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Memory, Sorrow and Thorn
Tad Williams
DAW, 783, 589 and 1083 pages
Volume 1 The Dragonbone Chair
Volume 2 Stone of Farewell
Volume 3 To Green Angel Tower

Tad Williams
Tad Williams is the bestselling author of Tailchaser's Song and the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy. He is co-founder of an interactive television company, and is currently writing comic books and film and television scripts as well as novels.

Tad Williams Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Rite: Short Work
SF Site Review: Shadowmarch
SF Site Review: The War of the Flowers
SF Site Review: Sea of Silver Light
SF Site Interview: Tad Williams
SF Site Review: Otherland, Vol. 3: Mountain of Black Glass
SF Site Review:Otherland Vol. 2: River of Blue Fire
SF Site Review:Otherland Vol. 1: City of Golden Shadow

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dominic Cilli

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The Dragonbone Chair
Stone of Farewell
To Green Angel Tower
Perhaps Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn has been read and enjoyed by just about every 30-something fantasy fan. Personally however, they were published during a time when I was taking a hiatus from fantasy literature, so I hadn't heard much about them. If you're like me and for some reason you have not read these books, you need to remedy the situation immediately. Long ago, I had picked up a paperback version of The Dragonbone Chair and it sat buried in a pile of books on my bookshelf, unread, for twenty years. About a month ago I was faced with a dilemma. I had no more fantasy to read! Or so I thought... I looked through my books and found my copy of The Dragonbone Chair. I dusted off the cover then read a few online blurbs and found that a lot of people thought this was really good, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Now that I have completed the entire series, I can say undeniably that Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams is one of the finest examples of high fantasy I have ever read. It needs to be read by everyone who considers themselves a fan of the father of modern fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien. (God it even feels good to type the man's name!)

The story isn't anything earth-shatteringly original. In fact, by today's standards it may even be considered somewhat commonplace. The series Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is mostly the story of Simon. A kitchen boy working in the castle of the king who becomes unwittingly involved in the epic struggle between good and evil that will decide the fate of all mankind. After the beloved King John dies, a power struggle ensues between brothers, one clearly good and one who was once good, but whose mind has since been compromised by other forces. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn are three legendary magic swords that must be found, gathered and brought together in order to defeat the threat that looms over the kingdom. The story is told from many different viewpoints and jumps around quite a bit, but is never difficult to follow in the hands of an author as skilled as Tad Williams. There are dozens upon dozens of characters who develop over the course of nearly three thousand pages, so even those characters and plot elements that seem typical when I recap them are all done exquisitely. We are given a healthy dose of epic military battles complete with betrayals, alliances and political machinations. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn has all the trapping of classic high-fantasy and they are all done grandly. Whatever Memory, Sorrow and Thorn may lack in originality, it's made up for, in spades, by pacing, emotional impact, world building and character development.

When Tad Williams wrote these it is an excellent example of an author on top of his game and to think that these were his first novels which makes the feat even more impressive. I am certain readers will come to care a great deal about the fate of some of these wonderful characters. For example, there is a love story that develops in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn between Simon and Princess Miramelle. Sometimes, I find love stories that are comingled within high fantasy to be "tacked on" to appeal to the females in the audience, but this one is so delicately and realistically developed that even the most ardent males will find themselves at least somewhat enchanted by it. I could go one for days about the merits of this wonderful piece of fiction, but I won't. I think you have heard enough to know whether you're going to enjoy these novels.

In conclusion, I am uncertain whether Tad Williams started this project to pay homage to J.R.R. Tolkien, but whatever his intentions may have been, one can't read these books and not be lovingly reminded of Lord of the Rings. In fact, you'll find the entire series to be quite similar in theme and pace to that all important work and every bit as epic. Contrastingly, readers who may find Tolkien too slow or antiquated for them should probably stay away from these books. (And I hope both of you burn in the fires of Mordor for your blasphemy!) But that may be a better fate than allowing these to go unread. I think you'd be missing out on a very powerful emotional experience and one of the best examples of high fantasy you'll ever read.

Copyright © 2010 Dominic Cilli

When asked to write a third-person tag line for his reviews, Dominic Cilli farmed the work out to an actual 3rd person, his friend Neal, who in turn turned it over to a second person who then asked his third cousin to help out and this person whom Dom doesn't even know then wrote in 8th person Omniscient mode "Dom's breadth of knowledge in literature runs the gamut and is certainly not bounded by the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. One thing I can say with certainty is that of all the people I don't know who've ever recommended books to read, Dom's recommendations are the best.


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