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Friday, July 28, 2017

Fantasy Review: The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

Sometimes you really can't go home again.

I read "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn" back in high school, which was 20+ years ago, for those of you trying to do the math. While I don't have strong memories of it, I think I enjoyed it. Otherland didn't work for me at all, but I chalked that up to my not being a fan of the whole virtual reality/gaming/scifi genre. The War of the Flowers was an OK read, but I figured my lack of enthusiasm was due to my preference for epic, multi-volume sagas. In that case, Shadowmarch should have been a near-perfect fit, yet I've been stuck on book 3 for years now. I abandoned it, and return to it, and abandoned it more times than I can count.

Anyway, that brings us back to The Witchwood Crown. I was looking forward to this, but when the read itself seemed to fall flat, I blamed it on the ugly PDF, wrestled onto an e-reader, format. Call me old-fashioned, but when it comes to epic fantasy I like to hold a big, thick book in my hands, flipping back and forth between maps, glossaries, dramatis personæ, and the story. So, I went out and bought the hardcover for myself . . . and have realized now that maybe it's time to stop looking for excuses.

To put it bluntly - and I realize I'm in the minority here - I didn't like it. Honestly. I found this new book to be very slow-moving, with only fleeting moments of excitement. Whether it's something new, or something I blocked from my memory of the original books, the emphasis on the 'new' pseudo-Christian mythology was beyond tedious to the point that it really started to eject me from the narrative. Worst of all, however, I didn't really like any of the characters. As interesting as it was to see Simon and Miriamele grown older, all they've seemed to do is suffer and linger on as royal figureheads. Whatever spark they had in the original saga is sadly absent here. It is Miriamele who bothered me the most, having gone from one the strongest women I can remember in epic fantasy to a sad Shakespearean figure, terrified by dreams, and wallowing in self-pity. Don't even get me started on Prince Morgan, perhaps the most distasteful, most tiresome character Williams has ever crafted.

Actually, when it comes down to it, I found the non-human characters far more interesting than any of the humans. I liked the scenes with the Norns quite a bit, and Binabik and his family provided the only real joy of the read - but that fact itself is problematic. Given a choice between old gods and new, occult power struggles and weak political maneuvering, and . . . well, just about any monster and Prince Morgan, I'm kind of hoping humanity falls, because they just don't seem to be worth saving.

Anyway, I slogged through several aborted attempts to read The Witchwood Crown, ultimately skimmed ahead, and forced myself to finish it, but I really do wonder why I bothered.

Hardcover, 721 pages
Published June 27th 2017 by Daw Books

3 comments:

  1. Ooooh, oh dear. Not a good sign!

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  2. Fascinating review! I actually really liked this book but I agree that some sections were just sooooo slooooow. I thought that it was because I haven't read the original books and figured some parts just didn't resonate with me as much. It relieves me a little to hear the same from someone who has actually read the first trilogy, though it does seem like most fans enjoyed this.

    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

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  3. I guaranteed a copy of this book through First to Read and didn't manage to finish it before my loan expired because I just could not get into it (although I suspected that may have been due in part to the small font on my phone) so I grabbed the audiobook on audible. I haven't listened to it yet though, but this review doesn't give me hope for enjoying the story any more on audio than I did as a PDF. I guess hopefully the audio will surprise me.

    Great review. - Katie

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