October 2010


Greetings, and welcome back to my re-read of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. I apologize for the delay in getting this post up, and can only say that unfortunately, Real Life Sucks sometimes, yo. Let’s not dally.

As with last time, a note about spoilers and this re-read: If you have never read this series before, and have somehow found this site by accident, there WILL BE MASSIVE SERIES-BREAKING SPOILERS throughout this re-read and analysis. I do not believe I can stress this enough. DO NOT read this if you have never read the series before, unless you just don’t mind knowing how a many-thousand-page epic series concludes. There will be Spoilers. The will be MANY Spoilers. You have been warned.

These first few chapters have a lot of exposition, so there unfortunately isn’t as much to talk about yet that I would like really like to delve into, but that shall be coming soon.

Let’s get started!

4 – Cricket Cage

Summary

Simon is searching around Morgenes’ chambers for a suitable place to put his new birds, while the Doctor continued searching for some manuscript. Simon is about to place the birds into a seemingly docile container when Morgenes screams for him to stop, and then shows him that the container actually has a cleverly camouflaged predator at the bottom. He finds an old cricket cage for Simon, and then asks Simon how best they can serve each other on this fine day. Simon glumly realizes that the Doctor fully intends to require work out of Simon in exchange for his “stories” and tutelage in this apprenticeship.

“Ah. A small aversion to menial labor?” The doctor cocked an eyebrow. “Understandable but misplaced. One should treasure those humdrum tasks that keep the body occupied but leave the mind and heart unfettered. Well, we shall strive to help you through your first day in service. I have thought of a wonderful arrangement.” He did a funny little jig-step. “I talk, you work. Good, eh?”

Morgenes fetches a broom for Simon and begins talking about the history of Osten Ard again, while Simon begins ruefully sweeping up dust and debris from various spots around the room. Morgenes coaxes out of Simon the fact that it is currently the year 1163 since The Founding of the Nabbanai Imperium, which once ruled all the human lands of Osten Ard. These humans lived side by side with the Sithi, who reigned primarily in the Hayholt, then called Asu’a. He once again pauses to get Simon back to work, pointing out a footprint-shaped sooty patch on the wall that needs cleaning.

“Ahhhh, many thanks to you. I’ve been wanting to get that down for months – since last year’s Harrow’s Eve, as a matter of fact. Now, where in the name of the Lesser Vistrils was I. . .?”

Morgenes begins to answer Simon’s question about what the Sithi actually are, explaining that they are the oldest beings, and they will be here long after humans are gone. They are very different from humans, and live a very long time. The Sithi long had peace with the humans, trading for things from the Hernystiri humans in the west, the Southern Islands, and –

Simon’s patience was at an end. “But what about the shipmen, the Rimmersmen? What about the iron swords?”

Morgenes explains that the Nabbanai Imperium lasted until the Rimmersmen came to Osten Ard. Nabban pulled from the north and the Rimmersmen occupied most of that now-vacant territory. Simon dozes off for a moment, and with Morgenes’ awakening of him, realizes he has leaned against the wall and the rest of the sooty patch he has been cleaning is now on his back. He attempts to clean himself as Morgenes continues. The Rimmersmen named their new northern kingdom Rimmersgard, and began trying to conquer other lands. As he moves onto this part of the story, Morgenes begins to have Simon move around clutter in the room, often interrupting his “story” with directions on where to move various items. The Rimmersmen often killed the Sithi as they expanded. The Hernystiri, the closest human allies of the Sithi, allied with the Fair Folk against Fingil, king of the Rimmersmen, and in the year 663, the two armies had a major battle. The Sithi and Hernystiri were able to hold on for five days, but they were betrayed by Thrithings-men from the east. Ten thousand Hernystiri died, and many Sithi as well.

“Ten thousand!” Simon whistled. His eyes shone with the terror and grandness of it all.

Morgenes noted the boy’s expression with a small grimace, but did not comment.

The war was basically over, though the Sithi held on for three more years at Asu’a. The Erl-king’s son used a terrible magic spell which saved the few Sithi who could be saved, but most fled. The Rimmersmen ruled the Hayholt for several more centuries, until the dragon came. Simon tries to push Morgenes into telling him more about the Erl-king’s son, as well as about King Prester John, but Morgenes seems upset and won’t tell anymore. When Simon apologizes, and thanks the Doctor for his “story,” Morgenes explodes that it’s “History!” and sends Simon off, to come back the next day and actually work.

Simon makes his way back towards the Inner Bailey, thinking about how boring things look right now, but how this place used to be exciting, where important things happened. As he nears his destination, he looks up to see a beautiful girl standing on a balcony. He stands tall for a moment, feeling as though his burdens are gone, but then remembers that Rachel is waiting for him with a cold dinner.

A certain indefinable weight climbed back into its accustomed seat, bending his neck and slumping his shoulders as he trudged toward the servant’s quarters.

Commentary

Phew, that’s a lot of exposition, folks! In fact, I really don’t feel I’ve done this chapter justice, but I believe that’s the best I can do for right now with summarizing it. There is a lot I have left out, including specific place and people names, such as some of the Imperators of Nabban who later have important historical significance. There is also a lot of the humor of the Morgenes-and-Simon interactions – especially pertaining to Morgenes directing Simon around the room, finding things for him to clean – that I have purposefully left out, because it simply wouldn’t be the same reading it in summary form, and I’m not going to write the entire chapter!

The main thing I take from this chapter is that once again, Tad Williams has done an amazing job in crafting a world, and he has used a brilliant literary technique to give us, the readers, history lessons – he has made the main character to be a young boy who has no idea what is going on in the world, and must therefore have things explained to him in great detail, and often! It’s a beautiful and calculated move on Tad’s part, and it worked perfectly, in my opinion.

I think the most important part of this chapter, though, is the connection between Simon and Morgenes, even this early in the story. Morgenes is very obviously Simon’s fatherly influence in these early chapters, and many of the things he says here, to teach and prepare Simon, are expanded upon much later, in much greater detail.

The last paragraph, and in particular, the last quote I posted above, are very important to me as well. They seem to show that Simon certainly has the aspirations to be great, and feels that he should be, but is possibly knocked down a few pegs here and there by those who believe him to simply be unsuited for anything other than scullery-type work. It’s an unfortunate truth that this is a Real Thing, which happens to Real Humans in the Real World, and makes it that much more easy to relate to.

5 – The Tower Window

Summary

King John has taken sick again at the end of the year, and the word has spread to all the lands of Osten Ard – Prester John is dying. Each of the kingdoms, dukedoms, etcetera sends delegations and honoraries to be at the Hayholt when the end comes, and most of the people get along fine. Prince Elias’ soldiers and Prince Josua’s retainers are the exception, often quarreling with each other.

Simon is given the task one fine Satrtinsday of taking several pennies to the market to pick up some kitchen essentials for Judith the cook. She has also given him a fithing piece to spend on himself, which has him very excited. He runs and skips out to the Nearulaugh Gate, and is almost run over by a carriage. He looks inside as it passes.

He had a brief glimpse of the driver, dressed in a dark, hooded cloak lined with scarlet. The man’s eyes raked him as the cart hurtled past – they were black and shiny, like the cruel button-orbs of a shark; although the contact was fleeting, Simon felt almost that the driver’s gaze burned him. He reeled back, clutching at the stone facing of the gate, and watched as the cart disappeared around the track of Outer Bailey.

The gate guards shoo Simon on after making sure he is not hurt, and Simon runs off towards the market. He sees many people on Main Row, off all nationalities. While admiring the pomp of some Nabbanai legionaries, and looking closely at their swords, he gets accused of attempting to cut their purses. Several of the legionaries bully him for a moment before heading on, and Simon then finds a man looking at him.

“Your pardon, my young lad,” he said, with a Hernystirman’s crackling burr, “I only wished to find out if you were safe, then, if those goirach fellows had done you harm.” The stranger reached out to Simon and patted him, as if searching for damage.

Simon tells the man he is fine, and the man introduces himself as Brother Cadrach ec-Crannhyr, of the Vilderivan Order, and tells Simon he is in town with Prince Gwythinn. They chat for a moment, and Simon is about to take his leave, when Cadrach asks if Simon can show hm around town. Simon accepts, hoping to hear stories from this seemingly-nice man.

The two wander around the city, with Cadrach poking fun at various people, or telling stories. He buys Simon and himself some sweets, they watch a play about Usires being hung upon the Execution Tree, and eventually Cadrach says farewell. It is only after the priest is gone that Simon realizes he no longer has his purse, and must return to Judith in shame. Even Morgenes seems surprised at Simon’s carelessness, and Simon feels very low.

******

A few days later, Simon is in a mood. Morgenes is busy working on something with Inch, which leaves Simon needing something to do. He decides to take his dinner and climb Green Angel Tower. He heads up through the throne room, having to sneak to avoid priests, and pauses to admire the Dragonbone Chair – made from the bones of the dragon Shurakai, whom Prester John had slain in his youth – as well as to look at the six statues of the previous Hayholt kings. He remembers a rhyme, taught to him as a young child, that gives a singsong history of the Six Kings of the Hayholt.

The sixth statue, closest to the throne’s right arm, was Simon’s favorite: the only native Erkynlander who had ever sat on the Hayholt’s great seat. He moved closer to look into the deep-cut eyes of Saint Eahlstan – called Eahlstan Fiskerne because he came from the fisher-people of the Gleniwent, called The Martyr because he, too, had been slain by the fire-drake Shurakai, the creature destroyed at last by Prester John.

Unlike the Burned King on the throne’s other side, the Fisher King’s face was not carved in a twist of fear and doubt: rather the sculptor had brought radiant faith into the stony features, had given opaque eyes the illusion of seeing faraway things. The long-dead artisan had made Eahlstan humble and reverent, but had also made him bold. In his secret thoughts, Simon often imagined that his own fisherman father might have looked like this.

Simon spooks himself a bit by thinking of the statues coming to life, then continues on his journey to Green Angel Tower. He has to climb up to and jump over some pretty dangerous and snow-slippery walls and paths, and manages to hurt his knee with a band jump. He eventually makes it into the Tower and the winding staircase which leads very high into the sky, thinking about the castle and Tower.

The castle folk said that this tower was the only part of the original Sithi stronghold that remained unchanged. Doctor Morgenes had once told Simon that this was untrue. Whether that meant that the tower had indeed been changed, or simply that other unsullied remnants of old Asu’a still remained, the doctor – in his maddening style – would not say.

Simon eventually makes it to the bell chamber, which is as high as the staircase goes. Simon gazes out across all the lands for a little while, trying to keep himself warm in the chilling wind, and occasionally munching on his food. All around, he can see parts of the city itself, and miles away.

He stays up in the Tower for several hours, and eventually begins heading down, nursing his injured knee. When he makes it back to the place where he first entered the Tower, he hears retreating footsteps even further below himself. This makes Simon curious as to who else would be leaving the Tower, and speeds up to see who it may be. At the bottom, he looks around, and sees two feet sticking out from beneath a tapestry. He tries to surprise the spy by pulling the tapestry aside.

Instead of flying open to reveal the spy, the massive hanging tore free of its stays and billowed down like a monstrous, stiffened blanket. Simon had only a momentary glimpse of a small, startled face before the weight of the tapestry knocked him to the ground. As he lay cursing and struggling, badly tangled, a brown-clad figure shot by.

Simon stumbles to his feet and catches the person, demanding to know who he is. It is a small boy, with dark hair, who says he is Malachias. Simon demands to know why Malachias was following him.

The youth turned and stared sullenly. His eyes were quite dark.

“I wasn’t spying on you!” he said vehemently.

As the boy averted his face once more, Simon was struck by a feeling that he had seen something familiar in this Malachias’ face, something he should recognize.

Simon asks again who Malachias is, trying to find out if they know one another, but Malachias pushes himself away, causing Simon to fall hard. Malachias runs through a door, closing it behind him very loudly. Simon is still stunned when sexton Barnabas comes in to investigate, surely landing him in trouble yet again.

Commentary

Hello Cadrach, you crazy, crazy monk, you! We welcome you to our re-read, even knowing that you will contribute much to the grindings of our teeth as the story continues!

This is the very first place we ever heard of Cadrach, which isn’t that surprising if you think he’s just a minor character. Of course, as well know, Cadrach is very, very far from the minor, throwaway character he seems to be at first. I believe I remember Tad saying in an interview, or online somewhere, that originally, Cadrach was not meant to have quite as large a role as he ended up having. I don’t know what changed Tad’s mind, unless he just had decisions to make on how to progress the story, and using a character who had already been introduced seemed smarter than creating new characters, but I’ve always liked Cadrach’s character and role, and am thus happy Tad did make him more important to the story.

Even though we do not get to know Cadrach very well in this first book, I believe even the most casual reader can see the deep sadness within him, and can see that he is not all that he seems, especially from his thoughts on Usires, Crexis, and “the Manipulator.” My father being the minister that he is, I believe I would have to do some double-takes if I ever heard him speaking of God the way Cadrach does of his own God.

I must say, even though I did not know Cadrach’s character, even the first time I read this story, I was immediately suspicious when Simon’s purse turned up missing. I won’t say that I proclaimed, “Oh, it was Cadrach, that filthy thief,” but I may have thought, “Huh, it sure was awfully suspicious when Cadrach was patting Simon down like that…”

Onward!

We receive yet another clue (this time in a sneaky bit of foreshadowing) about Simon’s heritage, and his relationship with Eahlstan Fiskerne. I just point this out so that we can make sure to keep count of the numerous clues we are given that Simon has royal heritage, so that it doesn’t seem at the end of the series that Tad just threw this in as an aside.

Re – Simon’s climbing of the Tower, I must admit, I’ve never gotten a very clear picture of just how tall the Tower really is. There are hyperbolic examples of “how long one would fall from the top to the bottom,” and the likes, but is it ever mentioned in feet, yards, cubits, or whatever exactly how tall the blasted Tower is?

I love the description of the bell chamber. I’ve been inside a bell chamber once before, probably not nearly as grand as this one, and it struck me as a sacred-kind of a place. We learn much later that it is indeed, a very sacred kind of a place, but even before its importance is revealed, it seems like the kind of place where I would like to just sit in silence and contemplate the world (if I did things like that).

And finally, Hello Miriamele! We’ll visit you more later, you mean little spier-on-people, you!

6 – The Cairn on the Cliffs

Summary

Because of his capture by Barnabas, Simon is punished by confinement to the servant’s quarters. He is miserable for the last few days of Novander. Finally, by week two of Decander, Simon is allowed to continue his apprenticeship with Morgenes, though he was still required to be back in the servant’s quarters by dinnertime each evening. Morgenes begins teaching Simon to read, which Simon finds very painful.

On Decander 21, Saint Tunath’s day, Simon is sent to Morgenes’ chambers for a second time to help find some essentials for the Aedonmansa festivities and preparations. At Morgenes’ door, it takes awhile for the Doctor to answer, and Simon can hear voices inside. Once he does, Simon enters the room to see that Prince Josua is in the room, discussing Prester John’s sickness with Morgenes. Simon notes that Morgenes seems agitated:

Now Morgenes, whom Simon had not seen in this sort of mood, plucked an object on a golden chain out of his robe and handled it agitatedly. In Simon’s knowledge, the doctor – who loved to scorn pretension and show – had never worn jewelry of any kind, either.

Simon hears that Morgenes is writing about the life of king Prester John, and notes that Morgenes seems full of secrets this morning. Josua continues asking the Doctor for help with the king, even if it’s just something to ease his pain. They are interrupted when one of Josua’s retainers, Deornoth, runs into the room with grave news.

“The king, Lord, your father the king . . . Bishop Domitis said . . . that he is dead.”

Josua rushes out of the room, with Deornoth following.

When Simon turned to Morgenes, the doctor was staring after them, his old eyes shining and brimful.

******

There are forty days of preparation mandated before Prester John’s body is lain into the ground. During this time, the kingdom weeps and grieves. John will be laid to rest on Swertclif, where the six mounds of the other Hayholt Kings are. Many mourning parties gather in the city, including the Lector of the Holy Church himself, Lector Ranessin.

******

Lector Ranessin and Father Dinivan are discussing the gaudy litter that has been brought for the Lector to be carried in, which they send away. Ranessin despises unnecessary pomp, having little good to say of the guards and escorts required to walk with him.

Ranessin thinks to himself that there is hope for Elias, John’s successor.

The prince was undoubtedly courageous, decisive, bold – all traits rare in the songs of great men. The king-to-be was also short-tempered and somewhat careless, but – Duos wulstei – these were faults often cured, or at least softened by responsibility and good counsel.

Ranessin decides he will send a trustworthy advisor to assist the new king – perhaps Velligis – to counteract “Elias’ bloody-minded young nobles, and that blowing idiot, Bishop Domitis.”

******

On the first of Feyever, Simon – hiding in the unused choir loft – watches the nobles in resentful fascination. He feels that it is wrong that those who live(d) in the castle with King John should be scurrying around, while all these people from far away have the best seats for the funeral.

Lector Ranessin says numerous prayers for the fallen king, speaking first in Nabbanai, but then changing to “country-plain Westerling,” Prester John’s language. The Lector tells the story of Lord Usires hanging upside down on the Execution Tree, and his last moments before dying, reminding those in attendance that John is now with their holy Lord.

After the Lector finishes speaking, and everyone leaves the chapel, Simon watches again as body servants dress the king and do the final preparations. He is dressed in his ceremonial armor, and taken away.

******

Duke Isgrimnur watches Prester John’s body pass by him on the journey up to Swertclif, remembering the times they had battled together against Thrithingsmen.

He watches then as Elias, the Lector, Josua, and Miriamele – Elias’ only child – follow the procession. John’s body is lain out on his boat, Sea-Arrow, and then forty soldiers lift the boat up by poles and bear it the half a league towards the Swertclif grave. The boat is lowered into the massive hole, and then honoraries from all the surrounding areas each bring gifts with which to leave so that John may take them with him to the afterlife. Isgrimnur brings to the king his black war-boots, and places them onto the dead king’s feet. Backing out, he nearly steps on Prince Josua.

Isgrimnur was shocked to see that Josua carried John’s sword Bright-Nail on a gray cloth.

What happens here? Isgrimnur wondered. What is he doing with the sword?

As the Duke reached the first row of the crowd and turned to watchi, his unease deepened: Josua had lain Bright-Nail on the king’s chest and was clasping John’s hands about the hilt.

Isgrimnur is very disturbed that the sword is being buried, as it should be kept with Elias, and at the very least, Elias should be laying the sword in the grave himself, not Josua. He then watches as Elias walks into the grave to say goodbye.

The heir to the throne bent over the gunwale of the boat. What he sent with his father no one could see, but it was noted by all that although a tear sparkled on Elias’ cheek when he turned, Josua’s eyes were dry.

Final prayers are said, and then the grave is closed, ending the ceremony.

******

Simon is in attendance as a servant for the feast that night, where it is noted that Isgrimnur, “one of John’s most faithful knights,” is slighted by having to sit away from the high table with Prince Josua, while around Elias’ table sit others who had not been known to be John’s friends. At the high table are Guthwulf of Bhutanese, Fengbald the Earl of Flashire, Breyugar of the Westfold, Skali of Kaldskryke, and others. Eventually, Simon notices a newcomer come into the room and wedge himself between Elias and Guthwulf, who sit at the high table.

The newcomer was robed in most unfunereal scarlet, with black and gold piping wound about the hem of his voluminous sleeves. As he leaned forward to whisper in Elias’ ear, Simon watched him in helpless fascination. The man was completely hairless, without even eyebrows or lashes, but his features were those of a youngish man. His skin, tight-stretched on his skull, was notably pale even in the flaring orange rushlight; his eyes were deep-sunken and so dark that they seemed only shiny black spots below his naked brows. Simon knew those eyes – they had glared out at him from the hooded cloak of the car-driver who had nearly run him down at Nearulagh Gate. He shuddered and stared. There was something sickening but enthralling about the man, like a swaying serpent.

Simon is interrupted out of his staring by a young man who introduces himself as Sangfugol, who is simply looking for some more wine. The two speak for awhile, with Sangfugol making jokes at Isgrimnur’s expense, and the two share a drink. Sangfugol is part of Josua’s retinue, and is the prince’s personal harpist, which surprises Simon, who assumes Josua wouldn’t like music.

They continue talking, and Sangfugol informs Simon that the scary man he had been looking at is in fact Pryrates, Elias’ counselor. He jokes with Simon that Pryrates is born of a demon, then takes leave of the youth, clasping his hand and saying farewell. Simon is then called out to serve more wine at the high table, where Earl Fengbald and Guthwulf are having an arm-wrestling match. Simon pours everyone’s wine, including Pryrates, then notices a little puppy from a litter of dogs, scrounging around near Pryrates, trying to dig some food out from beneath the alchemist’s feet.

“Come!” Simon hissed, backing farther away adn slapping his knee, but the dog paid no heed. It began to dig with both paws, its back bumping against the priest’s red-robed calf. “Come along!” Simon whispered again.

Pryrates turned his head to look down, shiny skull pivoting slowly on his long neck. He lifted his foot and brought his heavy boot down on the dog’s back – a swift, compact movement finished in a heartbeat. There was a crack of splintered bone and a muffled squeal; the little dog writhed helplessly in the stray until Pryrates lifted his heel again and crushed its skull.

Simon gazes in horror and the priest smirks at him, before turning away, with Simon running away in terror and disgust.

******

That night, just before midnight, crowds of people were called outside with people yelling about something in the sky. It turns out to be a red comet, flying across the sky. Many people cheer, believing the star to be an omen of a new age with a new king. Simon also follows outside, and sees Morgenes looking out at the sky as well.

The old man, wrapped in a heavy robe against the chill air, did not notice his apprentice – he, too, was staring up at the bearded star, the scarlet slash across the vault of Heaven. But unlike the others, there was no drunkenness or glee upon his face. He looked fearful and cold and small.

He looked, Simon thought, like a man alone in the wilderness listening to the hungry song of wolves . . .

Commentary

That’s a long damn chapter, and a lot of very important things happen, which may be obvious from the amount of quotes I have above.

Of particular note, we get a few character-building scenes in regards to Josua. Looking back on the series after having read it multiple times, I have to wonder if Tad Williams actually wanted us to think Josua was the “Bad Prince,” and possibly Elias was the “Good Prince.” We see various descriptions of Josua as “cold,” “cynical,” “gloomy,” he didn’t cry at his father’s funeral, and his conversation with Morgenes could be taken in a way which suggests he would like a potion from Morgenes that will not only “end John’s suffering,” but “end it, like, now.” I’m just sayin’

During this first meeting with Josua, Simon, and Morgenes, we get our first mention (minus the Foreword) of Morgenes’ history on Prester John’s life, which will be an extremely important part of the story. And it is simply mentioned in passing. I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I don’t recall the manuscript becoming uber-important until the very end of this book, or even next book.

It was nice to see the first two “real” non-Simon POVs in the book so far. We get an immediate feeling of the warmth of Lector Ranessin, and his caring for those around him. Isgrimnur is filled with confusion, disappointment, sorrow (at the loss of his friend), and many other things which will play into the story later on.

And a very important clue for later, we see the first sign of Elias shunning Bright-Nail. About that…

First of all, we know that Elias doesn’t have Sorrow yet, which means he hasn’t started his weird Sithi-transformation and aversion to iron yet, so it seems unlikely that that is actually what is going on here. Yet Towser does tell a story later about how he tried to present the sword to Elias, as Prester John had requested of him just a few chapters before, Elias dropped the sword, almost as if in pain. I’m pulling this from memory, so we may review this once we reach that chapter. Anyway, it’s interesting to me that at that point, I’m pretty sure Pryrates wouldn’t have been giving Elias his potion either, so what is that all about?

You could possibly look at it from an emotional point of view – Elias wants nothing to do with his Father, his Father’s Legacy, and the like – wants to be his own ruler, or whatever, but that doesn’t seem to warrant the what-I-remember-to-be-a-physical reaction he has to the sword. Anyone have some info on that?

So anyway, the good Duke reminisces about his times with John, and we get a good indication of the level of their friendship, which makes it all the worse when we find out he and Josua (and others) have been shunned at the party that night. We’re seeing the first formings of alliances at this point, with Josua and Isgrimnur at one table, and Elias, Fengbald, Guthwulf, Skali, and Breyugar at the high table. And on that, I found it to be particularly interesting that, when Pryrates joins the table, Tad goes to extra effort to describe that the priest had to push himself between Elias and Guthwulf. Foreshadowing for later on, methinks?

In a little bit of light before the (very) dark, we meet the character of Sangfugol, who is one of my favorite and least-favorite characters at the same time. Favorite, because he is a cheerful, happy man (seemingly, anyway) who provides a very important thing to Simon – an of-age male friendship – which no other character really does. Sure, Binabik is close (and certainly more important), but I still picture Binabik as a young adult, maybe 20-30 years old (in human years), while Simon is just 15/16 and I picture Sangfugal as high teens. Of course, I could be completely wrong, but that’s what I think. However, I feel like his character changes into too much of a comic-relief, sassy whiner-type of a character by the end of the series. Many of the lines he says (later on, books 2 and 3), make me think of that snarky sidekick character on some sitcom whose only purpose in speaking is for the audience to go, “Whooooooo!” or “Uh, Oh! Sangfugal, you crazy man!” Maybe I’ll think differently by the end of the series this time, but I do remember liking him a lot in the first book, and not liking him nearly so much in the later books.

Then, the dark comes. We get to finally meet Pryrates. We’ve had a slow build-up of what he’s all about. Josua calls him something like, “That mad priest,” others refer to him the same way, Simon is almost run over by him, and then… this. Seriously. Crushing a puppy’s back and skull – and not because it was bothering him, but because that was the quickest, most efficient way to be rid of the little thing. Then, he just grins at Simon. Simon’s reaction is probably acceptable in these circumstances – it wouldn’t have bothered me if the priest had been beheaded for a crime like that, but by this point in the story, we’re already being introduced to the fact that the kingdom may be on a downward spiral soon, so it’s unlikely anyone in authority would have cared about Pryrates’ act anyway. Except poor Simon.

Hello, Conquerer Star! We’ll see you more later!

Tad uses a great literary technique here, as well. What is the best way to show you how bad-ass some ninja Sith Lord is in a Star Wars movie? Have him kill someone like Qui-Gon Jinn, whom at this point, we have considered much more bad-ass.

How do you make Simon (and the readers) fear something? You show them that the stalwart, strong, and good people in the story are gravely and terribly afraid of something, like Morgenes was of the star.

Oh, and Morgenes is teaching Simon to read. Cold, calculated move, knowing Simon will be needed in the future, or warm, fuzzy move out of caring and friendship? Or both?

******
Aaaaaand, that’s a wrap. Again, I apologize for the delay, but I’m honestly not promising a schedule anyway, so why should I apologize? The next one should be out in a week or so. Thanks for reading!

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A little bit more delay on the MS&T re-read – sorry ’bout that for those watching. Should be out on Tuesday, the world just kicked my ass this last week.

Over at the 17th Shard, a new interview has been posted that has some pretty awesome points in it. Here is a link to the post on 17th Shard:
Brandon Sanderson Interview Thread

The most interesting part to me was his talking about the Interludes, which was basically just a way of world-building by the use of occasional short stories.

He also goes into detail about The Way of Kings Primed, his original ideas for the Stormlight Archives, as well as talking about his thoughts on who the main characters are/were, and how much “screen time” they will get in the next few books. Best part? We will get a “flashbook book” about Szeth!

It’s a 40-minute interview, and there are tons of awesome things in the interview that I didn’t talk about here, definitely check it out!

For those of you hiding under logs that may not know this, Chapter 1 of Towers of Midnight has been released on Tor’s site (and various other places). The chapter’s title is “Apples First,” and reading through it, it has a very different feel from the last few books. We get reacquainted with a character waaaaaay back in The Eye of the World, and for possibly the first time EVAR in an epic fantasy series, we get to see how a minor, relatively unimportant character (whom most of us most likely thought we would never see again) has fared over the last few years of story time. And Mr. Bunt has not fared well.

The chapter concerns itself with a farmer named Almen Bunt, who has taken over his brother-in-law’s apple orchards after the death of said B-i-L, and is struggling with the fact that the area, region, even world seem to be dying. His family back home is starving as worms eat all their potato crops, and everyone around in his current little village are hoping for the best, but seem resigned to the fact that the world is ending. As the chapter begins, all the apples on all the trees, after struggling to even bloom for months, have fallen off and onto the ground, withered and dead. Almen discusses this misfortune with his relatives and friends, and then sends them back up to the farm to see if they can find something to salvage the tiny, shriveled apples.

Suddenly, from behind, he feels a direct ray of sunlight, for the first time in quite a while, and sees a stranger walking up the path. The stranger is none other than Rand, who seems to be faring very, very well after his epiphany on Dragonmount at the end of the previous novel. Now, instead of a dark, shadowy “warp in the air,” following Our Hero around, a warp of light follows him. Almen looks on in shock as the apples on all the trees grow back. Rand tells him to harvest them as quickly as possible, and those harvested now should remain good. He then walks on towards Tar Valon, for a meeting with Egwene that we have been waiting for for about six books now.

This chapter is an extremely warm and light chapter by the end, and is quite frankly a huge change of direction from the previous books, and even the prologue to Towers of Midnight. Of course, based on Jason Denzel’s and Leigh Butler’s (p)reviews, things are still going to get very, very bad by the end, but it’s nice to see that Rand seems to have taken things in the right direction mentally.

A few notes:

First of all, I really am now digging Sanderson’s take on Rand. After reading the prologue, Chapter 1, and Chapter 8, I feel very, Very confident in his abilities to finish the series. Those of you who have read my previous thoughts on Sanderson know that I had misgivings the first time I read The Gathering Storm . . . those misgivings are completely gone. And I love his presentation of Rand now after Our Hero’s conclusion last book.

Rand himself comments that he may be insane (indirectly, by telling Almen, “It’s not you who is mad, friend”). I find this interesting, especially with all his vehement denials in previous books of “I’m not Mad! Yet!” and such. A turn of heart also added rational and logical thought back into his head, apparently.

Rand seems to be in the right frame of mind to hear whatever Egwene is going to tell him, but I still can’t help but feel like she really needs to think first once they have their confrontation. If he actually accepts her “Righteous Anger,” without so much as a comment – especially if she starts comparing her jail time to his time in the box – I’m going to have some serious issues. We all know Rand has done some Very Bad Things, many of which I’m sure we still haven’t seen the full repercussions of yet, but Damn It All, he’s our hero, and the only one who can save the world. And Egwene is a carbon copy of whomever she currently finds herself wanting to emulate, always willing to try out a new fad, so I just don’t find the situations equal. But hey, that’s just me. Many disagree.

Also, what war is going on in Seanchan? What craziness have I completely forgotten about after not having read books 10 and 11 in three or four years now? I know the ruling family was killed, I guess it has to do with that? If so, it seems like the amount of destruction mentioned in this chapter reaches a lot further than a typical coup d’état. Feel free to let me know.

Can’t wait for this book.

Cheers!
E.S.

Greetings, and welcome to the first part of my Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn re-read and analysis. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years, and as I’ve re-read the series many times and gotten to know it better and better, I’ve fallen more and more in love with it. I have no doubts in my mind whatsoever that this is my favorite fantasy series, and that I will now and forever read anything Tad Williams writes.

A few notes about this re-read. The most important thing is this: If you have never read this series before, and have somehow found this site by accident, there WILL BE MASSIVE SERIES-BREAKING SPOILERS throughout this re-read and analysis. I do not believe I can stress this enough. DO NOT read this if you have never read the series before, unless you just don’t mind knowing how a many-thousand-page epic series concludes. There will be Spoilers. The will be MANY Spoilers. You have been warned.

Next, there have been re-reads and analyses of this series before, but I am trying to approach this with a bit of a fresh perspective, and am thus going at least attempt to avoid reading previous re-reads and analyses that may be floating around out there. That doesn’t mean I won’t raise some of the same points, and some of you reading this may decide that I should read those other re-reads, and thus try to gather up as much conversation and as many points as possible. To those, I say, “Okay.” Seriously, if you guys want me to try to include points from previous re-reads, I will. However, I would rather you include them yourselves, and let’s start a nice discussion here.

That should do for now. Enjoy!

1 – The Grasshopper and the King

Summary

On an unspecified day in Novander, the Hayholt is bustling with activity. It is the first day in three years that the castle’s throne room has been opened, and everyone is excited and/or cleaning. In the Hedge Garden, the scullion boy Simon is playing with a beetle, attempting to avoid what he considers to be confusing work. He is caught by Rachel the Dragon, who demands to know where he has been, and why he hasn’t been working when the rest of the castle is working nonstop to prepare the castle again now that King John is out of his sickbed for the first time in three years. She gives Simon a stern dressing-down and slap, and tows him back towards work.

Simon’s home, the Hayholt, is older than the entire kingdom of Erkynland.

The Erkynlanders were only the latest to claim the castle – many others had called it their own, but none had been able to make it wholly so. The outwall around the sprawling keep showed the work of diverse hands and times: the roughhewn rock and tinder of the Rimmersmen, the haphazard patching and strange carvings of the Hernystiri, een the meticulous stonework of Nabbanai craftsmen. But looming over all stood Green Angel Tower, erected by the undying Sithi long before men had come to these lands, when all of Osten Ard had been their dominion. The Sithi had been the first to build here, constructing their primeval stronghold on the headlands overlooking the Kynslagh and the river-road to the sea. they had called their castle Asu’a; if it had a true name, this house of many masters, then Asu’a was that name.

Simon knows he will never amount to anything – while the rest of the castle knows their place, Simon constantly dreams of adventure. He hides from his chores and duties so that he can daydream in the many passageways and hiding holes of the Hayholt. Most of the castle refers to him as “ghost boy,” while Rachel refers to him as “mooncalf.” Rachel and the chambermaids had raised Simon, and many efforts had been made over the years to find a suitable place for him – he works in the kitchen often, where it is rumored that Sir Fluiren, a famous knight, had done the same thing in his youth, due to his ineffable humility. King John himself, at a not-much-older age than Simon, had already slain the Red Dragon.

Rachel drags Simon to the antechamber of the throne room, seemingly pleased at the scurrying of the many chambermaids cleaning the place. Simon idly watches a new girl, Hepzibah, who notices him and smiles back, embarrassing Simon. Rachel then embarrasses him further by yelling at him to “Have at it, then!”

”At what?! Do what?!” Simon shouted, and was mortified to hear Hepzibath’s [sic] silvery giggle float out from the hallway. He pinched his own arm in frustration. It hurt.

Rachel tells Simon to run sweep out Doctor Morgenes’ chambers. Simon is excited by the prospect of visiting his friend the Doctor, and runs away, while Rachel prepares to get back to work on the antechamber and throne room.

******

In the throne room, a small, old man sings to his king, who sits in the great Dragonbone Chair like a “hobbled bird of prey shackled to the dull bone.” The king had been a tall man, but is now hunched in infirmity. He holds his great sword across his lap as Towser, his court bard, sings him a song, and as he listens, he cries. After Towser’s song, the two speak of King John’s sword, Brightnail, and how John fears his coming death. Towser kindly informs him that all men die, and how could John presume to “fight the Lord’s will?”

“But I built this kingdom!” A quivering rage was on John the Presbyter as he pulled his hand free from the jester’s grasp and brought it sharply down on the arm of his throne. “That must weigh against any blot of sin on my soul, however dark! Surely the Good Lord will have that in his Book of Accounts! I dragged these people up from the mud, scourged the cursed, sneaking Sithi out of the countryside, and gave the peasantry law and justice . . . the good I have done must weigh strongly.”

John continues speaking of his crumbling kingdom, and his two bickering sons. He criticizes his younger son, Josua, calling him a cynic, and cold to his inferiors. He considers it God’s good grace that Elias is his first-born son, and will thus inherit the kingdom, as Elias is much more suited to be the king of this great land. King John makes Towser promise to deliver Bright-Nail to Elias after his passing.

“Tell him what I have told you. Tell him that the sword is the point of his heart and hand, just as we are the instruments of the Heart and Hand of God the Father . . . and tell him that no prise, however noble, is worth . . . is worth . . .” John hesitated, and drew his trembling fingers to his eyes. “No, pay that no mind. Speak only what I told you about the sword. Tell him that.”

After this conversation, Towser sings John some more songs.

Commentary

Well, that a very exposition-ish way to start a series off. I highly recommend you read along in your books as I do these read-throughs, as by necessity, I cannot quote entire chapters (plagiarism, anyone?), and have to condense the summaries down to manageable amounts of plot-related information.

The first few notes I would say are that this is definitely a slow way to start a book. Tad Williams has been criticized in the past on the slowness of this series’ start, and it definitely does not jump out as extremely exciting and action-packed on these first few pages and chapters.

Something that sticks out to me as I re-read this, and greet this old friend of mine that is Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, is that Tad Williams did an amazing job of setting up the foundation for everything that happens in the series, right here in the beginning. We are introduced (at least, by name) to most of the important characters to come, and given hints already at major parts of the backstory of the series. As Olaf mentions, even the Hayholt itself is introduced more as a character than just a place or thing, and that, I believe, is the proper way to think of this massive once-Sithi castle.

One thing I really love about this series though, is how realistic Simon’s immaturity and youthfulness is presented. I remember many a times in my teenage years of being embarrassed in a girl’s presence, or just not really understanding what my role was in society, and how I should behave to be not only true to myself, but also a “good boy.” There are so many times in this series when Simon reacts to a situation, and I’ve thought to myself, “That’s exactly how I would have reacted to that!” I find that to be a major, MAJOR point of awesomeness to Tad, because in most books, movies, and TV shows, one of my harshest criticisms towards them are how I cannot believe that people actually just “did what they did!” Sure, having people react to things in an unorthodox way helps railroad a plot along, but as Williams shows throughout this series, you can have characters act in realistic ways, and still have a fantastic story.

The quotes of John’s up above are extremely important, I believe, because they hint in the very, very beginning that the King had hidden things, and that maybe he was not the noble and saintly man that most people thought him to be. His sins truly are great, as we find out later in the series, and he has a lot to answer for when he makes it to his Lord’s presence. Plus, in re: that last quote above, think how much trouble would have been saved had John actually talked to both Elias and Josua about things? Of course, that makes not an interesting plot.

A quick note, with MUCH more to come on this later – we are introduced to the main religion in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn the Aedonite religion. And as anyone with even the faintest of knowledge of Christianity can figure out, it is very much a copy of Christianity in fictional and fantasy form. Man’s actions are judged upon his death, thus giving him (or not!) access to Heaven and the afterlife.

I want to bring to attention two parts of the beginning of the story which I did not summarize: the Author’s Warning, and the Foreword. The Author’s Warning’s main purpose, it seems, is to tell the reader to “avoid making assumptions,” or more likely, “just because you’ve seen things play out in a particular way in fantasy before, don’t expect the same thing here.” I think this is a very apt description of what we eventually find out about the series, but I don’t know if I like it in the beginning. It seems to me to say, “expect big plot twists!” like M. Night Shyamalan greeting everyone coming into a theater with a big ol’ “don’t forget, there will be a twist ending!” I don’t know, could just be nit-picky, but I prefer not to have any spoilers about a book and/or series, even if the spoilers are just saying, “don’t expect so-and-so.”

As to the Foreword, we see the very first of many excerpts to come from Doctor Morgenes’ book on the life of King John. There are some pertinent clues to the story even right at the beginning here, and I do like that Doctor Morgenes’ book plays out very much like a “Big Unnoticed Thing,” that will have major repercussions on the story later.

As a final note, and just is more about the writing than the story, now that I am older and “wiser” in my readings, I do find the split third-person perspective in this first chapter slightly jarring. It jumps from Simon’s to Rachel’s mind, and back, pretty quickly over the course of a few paragraphs, and that is pretty unusual in most modern writing. However, I don’t think Williams does this a lot, and it may just be a case of first-book-isms, or just his way to introduce us to many characters as quickly as possible.

Onward!

2 – A Two-Frog Story

Summary

Simon is distressed as he has knocked over a display of horse-armor while running through the castle corridors, swinging his broom around and pretending to be a bannerman for King John, riding into battle. He stuffs the fallen armor beneath a table as quickly as possible, then runs on, hoping he has avoided Father Dreosan’s wrath for the time being. He emerges into the Hedge Garden again, then continues on towards the Doctor’s chambers, but gets distracted again when he decides that he should catch some frogs for the Doctor.

It is nearly night when Simon shows up at the Doctor’s door, d. He dripping wet from his adventure in the moat, and a frog in each pocket. He knocks and is greeted abruptly by the Doctor, who calms down and smiles warmly when he realizes it is just Simon. Morgenes is in the middle of some extremely loud experiment, which he must stop before letting Simon into the room. He disappears into the main chamber quickly to stop the whistles and bangs, then peeks back out and beckons Simon into the room.

There was now not a trace of whatever had set up that fearful yammering. Simon again marveled at the discrepancy between what Morgenes’ rooms seemed to be – a converted guard-barracks perhaps twenty paces in length, nestled against the ivy-tangled wall of the Middle Bailey’s northeastern corner – and the view inside, which was of a low-ceilinged but spacious chamber almost as long as a tournament field, although not nearly as wide. In the orange light that filtered down from the long row of small windows overlooking the courtyard Simon peered at the farthest end of the room and decided he would be hard-pressed to hit it with a stone from the doorway in which he stood.

Morgenes seems to be busy, but makes time to find a container in which to place the frogs. The Doctor then asks what sort of payment Simon expects for bringing such fine specimens, and Simon replies that he would like to hear some “stories” about the Hayholt. After (lightly) criticizing the youth and explaining that he, in fact, wants to hear “history,” and not “stories,” Morgenes decides that the history of the Hayholt would indeed quality as a “two-frog story, at the very least.” Morgenes pours himself some sort of liquor, and begins his “story.”

The Sithi were the first masters of the land of Osten Ard, but eventually humans came to the land, and lived along the coast. These first humans and the Sithi lived peacefully with each other for many centuries, and eventually small human kingdoms built up as neighbors to the Sithi. The kingdom of Nabban rose to the south and spread across the continent, but there seemed to be plenty of land for all, until the Rimmersmen came across the sea with their black iron. These Rimmersmen came across the sea looking for plunder, and brought war to Osten Ard, and drove the Nabbanai and Sithi out of the northern lands. The Sithi held onto Asu’a, their first castle, for a long time, but the castle may have even been on the lands even before the Sithi first came – it is a very old and magical place.

“Fear not, Simon. I think – and I, of all people, should know – that there is not much for you to fear from Sithi magic. Not today. The castle has been much changed, stone laid over stone, and every ell has been rigorously blessed by a hundred priests.

The story is interrupted by Inch, the Doctor’s assistant, coming to visit Morgenes. Morgenes’ regretfully ends his story for the time being as he has work to do with Inch, but tells Simon to please come back so they can finish later. As Simon is preparing to leave, he realizes he left Rachel’s broom out by the moat. He tells Morgenes that he has been foolish, as he was supposed to sweep the Doctor’s chamber. Morgenes tells Simon to simply come back tomorrow to do it, and then mentions that he would find it useful for Simon to be around more often to help with running errands and cleaning – to become an apprentice. He will speak to Rachel about taking Simon into his service. Simon is ecstatic, and runs to pick up the broom and take it back to Rachel. He pauses out at the moat and sits for a moment, but is disquieted when he seems to hear whispered voices on the wind, saying “We will have it back, manchild. We will have it all back . . .” He fearfully runs inside.

Commentary

When I was young, I lived in the parsonage of the church at which my father preached, on Sullivan’s Isle in Charleston, SC. A member of our church, named Mr. Broom, lived about a mile away. He had converted an old gymnasium into a house in which he and his wife had lived for twenty-plus years. My brothers and I used to visit this house, and it was always a wonderful experience for me. Upon entering the house, one would be greeted by rows upon rows of antique furniture, toys, old weaponry, arts and crafts, and other collected items. Literally, right inside the front door, there was table after table of awesome knick-knacks to play with, examine, or enjoy. I remember finding old action figures on tables, bird houses with broken doors, clocks, – many running, many not – knives and swords (which our father made us avoid), old guitars and flutes, and so many other things I can no longer remember. Entering the house always left me with a feeling of wonder and intrigue, as though I had stepped into an adult’s playroom, and the epitome of what I wanted my life to be.

The description of Morgenes’ chambers very much makes me think of those days in Mr. Broom’s house. Morgenes is eccentric, nutty, and probably slightly crazy, but also wise, kind, and fair. I love that he has this awesome amount of knowledge in his head, but doesn’t seem to bee too much of an expositional plot device (Of course, in fantasy novels, where you have to learn about a new world, it’s just a necessary fact that you will get a lot of info-dumps about how the world works). The main thing I notice about the Doctor is that, even as a fictional being, he seems to be the kind of person with which I would love to share a drink and talk philosophy. And of slightly side-note-ish quality, I love that he seems to be quite the mad scientist.

So Morgenes is introduced now as a speaking character, and becomes one of the most important characters in the series, even after his death (much like a Jedi?). He is the root of all the good things in the book that happen, and is one of the main stalwarts against the encroaching evil. Without his help and forethought, the characters simply could not have won. Of course, we don’t know all that yet – for all we know, he’s just a crazy old man that drinks liquor and rambles in front of teenagers. He is apparently a collector-of-things, with a room that would be described as an absolute wreck by most adults, but to a young man like Simon (and like I was when in Mr. Broom’s home on Sullivan’s Isle), it is a place of magic and mystery.

There is still a ton of exposition in this chapter, and you should certainly read it yourself, if for no other reason, so you can better start to grasp Morgenes’ personality. Morgenes goes over the first chunk of the history of Osten Ard, without getting into too many specifics yet, but there are some careful clues laid out, one of which I quoted above. We are given right here, in the very beginning, the reason why the Ineluki’s plans do not include just retaking the castle – he can’t, due to all the blessings of the priests.

We also get introduced to Inch, and it is pretty cool to remember when he was just a bumbling, and annoying, competitor for the Doctor’s affections, instead of the extremely malicious creature he eventually becomes. We see here that Morgenes doesn’t really seem to even care for Inch, but takes his wards seriously enough to stop his story with Simon so that he and Inch can do whatever they had planned to do.

And lastly, we get to hear the first of many ominous whispers from the “ghosts/spirits/whatever” of the Sithi in the Hayholt. I think these whispers give us good insight into what the Sithi/Norns/enemies actually want – they want back their lands, and they’re by-God going to take them back however they can.

3 – Birds in the Chapel

Summary

Rachel is cleaning spiders and cobwebs from the dining room, having to work extra hard since two of her chambermaids are unavailable, and Simon is out on an errand. She curses “that damnable boy,” and ponders that she has done her best over the years to beat some sense into him. He is old enough to be off her apron-strings, but still wants to just hide and avoid work like a kid, and Morgenes actually encourages it. She worries that Simon will not work at all in Morgenes’ apprenticeship, and will instead just sit around while the Doctor guzzles ale and tells stories. She definitely considers the offer, since Simon is always underfoot with her, and she does believe Morgenes cares for Simon. She remembers back almost fifteen years ago to Simon’s birth.

*****

Rachel had run to the Doctor’s study through the rain, and demanded he come help with the servant Susanna, who was in labor. The Doctor followed Rachel and found out that the pregnant lady was having complications. He began to say that he would save the mother, as “she can always have another child,” but then seemed to realize who the lady actually was, and came to full attention. He then told Susanna, clearly in such pain, that he would save the child. The child was born a boy, and the Doctor spoke to Susanna.

“I saved him, Susanna. I had to,” he whispered.

The mother nodded thankfully and spoke of her dead husband, then named the child Seoman, which means “waiting.” She died on the table, and as her hand lowered, she dropped something on the floor, which the Doctor had picked up. He then told Rachel that she must take care of him, as “his parents are dead, you know.”

*****

Rachel shakes herself awake after dosing off and steps outside. She remembers how she had renamed Seoman as Simon, since “everyone in the service of King John’s household took a name from the king’s native island, Warinsten,” and Simon was closest to Seoman. She walks out into the entry yard, looking up at Green Angel Tower, and remembers how she was once a young, beautiful girl herself. The young girls under her command have spoiled Simon over the years, and she would have to continue keeping her eye out for him.

She comes across Simon, who was extremely dirty, and is excited that he now has the bird’s nest he had seen in the Hedge Garden the day before. Rachel is of course disgusted and poleaxed by Simon’s seeming stupidity, and demands he get rid of the filthy thing. Simon is ashamed, and tries to defend himself, and Rachel softens a little, telling him that he just needs to learn to think a little before doing stupid things. She then tells him he should go work for the doctor, hoping Morgenes can “squeeze some sense into” the boy. He excitedly thanks Rachel, and runs Morgenes’ chambers.

*****

One his way to the doctor’s chambers, Simon realizes it is cold, and decides to take a shortcut to Morgenes’ chambers by going through the chapel, which he knows is off-limits. He begins cutting through the choir loft when the sound of voices comes to him from below. He sneaks to the railing overlooking the chapel and sees the two princes of Erkynland below, arguing about a unnamed priest. Josua speaks.

“I warn you about the priest out of love for the kingdom.” There was a moment’s silence. “And in memory of the affection we once shared.”

Elias responds in anger, and the two argue further about this priest, named Pryrates, with Josua claiming Pryrates will bring about the ruination of their House.

“Then leave the castle!” Elias growled, and turned his back on his brother, arms crossed on his chest. “Go, and then let me prepare to rule as a man should – free of your complaints and manipulation.”

Their conversation continues, bringing up the fact that Josua blames the loss of his hand on Elias, while Elias blames the death of his wife on Josua. Josua attempts to reconcile with Elias one last time, but Elias throws a woman’s scarf at Josua and storms out. Josua picks up the scarf, looking pained, and then follows his brother out. Simon peeks out of the hall, about to sneak out of the chapel himself, when he notices a small person in brown clothes had also been hiding, and listening to the brother Princes confront each other. The person sees Simon and runs away.

Commentary

I have memories of bringing all kinds of stray creatures into my house growing up, just knowing, each and every time, that this time, my mother would understand, and let me keep the little bird, turtle, frog, lizard, cat, squirrel, or whatever. And you know what? Every single time, she had just about the same reaction as Rachel the Dragon when Simon shows her the bird’s nest. Horror and revulsion. Looking back on those times, I feel that I can fairly blame my mother in just not having a heart. But I’m relatively certain that others would disagree.

The flashback scene provides us with a very important clue as to Simon’s heritage right at the beginning of the series. I have read many reviews about Tad Williams and Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn over the years, and very many of them speak negatively about two aspects of the ending of the series. The first being how happy everything turns out, with Josua living, Camaris surviving, and all the main characters making it through. We can speak on that more later. The second thing that tends to be a common criticism is that Simon’s heritage is never fully explained, and seems thrown together at the very end. This, I strongly disagree with. The very first time I read the series, when I reached the epic conclusion, I definitely felt that things seemed just a bit too hunky-dory. However, even on just my very first re-read, I was able to pick up clues, such as this flashback scene, and Morgenes giving Simon the ring with the quote in it. I think this is a major strength in this series, not a flaw – it means that if you look hard enough, you’ll see logical strings tying plot points together, like puzzle pieces slowly being sorted out.

I also really like the glimpse we get into Rachel during her little interlude. She obviously cares deeply for both Simon and the Hayholt, and it really flows well into many of the actions she later takes in the series once she’s had to flee castle halls.

We also get some extremely important looks into the nature of the struggle between Josua and Elias, and we get to see the first look at the kernel which led to all the actions Elias will eventually take. The love and loss of his wife is at the heart of every single thing he does and did, and he puts the full blame onto Josua.

The first time I read this story, I was a young man. I had never been in love, had never had a family, and had never had to see loved ones in great pain and torment. I had a hard time sympathizing with Elias as a character, and was never able to fully grasp his motivations. As I’ve gotten older though, I have found myself warming over the years to what Elias must have been thinking and feeling when he asked Pryrates to open the Door which should have remained closed. I’m not saying that, should an evil warlock come and offer to bring back my loved ones, I would jump into it, but I am saying that, having experienced great loss in my life in re: my sister, parents, and grandparents, and having witnessed my father-in-law’s struggle after his wife passed away from breast cancer, and having woken up from many a terrible dream in which I’ve lost someone I’ve loved . . . well, let’s just say that I can understand the desperate measures a man can take to get over my grief.

The last thing I want to talk about in this chapter is Tad’s world-building. We hear mentioned in this chapter many people who all become important in some way or another to the story, even as just side characters who show up again later, or historical figures such as the variously-mentioned Saints. We still haven’t yet reached all the things that truly show how masterfully-crafted Osten Ard and Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn are, but we are certainly getting major hints.

Conclusion

Well, that’s it for this week. I’ve had a good time going over and analyzing these chapters, and I hope you lovely readers will pick up tons of points that I’ve missed, and join in a discussion with me here on the blog.

Cheers!
E.S.