To Green Angel Tower: Too long, but an exciting finale

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To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams epic fantasy book reviewsTo Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams

Note: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books.

To Green Angel Tower (1993) is the third book in Tad WilliamsMEMORY, SORROW & THORN trilogy, following The Dragonbone Chair and The Stone of Farewell. This is an extremely popular trilogy, which is why the arrival of a fourth book published a few weeks ago (23 years after To Green Angel Tower was published!) is such a noteworthy event in the fantasy community. In preparation for the new book, The Heart of What Was Lost, Penguin Audio finally released audio versions of the original trilogy last fall.

To Green Angel Tower, at 1083 pages in the hardback version, is one of the longest, if not THE longest, books I’ve ever read. Some editions, such as the one I read two decades ago, are actually divided into two volumes. Penguin Audio’s version is over 63 hours long (though I listened to it at double speed) and narrated by Andrew Wincott who does a great job, though his low-pitched voice can’t handle many female characters. Fortunately (for him, but not for us) there are few female characters in this series.

The story begins where The Stone of Farewell ended. Simon has finally arrived at The Stone of Farewell where Prince Josua’s forces and their allies are gathering to plan how to defeat King Elias and his evil advisor, Pryrates. With help from some visions, prophecies, and an ancient text, they figure out that (as readers have guessed by now), they need to acquire the three magical swords named Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Simon procured Thorn back in the first book. King Elias has Sorrow. Memory, they think, is buried with the old king, Prester John. Someone (Simon, of course) will need to dig it up.

To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams epic fantasy audiobook reviewsThe allies continue to be attacked by their enemies, but one big advantage they have, besides moral authority, is the help of Camaris, an ancient hero. Unfortunately, he seems to have amnesia and maybe other intellectual deficits. They are hoping that he will soon come back to himself and help them win the war.

Miriamele and Cadrach are still on a ship where Cadrach is imprisoned and Miri is also essentially the prisoner of the icky Aspitis who plans to force her to marry him. Duke Isgrimnur is still traveling around looking for her. Meanwhile Maegwin, affected by the Sithi, continues acting weird in the caves but she will have a crucial and tragic role to play. Guthwulf (now blind) and Rachel are hiding out, with an awesome cat, in the dark winding corridors under the Hayholt. Eventually all the major players will end up there for a final battle.

As with the previous book, The Stone of Farewell, this story moves so very slowly and readers need to be patient. I admit that I skimmed some sections (this was a re-read for me) though I don’t think I did that when I first read the book 20 years ago, at a time when I tended to be a lot more patient with these types of epic fantasies. Coming of age stories were a lot more appealing to me back then and I recall feeling like I had escaped for days into another world. Twenty years later, I do not feel quite so generous with my time, though I still admire Tad Williams’ craft, especially at world building, and I love some of his characters.

Fortunately, there’s a lot more action and excitement in To Green Angel Tower than there was in the previous book and the last part of the story is quite thrilling with several scenes that are truly frightening, poignant, tragic, or triumphant. I vividly remembered a few of them from my previous experience with the trilogy — they had left an impression on me that stuck all these years.

I’m looking forward to reading the new OSTEN ARD book, The Heart of What Was Lost, very soon.

Published in 1993. Tad Williams introduced listeners to the incredible fantasy world of Osten Ard in his internationally best-selling series Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. The trilogy inspired a generation of modern fantasy writers, including George R. R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Christopher Paolini and defined Tad Williams as one of the most important fantasy writers of our time. Book 3: To Green Angel Tower. The evil minions of the undead Sithi Storm King are beginning their final preparations for the kingdom-shattering culmination of their dark sorceries, drawing King Elias ever deeper into their nightmarish, spell-spun world. As the Storm King’s power grows and the boundaries of time begin to blur, the loyal allies of Prince Josua struggle to rally their forces at the Stone of Farewell. There, too, Simon and the surviving members of the League of the Scroll have gathered for a desperate attempt to unravel mysteries from the forgotten past. For if the League can reclaim these age-old secrets of magic long-buried beneath the dusts of time, they may be able to reveal to Josua and his army the only means of striking down the unslayable foe. After the landmark Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, the epic saga of Osten Ard continues with the brand-new novel The Heart of What Was Lost. Then don’t miss the upcoming trilogy The Last King of Osten Ard, beginning with The Witchwood Crown!

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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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6 comments

  1. Stuart Starosta /

    While I probably would have enjoyed this kind of mega epic fantasy trilogy back in high school, I just can’t justify dedicating over 100 listening hours when I could listen to 10 normal-length books. Our time priorities change when we become working adults ;-)

  2. Kevin S. /

    What?? There’s a fourth book in the series?? Great news! I loved the trilogy and the new book might have to go to the top of my TBR list.

    • Kevin S., I read it… review coming next week I hope. I wasn’t too thrilled, I’m sad to say. :(

      • Kevin S. /

        I look forward to your review! This series is one of my favorites and it’s hard to explain why. It’s fairly formulaic but I loved Williams writing.

        That’s a bummer that you weren’t too thrilled with the new book. I think sometimes authors push a good thing too far.

        • Well, I felt better about the new book when I realized it was merely a bridge to the next trilogy and NOT the first book in the trilogy.

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