I’ve purchased 15 new books (almost all Kindle Daily Deal books, by the way!) since finals week of my last quarter. I also just checked out Under the Wide and Starry Sky to read for book club, but forgot to set my Overdrive check-out length to 3 weeks instead of 2, so now I only have until the 23rd to finish it. I bought 2 new books on Prime Day, including Amberlough, which I’ve been eyeing since I first heard about it months ago; I was planning to read that next, but I feel guilty about not starting UtWaSK when I actually have a deadline for that. I also got an email this morning from the library where I work informing me that the book I put on hold, Call For the Dead, is now available. YIKES, WHERE TO GO NEXT? They’re all such different books! Anyways, first things first.
Today’s featured book: Stone of Farewell, by Tad Williams (Book #2 of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy).
Format I read it in: Print paperback, unfortunately, from the library where I work. The cover was starting to fall off when I checked it out and had fallen off halfway when I finished, so I spent 5 minutes mending it before putting it back in the stack.
The premise: I’m assuming that if you’re here reading this, you’ve already read The Dragonbone Chair (a.k.a. Book #1 of MSaT), so I’ll just jump straight into this one. The story picks up right from where Book 1 ended, which is with Simon slaying the dragon on the mountain and Naglimund’s fall/Josua’s escape. The first 1/4 of the book is pretty fast-paced, with Simon waking up in Binabik’s hometown and finding out that Binabik and Sludig have been sentenced to death. He and Jiriki are stuck trying to convince the Hunter and Huntress (the leaders of the trolls) to let Binabik and Sludig go so they can continue their quest to get Thorn to Josua, wherever he is, which is just outside of Naglimund, fleeing across the Thrithings land towards the dark forest, Aldheorte, with the 7 survivors of castle’s fall, who conveniently happen to all be important, named characters. Meanwhile, Duke Isgrimnur is miserably traveling through all these port towns, trying to locate Miriamele and Cadrach, who are staying out of sight and traveling under disguise to Nabban. Back at the Hayholt, Guthwulf, who, if you’ve forgotten, was Elias’s best friend and the Hand of the King, is starting to rethink his allegiance to a ruler who he believes to have gone mad.
A few new, essential characters are introduced and some characters who only made very quick appearances in TDC are given more “screen time” in SoF. Williams also utilizes many, many more POV characters (a la ASoIaF, if you’re more familiar with that) in SoF than he did in TDC, where Simon’s POV is the main one.
My thoughts [SPOILERS ABOUND!]: In my opinion, SoF does the opposite of TDC, by putting most of the action in the first 1/3 of the book and then giving us lots of lag time throughout afterwards. Perhaps some will find this more appealing, because by the point it starts lagging, you’ll have already been sucked into the story; that wasn’t the case with me– I much prefer to dawdle and not pay as much attention in the first 150 or so pages and then speed through the remaining hundreds. I ended up reading the first 250 pages pretty fast, and then moaning and groaning and crawling my way through most of the rest. There were some characters’ points of view, such as Josua’s, Rachel’s, Dinivan’s, and Binabik’s, that were always interesting, and then there were others’, such as Simon’s (surprisingly enough) and Tiamik’s, that were so drawn-out and awful that I went and read/finished Carry On before I went back to this book. Miriamele’s POV was just plain frustrating.
One improvement I did note: Josua has become much more likeable as a character, despite not really changing much. Maybe it’s ’cause he’s constantly on the move and being forced to take action and make decisions nonstop, but his character finally stopped screaming “tortured noble hero” and became someone more human that I would want to rally behind. I think Deornoth helps with that a lot– he tries so hard to build Josua up as a savior, but Josua is determined to think practically and in the present.
Despite my approval of what Williams has done with Josua, I have many complaints about characterization in this novel. Williams does a TERRIBLE job writing his female characters. I mentioned in my review of TDC that he set up several characters, notably Miriamele and Maegwin, for success, but I was concerned he would fuck that up and– guess what? He done fucked it up! I wouldn’t even mind as much if he had written these characters as weak and useless to begin with. Simon spends a lot of time complaining, crying, and waiting to be rescued, but he’s done that from the beginning, so I expected that from him and saw it as pretty consistent characterization. Maegwin, on the other hand, has always been more reserved, sharp, and “no-nonsense”, as Eolair observes of her in one scene. It makes no sense to me that upon meeting the Dwarrows in their underground city, she would zone out and let Eolair take the reins while she obsessed over her feelings for him and how she couldn’t focus to help her people while around him. I understand the disappointment and sense of failure that she felt upon discovering that the people in the underground city are Dwarrows and not the Sithi, and I get that she’s grieving over her relatives’ death and the loss of her home, but there is no way that a woman who ran her father’s castle while he was gone and calmly commanded reluctant, inexperienced noblewomen to fortify it against attack would fail to make the connection between the important information the Dwarrows were dispensing and the possible path they could take to ensure it got to Josua. I refuse to believe that she would (spitefully) “accidentally” send Eolair on the right path and just behave like a little girl when her people needed her most.
The same goes for Miriamele. She is daring and sometimes reckless when it comes to making plans, but in her everyday life and on the road, she is resourceful and very cautious. So of course Williams has her lose all her sense of reasoning as soon as she lays eyes on Aspitis, who is so handsome and blonde and “gentlemanly” that she completely misses how sleazy and suspicious he is. Sure, she’s an innocent, sheltered teenage girl, but it’s just not believable that she would dismiss Aspitis’s rapey behavior and let him [SPOILER] push her into having sex with him; it’s so inconsistent with her previous characterization.
Vorzheva remains useless, but I didn’t have much hope for her to begin with. Two of the new female characters that are introduced are there just to be love interests/make life easier for the male characters they’re associated with. I think the only female characters who didn’t disappoint me in SoF are Rachel and Duchess Gudrun, who are pretty bad-ass older women, but I suspect the reason Williams didn’t try to soften their characters somehow is because they’re both mother figures and already feminine enough.
The most unbearably annoying and boring character, though, is Tiamik. His scenes are long and never-ending, his decisions and thought process are eyerollingly awful, and I don’t get why Williams didn’t just wait until Book 3 to give him a bigger role to play instead of tormenting us by having us read about him doing nothing in Book 2.
Rating: 3.5/5. I had to remove one whole star for the injustice done to the female characters and another half a star for pacing. UGH. I hope To Green Angel Tower is better than this!