about the author and a short description of their contribution to the anthology. March 16, 2010 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Warriors via Tor.
“The King of Norway” by Cecelia Holland. I’ve never read anything by Cecelia Holland before, but the author is described as “one of the world’s most highly acclaimed and respected historical novelists.” Not surprisingly, her contribution finds the author doing wh... Read More
Warriors ed. by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois
To quote from George R.R. Martin’s introduction “People have been telling stories about warriors for as long as they have been telling stories.” I imagine that for most all who enjoy fantasy or almost any genre fiction, it’s the timeless tradition of the telling of warriors’ tales that is the heart of our passion. In fact, reading Martin’s introduction titled “Stories of the Spinner Rack” is enough to put Warriors on any bookworm’s reading list. For many of us who grew up in Small Town USA during the 70’s and earlier, before the big book stores and Amazon.com, we know exactly what he was talking about. It’s a very relatable trip down memory lane that primes the reader for the adventures that follow.
At 736 pages, Warriors is practically a tome. It contains twen... Read More
Epic: Legends of Fantasy by John Joseph Adams (editor)
Epic: Legends of Fantasy, edited by John Joseph Adams, is an anthology of stories written by some of the biggest names in epic fantasy. The book clocks in at over 600 pages not just because it’s very difficult to tell short epic stories (though some of these authors do manage to pull it off) but because here the authors are not just telling epic legends, they are legends in and of themselves. George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, Paolo Bacigalupi, Brandon Sanderson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kate Elliott, Orson Scott Card, Tad Williams, Aliette de Bodard, Michael Moorcock, Melanie Rawn, Mary Robinette Kowal, N.K. Jemisin, Carrie Vaughn, Trudi Canavan, and Juliet Marillier all contributed stories to this volume.
Epic: Legends of Fantasy opens with a novella by Robin... Read More
Otherland — (1996-2001) Publisher: Few science fiction sagas have achieved the level of critical acclaim — and best-selling popularity — as Tad Williams’s Otherland novels. A brilliant blend of SF, fantasy, and technothriller, it is a rich, multilayered epic of future possibilities. The first volume in this mesmerizing story takes readers to the near-future, when a global conspiracy threatens to sacrifice the Earth for the promise of a far more exclusive place — Otherland, a universe where any fantasy can be made real.
Available for download at Audible.com
The Dragons of Ordinary Farm — (2009- ) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Tyler and Lucinda have to spend summer vacation with their ancient uncle Gideon, a farmer. They think they’re in for six weeks of cows, sheep, horses, and pigs. But when they arrive in deserted Standard Valley, California, they discover that Ordinary Farm is, well, no ordinary farm. The bellowing in the barn comes not from a cow but from a dragon. The thundering herd in the valley? Unicorns. Uncle Gideon’s sprawling farmhouse never looks the same twice. Plus, there’s a flying monkey, a demon squirrel, and a barnload of unlikely farmhands with strange accents and even stranger powers. At first, the whole place seems like a crazy adventure. But when darker secrets begin to surface and Uncle Gideon and his fabulous creatures are threatened, Lucinda and Tyler have to pull together to take action. Will two ordinary kids be able to save the dragons, the farm — and themselves?
Bobby Dollar — (2012- ) Publisher: Bobby Dollar has a secret. Actually he’s got a ton of them. The most important one is that his real name’s Doloriel and he’s an angel. Not an important angel, maybe, but a rough-and-tumble guy who’s always done his part in the long cold war between Heaven and Hell. But now he’s stepped into the middle of something that’s got both sides very nervous — an unprecedented number of missing souls. And if that wasn’t enough, someone has summoned a truly unpleasant Babylonian demon that’s doing its best to track him down and rip him to pieces. Also, his opposite number on the case is arguably the world’s sexiest she-devil, and Bobby has feelings for her that Heaven definitely does not allow.
Tailchaser’s Song — (1985) Publisher: Fifteen years ago, the story of Fritti Tailchaser, a courageous ginger tom cat in a world of whiskery heroes and villains, of feline gods and strange, furless creatures called M’an, was first told.
Child of an Ancient City — (1992) With Nina Kiriki Hoffman Publisher: On a dangerous journey from fabled Baghdad to the desolate mountains of Armenia, a caravan of soldiers and diplomats is stalked by a mysterious “vampyr”. Only by telling stories of magic and enchantment can the men forestall the demon’s deadly thirst. But the vampire’s own story is stranger than any mere mortal can imagine…
Caliban’s Hour — (1993) Publisher: The author of To Green Angel Tower and The Dragonbone Chair weaves a tale featuring one of Shakespeare’s most mysterious characters. Caliban is a monster, but what drove him to evil? Was it Prospero, or his witch-mother Sycorax, or something unknown and unknowable?
The War of the Flowers — (2003) Publisher: Theo Vilmos is a thirty-year-old lead singer in a not terribly successful rock band. Once, he had enormous, almost magical, charisma both onstage and off — but now, life has taken its toll on Theo. Hitting an all-time low, he seeks refuge in a isolated cabin in the woods — and reads an odd memoir written by a dead relative who believed he had visited the magical world of Faerie. And before Theo can disregard the account as the writings of a madman, he, too, is drawn to a place beyond his wildest dreams… a place filled with be, and has always been, his destiny.
Rite — (2006) Publisher: Rite: Short Work gives ample evidence of Tad Williams as an accomplished practitioner of the short form! Within you’ll find a knockout novella later expanded to novel length (Child of an Ancient City), riffs on the great fantasist Michael Moorcock (The Author at the End of Time, Go Ask Elric), along with excursions into some of his most popular creations and beyond.
Diary of a Dragon — (2012) Publisher: You hold in your hand a sacred trust — a dragon’s diary. My diary. And that trust has been horribly violated by that dreadful Princess Lillian, or you wouldn’t be holding it. My own personal diary, published for all to see! That human female has no shame. I do, however. I do not wish my secrets spread about. Please, I beg you, put this book down now and walk away, kind browser. Respect an old dragon’s privacy. No matter what the princess thinks, these matters of violence, blackmail, and unnecessary romance are not for the eyes of others! No, no, don’t even open it! Ignore the attractive illustrations and the shocking true secrets of dragon life! You’ll be sorry! All right, you won’t. But I will. I hate princesses.
Child of an Ancient City — (1992) Nina Kiriki Hoffman and Tad Williams. Publisher: On a dangerous journey from fabled Baghdad to the desolate mountains of Armenia, a caravan of soldiers and diplomats is stalked by a mysterious “vampyr”. Only by telling stories of magic and enchantment can the men forestall the demon’s deadly thirst. But the vampire’s own story is stranger than any mere mortal can imagine…