I’ve reviewed the first two books not long ago and read the rest since then. To be honest, I do not have much to add. Most of all, I want to express my firm opinion, that the final book (in paperback edition divided into two parts) is just as good as previous ones and delivers a satisfying conclusion to the story.
So it is a solid epic fantasy, building heavily on what came before, mainly Tolkien, without his depth, but still rich in the worldbuilding department. Characters rather simple, but not simplistic, likeable, and psychologically realistic enough. Brutal reality of war, the price non-combatants pay for ambitions of leaders… I’ve mentioned all that before.
I consider it one of the best post-Tolkienian farmboy-to-hero stories. Well thought-through by the author, aptly written, more mature than most of its contemporaries. I imagine it was rather innovative when published first, and it’s still a very pleasurable read. Williams is definitely better than Jordan or Brooks, more fashionable writers of comparable stature I’ve read lately.
Where we to analyse the history of our genre, Williams’ books would be one of the steps it had to take to get from Tolkien to Martin. Martin himself admitted. And winter came to Osten Ard a few years earlier than to Westeros, coincidence ;)? Many writers took some trivial elements of Middle-Earth to create unbearable, shallow monstrosities. Williams took some good stuff and simplified it just enough to create an unpretentious, solid story.
So, if the previous review made you curious, do read Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. It follows patterns we know, but in a graceful way. Here the struggle intensifies and concludes in (not really a spoiler) a win for the good guys. As usual, the battle of big armies is not as important as the struggle of a few chosen heroes, with magic & prophecies playing more important role than would be accepted today. But our protagonists suffered enough that we feel they deserved their victory, and it’s no fairy tale, its clear they will have to work hard for their happily ever after.
The structure is good, the final book grew to create a four book trilogy, but the pacing is consistent (if rather slow, but for me it’s no vice) and the action spread throughout the novels with slightly more intensive ending.
I could be more critical, I know, if Ola ever reads it, she will be, but I don’t want to. Reading Memory, Sorrow and Thorn was like reading your favourite childhood books and not feeling disappointed 🙂 And after re-read crushed my opinion on some D&D novels, I’m reluctant to go back to some of the old favourites. Go here for a perfect illustration 🙂 Patricia McKillip gave me similar pleasure lately, to think of it. Maybe I can venture into something darker now for a while 🙂
Score: 7,5 to the series as a whole and I am waiting for Williams’ return to Osten Ard, due to be published mid-2017. He does not spam the readers, so there is a chance it will be good 🙂