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text 2018-01-02 21:08
Reading progress update: I've read 44 out of 1104 pages.
To Green Angel Tower - Tad Williams

It's been slow going because I keep getting caught up in other activities.


But I'm making progress.


I remember nothing of this volume of the trilogy, so it's all virtually new to me.  However, I have one observation that's troubling me.


I'm still not liking Williams's portrayal of some of the women.



Miriamele "gives in" to Aspitis's sexual advances, partly out of despair, partly out of physical desire because he's handsome.  But so far there's no discussion of the fact that she is not in any position to resist him.  It's still rape.


Simon, on the other hand, was able to resist Aditu's advances (in the previous book) because.  He had no hope of ever leaving, and he had no hope of ever gaining the favor of the girl/woman he cared about -- Miriamele -- because he still thought of himself as just a scullion.


Vorzheva changes her mind about everything . . . because she's pregnant.


Maegwin can't tell Eolair how she really feels because she thinks she's ugly and because she has duties.

(spoiler show)


Maybe some of these will change as this final volume goes on, but it seems to be, for the most part, that the non-human female characters, such as the Norn Queen and Gan Itai the Niskie are more assertive than the ones mentioned above.


Or maybe it's just me.

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text 2017-12-30 00:57
Reading progress update: I've read 4 out of 1104 pages.
To Green Angel Tower - Tad Williams

Just getting started.  Wanted to set up the tags, since BookLikes still isn't updating them.

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review 2017-12-29 15:59
Halfway . . . . . And now the review
Stone of Farewell - Tad Williams

I will write a full review here later.


To Green Angel Tower awaits and it is as long as the first two books combined.




Okay, the review of Stone of Farewell.


I dropped this down to 4 stars instead of 4.5 ( which I gave to The Dragonbone Chair ) for a couple of reasons.


My biggest complaint was that the beginning was so draggingly slow.  The first 100 pages could easily have been condensed to 50; not even the wonderful writing was enough to justify the slow pace.  Had I not known where the book was ultimately headed, I might have given up on it.


The slowness of the beginning served to make the later section of the book where Simon sojourns with Aditu and Jiriki even more, well, just plain boring.  I like fat books, but not when they're just fat; they need to be meat and muscle.


One thing that surprised me was how much of that later section I remembered above all else from my earlier reading of this series.


This is not a series to be read casually, and this book especially, unless the reader is just passing time.  The action takes place on multiple stages, with characters moving back and forth between them, and even having access to the cast of characters list at the end isn't enough help to keep track of names, ethnicities, and allegiances.  This does become a little easier by the end of this volume, simply because so many characters have been conveniently killed off and fewer new ones introduced to replace them.


I still wish there had been better maps, but that may have been laziness on my part.  My book-club editions of LOTR have big, lovely fold-out maps of Middle Earth that make following the Fellowship's journey a lot simpler.  Given that there are so many different "fellowships" on so many different journeys in the Williams saga, good maps would have been very helpful.


By the end of this volume, which is roughly the halfway point of the series (not including sequels), Simon and some of his closest companions have reached a rejoining at the actual Stone of Farewell, but nothing has actually happened there . . . yet.  Other members of the alliance are still on their own missions, and will presumably be reunited in the third/fourth volume.


There are a lot of similarities between this saga and LOTR, including the mythical "Uttermost West," the magnificent ruins of a mythical underground kingdom, even magical seeing stones for communicating that get usurped by the evil power, and so on.  This tends to make me back out of the reality of the book's world a little bit.


But I'm now getting ready to plunge into the big final volume, so we'll see how it turns out.






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review 2017-12-16 20:10
Find a comfortable spot and settle in
The Dragonbone Chair - Tad Williams

Disclosure:  I obtained my copy of this book from my local public library.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with him about this book or any other matter.  I am an author.


(Trigger warning: Some animal cruelty.)


My house is cold this morning, cold enough that I had to turn on the heat for a while.  After making a couple of early trips to the studio -- 30 strides from my back door and 30 strides back -- I was so chilled I went right back to bed just to get warm again.  I used the time wisely: I finished the last 100 pages of The Dragonbone Chair.


As mentioned in previous status updates, I first read this series well more than two decades ago.  A few details remained in my memory along with the basic plotline, but 98% was as new as if I had never read it.


Had there been a decimal rating, I might have gone with 4.75 stars, but I backed it off to 4 1/2 because it wasn't quite up to the full five, for a couple of reasons.  And I'm going to hit those reasons first.


The saga is set in a medievalish earth-like world, with castles and kingdoms and kings and princesses. . . . and a medievalish church that too much resembles medieval christianity.  The monks and priests and bishops, churches and cathedrals, saints and relics, rites and writings are creepy and weak.  Pagans give lip service to "God" and "His son" the holy Usires Aedon (aka Jesus) who was martyred by hanging upside down on the "Execution Tree."  Instead of the sign of the cross, believers make "the sign of the Tree."  The whole Aedonite religion seemed forced and almost silly, right down to holidays called "mansas" like Christian "-mas" and the wearing of jeweled or golden or wooden "tree" symbols around the neck like a crucifix.  Williams offers no opinion of christianity in his creation, whether for good or ill, so it seems kind of pointless and lazy.


Other than that, the world-building is fine and relatively consistent in terms of the various kingdoms and rivalries and languages.  Some of the human groups/ethnicities are vaguely teutonic, some are vaguely celtic, some a little more original; none, however, seem to reflect Asian or African or other non-European groups.  The only exception is the "Black Rimmersmen," who seem to be bad guys, but they haven't played enough of a role in this first volume to determine what the designation really means.


The non-human races are kind of stock, though the use of the troll Binabik as one of the good guys is a nice change.  The Sithi and Norns are vaguely elvish on the Tolkien model; the giant Hunen are rather like hairy Middle-Earthling cave trolls.


The cast of characters is huge, and this makes keeping them straight a bit difficult, even with the full listing at the end of the book.  Where Tolkien introduced the various groups more or less one at a time as the Fellowship passed through their lands, Williams brings all of his onto the stage at once.  The ensuing war encompasses virtually all of the vast uber-kingdom of Osten Ard, so the action shifts between the Erkynlanders in Erchester, the Hernystirimen, the Nabbanai in Nabban, the Rimmersmen from Rimmergard, and so on.  As some of the main supporting characters change allegiance, the whole thing becomes a bit confusing, and I suspect that will continue through the succeeding volumes.


The main character, Simon, is your typical young male who has greatness thrust upon him.  Orphaned at birth, he's been raised by the chambermaids in the great castle of the Hayholt in Erchester.  Still in his teens, he gets swept up in the mighty and magical machinations of the High King Elias, whose quest for power is only thwarted by his brother Prince Josua . . . and mysterious bits of mythical lore.


By the end of The Dragonbone Chair, we've got lots of guys, one evil woman super villain, one possibly evil woman, and one princess who keeps disappearing.  Women aren't well represented.  This might not have bothered me nearly as much 25 years ago as it does now.


Okay, those are the negatives, the things that brought the rating down.  The positives were that the writing is delicious, and there's lots of it!  (There are also a surprising number of typesetting errors, but I've found that to be a frequent problem with paperbacks from the 1980s, and I don't know why.)


If you're a lover of the long, long, long epic fantasy, this is a pretty good example, with better world-building and stronger characterizations than others.  Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series had more and maybe better female characters, but I lost interest in that after about seven volumes.  I haven't tried the Game of Thrones books yet, though I have them.


I've only read the first few pages of the next book, Stone of Farewell, and I remember far less about it than I did about The Dragonbone Chair, so we'll see how it goes.  I think it's even longer.



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review 2017-12-02 17:52
Faded at the end
The War of the Flowers - Tad Williams

Disclosure:  I obtained this book from my local public library.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with him about this book or any other matter.



I agonized over the rating to give this and finally settled on 3.5 stars, but it's really more like 3.25.  I wanted it to be 4.0 at least, but just couldn't do it.


The beginning is great, and the premise is solid:  Theo Vilmos, SF Bay Area musician, has reached the age of 30 and hasn't accomplished much.  An odd inheritance from a distant relative and a surprise visit from two very different creatures land Theo in a bizarre other world that is both like and unlike the world he's known all his life.


It's an intriguing set-up, a fairyland that runs on a different kind of "science" and seems to have some political issues not unfamiliar to anyone who has paid attention.  Theo meets up with some of the powerful folks and the not-so-powerful, and becomes caught between several different factions on both sides.  He knows he somehow fits into this drama, but figuring out how is the issue.


For the first 75 to 80 percent of the book, I was capitvated.  Williams's writing is splendid, beautiful without being purple, with just the right touch of casual to make it real.  Most of the main characters are well developed, fully dimensional, especially Applecore and Theo himself. 


The world-building could have been a little stronger -- that was one of the reasons I couldn't even begin to put this in a 5-star race.  Though the description of the City was precise and detailed and full of atmosphere, there were major elements that just didn't come across well.  I kept expecting more information on just how the power plants operated and why they were failing, and maybe that wasn't important enough to know, but it bothered me, especially because one of the important secondary characters was so affected by the power generation aspect.


The last 100 or 150 pages, however, didn't quite hold up.  There were several sections of long backstory narrative where Theo is left basically standing around and listening while someone tells him what happened "before."  I felt the backstory information could have been brought in more dynamically, especially when the same technique had to be repeated for subsequent characters.


I also didn't care for the way the actual "war" was resolved, simply because Theo didn't have an active part in it.  That dropped the rating down some more.  The whole idea of a character arc is for the person to learn and grow and ultimately make a difference; Theo learned and grew, but at the end it was other characters who resolved the crisis.


As long as the book was -- almost 700 pages of a large hardcover in small print -- I think it might have done better as a two-volume work, with more world-building to fully integrate certain foundational issues, such as the Clover Effect, the power plants, and the "contract" that seemed so important at the end.


All of that said, the book is very well written, and I'm sure 95% of fantasy readers will love it.  I'm just picky.

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