About the Author:
Tad Williams has had jobs ranging from working in radio, TV, cinema and theatre to selling shoes.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.5 out of 5
Stone Of Farewell
Book two of the Memory, Sorrow And Thorn series. Williams provides a slightly better book here than the first of the series. Most of the improvement comes from the maturation of the main characters; Simon isn't quite such and insufferable wiener and Miriamele actually starts to think for herself.
There are considerably less poorly-written cliches to wrestle with here too, as Williams broadens the nonhuman cultures that inhabit his world to be more than just tree-hugging elves and mountain-living trolls. The Yiqanuc (that's the trolls) get a fair bit of exposure at the beginning of the book, allowing them to seem more like a fully realised culture than a simple conceit and the same goes for the Sithi later on.
Also, the focus has begun to veer away from the depressingly hackneyed king-gone-mad-with-power towards the more sinister and supernatural threat of the Storm King. Basically, a much more interesting read than its predecessor, but still not of high enough quality to earn it distinction among the other modern fantasy series.
Followed by 'To Green Angel Tower: Siege'.
4 out of 5
The Dragonbone Chair
The first book of the Memory, Sorrow And Thorn series. Williams writes well and keeps his story moving along fairly rapidly for the most part. That said, however, the story told here, of a kitchen boy named Simon who finds himself thrust into a desperate flight from evil forces and then joins a quest with an assortment of strange allies, is entirely too familiar.
Williams doesn't really add any new concepts, which isn't always bad, but he also doesn't handle the fantasy mainstays (cliches, some might say) very well either. More than simply being an everyman, out of his depth, Simon is an irritating, cowardly simpleton, who is very hard to connect with as a main character. Miriamele's disguise is probably the worst cliche and entirely unnecesary, as we figure it out from the very beginning (or I did at least). The power hungry king led astray by his magician is again very familiar and that king's meetings and unholy ceremonies with evil creatures lack any feeling of the sinister.
Binabik's character redeems the blandness of the book somewhat, but in general, Williams doesn't provide anything here that hasn't been done better by other authors. And if you're gonna have elves, bloody well call them elves, instead of calling them Sithi and hoping no one notices their clearly elven nature.
Followed by 'Stone of Farewell'.
3 out of 5
To Green Angel Tower: Siege
The third book of the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series. This is definitely the best book of the series so far and features three main storylines. The first deals with Prince Josua's followers who find themselves besieged at the Stone of Farewell. Sieges are the bread and butter of epic fantasy and Williams writes a good one, adding the interesting element of the fighting taking place on a frozen moat into the mix.
The second storyline begins with Miriamele as a captive (and sexual plaything) of the cruel Lord Aspitis. However, she and the unstable monk Cadrach escape and find help in the form of Duke Isgrimnur, Tiamak and the amnesiac Sir Camaris. This little group then undertakes a trying journey across the swamps of the Wran. My favourite bit of this storyline involved an encounter with a giant crocodile. The third major plotline in this book is that of the Hernystiri who make a stand against their conquerors and are surprised by the arrival of the Sithi as allies.
This book's best element is the continuing maturation of Simon and Miriamele and the affect it has on their feelings for one another. Simon, having faced a dragon and befriended both the Yiqanuc and the Sithi, becomes a knight and one of Josua's counsellors. Miriamele, however, is shocked out of her rich-girl mind set and suffers a tragic loss of innocence at Aspitis' hands. When the two of them are brought back together once more their childish infatuation with one another begins to develop into a more adult connection.
As before, the worst element of this book is the cliched mad king being poisoned and manipulated by his wizard counsellor.
Followed by 'To Green Angel Tower: Storm'.
4 out of 5
To Green Angel Tower: Storm
The final book of the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series. Because this book is actually the second half of the original single hardback volume, it throws us right in at the deep end of events from the previous book. We then follow three main storylines; that of Josua and his army, the campaign of Count Eolair and the Sithi, and the mission of Simon and Miriamele into the heart of enemy territory.
The latter storyline began as my favourite since, as a hopeless romantic, I enjoyed the awkward by affectionate time the characters spend together on the road. However, the story turned sour when it enters the tunnels beneath the Hayholt, leading to a confusing, repetetive and irritating series of events.
Also, a large portion of this book is dreams and visions, leading to a good deal of confusion and a certain amount of boredom. Don't get me wrong, overall this is an enjoyable end to an equally enjoyable series, but it has some specific flaws which rob it of being the grand ending that a series like this should have. Among these flaws are the way in which numerous storylines from the previous books lead to pointless dead ends, as well as the fact that all the hard-won knowledge and experience the characters gain proves incorrect and in the end it's almost complete chance that saves the day.
3 out of 5