Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn: Still charming

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Tad Williams Memory Sorrow and Thorn To Green Angel TowerMemory, 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 Farseer Saga, it’s the one I always recommend to newcomers to the genre.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. Kevin /

    What a great book!! I’m new to the Fantasy Literature website and I read The Dragon Chair based on the recommendation on this site. The odds weren’t good I would like it. I wasn’t in the mood for a long epic with so many characters the author felt compelled to put an appendix in the back of the book.

    IMO what makes this book so incredible is Tad Williams masterful use of words. His descriptions and character building are fantastic. He took a very routine plot and made a masterpiece that flows extremely well.

    There are some stereotypical elements that make the book predictable. It has the map in the front of the book. It has trolls from a snowy, northern land with Eskimo-sounding names. Their northern neighbors are large warlike men with Nordic-sounding names. It’s a coming of age story with good vs evil. Nothing special or original here. But Tad Williams takes the routine and makes it something very special in The Dragon Bone Chair!!

  2. Hi Kevin,
    I feel the same way. It’s been many years since I read this (which is why the review is so short — I just can’t remember it well enough). I can’t wait to read it again. There has been talk for a few years about it being put on audio, so I’m waiting for that.

    Meanwhile, I just started a re-read of Robin Hobb’s TAWNY MAN trilogy (sequel to FARSEER) because it’s just come out on audio this month. I am really enjoying coming back to this world. If you love MST, I’d definitely suggest trying Robin Hobb’s FARSEER next.

    • Kevin /

      Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll put Farseer on my list. I’m in the middle of “The Rise of Endymion” by Dan Simmons (last book in his Hyperion Cantos) and I have Magician: Apprentice by Raymond Feist up next (another recommendation from this site). So many great books and so little time!!

      • I know, I know!
        That’s why we say “Life’s too short to read bad books!”

        • Kevin /

          I’m a high school teacher so I try to go full speed ahead during the summer break and read as many books as I can.

          • I’m a teacher, too, but I actually get LESS read in the summer because my kids are home. (And I teach some during the summer, too).

          • Any thoughts on Stone of Farewell? I just finished it and greatly enjoyed it. Not quite as outstanding as The Dragonbone Chair but very, very good.

  3. Hi Kevin, I loved it too, but it’s been so long since I read it. I can’t wait to read this again!!

    • Just finished “To Green Angel Tower Part 1”. Excellent book. Like Stone of Farewell, it’s not quite up there with The Dragonbone Chair but still very, very good. Williams is an amazing writer. On to the 4th book in the trilogy!! :) At least the publisher explains the reason for splitting the final book into two parts.

      • Still waiting for these to be produced on audio!

        • Finished To Green Angel Tower Part 2 and really enjoyed it.

          IMO The Dragon Bone Chair and Stone of Farewell are a bit better than To Green Angel Tower Parts 1 and 2. Both Green Angel Tower books are good but the pacing tends to drag in places. The entire series is about 3,000 pages (paperback) and I think Williams could have cut it down by a couple hundred pages, mostly in the Green Angel Tower books. I love the characters and storyline, but I can live without 60 pages describing how a character wanders in the dark under a castle or 50 pages describing how a group is lost in a swamp. Way too much repetitive information and description at times.

          Still a very solid series that I have recommended to my own children!!

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