Not A (reposted) Review: Tad Williams – Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

Yeah, I didn’t care enough to dig up a picture of book 1’s cover. So sue me.

Not a review, because I didn’t like the book enough to finish it. It impressed me as a, okay, credit where credit is due, fairly spirited attempt to try some Tolkienesque worldbuilding and blend it with a Star Wars-style Farmboy to Hero arc. All fine, good stuff; even Farmboy (Castleboy?) was a decent character. However, the nebulous Ultimate Evil was more compelling, interesting, and sympathetic than the bumbling young heroes and their insufferable allies and I lost interest.


Insufferable, you ask?

1) The elves. The elves were utterly shameless Tolkien ripoffs: snooty, holier-than-thou environmentalists who are continually attempting to shame and lecture the hero. Par for the course, for most elves. What made it actually insufferable was actually their clinging to and ranting about the past noble glories of their doomed racial history, without–and this is important–actually having a noble and glorious history. 

Tolkien’s elves strove against the darkness. They mostly failed, and this failure haunts, grieves, and dooms them; but they did try. They really were noble, relentless, striving, courageous even in the face of certain failure. Furthermore–Worldbuilding 580–they weren’t a monolithic culture. For example: think of Celegorm, Maeglin, and Thingol–brave warriors, cunning counselors, noble monarchs…and total jackasses…of very different personal and political factions.

In short, while what everyone remembers of Middle Earth elves is their contemplative, sorrowful, hands-off/hands-wringing attitude and staring soulfully at the stars, there’s legitimately a lot going on with them and they’ve earned that attitude. They are sad and despairing because they’ve been through hell. They feel that the Earth is changing–because they’ve been there for millennia, struggling against the decay, and they’ve failed to prevent it, change it, and barely even to mitigate it. And they look to the stars because (UNLIKE HUMANS, ‘CUZ THE STARS ARE OURS BOOYA) the stars are a reminder to them of the paradise they’ve lost and the gods who will receive them when they go home again.

The Sithi-elves saw the darkness coming and didn’t lift a damn finger to stop it, literally. No, really, literally. And then have the gall to complain about it afterwards?

2) The villains. A deluded and semi-evil King who is destroying his realm? Fine; no problem. A loathsome magician/priest guy who literally stomps on puppies while making eye contact with and smiling sinisterly at the hero? (no, really, literally)…is over the top, but I will at least applaud his downfall when it happens. The ultimate villain as a disembodied force of malice and dread who controls the action from a distance and also sends his minions versus the heroes on a quest for powerful artifacts? Who is this “Tolkien” fellow you’re talking about again?

…except said ultimate villain (see point 1), was the only, ONLY, person to try to protect his people against the human invasion that threatened to wipe them out entirely. By consorting with dark powers and turning himself into a god of death, but still. That’s badass.

It might be my own biases speaking, but–actually, on second thought, it’s not. The term is “Natural Selection.” Humans won. You lost. Fight, submit, or die. Don’t whine about it afterwards.

I will also admit that there might have been mitigating circumstances to the Sithi’s suckitude that I didn’t read about in book 1; but then, I didn’t read about them. Further analysis will be curtailed because I’m out of time again.

Tl;dr – I preferred Ineluki, because everyone else sucked.

Rated: Yeah, I liked Ineluki so much I wrote a poem.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s