Memory, Sorrow & Thorn Book 1
“When you were old, did your memories crowd out your other thoughts? Or did you lose them—your childhood, your hated enemies, your friends?”
So what’s the book about?
A treacherous battle ensues between the sons, Elias and Josuah, of the aged King Presbyter John. For he lies dying after his fulfilled life, leaving behind a united kingdom and a struggle for the succession to the throne. Simon, the kitchen boy, who is also called the mooncalf, lives with them on at Hayholt. His life is uneventful but sheltered. The biggest problem plaguing Simon is how to avoid work most effectively. Most of all, he likes to dream of all the great exploits he hopes to accomplish one day. Everyone in the castle thinks he is a good-for-nothing, only the wizard Doctor Morgenes is very interested in Simon and takes him on as his apprentice. Life on the Hayholt seems increasingly monotonous to him and he longs for more in his life. During his clandestine forays through the castle’s lands, he learns many a secret that is not meant for his ears and Simon becomes involved in the struggle for the succession to the throne.
Why I wanted to read this series?
Tad William’s well-known Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, is a must read for any fantasy lover and so I guess I had to read this series too. Because Tad Williams has also shaped our fantasy world, alongside the names of Tolkien, George Martin and many more. This is an epic fantasy story that many authors themselves have used as their inspiration, which is why I wanted to explore one of the many fantasy origins. Moreover, this is a long series with the typical fantasy setting, which even nowadays I am not tired of – on the contrary, it is exactly these epic and thick books that I love to devour the most. Just like this one.
These aspects attracted me the most while reading.
- When I say that Simon is the most human character I have ever discovered in a fantasy book, that is no lie. I know a lot of people think he’s annoying and boring, but I also think we’re all a little bit Simon the Mooncalf. Who wouldn’t want to be a hero, but doesn’t really want to sleep under the canopy and it’s even worse, it’s cold and wet outside! And also like us, Simon hates it, which makes him seem so incredibly human and normal. We all want to achieve more in our lives, but are too refined to do anything about it. Simon’s blatant and clumsy nature makes him grow very close to your heart. He is still a child who quickly drifts off into reverie, but he actually wants to achieve something really big in his life. And even though Simon is sometimes annoying, he is my favourite character, because Simon is me – and a bit like all of us.
- The world Tad Williams takes us into is breathtakingly beautiful. When I imagine a beautiful fantasy world, it seems green to me – grass everywhere, blown back and forth by the wind, a castle situated on a deep blue lake, and behind this lake a dark green forest that holds many secrets. And so is the world of Osten Ard, because you are really thrown into a fantastic world. And this world is not only home to humans, as it seems to be at first, but also to many other beings. They are not the elves and dwarves that populate the world as in The Lord of the Rings, but they are very similar creatures that characterise Tad Williams’ work. Here you still get a real high fantasy story that takes you into a completely different world and makes you forget a little bit about real life.
- The descriptions of the world, the characters and also the dialogues are just perfect. This writing style is one of the best I have ever read. Even though the book has a lot of descriptions, especially at the beginning of the story, you don’t get bored because of this writing style. The first 200 pages are just about the normal life of a kitchen boy who wants to escape from his everyday life. But because of this narrative style, I didn’t get bored with a single page. I could have read 300 more pages about Simon’s life without ever feeling bored. And even if you find the long intro to this story too tiring, you should definitely stick it out, because after that it becomes very exciting to experience Simon’s adventure journey. I also find it refreshing to get a different start to a story and thus also to experience the normal and everyday life in this world. Anyone who can write something so interesting is one of the great authors for me.
- The story contains everything that good fantasy needs, magic, mystery, intrigue, a hero who is not really a hero at all, unexpected twists and turns and the potential to want to read on and on, not wanting to stop until the end. I was completely captivated by this story. So many different events happen on Simon’s journey that compels you to keep reading. The different inhabitants of this world who accompany Simon on his journey are also fantastic. His companions are not always the kind travellers, but he meets both good and bad people. And above all, he also finds magic on his journey, magic that lives in the people, in the animals and also in creatures where you don’t really know what their origins are.
So what are my final thoughts about it?
Breath-taking, yes that was this story for me. Even though it may seem like a typical fantasy story, the book was able to inspire me in a way that rarely any other book could. I didn’t want this book to end and when I think about the fact that this series unfortunately only has four volumes, my heart always feels a little heavy. Rarely have I read such a lovingly, cleverly constructed and compelling story. This is sophisticated fantasy literature that not only keeps you thinking, but also keeps you dreaming even after you have finished your evening’s reading. You can’t escape this story, you just live with it, face the same adventures as Simon and take his companions to your heart. But this is the beginning of a story, a completely indescribably beautiful story that warms your heart. I can’t praise the book enough and can only warmly recommend it to everyone.
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