“Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn”

I just got done re-reading Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, by Tad Williams. It’s one of his older works, but he recently released a new book set in that universe. It had been a while since I last read the whole thing, so I wanted to refresh my memory  before diving into the new book. I got the audiobooks of the series this time, and they’re pretty great. There’s some very impressive voice acting involved.

The first book in the series is The Dragonbone Chair, and it begins with Simon, a teenage kitchen boy who would really rather be anything else. He’s an orphan who lives in the Hayholt castle under the watchful eye of Rachel The Dragon, the mistress of chambermaids. The cast branches out to include Miriamelle, the high king’s wayward daughter, and other people – some human and some decidedly not – that he meets over the course of his adventures. It’s a truly beautiful world filled with interesting and surprising characters, like all of Tad’s creations.

I’m always especially impressed by the way he handles his non-humans. They’re whole people, with their own motivations, opinions, and struggles. They find themselves at odds with their own cultures at times, sometimes disastrously so, and that drives the plot in really interesting directions. I don’t want to spoil anything, but Binabick the troll is totally awesome and he’s worth reading the whole series for.

This is also the series that apparently helped inspire George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Tad has been very careful to point out that they’re two completely unique works, and they absolutely are. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is a lot less bloody and gratuitously rapey, for one thing, but having now enjoyed both series, it’s kind of fun spotting some common elements. It’s also a cool reminder that authors can incorporate similar ideas and borrow from each other but still produce very different results. (Like, SO different. I can’t stress that enough. If A Game of Thrones wasn’t to your taste, this series very well might be.)

Anyway, it’s been a while, but I am super ready to dive into The Heart of What Was Lost.

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