Book review ‘Memory, Sorrow & Thorn series’

  • Author: Tad Williams
  • Series: Memory, Sorrow & Thorn
  • Number of books: 3 (original series, published in 4 volumes)


  • 0.5 Burning Man
  • 1. The Dragonbone Chair
  • 2. Stone of Farewell
  • 3.1 To Green Angel Tower Siege
  • 3.2 To Green Angel Tower Storm
Dutch versions


The Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series is a collection of three books, published in four volumes, and a prequel novella.

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn takes place on the fictional continent of Osten Ard, comprising several united countries. Williams used several characters, both protagonist and antagonist, as point of view characters throughout the novels, presenting the reader with an assortment of disparate and subjective viewpoints.

A novelette set in the world of Osten Ard, The Burning Man, was released in 1998 and later published as a graphic novel. A sequel trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard, began publication in 2017, following 2017’s The Heart of What Was Lost. A prequel to the entirety of Osten Ard, Brothers of the Wind, is also expected to be published.


Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn takes place on the fictional continent of Osten Ard, home to several united races, including humans, elf-like immortals known as Sithi, and dwarf-like mountain-dwellers named Qanuc. Most of these races have been living in relative unity for decades, thanks to King John the Presbyter (also known as Prester John), who is known to have slain a dragon. The first novel opens when Prester John’s health in his advanced age is failing and his sons, Elias and Josua, quarrel over who will ascend to the throne. Meanwhile, a dark secret held by Prester John, and the ambitions of a priest named Pryrates, threaten the stability of the continent. Williams used several characters, both villain and protagonist, as point of view characters throughout the scope of the novels.

The series primarily follows Simon, a lowly kitchen scullion in Hayholt Castle, as he undergoes tutelage from Doctor Morgenes and is cared for by Rachel “the Dragon”, the matriarch of the castle’s kitchen and chambermaids. As King John passes, Elias takes the throne, with the mysterious priest Pryrates as his advisor; Josua mysteriously disappears, and the seasons begin changing, bringing bitter winters and drought-laden summers. Simon, ever the mischievous adventurer, accidentally uncovers some of Pryrates’ true nature and becomes wrapped into a conspiracy that not only threatens his country of Erkynland, but Osten Ard itself.

Review: (per book)

0.5 Burning Man:


1. The Dragonbone Chair:

This behemoth has been conquered, and it’s only book 1 in the trilogy… but wow Tad Williams captured my attention again… his elaborate world, his detailed characters, wonderful descriptions… yet it all seems familiar… fantasy-literature has a lot of entries so there’s always something familiar… I’m sure Williams was inspired by Tolkien for this and I’m also sure George R.R. Martin was inspired by Williams…
Simon Mooncalf is a 15 year old kitchen aid and sorcerer’s apprentice, orphaned and living in the Hayholt where King Prester John just died, setting in motion events leading to evil rising! Simon is sent on a quest by his master Morgenes! In the mean time Osten Ard is lead into darkness by the new king, Elias, king John’s eldest son. This leads to rivalry and war with his brother Josua.
I loved this book, more than anticipated, to be honest. It started out slow but once the action starts, once Simon is sent on his mission, this book just doesn’t quit. Looking forward to Part 2! Oh I started it in the Dutch translation but eventually moved to the e-reader so I could read it in English – waaaay better!!!!
My rating: 5/5

2. Stone to Farewell:

The Stone of Farewell, the second book in Tad Williams’s Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series (or also know as The Osten Ard Saga)!
Compared to the first book in the series (which introduced the characters and started the story of a war between two brothers over the rule of Osten Ard), this one is about strategically setting about all the pieces (like in chess) before the ultimate battle can begin! The main character Simon Mooncalfe (or Snowlock, depending on who names him) sets about a journey with his fellowship to The Stone of Farewell. King Josua has been given the same destination, after his defeat in Naglimund. And his niece Miriamele has a journey of her own, with the despised monk Cadrach! Then there is Tiamak, who’s travelling to mainland Nabban where he will encounter his own share of hurt!
This one took me a while to finish (normal for me, reading fantasy is something I don’t do that often because there’s almost never the one book, it’s mostly a series) but I genuinely enjoyed reading it. I know George R.R. Martin got his inspiration for GoT from this series and it shows (similar elements, flagrantly copied even sometimes… with the difference that Martin had more success due to the series!)
Every fantasy-lover should read Tad Williams! His worlds are elaborate, well constructed and his stories are always massive, filled with the ususal elements, but he adds his own special ‘Williams Magic’ – the next ‘tour de force’ for me is finishing this serie with To Green Angel Tower (a two-book final!)

My rating: 4/5

3.1 To Green Angel Tower, part 1 Siege:

This is the first part of the final book in the MS&T-series. All of these books are big, behemoths in size (this part alone was 688 pages, in its Dutch translation)

The book continues the story of the war that rages in Osten Ard, where King Elias (helped by the sinister Pryrates) is fighting his brother Josuah. When Josuah’s group finally sets camp in Sesuadr’a, an old settlement on a high rock, others are falling in with him. In the meantime a battle is ensuing with Fengbald at the foot of the Stone of Farewell!

It took me quite some time to finish this one, not that it wasn’t good or anything but I left it aside for a while due to other commitments (other books) but last week I decided to finish it and well… here I am!
There are so many characters in these books that at times I lose my bearings a little bit but it’s really fun to see the world building Williams does (something he did with his Otherland series as well)
Simon (the main character in general in these books) is growing from a mooncalf to a grown knight and it’s great to see his development (although he still has a long way to go!)

One more book in the series and then there’s the prequel (Burning Man) novella and I will have finally finished this story. Although… Tad Williams has been busy and started a new Osten Ard trilogy (with part 3 coming this year if I’m not mistaken) so a ways to go along the shores of Osten Ard!

My rating: 4/5

3.2 To Green Angel Tower, part 2 Storm:


Osten Ard

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