Tag: Tad Williams


Review – Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

Posted 22 January, 2016 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Dragonbone Chair by Tad WilliamsMemory, Sorrow and Thorn, Tad Williams
Originally reviewed February 2008

Things That Were Not So Good (first, to get them out of the way)

It was almost entirely predictable. I was several steps ahead of the characters at all times, I think. This might be because I’ve read a lot of fantasy, to some extent. Few fantasy books manage to surprise me. The other thing that annoyed me quite a lot was that it had God, Mary and Jesus and the Christian church, by other names but not disguised at all. It wasn’t necessary. Just a little invention could produce a religion that was similar, but not a carbon copy, and would serve the same purpose. The presence of a religion was pretty necessary, but it didn’t need Christianity.

One of the main characters annoyed me, too. It’s a cliché to hate the headstrong princess character, and I’m not sure what annoys me so much about her — possibly her outlook on life, and the way she reacts to things. Certainly I could tell that she was well intentioned and genuinely strong, but she still tended to get on my nerves.

Also, I never got particularly attached to the main character, Simon (Seoman). He was okay, and didn’t annoy me like Miriamele, but he just didn’t captivate me much. It reminded me very much of this article about scullery boys becoming kings — which is what he does, and not in a very creative variation on the plot.

Things That Were Good

I seem to have had a lot of gripes about it, but really, I loved it. It kept me enchanted for about a week, and I couldn’t put it down. I loved a lot of the characters, even the flawed ones. I fangirled madly about Josua Lackhand and I love the way things ended for him. I’d wanted him to become king, but the ending he got was even better because it was what he wanted. I did get some surprises, which weren’t the kind that come completely out of nowhere: reading back, the hints were there, which is always good.

I liked the Sithi. They filled the place that elves generally do in fantasy stuff, I think, but they were very much otherworldly — it wasn’t just their ears that were different, or just that they were immortal. They were incomprehensible to the human characters — chilling, even when they were their allies.

I loved that the ending was a logical place to end the story, but it didn’t wrap everything up so nothing more could be said. Their world needs rebuilding, and there’s a prophecy about two children, and everything’s set to go on… but Tad Williams isn’t planning on writing anymore for that world. I know some people dislike that in a set of books, but I like wondering.

I definitely recommend the series if you like fantasy and don’t mind that you’ll probably figure things out well in advance of the characters.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – War of the Flowers

Posted 20 November, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of War of the Flowers by Tad WilliamsWar of the Flowers, Tad Williams
Originally reviewed 1st June, 2009

I read this book a long time ago — it was the first book by Tad Williams that I read — but never wrote a proper review for it. Both times I’ve read it I ate it up in about two days. The writing was pretty good — or it tasted good, anyway, from a synaesthete’s point of view — and the plot was interesting enough to draw me on and make me read it in great big chunks. There was something unmemorable about it, though. I have a pretty good memory, like my dad, and my dad is one of those guys who can tell you what happened in an obscure episode of the old series of Doctor Who that hardly anyone even remembers seeing. But I just didn’t really remember what happened in this book, so reading it again was actually mostly discovering things all over again.

One of the things I like a lot about the book is that it isn’t some great multi-volume epic with hundreds of characters. You stay focused on one main character throughout and don’t go off on too many tangents. Speculative fiction seems to, by default, come in trilogies, which drives me a little mad when I want a relatively simple/quick read. Unfortunately, this can be a bit of a pitfall, too. The War of the Flowers is pretty dense, and the main character, Theo Vilmos, is a bit slow and a bit of a jerk. He seems to sort of mean well, but he keeps saying and doing the wrong things.

There are some pretty awesome supporting characters — particularly Applecore, who is a little sprite with a foul mouth and a temper and, despite an odd soft spot for Theo, she calls him on his behaviour a lot. There’s a lot of other interesting characters, both good and bad, although some of them are more concepts than fully realised characters — for example, the Terrible Child.

There is also a lot of world-building packed into the book. Because parts of it rely on political machinations, there’s a lot of social/historical background packed in. It’s also complicated by the fact that Williams uses the old stories about Faerie, but his Faerie society is what we would consider to be more advanced: out of the medieval era into the world of “electricity”, etc. I liked the world he built quite a lot, although the obvious parallels with our modern world were somewhat intrusive. I don’t know how much it was intended to be a commentary on our world, but some parts felt rather pointed.

Overall, I think it could have been a shorter, slicker read, but I kind of liked the slow build. I’d say it’s just good summer holiday reading, but I know the first time I read it I read in the gaps between classes and so on, so it’s not something you can only stand if you settle down with it in the evenings or whatever. Depends how you read, I guess.

Rating: 4/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 8 September, 2015 by Nikki in General / 20 Comments

This week’s prompt from The Broke and the Bookish is “ten finished series I have yet to finish”.

  1. Jacqueline Carey’s Agent of Hel. I think Poison Fruit is the last book, anyway? Soon I’ll get to it. Soon.
  2. Stephen Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Okay, I haven’t even finished the first book.
  3. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Sorry?
  4. Kelley Armstrong’s Darkness Rising. I’ve read the Darkest Powers trilogy, but not this one yet.
  5. Tad Williams’ Shadowmarch series. Okay, I haven’t started it. But I have the first book!
  6. Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I’d like to say that by the time this goes live, I will have finished the last book. But it’s unlikely.
  7. Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm books. I’m partway through Bitterblue. Perhaps I have finished it as this goes live. Perhaps not. Schrodinger’s book.
  8. Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series. I think I’ve got halfway through the series twice now, and then distra
  9. Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael books. Yeah, I don’t know that I have an excuse here…
  10. Brian Jacques’ Redwall books. I don’t know if I’ll ever actually read all of them, but it’s a nice thought that some of that warm and cosy world still awaits, should I want to visit.

Okay, that was harder than I expected, since I’m doing this quite a while in advance and I’m not sure what I’ll have got round to by then! What’s on everyone else’s lists?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 1 September, 2015 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

This week’s theme is “Ten Characters You Just Didn’t Click With” and actually, I’m having a bit of trouble thinking of it. Okay, here goes…

  1. Jill Pole and Prince Rillian from The Silver ChairActually, most of the characters in the last two books. They just didn’t have the magic, somehow.
  2. Prince Sameth, Lirael AbhorsenCompared to their mother, both him and Ellimere are just weak tea. He spends so much time denying his responsibilities, where his mother just took it all on and never dreamed of saying no. In a way, it’s a more realistic characterisation, but gah, so much whining.
  3. Elvira, from Half a Crown. I love most of Jo Walton’s characters, but Elvira’s concerns seemed so far away from the concerns of the more mature characters we’ve already spent time with.
  4. Boromir, from The Lord of the Rings. I know he’s actually a good guy at heart, and we see the evil power of the Ring twisting him, but there was something so glory-seeking and self-centered about the guy, especially when compared to Faramir.
  5. Malta Vestrit, from The Liveship Traders trilogy. Ohh my god, so spoilt. And it doesn’t really get better even as she begins to grow up; I never liked her. Mind you, a lot of the characters in this trilogy were very dislikeable, to me.
  6. Miriamele, from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Speaking of spoilt characters…
  7. Jaelle, from The Summer Tree. I never felt like I really understood the character, and I wanted more out of her.
  8. Katsa, from GracelingI know! She’s pretty kickass, but I never really connected with the character. It’s why I didn’t like it that much the first time I tried it.
  9. Lancelot, in anything. Almost the sole exception is Heather Dale’s music and parts of Steinbeck’s retelling of Malory.
  10. Dorian Havilliard, Throne of Glass. Actually, I didn’t really ‘get’ either love interest in the first book, but Chaol is growing on me. Dorian… there are some aspects I’m liking, but in the first book, he really didn’t win me over.

I tried to pick books I liked, in general, and characters who are not meant to be villains. I’ll be interested to see what other takes people have on this theme!

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 10 March, 2015 by in General / 11 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is “ten books for readers who like _____”. I’m gonna go with epic fantasy, since I do love a good epic fantasy and it can be difficult to find ones that are to your taste. I’m going to assume that Tolkien’s work is a given, in this category…

  1. Poul Anderson. He did a lot of sci-fi stuff, but also some fantasies. I love The Broken Sword (I posted my old review as one of my Flashback Friday posts here) and Three Hearts and Three Lions. This is fantasy that isn’t directly affected by Tolkien, so it doesn’t have all the same aesthetics — but The Broken Sword in particular draws on some of the same sources, and has some of the same interests. The poetry, for example, in The Broken Sword — there’s definitely comparisons there with the way Tolkien used verse.
  2. David Eddings. No, okay, I know all his series are basically the same stories and characters recycled, so I’d only recommend reading one. But for brain candy, I do like a bit of Eddings. Personally, I would go with The Diamond Throne et al. I think Sparhawk was my introduction to Eddings, and I still have affection for those books.
  3. Jacqueline Carey. Specifically Banewreaker and Godslayer for a flipped around version of The Lord of the Rings, something that goes into a lot of shades of grey and finds that few people are irredeemable, and that there’s more than one side to any story. If you like court politics more, then Kushiel’s Dart is more likely to be your speed. (And she’s even written some urban fantasy more recently, too.)
  4. N.K. Jemisin. I liked her more recent duology, but it was the Inheritance Trilogy that really hooked me. Court politics, gods and men. And women. Interesting mythology, various different perspectives, and it’s not a multi-volume epic. Each book doesn’t stand completely alone, but one level of the plot is certainly accessible without reading the other books. Lots of interesting narrative voices, too.
  5. Raymond E. Feist. This is a case of a multi-volume epic. I’ve never read them all, but I do love his Riftwar Saga. It’s something I want to come back to. I fell for so many of the characters and ideas, and this is a case where there is a ferocious amount of world-building. You’re never gonna go off the edge of Feist’s maps and find the writer’s forgotten to account for the world outside his tightly controlled setting.
  6. Robin Hobb. So many characters to love and to hate. I’m not at all sure what I think of the Soldier Son trilogy — there were some persistent themes in them that I just didn’t like — but the Farseer books are great. Assassins, quests, dragons, magic, animals, politics… It has a little bit of so many things that I love, with a convincing narrative voice too.
  7. Steven Erikson. Willful Child was really disappointing to me, but I loved Gardens of the Moon, and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of the books. And this is another of those wide worlds with lots to dig your teeth into.
  8. Tad Williams. The Memory, Sorrow and Thorn books are awesome. I started reading them and thought it all fairly typical — you know, kitchen boy is probably going to turn out to be a hero, etc, etc. I was probably reminded of David Eddings, actually. But there’s a lot of world building, a lot of other characters to love, and I found it all so compelling that I read all four massive volumes in less than a week.
  9. Scott Lynch. I hardly need to say this, do I? The Lies of Locke Lamora is great; the world the books take place in is rich and full of wonder (things the characters wonder at, and things that the readers wonder at while the characters take them for granted). “High” fantasy? Maybe not; we’re not dealing in princes and kings, nor even kitchen boys who turn out to be knights, just a bunch of orphans from the streets who turn out to be real good at scamming people. But there’s epic background.
  10. Guy Gavriel Kay. Particularly the Fionavar Tapestry books, which seem like a synthesis of so much else from the genre. There’s hints of Stephen Donaldson, Tolkien, Anderson, so on. These were his first books, but he was already very powerful with the details of character and relationship. Tigana is also highly recommended, and stands completely alone, with all the politics and magic you could wish for.

I thought I’d find this week’s hard, but actually, I quite enjoyed doing this. Let me know what you think — and let me know what you’ve posted about!

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My Cup of Tea

Posted 15 February, 2015 by in General / 23 Comments

I think this would be a nice one to go viral: a post in which we celebrate the tropes we love instead of griping about the ones we don’t (which are, no doubt, someone else’s favourites). So thanks to Kaja from Of Dragons and Hearts, here is a post about tropes which are, so to speak, my cup of tea.*

  • The loveable rogue. Locke Lamora, I am looking at you right now, but also looking further back into my reading past: Jimmy the Hand, Crowley from Good Omens, Gaiman’s Marquis de Carabas… And perhaps best of all, though not from books: Captain Malcolm Reynolds.
  • The paladin. Joscelin Verreuil. Captain America.
  • The second son. Faramir. Arutha. Verity Farseer. Josua from The Dragonbone Chair. I don’t know what it is, but I tend to prefer the younger brother.
  • Heists. You have a really clever plan, you say? Morally dubious, you say? As long as it’s fiction, I’m along for the ride.
  • Superheroes. Uh. I’m not sure this even needed to be said. But not just guys like Steve Rogers, who have been altered for it, but the people who make themselves into heroes, too, like Hawkeye.
  • Moral ambiguity. Nobody’s perfect, and while a character who is a total bastard just isn’t fun for me, it’s nice when a character isn’t a total angel.
  • Guilty conscience. Perhaps especially when it’s not really that person’s fault. Like, say Steve Rogers blames himself for Bucky’s death — it’s not really his fault, he’s in no way a bad guy, but the fact that he can believe this makes him that bit more human and believable.
  • Dragons/elves/aliens are nothing like humans. Capricious, commanding, nothing like the regal/wise/enlightened creatures we expect? Interesting!
  • Friends like brothers. “I’m with you till the end of the line.” Gaaah. Gaaaaaah. Or Marcus and Esca, Locke and Jean, Fitz and Nighteyes, Dean and Castiel…
  • Secretly in love. Shut up, I am not a ginormous softie. I’m not!

*I may be British, but I don’t actually like tea. Chamomile tea or fruit teas, maybe. Mostly not.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 13 November, 2013 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
The last thing I finished reading was David Levithan’s The Realm of Possibility, which is a prose-poetry novel/collection of short stories. Ultimately I liked it a lot more than I expected to when I realised about the format. Before that, it was short stories by Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, for my SF/F class — and they are really, really boring (to me). Bah.

What are you currently reading?
More homework from my counsellor: Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman. And I started Time and the Gods by Lord Dunsany today. Other than that, still reading The Holders by Julianna Scott — not sure I’ve even touched it in the last week, oops — and various other ARCs and novels I’ve been partway through for Far Too Long.

What do you think you’ll read next?
I should probably just focus on what I’m already reading… but knowing me, that won’t happen. Right now I’m thinking Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, for a start, and then I should probably catch up with Apex and Beneath Ceaseless Skies…

Books acquired:
Well, today me, Mum and my sister had a bit of a shopping spree, so… Shadowmarch (Tad Williams), Augustus (John Williams), Fun Home (Alison Bechdel), The Algebraist & The State of the Art (Iain M. Banks), A Dance of Cloaks (David Dalglish) and The Ghost Hunters (Neil Spring). Recent ARCs include Poets Translate Poets (ed. Paula Dietz) and Signal to Noise (Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean).

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