How Do You Read 3000 Pages?

There's something truly charming about fantasy novels. There's no car or plane travel so you're guaranteed a long trek across a malicious country. There's always meals of dried meats, breads and cheeses - if you're lucky a skin of wine or a cup of ale. The books always have maps.

A friend of mine loaned me Tad William's epic Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, a classic fantasy that sees the main character rise from castle scullion to reluctant warrior.

At least I think. I've gone through the first two of the trilogy at a numbing 750 pages apiece. The last of the books is a two parter, each with 800 pages - over 3000 pages all said. I fully expect to be finished in a year.

The story centers around a gawky, self deprecating lad named Simon. He's an orphan working in the castle of the capital city of the fictional land of Osten Ard. As per usual in a story of this ilk, a great shadow is passing across the land and the good folk of Osten Ard were either too slow to react to its danger or too dense to see it at all. Simon takes on studies with the kingdom's resident eccentric lore keeper and magician and learns more than he wanted to about how the world works. Like all teenagers in these books, he wants to learn how to make fireballs and ride dragons and turn his foes into pigs. What he gets is a lesson on reading, history and "science." But it's a short lived pursuit, and you'll have to read the rest for yourself.

I'm completely in love with this story. My fantasy knowledge is made up of Tolkien, Fiest and Brooks with pinches of C.S. Lewis memories. Stories like this are Hard Fantasy, much like 2001 would be Hard Science Fiction. I can't help liking these books and Williams does a wonderful job of exploring Simon's mental evolution from mooncalf to man. And while the names and races all seem familiar, they are different enough that you don't automatically think of this as a LotR clone.

Plus, for its length, it's a page turner. There's always flights and fights and discoveries that just make you not want to put it down. It's not light on description, but it's handled in a way that doesn't bore you or make you forget what's happening. My only complaint is the vast gathering of characters, all with the uniquely apostrophized names. There are so many, and many of them die off, that you feel you have to read the appendix just to make sense of them all.

As the story moves into the second book, however, you're solidly aware of who every one is and what their motives are. I'm fairly buzzing with anticipation to start the final book(s) and I'd recommend these to anyone who loves the genre.

Carry on.

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