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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2008
This is a classic - in a whole bunch of ways.

For starters, there's just the scope and depth of it all - the land of Osten Ard with its history and culture that parallels rather than apes the medieval world, although the sources show through quite clearly - the Celtic nature of Hernystir, the Roman Empire in Nabban and so on. But this simply makes the place more real, somehow, rather than just more realistic.

Second, there is the breadth of fully realised characters - yes, there's the stock innocent young person who becomes central to the story, but the incidental and supporting characters are just as fully realised, and Williams makes them real by making them human - Elias' frustration at being overshadowed by his great father, Josua's self-deprecation, even Binabik's prejudices. This lack of idealised, perfect heroes actually endears the characters to the reader rather than alienating them, making them seem too fake.

Third, there's the plotting. From a few first threads, this novel expands, snowballing into a number of distinct plotlines, only one or two of which are anywhere near tied up at the conclusion. I found the pace of the narratives sped up throughout, until at last, with the siege of Naglimund and the quest for Thorn, it was all but impossible not to say to myself "Ok - just one more chapter, then I'll go to sleep."

This book is very, very well done.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 2 July 2009
Well this book packs in just about everything that is totally out of vogue right now. A kitchen scullion boy with a mysterious heritage and burgeoning powers, magic swords, an elderly wizard type mentor, an evil king and his sinister hooded sidekick, a quest to find artifacts of power and of course, Dragons!

In fact pretty much everything that is seen as cliched and old hat and likely to be laughed at in an episode of Krod Mandoon is here in this first installment of what is a truly epic 4 book series!

And yet I gotta say I loved it!

The characters are beautifully and sympathetically drawn, the story is underscored with a gentle humour and the plot moves with a surprising pace and the plot elements are largely unpredictable.

In fact there are some nice variations on the 'usual'. The Elves (come on there had to be elves!) are a dispossesed and bitter people with no love of man and Trolls rather than the ogrish cave dwellers of LOTR are sensitive dimunutive mountain folk.

The book also has a believable 'authentic' feel to it, which I know sounds daft when talking about a book of high fantasy, but there you go, it has. Williams helps this process by borrowing heavily from Norse culture as both Anderson and Tolkien did before him, and also throws in a bit of Saxon and Scottish clan culture which gives a richness and texture to the individual Dukedoms and cultures.

The book has it's demands, the cast list is enormous though they build gradually so can be kept tabs on (helped by the appendices at the rear) there are also, of course, plenty of song lyrics and alien languages but the reader can choose to engage with these or not with (gotta say this along with maps is not something that rocks my world but I know many love them!)

In summary, it's good old school, high quality fantasy of the Tolkien school of writing! Yes you know the formula but then you do when you go and see A Bond film! It doesn't mean they are not great fun though.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2001
I won't tell you about the story, I'll tell you how it made me feel...
I bought it years ago, when it was first published, simply because it had a nice picture on the cover and because I wanted a big fat book that I could lose myself in for a couple of months.
It's a bit like a roller-coaster; the first hundred pages are like the climbing of the first hill, but once past them, you're hurtling along at break-neck speed, being thrown from side to side and hanging on for the thrill of the ride.
It's one of those books that makes you late for work in the morning. I found myself devoting every spare minute to reading the thing. I laughed, I cried and I raged, but most of the time I thanked my lucky stars that I bought this book. I love it, it's my favourite novel.
If you like epic fantasy, it simply doesn't get any better than this.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 3 July 2008
For all those who are saying that the beginning is boring, or that the final volume is the best - oh how wrong you are. Personally I think that by picking up the pace, the final volume of this trilogy loses some of the charm that makes this series so exceptional.
This series has a very slow tempo, T.Williams writes at his own pace, as he pleases, stopping to describe the most insignificant detail. Yes, at times I found the books tedious, but it was this slow pace which cast a spell on the books and made them special for me. The (first two) books lack plot but have even more content. It's how the characters interact what makes this such a wonderful series. I also like how Williams gives a lot of cliches some small twists.
This series has a lot of characters, I don't know how many dimensions they have, but somehow they feel more real than in your typical fantasy. I think it's because in this series it feels like the characters really have to face and deal with everyday difficulities, which many times occupy their minds more than the actual quest. Also, in the first time in any fantasy book I've read, I found the dialogue intelligent at times. I must mention that when the leader of the Church spoke back to Pryrates, that was just amazing.

One point of complaint is that for 3000 pages Williams makes the reader believe that there is more going on than meets the eye, and that the plot would be somehow deeper than it seems, but in the end it turns out that there are no real surprises and all the foreshadowing and mysteries have been just about that one thing concerning the destiny of the Swords.

A great read for all who are looking for more than action.
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on 20 October 2015
Still reading Tad Williams series Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.

Book 1: The Dragonbone Chair
Book 2: The Stone Of Farewell
Book 3: To Green Angel Tower: Storm
Book 4: To Green Angel Tower: Siege

Once again I am caught in its grip, and this rereading (for like the zillionth time) of a major favourite of mine has established Memory, Sorrow and Thorn as my very favourite fantasy series. Comparable to Tolkien, but I find Williams more accomplished at creating real characters, ones that I truly feel grow as individuals from chapter to chapter. This is essential reading for any fantasy fan, but also a worthy pick up for those who love literary fiction.

The feel of the prose, as weighty as Tolkien but as alive as Tolstoy, keeps me both intellectually charged, and wilfully entertained in a way that feels at once classic, and yet alarmingly modern. Tad Williams is not for the fainthearted: his books are heavy, and they are deep, and they are not for those who think fantasy is only about dungeons, dragons, and fast paced adventure, moving from one literary setpiece to the next with barely any room to breathe.

This series often has the feel of moving in real time, and you either get down with it and live alongside the characters (highly recommended), or you sadly resign yourself to giving up around the two hundred page mark, and lose out on one of the most intoxicating adventures in all of literature.

I love it when a writer takes their time establishing settings, characters, and events through gradual buildup. In the first book alone, hundreds of pages are spent following the daily tasks, tumblings, and creeping terrors of a castle kitchen boy and his friends; elsewhere, chapters and chapters can be spent wandering the damp, green and eerie forests; dismay, fear and tension during fights, ambushes and uncertainty of where and what to do next pulsate through beautiful prose, and with every mysterious question that arises, grandeur builds, and tension rises.

Many of these characters genuinely touch my heart. Regarding the details provided, I swear I can smell everything; my mind sees the mediaeval architecture, the baked goods, the hog roasting on the spit, and the fabric of the very robes of the unholy king in such alarming detail it could easily be that I had dreamed of the very events of this book- as if this very story had been an accurate account of my first hand experiences.

This series was a direct inspiration for A Song Of Ice And Fire (indeed, two characters are even referenced in passing in that series), and in all honesty, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is infinitely superior. But regardless of whether or not you enjoy the works of Martin, Williams now classic series is worth all the time and effort you put into reading them.

Captivated beyond words. Fantasy for the Tolstoy fan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2000
Superbative description, moving characters and a complex gripping plot which has you guessing right to the very end make this one of the best fantasy books I have read. Simon, a young kitchen boy adopted by the castle staff, is always in the midst of trouble. When his friend and father figure Dr Morgenes (a mysterious wizard like sage) is murdered by the evil priest Pryraates Simon is forced to flea. Little does he know his journey will take him into the arms of destiny...
PS. You may aswell buy the sequels too as you are going to need them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 2000
I like meat in my fiction, and this series certainly has the beef. There is interest and variety in the characterisation, and there are still enough of them left standing to keep you empathising, and willing the good guys on. Well worth purchasing all of the series in one block, to both keep those delivery charges down, and let you reach for the next one, when you finish reading the previous book at two in the morning, as you invariably do ! I also bought Mr Williams' "Otherland", so I'll let you know about that one too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2001
This book was definately addictive - Tad Williams had created a range of detailed characters that drag you into the plot - despite all the things that happen to him, Simon, the main character, manages constantly to be in the right place at (nearly) the right time and picks up a collection of friends and allies along the way. In a similar vein, Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy also follows a character from his boyhood as he tries to save the world - Both series I have enjoyed immensely.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2001
When I first read this book I thought it was the most refreshing story I had read for ages. At that time there was a lot of run of the mill , predictable ,often shallow fantasy around, this perked me up no end. The plot is great. The people are great. Its extremely well thought out,and no questions are left unanswered. If ypu have not read any of his work before ,sell your granny to get the money
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on 20 February 2011
One of the most underrated classics of the genre. Williams' Memory, Sorrow & Thorn takes the clichéd wide eyed fantasy boy that castrates so many titles and casts him adrift in a world that is anything but ordinary, average or mediocre.

Likable characters, approachable yet descriptive writing and above all a persistent sense of real wonder make this series a pleasure to read. Unfortunately all of the above is someone counterbalanced by the somewhat dire pacing shown throughout the first half of the book (one suspects the authors has lost a lot of potential fans this way, the real shame here is that when it gets going it's really rather good).

The bottom line? If you need an early abundance of visceral combat and quick paced adventure there are better options. If however you have the patience for it, Memory, Sorrow & Thorn could easily be the next great fantasy trilogy to grace your bookshelves.

If nothing else, the authors mastery of making his human races feel truly alien, and (in the case of the antagonists) truly malignant, makes for a masterpiece of escapism. If only for that and that alone these books could well be worth your time.
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