Book Review: To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams (Four Stars)


Book Review: To Green Angel Tower (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn #3, Parts 1 and 2) by Tad Williams

Four Stars

“Forever is a long time to carry grudges.”

Excellent. Successful and satisfying conclusion to a huge epic fantasy. Sixteen hundred pages (in this story) of complex plots, sub-plots and sub-sub-plots set in multiple, fully-realized cultures, many more than medieval Europe analogs. Language, history, clothing, religion, music, clothes, prejudices: the whole boatload. Immersive. Loads of quotable epigrams.

“If what we have experienced lately has been God’s way of showing his favor, I think I would be willing to try a little of his punishment, for a change.”

Religion is a major part of these cultures and the stories. The various faiths are treated respectfully. A realistic variety of responses by people to the religion of their and other cultures. Some are redeemed; some are lost.

“One day I would have to send my son off to do something I could not do. And I would never sleep again.”

What’s not to like? The 1600 pages may be a clue. Williams almost pulls a Robert Jordan. (Not a complement.) Basically, he lost control of his story. The best epic fiction is a balance between immersion and focus. Williams succeeded in volumes one and two, but the story seems to have gotten away from him here. Eight hundred pages should have been enough. Oh, it was great story-telling and wonderful detail, but the story got lost in there somewhere. (Some readers will disagree and want more. Well, Williams is accommodating you, too. More Osten Ard books are coming.) He pulled it together at the end, though he had to cheat a bit. (Some surprises; some obvious.)

“You must forgive, starting with yourself.”

We view knights and knighthood with twenty-first century eyes, often Marxist or at least class warfare. Williams reminds us that for many knights it was a holy and honorable life. A way to serve as well as to accumulate wealth or power.

“All the choices seemed between one unpleasant possibility and another, with only the faintest reference to good and evil.”

Quibbles: The usual: horses that run 150 miles in a day. There’s a time mismatch in tunnels: Simon is there over a “fortnight,” others who enter right behind him are there less than a week.

“A banned book has a powerful fascination, but a truly evil book … draws the curious as honey lures flies.”

Uneven inking of the paperback book makes reading hard. No excuse for such sloppy quality control.

“Memory is the greatest of gifts.”