“Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” by Tad Williams

I’m attempting to catch up with all the books I read over the couple of months I didn’t update this blog (which is a lot), so I’ve decided to have only one post for each series that I read to keep the number of posts low. Plus, I don’t remember each separate book clearly anymore.

Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is a series I heard a lot about – apparently it’s pretty well-known in the fantasy world. The first book is The Dragonbone Chair, in which we meet a young castle boy, Simon, who of course, gets caught up in events far bigger than him and has to flee for his life. Elias, the king of Osten Ard is slowly going mad, influenced by the evil priest Pryrates, so his younger brother, Josua is forced to try and overthrow him.

As I recall, the first book was pretty much all about solving the riddle of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and the quest to go find these items. The world is pretty well-fleshed out, although heavily Tolkien inspired (elves, dark elves, etc.), and there is a fair amount of politicking. Simon is a pretty typical protagonist – young, naive, but courageous and intelligent. His traveling companion, Binabik and his wolf Qantaqa are pretty awesome. The Sidhi (elves) are interesting – they’re clearly inspired by Japanese culture.

The Stone of Farewell was a pretty standard middle book – lots of setup for the final confrontation, the forces gather, decisions are made, former enemies learn to fight together for the greater good etc. I particularly liked the story of Maegwin, the princess of one of the kingdoms affected by Elias’ quest for power – the remains of the kingdom is in hiding, and Maegwin is slowly driven mad by her losses. Miriamele, the princess of Osten Ard continues to think she knows better than everyone else and strikes off on her own yet again, which lands her in trouble… again.

To Green Angel Tower features the forces of good finally being on the offensive, and the march towards Elias’ castle. I was a bit let down by the conclusion – the insurmountable threat that everyone has been fearing for all three books is vanquished without much difficulty, and there’s a neat little bow of a happy ending that I found completely implausible. I don’t want to spoil things too much, so I won’t go into it.

Some general comments about the series as a whole: pretty well written, a detailed world, a world that feels real and weighted down by its own history – that makes the series worth reading. However, Simon is a bit of an annoying protagonist sometimes – a self described “mooncalf” and although he grows a lot by the end of the third book, he still seems like a bit of an idiot.

Also, Tad Williams doesn’t really do a good job with writing women – both Vorzheva (Josua’a mistress, later wife) and Miramele have their occasional moments, but overall, they’re presumptuous, whiny and generally just seem too dependent on the men. Maegwin is okay, but she’s going insane. Especially the end with Miramele and Simon… ugh, too neatly resolved, too implausible of a romance, and Miramele’s actions are way too much of a stretch.

I’m wavering about whether I’d recommend this series – it’s well realised, but somewhat cliché and the ending is terrible. I don’t regret reading it, though.


The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #1)
DAW Books, 1988 | Buy the book

Stone of Farewell by Tad Williams (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #2)
DAW Books, 1990 | Buy the book

To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #3)
DAW Books, 1993 | Buy the book


One thought on ““Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” by Tad Williams

  1. Pingback: Books I plan to read soon. « Just a World Away

Leave a Reply