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Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Trilogy by Tad Williams

The Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy is Tad Williams’ masterful epic fantasy. The series includes The Dragonbone Chair (1988), Stone of Farewell (1990), and To Green Angel Tower (1993). I only discovered Tad Williams when I made a concerted effort to read more fantasy, starting in 2020. It took me a almost three years, but I finally finished the trilogy.

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn takes place in the land of Osten Ard, and Williams has since written a sequel series that consists of four books. (The fourth one to be published fall of 2023.)

The Dragonbone Chair

The trilogy begins with Simon (Seoman) Snowlock, a teenage orphan that at first spends his free time avoiding work and getting in trouble. His ability to get under the head chambermaid Rachel’s skin leads him to an apprenticeship with Doctor Morganes, a mysterious yet kind wizard in the castle.

Simon’s affinity for sneaking around finds him stumbling into dark secrets. He narrowly avoids death but must flee the castle. It is this adventure outside of the castle that makes The Dragonbone Chair exciting and page turning.

As a good epic fantasy should be, this series is loaded with interesting characters. Some of the standouts include Binibik, a troll with a wolf named Qantaka and an elf-like Sithi named Juriki. It is these two characters that guide and mold Simon’s growth from a “mooncalf” into a man and hero.

Stone of Farewell

In book two, Prince Joshua tries to lead a variety of forces to fight against the evil that is co-led by King Elias and Pryrates, an evil sorcerer who is a perfect stand-in for the devil. It is his manipulation of Elias, along with the Storm King that cause all the problems.

The quest continues to a meeting place, the Stone of Farewell, and involves the Sithi which must decide which side they are on. The legend of the three swords, the League of the Scroll, and a bunch of other interesting plotlines become more clear in the second book.

To Green Angel Tower

The last in the trilogy, To Green Angel Tower, is such a beast of a book it is often sold in two volumes. All paths lead back to where the story began, the Hayholt, and specifically Green Angel Tower. As expected, a final battle ensues and many loose ends are tied. To avoid spoilers, many twists occur, some obvious, some not so much.

Unfortunately, the third book was probably a bit too long. Not that it wasn’t interesting, but with so many characters and pathways, parts seemed to go on a bit more than necessary. But there were a lot of interesting connections that made for some pretty riveting moments, one unusual one involving Rachel “the dragon”.

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn as a Series

Overall, the characters and setting really made the trilogy a great read. Good versus evil played out nicely and Simon transformed wonderfully as a character. Princess Mirimel was one character that I did not like one bit. As daughter to King Elias, she definitely had mixed feelings about what her father was doing. But she seemed overtly whiny and mean to those who were trying their best to make things right.

There was an especially weak plot point involving her affair with Earl Aspitis and his reappearance later on that added nothing to the story.

Some of the background lore was hard to follow at times, but mostly because there are so many characters and quests going on. And of course, some of the information was intentionally misleading as the characters figure out what is truly going on.

I found The Dragonbone Chair to be my favorite, followed by To Green Angel Tower. The Stone of Farewell did what most middle books of a trilogy do: it connected the two volumes but didn’t stand out as much as the others.

I would definitely recommend the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy to all fantasy lovers. It has everything that makes fantasy fun and then some.