Archive for Memory Sorrow and Thorn

empire of grass [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2019 by xi'an

It took me quite a while but I eventually went over reading this second volume in the Last King of Osten Ard trilogy. One reason for taking so long is the obvious reason that the book is looong (600+ pages) and heavy and hence not easy to carry during trips. Another reason is that the pace is somewhat slow, most of the book, and complex, with at least nine central characters followed and analysed in their own story. With sometimes a lack of appeal for the level of description adopted by Tad Williams… In particular, some characters are quite irritating in their constant and immature whining, most of all the old king Simon and his grandson Morgan. This was already the case in the first volume, so it feels heavier now, although the grandson seems to improve through his catastrophic journey. In several ways, I actually preferred this second volume since the story starts to bring out a clearer framework. (Even though the lazy choice of absolute evil for the Norn elves does  clash with the description of individuals within this group makes them much more human and balanced.) Albeit rare, there were some humorous lines that struck me, like the two trees fighting for a dog (apparently not an original line from the author). The multiple threads in this book do not help with the junction with the next volume, as the ensuing rich tapestry will become quite dusty by the time it appears. Which is not discussed at this stage. Hopefully it will not join the George Martin’s and Patrick Rothfuss‘ unended series club! And not split again as in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

the witchwood crown [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , on December 1, 2018 by xi'an

As Memory Sorrow and Thorn is a favourite fantasy series of mine, despite its imperfections, I pre-ordered the first volume in the new trilogy of Tad Williams, The witchwood crown, which takes place about fifty years after the events recounted in Memory Sorrow and Thorn. With some of the former characters, obviously [for the humans] getting old. Or ending up dead. This new story is thus very much articulated with respect to the original trilogy and could not be read independently. (I was surprised to see I remember so much of Memory Sorrow and Thorn given that I only read it once!) Overall, the first volume mostly sets the scene, brings in new villains and threats on this Osten Ard universe created by Williams, but does not see too much action, except for the constant traveling of most characters, crisscrossing the land so much that one would deem setting an Osten Ard travel agency as an urgent requirement for the next volume! The most annoying part of this articulation is that, while it avoids sketching these old characters from scratch, they keep running in circles about their live, old times, their position in the society, &tc. In particular, the latent antagonism between the three royal generations is poorly done, the future (?) king being turned into an idiot who does not know anything about the running of the kingdom and the specifics of its northern and southern enemies. The continuing low key bickering between the older royals is equally annoying, not to mention the princess stuck in between, whose role remains unclear till the end! While the overall plot unfolding remains captivating and meeting a few new characters worth reading The witchwood crown, I am still disappointed at the lack of depth of most characters and at the poor editing of the story in this heavy volume. Many threads are now open and it remains to be seen how skillfully Williams manages to spin them into the next book!

Shadowrise (and past books)

Posted in Books with tags , , , on March 12, 2011 by xi'an

I seem to always have the same reaction to Tad Williams‘ novels: (a) very excited by the first volume which sets an exciting universe and a good collection of characters, invariably including a pair of teenagers and compelling secondary characters from other races, (b) mildly disappointed by the second volume which gets bogged into an imaginary or mythical realm and a dispersion of the characters all over the (real) universe, (c) more strongly disappointed by the third volume which also invariably turns into two volumes because the author cannot keep up with the multiplication of subplots and characters… Although this has been quite a while ago, I still remember the pleasure of getting immersed into the DragonBone Chair, before some of the heroes vanished for another volume into an ethereal and unappealing Elven kingdom… Then the disappointment when reading the two last novels, first in the unnecessary length and second because the main characters did not gain in stature through the volumes, leading to a lukewarm ending of the series solved by an unconvincing deus ex machina plot device…

The Shadowmarch “trilogy” stands better the test of time/length than Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, but not that much! I still find the lengthy incursions into an(other) ethereal realm where anything can happen outside the “reality constraint” a strain on the story. While I do not mind a temporary suspension of disbelief, whole parts of a volume in vaguely defined universes (or otherlands to borrow from another of Williams’ series I have not read) is too much for my taste! Still, I  must acknowledge that the Shadowmarch series has more backbone, thanks to the major characters Briony and Barrick. In the third volume, those characters achieve a larger and more convincing stature, either by political maturing for Briony or by magical transformation for Barrick (who has at last stopped his perpetual whining!)… There are striking similarities in the plot with the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, in particular the threat from the Northern races and the young stereotyped princess (Miramele/Briony) feeling helpless to defend her case. But the plot is nonetheless deeper and more satisfying [/complex in the positive sense] with enemies (the Qars) turning into victims and another enemy, the aurach of Xis, slowly emerging. (There are also similarities with Jones’ Book of Words, including the partial deterioration of the plot—or rather the lesser attractivity of some of the major chracters—along volumes, but I do not want to get into this.) I am thus most likely going to read the final volume in the series, Shadowheart, which is already published.

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