Saturday, August 23, 2014

Book Review: To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams (Book 3 of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn)

  Tad William's fantasy masterpiece, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn ends at To Green Angel Tower, the final volume of this trilogy. To Green Angel Tower is a truly epic book, because this book is split into 2 paperbacks (Part 1 and Part 2) due to its large size. The publisher stated at the beginning of To Green Angel Part 1, that they had to publish this book in 2 sections, because in the paperback format, they could not squeeze the contents into 1 book without making the size of the fonts too small. This means in the paperback format, the page count of To Green Angel Tower is roughly 1500 pages! Personally, I thought this epic finale does justice to this trilogy, and concluded a stunning story in a grand fashion, leaving the readers wanting for more. Today, I will review To Green Angel Tower as one big book (Part 1 and Part 2 combined).


At the Stone of Farewell, Prince Joshua rallied his forces against the menacing minions of the Storm King. Joshua and his allies are the last hope of Osten Ard, but time is running short. If they cannot thwart the vengeful plan of the Storm King, then all will be lost. To defeat the Storm King, the heroes have to solve the mysteries of the three great swords, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Memory is buried with the former king of Osten Ard, Prester John. Sorrow was once the weapon of the Storm King, now carried by Joshua's brother, Elias, the new king of Osten Ard. Who was driven mad by the sword's evil power. Finally, the great sword Thorn, was discovered by an unlikely hero Simon, in the cave of the Ice Dragon.

To defeat the Storm King, Simon and the League of Scrolls have to solve the riddle of these three great swords. Their journey and quest will take them to ancient places, unraveling forgotten and buried pasts. In the meantime, Joshua began a march towards Hayholt, to make a final stand against his brother Elias, who is now a pawn for the Storm King.

What I think about this book:

To Green Angel Tower is a good book, and it provides a satisfying conclusion to this trilogy. It is a very large book, the scope is vast and detailed. The story is also quite complex, numerous subplots run in the background. This means readers who enjoys reading a book with a complex and detailed story, will enjoy this book. However, for those readers who prefer to read a page-turning, action packed book will probably find the pace in this book (and this series in general) a bit slow. Comparing to some of the modern fantasy novels, this book does not have a lot of action scenes described in blow-by-blow details. Action is not the selling point of this book (or this trilogy in general). The main strength of this book (and this trilogy), is the vividly portrayed character dynamics that formed a complex and memorable story, set in a vast and detailed world.

I do have one minor complaint, however, and the complaint is that in this book (and this trilogy in general), sometimes it feels like the author spent too much time on details and he doesn't advance the plot. This is another reason why I think some readers will find this trilogy too slow for their taste.

Having said this, I think To Green Angel Tower is the best book in this trilogy. Moreover, while the story in this trilogy is mainly a tale of good vs evil, but it also grasps the complexity and the dynamics of the day-to-day challenges we all face, carrying the message that not everything is not as simple as black and white as it appears on the surface, our place is not to judge others, but to understand and forgive.

The author did a very good job at depicting the personal journey and transformation of the main protagonist, Simon, from a whiny castle scullion, to a beloved leader of men. The story of Simon captured my attention from the beginning of this series, right to the end. But Simon is not the only character that made this story great. The supporting characters also shined like bright stars across the sky, each character is unique and masterfully depicted with vivid liveliness. I especially like Simon's troll friend, Binak, who is loyal, courageous and wise. The story of their friendship is heartwarming and refreshing. At the end of this book, I was hoping Tad Williams will write a sequel to this trilogy, because I hope the story of Simon and Binak can continue.

Speaking of sequels. Recently, I heard the news that after 21 years, Tad Williams is planning to return to the world of Osten Ard, and write a sequel to Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Apparently in the planned sequel, the story will revolve around (now) King Simon, his queen Meriamele, and their son. Rumors has it that many major characters from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn will return. Personally, I enjoyed this trilogy, and I think it would be wonderful if Tad Williams does write a sequel.

I am an avid reader of fantasy fictions, it is my favorite genre. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is a marvelous example of why I love this genre. It has vividly portrayed characters, a richly detailed world full of history and lore, presented in a dynamic and beautiful story. This is the kind of story that lights up the depth of the human imaginative power, bringing great pleasures to the mind, yet inspiring profound truths and longings in humanity, such as courage, love and hope.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Book Review: Stone of Farewell by Tad Williams (Book 2 of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, is fashioned in the style of the classical, high fantasy fictions. It gained popularity in the late 80s and the early 90s, and this trilogy also heavily influenced some of the famous, modern works of fantasy fiction, such as A Song of Ice and Fire, and Inheritance Cycles. Personally, I deeply enjoyed this trilogy, and I thought it is definitely one of the “must read” series for fans of the fantasy genre. Today, I will review the second installment of this trilogy, titled “Stone of Farewell”.


Following the events in The Dragonbone Chair; Simon, the troll Binak, and their companions finally retrieved the great sword Thorn, one of the three legendary swords foretold by an ancient prophecy to thwart the coming of Inekuli, the Storm King. In the meantime, Prince Joshua was attacked by his brother, the high king Elias. An alliance was forged under an unholy pact between the high king, Elias and the Storm King. Elias enlisted the help of Norns, who are the horrifying minions of the Storm King. Joshua suffered a dreadful defeat in the hands of Norns, and was forced to flee from his city into the frozen waste with a small band of survivors.

The remaining members of League of Scrolls embarked on a quests to guide the scattered heroes to an ancient, mysterious citadel called Stone of Farewell. At this place, the heroes will regroup, preparing a final stand before the coming threats of Storm King. Meanwhile, the elder races of Osten Ard are about to make a decision that will change the fate of Osten Ard..

What I think about this book:

Stone of Farewell maintained the same style of storytelling as its predecessor, The Dragonbone Chair. The writings are detailed and descriptive. However, in comparison to the previous installment, Stone of Farewell moves at a faster pace. This book is also has a complex structure. There are multiple subplots spiraling around the main plot. This means the readers need to pay close attentions, in order to keep track of the story development. Thankfully, the author planned these subplots very well, and the book is not overly complicated, and readers can still comprehend the story progression easily.

Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is a character driven story. In Stone of Farewell, the author depicted the characters, their emotions and thoughts in vivid details. I was particular impressed by the depictions of Joshua, who slowly became embittered and frustrated, after his defeat in the hands of Norns. Many main characters in this book faced their inner despairs, as they struggled to persevere and cling on to hopes, making this a great book with 3-dimensional characters. My opinion, is that the characterizations in this book seems to be superior than the previous installment.

Lastly, as I was reading this book, I couldn't help but notice how this trilogy influenced George R.R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. While Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and A Song of Ice and Fire, are completely different stories, each is unique and original in their own ways. Yet, I can certainly see how this trilogy influenced A Song of Ice and Fire. For example, it is not hard to observe both series have story elements such as: 1) A long lasting, frozen winter, 2) A menacing, ancient threat which awakens in the north, 3) The personal transformation of a protagonist, from an lowly castle boy, to a hero, 4) Sentient wolves serving as friend/protectors to the protagonists, 5) Multiple characters with unique strengths, weaknesses, and motivations, 6) Plentiful of court intrigues, Ladies, knights and wizards. I once read an article where George R.R Martin reportedly to have said, that his A Song of Ice and Fire series is heavily influenced by Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I think the major difference, is that Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is more akin to the traditional, Tolkien-style fantasy books, mainly a story about good vs. evil. While A Song of Ice and Fire, is more inline with modern fantasy books, with morally ambiguous story elements and characters, set in a grim, dark world. Having said this, I do think fans of A Song of Ice and Fire will probably also enjoy Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.

After I finished this book, I eagerly opened the final (or pan-ultimate) episode to this trilogy, titled “To Green Angel Tower Part 1”, the review for the next installment will follow, once I finish reading it.

In the meantime, happy reading!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book Review: The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams (Book 1 of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn)

The Dragonbone chair is the first book to the trilogy, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. This book is a fantasy novel, authored by Tad Williams and published in 1988. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn was very popular in the late 80s/early 90s. Furthermore, this trilogy is a source of inspiration for many modern fantasy series. For example, Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, and A song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin are both influenced by this trilogy. Today, I will review the first book in this trilogy, titled, The Dragonbone Chair.


Under the reign of King Prester John, the land of Osten Ard has enjoyed peace for many years. The aging king is dying. Tension exists between King John's 2 sons, Prince Elias and Prince Joshua, though Elias is the rightful heir to the throne. Following King John's death, Elias inherited the throne and became the new king. Open conflict ensued between Elias and Joshua, sending Osten Ard into a troubled time. Behind these struggles, awakens the Storm King, a vengeful, undead entity. The Storm King made an unholy alliance with the royal bloodline, seeking to retake what was once his. The only hope for Osten Ard lies on Simon, a castle scullion apprenticed to a secret order. Simon was charged with a quest to find 3 powerful swords; namely Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Can Simon thwart the coming darkness?

What I think about this book:

The Dragonbone chair is a classical, high fantasy novel like Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It is a story about good versus evil, an epic conflict where a lowly, seemingly unimportant individual became the hero to save the day. In the sea of fantasy literature, the theme of a peasant boy becoming a hero to save an entire kingdom, is not uncommon. But The Dragonbone Chair manages to distinguish itself from the rest, by presenting to readers a very well written, character-driven story.

Characterization is the main strength of this book. There are many characters in this book, each character has his/her own distinctive personality, strengths, and weaknesses. There is plentiful of character development in this book. Readers journey with Simon (a very likable character) as he slowly transitioned from a lowly castle boy into an unlikely hero. The character development feels natural and unforced. In this book, the supporting characters are memorable, full of colors of their own.

This book also excels in world building. The world of Osten Ard is rich with lore, history, and culture. This book introduced its readers to Osten Ard at a gentle pace, with well knitted and detailed narratives. This also means the first 200 pages of this book moves at a slow pace. In other words, if you find the pace in The Lord of the Rings slow, then you will also find The Dragonbone Chair a slow read. However, if you decide to read this book, I would recommend that you remain patient with the first 200 pages in this book, because the beginning of this book lay the foundation to the story as it unfolds. Beyond the first 200 pages lies one of the most remarkable stories that heavily influenced the genre of fantasy.

The Dragonbone chair is a good fantasy novel. It took me two weeks to read it, but I enjoyed it. After reading this book, it seems to me The Dragonbone Chair is the beginning of an unforgettable story, so I am eager to find out what's in store for Simon and Osten Ard, in the next installment to this trilogy, titled “Stone of Farewell”. Meanwhile, if you enjoy Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, David Edding's The Belgariad, or Christopher Paolini's Inheritance cycle, then you will probably enjoy The Dragonbone Chair too.


Book Review: The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry (Cotton Malone #1)

The history of the knight Templar continues to be a subject of fascination today. From Dan Brown to Raymond Khoury, the story of the knight Templar is a well of inspiration for many contemporary authors of religious thrillers, often generating controversies upon publications . The Templar Legacy is a religious thriller, written by author Steve Berry. I borrowed this book from my local library, and I enjoyed it. I thought it was a good book. However, I think this book is also likely to offend the conservative minded, religious individuals. Without further delay, allow me to review this book.


Cotton Malone, a former operative for the US Justice Department, is enjoying a quiet life after his retirement. Cotton made a living as an antiquarian book dealer in Copenhagen, Denmark. One day, his former boss, Stephanie Nelle, visited him with vital clues to solve a centuries old mystery. A mystery involving the supposedly extinct order of the knight Templar, and their most treasured secret, the Great Device. In this quest, Malone and Stephanie faced rivalries and dangers at every turn. They realized, at the end of the road, the Templar’s secret could rock the civilized world. Furthermore, if this secret falls into the wrong hand, it could bring the world to its knees.

What I think about this book:

I like reading religious thrillers. It is not because I have something against religion. But because when I read religious thrillers, other than the suspense, esoteric vibe, and excitements, I especially enjoy the undertone of independent thinking (a somewhat under-valued quality in the religious community), flying under the license of creative literature. So what do I think about this book? My opinion is The Templar Legacy is comparable to The Da Vinci Code. Both books used the history of the knight Templar, making a connection between the “supposed” treasures discovered by the Templars after the 1st crusade, to the divinity of Christ. While the story in both books are highly fictionalized, but I think Steve Berry has done a better research in this book than Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code. This also means The Templar Legacy is not as much as a “page-turner” as The Da Vinci Code. Having said this, The Templar Legacy is an action packed thriller. Several places in this book did explore the historical facts in details, thereby slowing the pace of the story. While some might be less satisfied with the uneven pace, but I quite enjoyed how the author utilized historical facts and blended it with the plot, to construct a entertaining, believable story.

The characterization in this book is also very good. I like the character of Cotton Malone. He is somewhat similar to Dan Brown's character, Robert Langdon. Both are highly intelligent men, possessing similar character traits such as courage and perseverance. The biggest difference between these two characters, is that Cotton Malone was an ex-agent with martial training. This brought a James Bond feel to the book, and there are some intense action scenes. The action scenes, though octane driven, however, are quite realistic and believable.

As I have mentioned earlier. This book is likely to offend some conservative minded, religious individuals. The reason is because the story makes a speculation on the divinity of Jesus. Personally, I adopt an open minded attitude towards these things, so I found the story quite fun, and somewhat thought provoking. Unfortunately, for some religious individuals, a speculation on the divinity of Christ is bound to be treated as a subject of controversy that is both negative and offensive. Nevertheless, for the most part and for what it is worth, I think this book is an entertaining, weekend read.