Tad Williams


Well, lookie what we got here! If I don’t be mistaken, that thar is a Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn re-read!

Yeah, it’s me, and I’m back. It’s been a long time – almost a year. A lot of things have happened since then, and absolutely none of those things are going to be discussed here, because they matter not! You’re here (if you’re here) to read about MS&T, not hear my excuses. So let’s just do that.

First of all, you should notice a change in format. The summaries are much shorter now, with no block quotes filling them. I will be attempting to cover the important plot points in the summaries, and will be leaving anything else to the commentaries, which you may see soon, are just as long as they ever were. Sorry about that, hope you’ll read anyway!

And, as usual, 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.

Whoopy!

The Raven and the Cauldron

Summary

Maegwin and three of her maids are working hard to close a cattle gate, since all the men of Hernystir are out fighting, or planning to fight. Rhynn’s Cauldron, a massive warning bell, is being rung to warn outlying towns of danger from the battles being fought. She then visits her father in the Taig just as Eolair joins Lluth as well, and discussion begins on the attacks and scouting parties of Skali Sharpnose. Some strategy is discussed, including the fact that Gwythinn may return from Naglimund and help the rest of Hernystir’s men create a pincer attack with Skali in the middle. Lluth seems very troubled, and Maegwin attempts to comfort him, while Eolair in turn attempts to comfort the princess.

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At Naglimund, Duke Isgrimnur and Prince Josua are visiting with Baron Devasalles of Nabban to ask for Leobardis’ and Nabban’s aid in the upcoming struggle, only to find that Devasalles had sent word two nights previously for Leobardis to come to Naglimund’s aid. Devasalles then warns the prince and duke that Leobardis’ wife Nessalanta, and eldest son Benigaris, do not side with Josua, so politics are currently tense in Nabban. Josua and Isgrimnur leave in much higher spirits, and decide to let Miriamele know the good news that her family will join the struggle on their side.

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Tiamak is pondering a message he had received from Morgenes weeks ago, which warned of dire events to come. He also thinks of his treasure, a page from “Du Svardenwyrd,” and wonders if Morgenes had known he was in possession of such a relic. He wonders if he should travel to visit Morgenes, but then decides to wait for the doctor’s next message before making such a rash decision.

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Josua, with Isgrimnur in tow, storms into Vorzheva’s room and demands to know what she has done with Princess Miriamele. Vorzheva admits to having forged Josua’s seal and sent Miriamele to Nabban to ask for Leobardis’ help, not knowing that word had already been sent of their aid to come. On top of this, they find that the “monk” Cadrach was sent along with Miriamele as protection, but Sangfugol speaks up to warn them of Simon’s dealings with Cadrach, and that the princess could be in danger. Josua and Isgrimnur rush to send out a search party at once.

******

Lluth, in full armor, visits his sleeping daughter Maegwin to let her know he is riding out shortly to engage Skali Sharpnose’s men. Afterward, Maegwin cries herself to sleep.

Commentary

After so long an absence, I had hoped my first post upon my return would be filled with a bit more splendor than this. I had forgotten about this chapter though. Not that it’s a bad chapter by any stretch of the imagination, I just feel that it does very little to move the plot along, and doesn’t really even provide a lot of extremely useful insights for the readers. There are a few items to discuss though.

During Maegwin’s section, we see for the first time the two recurring elements that seem to haunt Maegwin throughout the series. The first of which is the fact that she is tall and strong for a woman; these facts are often commented on by those around her, much to her emotional and psychological detriment. The second is her thoughts on how Eolair perceives here. It is obvious that she cares for him, and seemingly obvious to her that he thinks of her as nothing but the princess, and provides her simple courtesies for that reason alone. Of course, as we find out through POVs with the count over the course of the series, that is not quite the case, but alas, their love and the various hurdles in their way are part of what is possibly the saddest arc in the entire story.

Those of us who have read the story also know that the Hernystiri hopes of Gwythinn coming to their aid to help fight Skali is unfortunately not how things will play out. But we’ll talk about that later.

Josua and Isgrimnur’s scene with Devasalles struck me on this reading of being pretty insignificant, other than for it setting up their following scene with Vorzheva and Sangfugol. We do get to hear a bit about Leobardis’ problems with his wife and son however, which will prove to be extremely significant later on. Isgrimnur doesn’t seem to think much of Devasalles (despite the stories of him being a pretty good swordsman). Is it Devasalles who later becomes a bit of a hero during the seige on Naglimund for holding one doorway against countless enemies before finally being cut down? I can’t remember…

Anyhoo, during their confrontation with Vorzheva, Isgrimnur plays a bit of the role of “the guy holding the prince back,” but you can tell even he is baffled at Vorzheva’s actions, especially when he must inform her that a conman such as Cadrach could have memorized priestly lines just for the sake of conning, and not because he was a priest. Which is wrong in regards to Cadrach – he was a priest of course, but it’s still pretty goofy of Vorzheva, someone who keeps the company of a prince, and has been involved in his councils, to be so easily fooled by someone – especially since we saw the scene where she paid him, and he was drunk, but used a pretty inadequate excuse to deter her line of questioning on the subject.

Sangfugol gets somewhat thrown into the middle of this argument/discussion, and has a few humorous lines and thoughts as is his way, but other than that, this section is still just setup for what will eventually become Isgrimnur’s major story arc throughout the series.

Tiamak’s scene is another that provides us just a bit of information about something important, without really giving us enough information to know what’s going on. We, as readers, know that Morgenes’ message to him was not specifically about his piece of Nisses’ parchment, but rather as a warning to him as a friend and potential future member of the League. Of course, this piece of parchment becomes extremely important later, and we (being savvy genre readers and all) can assume a lot from a passage from “Du Svardenvyrd,” especially since we just heard about it in the story for the first time a few chapters back. It’s a method authors use of enlightening the readers to let us know something the characters don’t know. That way, we can always be asking the characters in frustration, “Why are you doing this action?!?” only to shortly thereafter say to ourselves, “Oh yeah, it’s because you don’t know what I know.” Williams really excels in this type of – I don’t think the proper word is “foreshadowing” for this type of technique, but it’s what I’m going to use – to amp up the anticipation and anxiety in his stories.

And that’s about it for now. Let’s move on, shall we?

Chapter 36 – Fresh Wounds and Old Scars

Summary

The first night after Simon, Binabik, and their friends leave Naglimund is uneventful. They take a short break close to morning for sleeping and eating, and Binabik, Simon, and Sludig have a quick (and somewhat tense) discussion on where they are going and why. The next day and night are also uneventful, except that when Simon wakes up that morning, it is snowing, and he is in pain from riding a horse for several days now.

Simon dreams that night that he is yet again snagged in the great wheel, rolling along the earth. At the pinnacle, he sees a great white tree in the distance, then falls off the wheel…

Simon’s party comes across the deserted town of Hullnir, where it appears all the Rimmersmen have fled from “Skali and his ravens,” and the northern snows and slows have claimed the buildings. They can see Aldheorte to the south as they move through the ruins.

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Princess Miriamele and Cadrach have been riding for a day and a half when they come to the site of where a grisly battle has recently taken place. Even the princess and Cadrach can tell that the battle, which took place between Hernystiri and Rimmersmen at the Inniscrich, went very poorly for the Hernystiri – most of the dead are their own. Miriamele asks Cadrach to say some prayers for the dead, but the “priest” will not do it, and attempts to hurry them on. Miriamele stops them though when she sees a living man against a tree. The two investigate and Cadrach recognizes the man as Count Arthpreas of Cuimhne in Hernystir. The man awakens long enough to question where he saved Lluth, then calls Cadrach “Paedric” before dying. Miriamele is curious about this, but Cadrach dismisses it as the delusions of a dying man, then the two bury him.

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Simon and his companions circle the lake Drorshull on their way to the mountains. After another day of traveling, they make camp and discuss whether or not someone may be following, especially with Qantaqa acting funny. Grimmric sings a song that worries Sludig, but that gives Binabik a clue as to what they may actually be searching for – not the “Rhymer’s Tree,” but rather the “Rimer’s Tree,” or the Uduntree, a legendary tree made entirely of ice.

The next day, the group comes across the burned ruins of Haethstad, and are attacked by nine men, one of whom – man wearing a hound-shaped helmet – Sludig says was involved in the attack on Hoderund’s Abbey. The group runs into the trees on their horses, with the armored men chasing them. Simon gets separated from the others, then is knocked off his horse. The man in the dog helmet finds Simon and dares Simon to shoot him. The man’s horse is shot by someone not Simon, and when he turns to investigate, three Sithi are standing behind him, one with an arrow knocked and pointed at Simon’s head.

Commentary

Cliffhanger!

So this chapter starts as just one of those typical “traveling from point A to point B” chapters that authors sometimes have to use to get their protagonists from one place to another, but turns into something much more intriguing by the end. It is interesting that this chapter is divided the way it is between Simon’s and Miriamele’s travels – there is almost something poetic in the way they are both traveling at the same time in almost opposite directions, both heading on the journey that will bring both of them to their end-series’ level of maturity by the time they meet again. Both of them are going to go through some pretty horrific things, and have their own adventures, and neither thinks of each other yet – but as we will see during the next few dozen chapters about them, both will start thinking of each other much more often. But that is for later.

For now, there are a few interesting things that happen in this chapter. In Miriamele’s section, the most important two things are that A – we learn of the off-scene battle which took place between Hernystir’s and Skali’s forces, which I believe is where Lluth receives his mortal wound, and B – we learn that Cadrach has even more of a secretive past than we previously thought.

Cadrach brings up some very interesting points when he discusses why he will not pray for his fallen countrymen’s or the Rimmersmen’s souls. Does he pray for the pagan Hernystiri, who are his countrymen but do not believe in or worship the Aedonite god? Does he pray for the Rimmersmen, who culturally are Aedonites, but are obviously in the wrong for this particular atrocity? It creates an interesting disharmony if I do say so myself – I mean, I’m not going to talk about Real World Politics here or anything, but I’m pretty sure there are at least a few modern-day examples of similar-type conflicts that human beings should at least think about once in awhile. And while I personally believe Cadrach’s digression into the philosophy of mourning is more of an excuse for him not to get down on his knees and say a prayer to a god he no longer believes in, it is worth Miriamele thinking about, I should say – after all, she is relatively naive in a worldly sense, and could probably use some lessons in Ethics 101.

In the more northerly part of the world, Simon’s group has a few interesting philosophical discussions as well, though possibly not quite as enlightening as the one above. Sludig, upon finding the ruins of Hullnir, wants to hunt down Storfot, one of Skali’s men, and the likely perpetrator of the crimes against the various ruined villages they come across. Binabik, however, forces Sludig to remember his pledge to Isgrimnur, his liege lord, and recognize that there are greater atrocities afoot, even than the destruction of Rimmersgard and northern villages. Sludig doesn’t like having this pointed out to him, but understands the troll is right, and leaves the argument alone for now. We will learn over the course of the series that Sludig is a bit of a hothead, and is constantly trying to avenge some horror, fight some bully, and right some wrong. It’s very good of him (in the ethical sense), and I actually do believe there is room in our world (and especially in fantasy worlds) for justified vengeance and capital punishment. For instance, even setting aside the emotional reasons behind vengeance (the “he deserves it” argument), there can also be logical reasons, such as the argument that you may be (and likely are) stopping future crimes. Obviously, at the car-jacking or pick-pocketing level, such punishments do not hold water, but at the more genocidal level (such as burning and destroying an entire village, and likely killing people within if they are there), I personal don’t have much of a problem with it. Especially since you cannot really say Sharpnose or Storfot are engaging in specific acts of war – they are not even at war with anyone right now – they are making preemptive strikes. Hell, they’re not even doing that – preemptive strikes usually at least are part of some sort of assumed tactical advantage – take out a military base, take out food reserves, etc, etc. Why would they be making preemptive strikes against these back-ass snowy country towns? They’re not – they’re just committing “crimes against humanity.” So yeah, don’t really have much of a problem with Sludig’s notion of vengeance here, and his ideas of hunting Storfot down and slitting his throat (thought that’s probably not how I would do it).

However, at the end of the day, as Binabik points out, we’re very much talking about the “greater good” here – and murdering Storfot in the middle of the night isn’t going to help prevent the Storm King from killing all the humans on the planet. So yeah… not really sure where I was going with that?

So, Grimmric’s song makes Sludig upset, which in turn gets Sludig ranting about Udun, the Rimmer, etc, which gets Binabik to realize that they are not looking for the “Rhymer’s Tree,” but the Uduntree. The conversation between the two lists at least four different names for the tree all in one sentence, along with a bit of confusing yick-yack about Udun himself. It’s an instance of showing the loss in translation which happens between different languages, and thus adds a bit of realism to the world (all the different nations/cultures with different languages don’t happen to just all call something the same name, which is realistic). Them talking about this tree leads to a somewhat weird scene with Simon going into somewhat of a trance. I always thought this scene was supposed to be relevant in somewhat, but other than it just being about Simon thinking about the White Tree (which he does anyways), I don’t really know what it’s meant to signify, and thus the scene just seems… well, I’ve already said “weird,” I guess I don’t need to go any further on that.

When Simon eventually curled up that evening between the humped and mossy roots of a nearly leafless oak tree he was feeling a little better, although the wine made him think he heard voices singing strange songs on the wind.

I always took that sentence to mean exactly what it said – he thought he heard voices, possibly as a trick of the weather, wind whistling through the trees, all that stuff. However, going by what happens later in the chapter, does he actually hear Sithi singing?

Which leads us to the crux of this chapter, the attack of Ingen Jegger on Simon and his party. We get a tense few pages of Simon fleeing through the trees, dodging arrows, being saved at least once by Qantaqa, then confronting Jegger himself (not that he knows who it is yet). This is their first confrontation, and while Jegger doesn’t actually start monologuing per se, he does make a pretty stupid decision to dare Simon to shoot him – after all, by the laws of just rewards, the fact that he stood there with an arrow pointed at him, daring someone to shoot him, means that he will get shot, whether or not by the person he is daring. Of course, it is not him that is shot, it is his horse, which means that he’ll be back to bother us again later. Which is fine, since as I’ve said before, I think he makes for a suitable nemesis for Simon.

Hello An’nai! We’ll talk with you more later!

******

And, that’ll do for now. Welcome back folks, hope to see you again!

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Shadowrise
Shadowrise by Tad Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where Shadowplay really picked up the pace from Shadowmarch not only in terms of action, but in terms of originality and creativity, Shadowrise continues forward in one direction, but I feel steps backwards in the other. The story really comes into its own in this book, with all the characters starting to sound much more like full entities instead of cardboard cut-outs, and a lot of really great ideas are introduced (or expanded upon). Despite this, however, I found myself feeling restless throughout large portions of the book – other than Barrick’s various adventures beyond the Shadowline, very little in the way of action happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for R.A. Salvatore-style nothing-ever-stops-happening fantasy, but I felt through reading this book that I would really like to just skip passed major sections and get back to the story, which to me, seemed odd considering its placement in the series. In particular, I found Captain Vansen’s storyline to be extremely dull, and seemed almost like filler to me – which is a shame, because during the first two books, Vansen was my favorite character.

Something else I’ve noticed is that I feel that Tad Williams’ prose doesn’t have the grace it once had. I did not pick up on this through the first two books, possibly because I was enthralled by the origins of the story as well as by a lot of action, but during the slower parts of Shadowrise, this really stood out to me. When I look at series like Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn and Otherland, where I have memorized passages of text because of how they stand out to me as being so beautifully-well crafted, I definitely feel that Shadowmarch is a slight step down. Some of it these feelings I attribute to my overall unrest with the book, but some I feel come from some new stylistic choices Williams had made in these books – such as becoming a bit more graphic in his speaking of sex (though nothing like Martin, who I often call the Stephen King of fantasy).

Without a doubt though, one of Tad Williams’ greatest strengths as a writer is his ability in a series for the penultimate volume to finally begin putting together all the plot pieces like a puzzle – and like a puzzle, the picture becomes clear in a way that is very satisfying to the reader. This story does not disappoint in that regard – the way Barrick’s history with the Qar is slowly revealed, similarly overlapping various reveals of his father Olin, and the slave girl Qinnitan, is pure genius, and I found myself being very delighted to read the last few chapters where the reveals became more important. This made me hunger for more, which is another of Williams’ stronger authorial techniques, and one that he has not yet failed at delivering as far as I’m concerned.

Overall, I would say this book is a pretty strong B+ for the fantasy genre as a whole, but well below average for Tad Williams (who I make no excuses for being my favorite author – fantasy or otherwise).

I will not be able to start Shadowheart until next week, but from the non-spoiler reviews I’ve read, I expect it to really pick up the pace to go out with a bang.

View all my reviews

Hey, it’s me again. I feel like I do this a lot, huh? Anyway, for anyone who reads the other big thing on my blog, The Wheel of Time Casting Call, you’ll know I’m about to have some free Fridays. The Casting Call is ending, and I plan on taking its place with the MS&T Re-read. Sorry it’s been such a hectic schedule the last two months, but quite frankly, those two projects are too large to fit in the same week with each other, especially when I’m writing my own stories on the side, and am a full-time musician. So anyway, one more week, I promise, and MS&T will be back and ready for action.

Also, there may be a cool surprise for all you Tad Williams fans soon, collaborated between myself and Olaf Keith of A Gentle Madness. Keep an eye out for it!

Cheers,
Brandon Daggerhart

Hi, and welcome back to the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn re-read and analysis! There may be false messengers in this post. Just sayin.’

So, New York kicked my ass, and this post is (obviously) coming out late. Also, you may notice there is only one chapter. It’s because it’s a very long chapter, and I was already late, so I figured we’d do it this way, and I may attempt three chapters next week. We’ll see how it goes.

As I say with each of the posts I make in this series, 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.

Let’s just jump right in, folks.

Chapter 34 – Forgotten Swords

Summary

Vorzheva and Josua have an argument in his chambers about him only wanting to study “old things,” and ignoring her. She leaves in a fury. Binabik, Jarnauga, and Strangyeard come to Josua’s chambers to speak about the mad prophet Nisses’ book, “the Weird of the Swords,” the book present in their dreams. They pull out Morgenes’ manuscript, believing it to have clues about their struggle, knowing that Morgenes made many preparations before his death about the coming events. Binabik reads from Morgenes’ work about the forging of three Great Swords – Camaris’ black sword Thorn, forged from a meteor; the Rimmersgard sword Minneyar (Memory), forged from the keel of ships out of the past; and Sorrow, forged from witchwood and iron, too antithetical ingredients. They then read a rhyme which Morgenes had included from Nisses’ book, which seems to imply that the three Great Swords will be necessary in combating the darkness of the upcoming days. They decide they must find the swords, but do not know where to look for them, other than Sorrow, which is out of their grasp for the time being. Josua sends for Isgrimnur, needing the duke to stand by his side when he tells of their new findings at the Raed that night, then they discuss that Pryrates’ must be behind Elias’ actions. Isgrimnur arrives, and they all discuss possible fates and locations of Minneyar and Thorn, but are unable to come up with anything solid – they break so that Binabik, Strangyeard, and Jarnauga can go back to searching the archives for more records.

Simon is hanging with Sangfugal and Towsesr, upset that he was not invited to this night’s council (and also upset that they previous made him come when he didn’t want to go). Isgrimnur walks by, and Towser and the duke reunite cheerfully, the duke explaining all that is going on, and it turns out Towser may know where Thorn is hidden. He demands to be taken before the prince to explain.

Once there, Towser tells the story of how in Camaris entrusted Thorn to his squire, Colmund, who used the sword to reforge his broken barony in the north, before taking a crew to the mountain Urmsheim to attempt to hunt down the legendary treasure of the ice dragon, Igjarjuk. Strangyeard remembers the story that Colmund made it at least as far as the monastery of Saint Skendi at Vestvennby, which gives them a starting place to look. Josua thinks for awhile and then asks Binabik to lead a crew to the north to attempt to discover Camaris’ sword Thorn. Binabik also asks if he may take Simon, so that along with Isgrimnur’s man Sludig, and “three or four others” from Josua, they will lead a small party, leaving the next night.

Simon is not very honored or pleased by Binabik’s assuming Simon would go on the trek. Binabik understands, and then gives Simon a ring entrusted to him by Morgenes – he wants Simon to have it now in case Binabik does not return from his journey. There is writing in the ring which neither Simon or Binabik understand, that says something about “death” and “Dragon.” Binabik then wishes that Simon would consider the matter of the journey, and hopes they will always remain friends.

Simon finds Miriamele, and discovers she is upset that Josua will not allow her to travel to Nabban to seek help from her uncle Leobardis. Simon then tells her he is leaving on the mission with Binabik, and may never return. Miriamele gives Simon her blue scarf to bear as “her standard,” then kisses Simon on the cheek and they part ways.

Vorzheva has a clandestine meeting with a monk, paying him for services yet unrendered, and tells him to be on his way.

The next evening, Simon and Binabik stand with Haestan (who didn’t want an untrained boy traveling north with naught a teacher), Ethelbearn, Grimmric (these are the three Josua has chosen to travel), and Sludi and prepare to leave. Jarnauga gives Binabik one last clue, that Colmund had left word at Skendi’s that he would be searching for the “Rhymer’s Tree,” which the party will search for. Simon ponders why he is heading out yet again, after having such a brief time in Naglimund, then gets seated on a horse for his first time. Josua then sees them off and they travel away into the darkness. High above them, at the Stile, the hunter Ingen Jegger sees them leave and gets ready to pursue them.

Commentary

Jeez, that was a long chapter. Seriously, I think it took me almost thirty minutes just to do my pre-analysis read-through. Then another thirty to go back and highlight important parts. Let’s see what we can figure out here.

I do not feel that Vorzheva is written as a very sympathetic character. Don’t get me wrong – I know it’s not cool of the prince to ignore his woman and treat her as a serving girl, but if she really has such an issue with priorities that she gets upset with Josua for talking about what may save the world instead of what will make her happy that evening, then I don’t think I particularly care how much he ignores her. Which is bad, because I know in hindsight that eventually (would that be hind-foresight?), she is meant to be a character that we like, respect, and cheer for. But right now, I just don’t really care about her. Especially since she is so obviously trusting of Cadrach, who at this point (being drunk and demanding money), doesn’t seem like the best person to send along with the princess – that’s just damned stupid, ya’ll.

In other news, how did the “Great Swords” get their name, and why was that name given to them? I mean, I know why they would be called the “Great Swords” in one sense – because they are all unique, powerful, and magical weapons that are all very “great.” However, all three of them were forged long before Ineluki’s plan to exact revenge on all the people of the world, and two of the three were forged long before there was even a human-Sithi conflict for Ineluki to worry about. The name “Great Swords” shows up in the mad prophet Nisses’ book, and are named thus by other scholarly types as well (such as Morgenes), and in the modern times, are very much associated with the Big Plan of defending against Ineluki’s evil (though, of course, it’s all really his big plan to begin with). But I never really get the feeling that we are explained exactly why these swords were implied to be specifically forged for this purpose, which is definitely what the books (and their name of “Great Swords”) seem to imply.

This, of course, leads us to the primary quest of the series – that is, recovering the MacGuffins Great Swords, so that the good guys can thwart the bad guys’ plans. The False Messenger makes his/its appearance again here, urging the heroes towards doom, death, and destruction, all while skillfully playing off as though they are instead searching for salvation. This reeks, to me, of Utuk’ku’s manipulations, but that still brings up the point that these plans of Ineluki’s and Utuk’ku’s seem to have originated a long, long time ago. Nisses was the priest during Hjeldin’s rule, which I believe was right after Fingil, which means that it was not long at all before Ineluki began planning his revenge. Granted, there is nothing inherently illogical about an undead Ineluki immediately trying to figure out how to screw over all the humans, but it seems as though the plans for the revenge came very quickly.

This also makes me wonder why Nisses ever wrote the book to begin with. I have some thoughts on this, and I figure I’m right (cuz I said so, that’s why), so what the hell, let’s pontificate for awhile. We know from the situation with Elias and Pryrates that people who walk the Road of Dreams can run into horrible beings like Ineluki, Utuk’ku, and the Red Hand. It’s just a fact that those beings seem to creep around in this place. Binabik comes to the conclusion (eventually) that Utuk’ku, especially, had been using the Dream Road for her purposes all along, and that’s when he figures out the whole False Prophet thing. Nisses, being a learned man who wanted to know things, probably knew of the Road of Dreams, and occasionally frequented it. Once there, he was probably coerced, forced, manipulated, or some-other-against-his-will-type-verb-ed into writing this book about the Swords, as Utuk’ku and Ineluki had forged their plans to release the Storm King and TURN BACK TIME! It’s even possible that, since Nisses was from Rimmersgard, he had been corrupted just by living too close to Stormspike. Anyway, after encountering the beings and writing the book, Nisses went (to use a scientific term) “quite effing looney,” (from seeing things which weren’t meant for mere mortals’ eyes) and offered his new-found knowledge to King Hjeldin. During this revealing-of-knowledge, the magical forces were either so powerful that the bewildered king simply fell off Hjeldin’s Tower while Nisses fell to the ground dead, or they both committed noble suicide to avoid what Elias would himself eventually become.

So that makes Nisses a hero. Cool, huh? Except that his writing of the book to begin with almost caused the destruction of everything. So not cool?

This chapter introduces two new characters who will be with us for a little while – Ethelbearn and Gimmric – as well as brings back into the story Sludig, who is pretty awesome through this and the next book, but becomes rather unfortunately unimportant by TGAT. Haestan’s reason for following along is to help train Simon, which seems a little goofy – aren’t there a lot more soldiers that will need training in Naglimund?

Finally, just because there was a lot of it for such an expositional chapter, let’s talk about various emotions covered in this chapter. According to Towser’s tale, Camaris grew very sorrowful after Ebbekah’s death. Some nice foreshadowing for the Big News that we eventually get about Camaris, Ebbekah, and Josua. The man goes to some pretty great extremes to eventually rid himself of that sorrow, by visiting the Sithi. It’s nice to see Isgrimnur, portrayed as the series’ “manly” man, have so much love and tenderness to his wife. And Simon calls the princess “Miri,” his first time using that shortened version (though possibly by accident?), which shows he’s already developed a more familiar relationship with the princess than he may even be aware of. He gets his first kiss from her as well, and it’s a very well-written scene. And Simon of course volunteers at this exact moment to go on the journey, because Miriamele will think it’s brave. Ahh, for young love.


Thanks for reading, don’t forget to follow Olaf Keith’s blog as he breaks down the history of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn.

Cheers!
-Brandon Daggerhart

Welcome back to the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn re-read. Sorry for the delay – I trust you’ll forgive me. If not, well, too bad (neener)!

We’ll cover chapters 32 and 33 today, where we have some of the most expositional in the series. It has to happen in fantasy stories, but there’s a lot here. Of course, on the positive side, Tad Williams’ prose throughout much of the storytelling is so beautiful that you forget you’re reading large info dumps. We finally learn WhazzupWitTheStormKing, Yo? and maybe get some hints at the overall plot of the series. Oh, and we get the first of the three Great Swords’ names. I call that important.

And, as usual, 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.

Don’t forget, Olaf has put up the first part of the MS&T History series he is working on, and you should definitely check it out ASAP!

Now, let’s read.

Chapter 32 – Northern Tidings

Summary
That night, Simon gets drunk with Towser, and the two of them commiserate on women – Simon on the betrayal of the one, Towser on the one he left behind to stay in service to King John. Simon learns a bit more history about the north, and eventually leaves to sleep for the night. The next morning, Simon sleeps in, then goes to receive some training from Haestan. Leaving the training yard, he sees Miriamele walking with two of her handmaidens. He calls her down to speak, and she dismisses the girls so they can have some privacy. They talk about their journey and seem to make things right between them, then he leaves after bowing to her (which seems to cause her some distress). Binabik meets Simon on the way to his room, and Simon questions Binabik on his “treachery,” then quickly forgives the troll, knowing it was not his fault, but lets Binabik know he has no intentions of returning to the Raed. His friend pleads with him to come share his story, and Simon finally agrees, as long as the decision to talk at the the council is his alone to make.

At the Raed, Duke Isgrimnur is having an incensed yelling fit about all the evils of Elias, before finally explaining that King Elias has given all Isgrimnur’s land to Skali Sharpnose. Isgrimnur tells the story of the ambush at the monastery, then the attack of the diggers (which some dismiss as mythological nonsense). Binabik stands to explain that the diggers are real, but the Rimmersmen are enraged that a troll is at the council. Josua calms everyone down, and Isgrimnur continues to explain that after escaping the diggers, they were told that the High King has taken away all his lands. Gwythinn uses this moment to rally many of the people into a frenzy, asking, “Is [Elias] not our most dangerous enemy?”

“No! He is not!”

An old man, brought by Isgrimnur, has stepped into the room. His name is Jarnauga, and he knows the truth of what is happening, and the blame cannot be laid at either Elias’ or Pryrates’ feet. He explains that the forge-fires of Stormspike, for months, have been burning all night long, meaning the White Foxes, and their queen, Utuk’ku, are preparing for war. But even they are not the real enemy. The being behind all the problems is none other than Ineluki, the Storm King.

Commentary
Simon’s and Towser’s commiserating is pretty funny, though Towser’s story takes a bit of a sad tone by the end. Poor old man gave up quite literally everything to stay in service of his beloved King John, only to be tossed aside after his death and dragged along basically out of pity. I never noticed this before (or if I did, I didn’t pay attention to it), but his scarf from his many-years-gone-lover is in some ways a bit of foreshadowing for Simon getting his own scarf soon. I don’t know if this is meant to actually mean anything or not – after all, Simon eventually does get his girl – but it does seem at least somewhat . . . poetically symbolic.

Simon’s taking his grief out on Binabik is very realistically teenager-like of him (I’m pretty sure we’ve all done that, even when we weren’t teenagers), but even so, I still think I sympathize more on Simon’s side of things than Binabik’s in this particular instance. After all, it’s apparent now that Josua did know who Simon was talking about when he mentioned Marya the previous night, but even so, he lied to Simon – the boy who rescued him from certain death and given up everything for him – for no logical reason at all! I mean, where is the logic in hiding this information from Simon, knowing that he will eventually find out anyway. Did Josua think, “Well if he finds out in a crowded room, he’s less likely to have a tantrum at least,” because if so, he was pretty damned wrong on that aspect. And even after making the promise, what logical reason was there for Binabik to hold to it, knowing how devastated his friend would be once the secret was exposed. I don’t know, I just find this whole sub-plot to show a lot of neglectful maliciousness from characters who are otherwise shown as very kind and caring.

The prince tilted forward like a stooping hawk, and Simon, clutching Binabik’s jacket, was struck by the resemblance to the dead High King. Here was Josua as he should be!

What is this quote about? Is it a red herring that Josua is John’s son? Is it Simon’s ignorance? Did Mr. Williams not know at this point that Josua was actually Camaris’ son? No idea, but knowing what I know of the series at this point, the sentence seems to come off as a bit odd. Maybe it’s just metaphorical, like saying, “Josua truly looked like a king now.”

I find the Rimmersmen and Binbabik’s hissy fits in this chapter to be a bit jarring as well – maybe not so much for the Rimmersmen, as all of them seem to have some pretty significant anger management issues, but moreso for Binabik, who seems to show a very level head most of the time. Between that and Binabik’s betrayal to Simon, this chapter comes down as not one of my favorites – I just find that there is either too much misinformation in the chapter, or too much mischaracterization. But …

‘The trolls of Yiqanuc are no one’s enemy,” Binabik replied, more than a little haughtily. “It is the Rimmersmen who are so frightened by our great size and strength that they attack wherever they see us – even in the hall of Prince Josua.”

^ That rocks. 🙂

We also meet Jarnauga in this chapter, who gets the fantastic honor of being Mr. Info Dump for the next little while. He does it well, though at times his storytelling sounds suspiciously like Tad Williams’ prose (I smell conspiracy!). I honestly never really liked Jarnauga as a character . . . well, I didn’t dislike him, but he is one of the more boring characters to me. He is basically only here for info-dumps, and then his sacrifice at the end is a bit too reminiscent of Morgenes.’

Chapter 33 – From the Ashes of Asu’a

Summary
Jarnauga explains tells the story of how the Sithi were the first inhabitants of Osten Ard, and created beautiful cities – the most beautiful of them Asu’a, where now the Hayholt stands. Men came to the land and at first, Sithi and Man lived mostly harmoniously with each other, until five hundred years ago, the Rimmersmen led by King Fingil, all but destroyed the Sithi. Iyu’unigato, king of the Sithi, prepared his people to flee from the armies and vanish. The Erlking’s son, Ineluki, would have none of this. Ineluki forged an unnatural sword of combined witchwood and metal, which all the Sithi fled from. The sword drove Ineluki mad, and he struck down his father when the Erlking protested the unnatural weapon. He then named the sword Jingizu, or “Sorrow.” Then with his five most powerful servants (the Red Hand), Ineluki cast a terrible spell, attempting to keep Asu’a from Fingil – the spell consumed him and his Red Hand, but Fingil lived, and Asu’a stood.

During this telling, Simon begins to remember what happened on Thisterborg, and eventually stands up screaming. He is taken out of the hall by Isgrimnur when he faints, and Miriamele shows up and tends him (which Simon likes). Binabik eventually brings Simon back into the room, where Simon explains what he saw on Stoning Night. Jarnauga says Simon saw one of the Red Hand, or at least, the undead remnant of the creature, and saw that being give the newly-reforged Sorrow to Elias. He then explains that Ealhstan Fiskerne set up the League of the Scroll several centuries later, to help humanity prepare for the inevitable return of Ineluki. The night ends with the council wondering what exactly it is that Ineluki and Utuk’ku want.

******
Below the Hayholt near the forges, Pryrates realizes that Simon’s mind has awakened, and thinks something must be done about the boy. He speaks (screams) to Inch, the new overseer, about siege engines needing completion. Inch questions Pryrates and where the engines are going, and as the priest leaves, he wonders if he should have Inch killed. Back in the castle, he is approached by the sleepless Elias, who wants to know if Miriamele has been found yet. Pryrates assures the king that the princess will be found soon, and Elias heads back to his rooms to try to sleep.

Commentary
Major Exposition Chapter here! We are given the real details of what happened after the Battle at the Knock, and (one of) the Sithi’s disastrous counter-measures. Ineluki’s story is very sad, and the more we find out as we go throughout this series, the more he is made to be an extremely sympathetic character. Everything he does, he does from love, though that love has turned twisted and corrupted. He is the mirror image of Elias (as we eventually find out).

We also get a “FINALLY” moment once Simon remembers what happened on Stoning Night. This is an author’s trick that doesn’t always work well – when the readers know something the characters don’t, oftentimes, this lack-of-knowledge is hand-waved away. The characters may act in ways contrary to their normal actions, just so that the plot can keep whatever secrets it needs to keep. Sometimes you have characters that wouldn’t normally hide things from each other lying, cheating, and stealing, just so the author can keep the characters in the dark. Thankfully, this is not the way Tad Williams decided to handle this situation, for which I am grateful. The reason Simon couldn’t spread the information about Sorrow is simply because his poor little human mind couldn’t handle the bond between Pryrates and himself, or the horrible things he saw, until he was ready. I imagine I would have shut the events of that night out myself.

The part where Anodis leaves is interesting, as it shows the very great rift and divide between scholars (scientists) and priests – much as in our own world.

Anodis looked up crossly. “And I should sit here, in the midst of a war council I never approved of, and listen to this . . . this wild man speaking the names of heathen demons? Look at you all – hanging on his words as though they were every one from the Book of Aedon.”

“Those of whom I speak were born long before your holy book, Bishop,” Jarnauga said mildly, but there was a fierce, combative tilt to his head.

“It is fantasy,” Anodis grunted. “You think me a sour old man, but I tell you that such children’s tales will lead you into perdition. The greater sadness, though, is that you may drag all our land down with you.”

Sure, we get a bit of lampshade hanging there, but otherwise, he brings up a strong example of how religion-vs-science debates are often handled here in our “real world.” The side of the scientific scholars is often (derisively) simply stated as a fact, that through physics, history, or mathematics, it is necessary that the religious angle is simply either uneducated, undereducated, or lacking in proper knowledge. On the other side, the religious scholars just stick to their guns, even in the face of evidence or “fact” which may turn their philosophies on their head. Both sides of the argument can come up with a million-million reasons why the other side doesn’t work, and everyone just gets pissed off until someone leaves (like Anodis).

I don’t really know if I have a point with that statement . . .

The Men of history are not presented very admirably in this chapter – as Jarnauga and Josua both say, sure, let’s let old wounds stay sealed, but are we ever given a reason why Fingil went all genocidal on the Sithi? I know why King John did (shame and fear, since the Sithi likely knew he didn’t actually kill Shurakai), but what was Fingil’s ambition? Land? Power? Asu’a? Maybe we’re eventually told, but I cannot remember what it was all about.

The sad story of Ineluki’s forging, patricide, and attempted routing of the Rimmersmen is very well done, and in my opinion, some of the finest prose in the books. I won’t copy it all here, but take out your books and read Ineluki’s story. We also find out that the Norns came into the picture because, for some reason, they were willing to harness the great anger and wrath of Ineluki’s spirit. But we are not told yet the story of Utuk’ku’s child, and why the Norns and Sithi parted ways so long ago. So we are left with the extremely-relevant mystery of “why are the Norns such bastards?” Seriously, the Norns do far worse things in this series than anyone else (besides possibly Pryrates), and for the most part, we are not ever given what I would consider a very reasonable explanation. But more on that once we learn more of Utuk’ku’s motivations.

Pryrates’ section shows him as suitably evil and nasty, without even the slightest real sympathy for any other human beings, even the High King. However, during their conversation, we do get to feel a bit more heartache for Elias – he really seems to have been thrown into this game without even the slightest idea of how far out of everyone else’s league he is. His yearning for Miriamele seems very real, and his last question, “Do you think I shall sleep better . . . when [. . .] I have my daughter back?” stirs up the thoughts of real emotions in the poor High King. At the end of the day, I think Elias was fully in control of his own actions, but he was definitely manipulated by Pryrates, and that makes his story very heartbreaking.


That’s it for this week! Join me again in two weeks, and don’t forget to check out A Gentle Madness next week for more Tad Williams awesomeness!

Cheers,
Brandon Daggerhart

Today marks the first day in Olaf Keith’s new series on the history of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, by Tad Williams. The first in the series is a detailed analysis of the

Welcome back to the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Re-Read and Analysis! It’s been awhile, and there have been many reasons (and excuses?) for why I’ve taken so long to get back into this, but things should be able to continue relatively smoothly for now.

A few notes about changes to the structure. From now on, for the sake of people who can’t read 20,000+ words of a blog in one sitting, I will be moving down to two chapters at a time instead of three, and also condensing the chapter summary lengths a good bit. However, commentary will stay on the same track it’s always been.

I will also be posting this portion of the blog only every other Tuesday from now on. However, if you’re concerned about your MS&T fix, you have nothing to fear, because I have great news for you. A friend’s blog, A Gentle Madness: Collecting Tad Williams is about to start his own bi-weekly project, where he will be studying and analyzing the history of the series, it’s publication, and the critical response it has received over the years. You should be checking this out now! Don’t forget!

And, as usual, 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.

Let’s see how things have been going since the last time we were in this place . . .

Chapter 30 – A Thousand Nails

Summary

Simon wakes up to find himself cared for in a small room. Father Strangyeard enters and introduces himself, and assures Simon that Binabik and “Marya” are both fine and he will likely see them soon. Simon begins putting his shoes on so that he can see his friends. The two walk outside and by a pyre that is being constructed to burn the body of the giant which had so recently attacked Simon and his friends.

Simon finds Binabik awake, but very pale and weak-looking. Strangyard dismisses himself and Simon and Binabik share a reunion. Simon is disheartened that Binabik believes “Marya” may have gone on, now that her message has been delivered, and cannot believe he’s been out for almost two days. Eventually, Binabik needs to sleep again, and asks Simon to check in on Qantaqa.

When Simon leaves, he meets Sanfugal, who shows him to the stables, where Qantaqa is being kept. The stable master has Qantaqa tied by her neck in a pit, which outrages Simon. He coerces Sangfugal and the stable master to help get the wolf out, and they then head back to Binabik’s room so the troll and wolf can reunite.

Simon and Sangfugal eat their food on the south wall, and Sangfugal tells Simon the story of the ‘Nails’ which surround the fort, giving it its name – Naglimund means Nail-Fort in Erkylandish. The nails were supposedly put in the ground to keep the Sithi out, since Sithi are allergic to iron. They once surrounded the entire city and fort, but Josua had all but a few removed when King John gave him Naglimund. Afterwards, Simon gives Sangfugal a brief version of his travels, and they end their conversation wondering if Elias will attack Naglimund. Simon also learns about the hatred between Josua and Elias, due to Elias’ wife dying in an ambush while under the protection of Josua.

Sangfugal figures Josua will be calling a Raed – a council – soon to discuss options, and mentions that Josua may be calling on Simon due to the youth’s heroics. He then mentions Prince Gwythinn is on his way, and many other important people are in (or soon will be in) the keep, and that decisions will be made soon. He then offers to show Simon the nails. As the story goes, the Sithi apparently cared very little about the nails, even named it a Sithi word which means “Trap that Catches the Hunter.” The two then get swept up in a crowd of people heading to watch the burning of the giant. The two get separated, and Simon thinks he sees Marya, but it turns out to be a tall, dark, and beautiful woman who appears very angry about these festivities.

Commentary

Reunion chapter! Calm after the storm or something. We mostly get to see a little bit of insight this chapter into the hardships other people have been having throughout Elias’ rule – in particular, the hardships suffered by those in the north, such as at Naglimund. Giants coming out of the mountains and killing people is just one of the things mentioned by Sangfugal while they talk.

“Here,” [Strangyeard] said. “My, you are in a hurry. Would you like to your friend first, or have something to eat?”

Simon was already tying the front of the shirt closed. “Binabik and Marya, then eat food,” he grunted, concentrating. “And Qantaqa, too.”

“Hard as times have been of late,” the father said in a tone of reproof, “we never eat wolves at Naglimund. I assume you are counting her as a friend.”

Looking up, Simon saw that the one-eyed man was making a joke.

“Yes,” Simon said, feeling suddenly shy. “A friend.”

“Then let us go,” the priest said, standing. “I was told to make sure you were well provided for, so the sooner I get food into you, the better I will have fulfilled my commission.” He opened the door, admitting another flood of sunshine and noise.

And that is how we’re introduced to Strangyeard, one of the awesomest characters in the series. One of the first things out of his mouths is a well-intentioned joke, so we know right off the bat that he’s going to be a swell guy to have around.

Simon’s reunion with Qantaqa and Binabik were both very well-played, especially Simon’s reaction to the way the wolf had been treated. You can tell how dear his companions/friends have become to him when seeing his outrage at her mistreatment.

The story about the Nails is interesting, especially the Sithi name for them – this is some very ominous foreshadowing of dire circumstances yet to come. Williams played the fey trope straight here, with having them be allergic to iron, but he later turns that trope on its head. What makes this the most interesting is how much irony is in the fact that the Norns desperately need this place for their final gambit. Josua’s home is here, so we are told that the only reason Elias and Pryrates want the place so badly is for the prince, and thus they bring in the Norns to help out. However obviously, the Norns had ulterior motives for this place, since it is one of the Houses (can’t remember the number) that becomes so important at the end. So it can almost be looked at as though the Nails were put in place for a very specific purpose (to keep the Sithi, and in this particular case, the Norns, from gaining access to this House), but that purpose was forgotten about. Or it could be an ironic coincidence.

Sangfugol nodded. “There has been no shortage of trouble between them. They loved each other once, were closer than most brothers – or so I’m told by Josua’s older retainers. But they fell out, and then Hylissa died.”

“Hylissa?” Simon asked.

“Elias’ Nabbanai wife. Josua was bringing her to Elias, who was still a prince, at war then for his father in the Thrithings. Their party was waylaid by Thrithings raiders. Josua lost his hand trying to defend Hylissa, but to no avail – the raiders were too many.”

Simon let out a long breath, “So that’s how it happened!”

“It was the death of any love between them … or so people say.”

And there, we are given the kernel of information that tells us everything we need to know about why Elias is doing what he is doing. We don’t know it yet, but the brothers’ hatred of each other over the death of Hylissa is going to be a very, very important piece of information. Which makes it all even more poignant when you realize eventually how far Elias goes just out of love for his dead wife.

The ceremony for the burning of the giant is a little odd – it seems to be building up to something important, especially when Simon sees the ‘mysterious woman,’ but it turns out to just be either a Red Herring, or just a non-climax. Oh, and hello Vorzheva! I’m already turning my EyeRoll-o-meter (TM) down in preparation for all the stupid things you do when we first meet you. By the way, were we supposed to think that not all was on the up-and-up with Vorzheva after this quick introduction here? It seems that we’re supposed to think she was a bad person, but obviously that is not the case. Red Herring again?

Chapter 31 – The Councils of the Prince

Summary

Simon is called to the prince’s room that night, where while waiting, Simon notices the same angry woman from the festivities is in Josua’s bedchamber. Josua greets Simon warmly, thanking him for the rescue, and they make some idle chit chat about the scroll he was reading, which says Naglimund has never been broken by a seige, and also says he has heard Elias is building a huge army. Then he asks if Simon can wield a sword, and tells the boy to go to the captain of the guards and receive training. The prince then muses back again to the scroll, and Simon is about to leave, but first asks about Marya. Josua can give no definite answers, and bids Simon goodnight. It takes a long time for Simon to find sleep that night.

Simon is greeted the next morning by a cheerful Binabik and Qantaqa. After giving Simon a quick and humorous lesson about tossing bones, and also giving Simon a letter from Marya, the two head for the guards, where Simon is to receive his sword. Along the way, Binabik leaves to go find Strangyeard, to talk about Morgenes’ manuscript. Simon is introduced to Haestan, who retrieves for Simon a sword and bow, then shows Simon how to properly care for his new weapons. That afternoon, Simon trains with the sword for hours, then is told to return in the morning. He stumbles back to his room, sore all over, and crashes for a few hours, only to be awakened by Binabik (again) who has come to take Simon to the Raed. Simon is worn out, but eventually gets up and follows Binabik to the council chambers.

They arrive at the hall of Naglimund where dozens have already arrived, ready for the prince’s council. Binabik whispers to Simon various introductions of some of the lords that are present. They take a seat and Simon drinks some watered-down wine while awaiting Josua’s arrival. Bishop Anodis arrives, as does Prince Gwythinn and Baron Davasalles, then finally Josua. The bishop begins the Raed with a prayer to Usires and God, and does not appear happy to be involved in the council.

Josua begins the Raed by talking about the tough times, and about how Elias is to blame for the higher taxes, undefended roads, etcetera. The lady from Josua’s bedchambers enters and whispers something to Josua (Binabik tells Simon this is Vorzheva from the Thrithings lands). She awaits the prince’s reply then leaves, and the conversation continues. Baron Davasalles asks what Josua actually wants – revenge? peace? just to be left alone? People take offense to his tone, and Gwythinn yells for those assembled to fight the High King. Davasalles continues probing Josua as to why they should fight the High King. The prince replies that the king is dangerous, and as proof, has someone who has seen the king’s dangerousness firsthand. He sends a page, who returns with Vorzheva and someone else. Josua introduces Princess Miriamele, who Simon recognizes as none other than Marya. Feeling betrayed, he stumbles out of the room with everyone watching.

Commentary

“My lords,” Josua said, “the Princess Miriamele – daughter of the High King.”

And Simon, gaping, stared at the short, cropped strands of golden hair that showed beneath the veil and crown, shed of their dark disguise . . . and staring at the oh-so-familiar face, felt a great tumbling inside him. He almost stood, as the others were doing, but his knees went watery and dropped him back into his chair. How? Why? This was her secret – her rotten, treacherous secret!

“Marya,” he murmured, and as she sat in the chair Gwythinn surrendered to her, acknowledging his gesture with a precise, gracious nod of her head, and as everyone else sat down again, talking aloud in their wonder, Simon finally lurched to his feet.

“You,” he said to Binabik, grabbing the little man’s shoulder, “did . . . did you know?!”

The troll seemed about to say something, then grimaced instead and shrugged. Simon looked up across the sea of heads to find Marya . . . Miriamele . . . staring at him with wide, sad eyes.

“Damn!” he hissed, then turned and hurried from the room, his eyes pooling with shameful tears.

Dun Dun DUUUUUNNNNNN!

So, we finally get the ‘big reveal’ about Marya, and the reason why everyone has been looking at Simon sadly whenever he has asked about her whereabouts. I can feel sorry for Simon here, and I can feel his pain. Not that I’ve ever fallen in love with a girl who turned out to be royalty in disguise – but I do know what it is like to have expectations and hopes so drastically shattered in just an instance. The saddest part, though, is that Binabik didn’t tell Simon, and Marya even kept up the ruse in her letter. Why wouldn’t someone just have let him know? Did Josua not know who Simon was talking about when he asked the prince about her the night before? Or was he just playing with him? Seems like a harsh thing for someone to do to a fifteen-year-old bundle of hormones such as Simon, but alas, I am not a prince dreading an upcoming war, and thus do not know how I would react in the same situation.

We get a bit of dire foreshadowing here – doesn’t the prince know that if he says something like “Naglimund has never been taken in a siege,” then By George, the city is going to fall! Josua needs to become a bit more genre-savvy it seems.

“Here,” the troll said, “first: Clouds in the Pass. Meaning where we stand now it is hard to see far, but beyond is something very different than what is behind.”

“I could have told you that.”

“Silence, trolling. Do you wish to remain foolish forever? Now, the one that is second was Wingless Bird. The second is something of advantage, but here it seems our helplessness might be itself useful, or so I am reading the bones today. Last, what thing it is we should be aware of . . .”

“Or fear?”

“Or fear,” Binabik agreed calmly. “Black Crevice – that is a strange one, one I never have gotten for myself. It could mean treachery.”

Simon took a breath, remembering. “Like ‘false messenger’?”

“True. But it is having other meanings, unusual meanings. My master taught me that it could also be things coming from other places, breaking through from other sides . . . thus, perhaps something about the mysteries we have found … the Norns, your dreams … do you see?”

Simon’s and Binabik’s fond bickering here is a real testament to how close the two have gone. I’m a firm believer that you know you’ve made a true friend when you can playfully insult each other back and forth for awhile without taking any true offense.

On a more serious note though, we get back to the bones. I talked extensively awhile back about how I feel about various superstitious methods of fortune-telling, and I still feel the same way. Fortune-telling is either magical, or it’s superstition – there is no middle ground on it. However, we never know which Binabik’s are. I mean, after the whole series ends, and the Storm King is no more, do Binabik’s throws start sounding more like “Sunny Day in the Park,” and “Gentle Breeze Across Tranquil Waters?” Or are they tarot-card-like, and even when everything’s good, the dice still roll bad results? I do not know. I figure that, most likely, the bones are very much just superstition, but in a fantasy series, it could really go either way, I suppose.

I skimmed over a lot of great dialog in this chapter, mostly between Binabik and Simon, that you should definitely read if you have the book with you. The two have grown very fond of each other, and have developed a very real relationship, and it’s nice to see how smartly Mr. Williams writes the two of them and their chemistry. Also, Strangyeard is usually filled with some pretty unintentionally funny things to say, which won’t be making their way into this reading for the most part.


So that’s a wrap for now. Again, please visit A Gentle Madness around this same time next week to get your fix of Tad Williams. Otherwise, stay tuned for more exciting things happening on this blog in the (relatively) near future.

Cheers!
-Brandon Daggerhart

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