Thursday, November 02, 2006

To Green Angel Tower – Tad Williams

It’s not the ideal way to start off a review, but I keep coming back to it – To Green Angel Tower is long. This final installment of Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy is so long that in its paperback form it had to be released in two volumes – each about 800 pages long. Either volume would be considered a fairly beefy book by itself, together, they are just plain long.

I know I’m coming off a bit rant-ish here, and there is some truth to it, but To Green Angel Tower is at the same time a worthy conclusion to William’s epic saga (did I really just use the word saga?). This book has all the elements of a successful (if somewhat un-original) end – horrible battles, hopelessness, stupid mistakes, super-human heroic action, dark magic, love, death, deception, a happy ending, and enough open ends to leave us wanting more.

The title, To Green Angel Tower, really provides the proper plot summary for this book. The major players of this epic wrap up what has been keeping them busy and converge at the Green Angel Tower – the key location of the end battle, and the place the story began. People take long and difficult roads to get there – some are hurt, even killed, and others are captured or otherwise delayed. Rest is assured; the key players make it where they need to be.

Ok, so here is a (obvious) spoiler – there is a happy ending. Really, could it have been any other way – we all knew it was coming. Our hero wins, but I won’t go as far to say whether he gets the girl or not. Yet there are still enough surprises to catch us off guard, to convince the reader that the end is a bit more than what we knew would happen. Mysteries are at once satisfactorily explained and left for the imagination and desire of more stories to come. Anyway, a good story is more about the adventure, the getting there, than about the end itself.

So, by now you may be wondering if actually like the book(s) or not. Of course I did. While all usual clichés are there, Williams does tell it well and even manages to surprise. There is character growth, and I’ve not ever read a better scene where a young hero realizes the true horror of war.
I’ve said it in other reviews of the series – this really is a “new-classic”. It is the next step beyond Tolkien – an example where the genre moved forward. On my 10-point rating scale, To Green Angel Tower (parts 1 and 2 together), rates a 6.5-7.


Anonymous said...

That's... well, long. I only have the first volume but damn! 2 x 800 pages? I'll have to gather up all my courage to start on this one.

Neth said...

It's really not that bad when you compare it to othe series out there (like Wheel of Time) in terms of length. Just go into it knowing that this 'trilogy' is really 4 books long.

It could have used some tightening up - especially at the beginning, but overall it is a good series.

Anonymous said...

In what sense(s) is it the next step beyond Tolkien -- how did the genre move forward? It's an interesting sentence, but you just lay it out there without any explanation of what you mean or details to back up the statement.

Neth said...

In what sense(s) is it the next step beyond Tolkien -- how did the genre move forward? It's an interesting sentence, but you just lay it out there without any explanation of what you mean or details to back up the statement.

Care to put SN with comment (it seems to make discussion easier)?

As I think more closely about that statement, I have to admit that I would word it differently now. The simple truth is that Williams didn't do anything Tolkien didn't. Williams' world is well created, but not to the same scale as Tolkien - you just don't get the same sence of history and depth. And there really are too many parallels to ignore - Williams was clearly inspired by Tolkien, though I wouldn't go as far as saying copying or ripping off (though I can see how one might consider it so).

I guess I feel that Williams has written a more accessible story than Tolkien did. I know I'm in a minority in my opinion - but I don't care for Tolkien's style. It is just difficult for me to read, not in a challenging way, but an annoying way. I found Williams to be much more readable. As I said, it is a personal preference.

So, do I still think this moved the genre forward - yes, but it was very small amount. I'd probably rephrase it similar to a way I phrased it in my review of Stone of Farewell. Something along the lines of Williams standing on Tolkiens shoulders and writing an entertaining series.

Anonymous said...

Sorry...previous comment by MattD from over at FBS. Haven't posted too many blog comments before...

Anyway, I wasn't playing "knee-jerk defense of Tolkien," just thought it was a statement that needed clarification. No doubt, the writing style of Williams is more contemporary and his story is more character-centric, which I agree makes these books accessible in a way that Tolkien is not.

Neth said...


No worries, I appreciate the comment - asking me to clarify or back-up a statement is not only fair, but a good exercise.

With this review, I broke one of the rules I try to adhere to - I posted it the same day I wrote it. I prefer to have at least a day's seperation. Of course, it'd be a stretch for me to say I'd have re-worded that line - I might have, but I might not have as well.

You stated it very concisely - Williams' contempory style and focus on characterization is what make him more accessible.


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