To Green Angel Tower

To Green Angel Tower
Tad Williams

I have finally finished the last book of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. My brain is still processing the entirety of it all; it doesn’t seem fair to post a lengthy examination until everything settles. At the same time, the reading list waits for no man, so I feel like I should say a few things about this before some other book takes over that space in my brain. Looking back over past writings, the questions I asked of Stone of Farewell are equally valid for To Green Angel Tower. With just a couple of adjustments, these should tide us over until I push out a more detailed reaction.

1. Is Simon still a pantywaist?
2. Does the third book maintain the momentum of the first two?
3. Does Williams wander off on too many tangents for his own good?
4. Can we still spot the ghost of J.R.R. Tolkien marauding o’er the land?
5. On a scale of Errrrghgh to Magically Fabulous, how does this hold up?

1. Surprisingly, yes. Much better by the end, of course, but he is still a surly teen. To Simon’s credit, he is usually only a donkey’s behind when the ladies are involved, so I guess we can forgive some of it.

2. If by “momentum” we mean a similar pace to the rest of the series, the answer must be yes. Even at the climax, I would still consider things to be stately rather than hurtling, but the inexorability of the prose does drag the reader along. I have to wonder whose idea it was to split this book into two parts, and whose idea it was to put them back together. Did the trilogy format have some magical power back then? Was it unthinkable to have four books? At over 1000 pages, and with a convenient break midway, this really should have been two separate volumes.

3. Well, to be honest, Williams pulls everything together at the end in a way I can only admire. Every Chekovian gun gets fired properly, every jot and tittle of the prophecies are fulfilled, and none of the characters are red herrings or filler. More than one side story could have been trimmed with no loss to the whole, but basically everyone has a reason for being there, a specific piece of the plot to carry out, and a proper resolution to the respective personal conundrum. I remain surprised that I can’t tease out more loose ends or irrelevant digressions.

4. Yes, and it gets stronger the closer we get to the cataclysmic battle. While Simon remains more Luke Skywalker than Frodo, Gollum analogues pop up, the swords weigh heavily on their bearers, something quite like the Nazgul appears, Saruman’s factories make an cameo, and so on. There are of course massive departures, distinctions, and elaborations, as well as liberal borrowing from other sources. Williams gets credit from me for his world building and plotting, because I feel like he owns these books fearlessly. The echoes are there though, and inescapable.

5. If I loved fantasy, I would love these books. If I was Younger Me, before I burned out on fantasy (oddly enough in the middle of this very trilogy), I would love these books. Older Cynical Me was impressed and moved by the series; I would recommend it without reservation. I’m a little too crusty to be enchanted by much, but I recognize quality when I see it and I admit to feeling a certain melancholy when I knew that I would never read about Simon, Miri, Josua and crew again. The fact that I get up more for spaceships and cyberpunk is not Willams’ fault, so I don’t ding him in my ratings. It’s the highest, epic-est of fantasy, for those who are into that sort of thing, but readers should expect sore arms and wrists unless they get an ebook edition. This sucker is heavy.

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