As promised last week, this will be our review for Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn as a whole, assembled trilogy. We’ll be talking in more detail about the story as a whole, and the writing specifically, across all three books.
It’s probably for the best that not every book I pick up seizes me in quite the same fashion that the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy did, because it would severely interfere with my writing output if that were the case.
Sometimes, when I’m writing back-to-back reviews within the same series, I find that I don’t have enough to say about each book, specifically, especially while reserving series-wide thoughts for the series review. That isn’t a concern here.
There are two main ways to read The Dragonbone Chair and its sequels in the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, and they are not mutually exclusive: this can be thought of as a historical fantasy story with sorcerous elements, or as a Tolkien-style fantasy with strong historical elements.
Will Wight’s Cradle series might be my current guilty pleasure read. These fast, light, action-packed, “martial arts” fantasy novels aren’t Brandon Sanderson masterpieces that will massively alter my understanding of how to write fantasy, they aren’t four thousand year old tomes of philosophy or history, they aren’t detailed technical analyses of obscure mathematical theorems (a textbook on the disc embedding theorem might hold the prize for the strangest book currently on my reading list), but every time a new one comes out (which happens with impressive frequency), I get a copy within weeks, and read it within days.
Yet for all the attention that the equivalency between science and magic seems to take, it was not to me really what drove this book or made it enjoyable. I think this book was really all about perspective and communication, and the evidence is in the very structure of the book. It is written primarily from two perspectives: the “magic” perspective and the “science” perspective, and it is the contrast between the two that makes this book distinct from any number of other riffs on the interaction between more and less “advanced” civilizations.
new and non-Shannara, I was therefore skeptical, but intrigued. Perhaps the only notable non-Shannara works he has published are The Magic Kingdom of Landover series, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was my hope that Child of Light would tap into whatever had enabled Landover. Unfortunately, my hopes were misplaced, and Child of Light proved to be anything but fresh.
Some books under-promise and over-deliver. Swordspoint, which we reviewed last week, is like that. The summary was enough for me to read it, but I didn’t expect anything remarkable; it proved to be one of the best fantasy books I’ve read this year. Forsaken Kingdom’s cover blurb was, unfortunately, the opposite. While the book wasn’t exactly bad, the main emotion I experienced while reading it was boredom. This coming from the man who recently read Human Dimension and Interior Space from cover to cover, and found it interesting.
While I knew that I wanted my next few reads to be fiction, I harbored a certain degree of trepidation as I made my selections. Even when I sat down to open Swordspoint, I was cautious, approaching it like someone poking an injured monster to see if it is still alive, anticipating that I would again read through a fantasy novel and finish thinking that it was just okay, and when does the next Stormlight book come out, and why won’t Rothfuss ever finish the Kingkiller Chronicle? Less than a page of Swordspoint was all that was required to chase away my doubts and hesitations and any thoughts of other fantasy stories, because it was that beautiful.
If there is any truth to the postulate that a culture is reflected in its art, then I thought surely a collection of Chinese “fairy tales” would offer some fascinating insights into Chinese culture. It’s true that I learned something from this collection of short stories, but I’m not sure what it is yet.