Empire of Grass by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Some books are simply hard to judge because it is written to its own drummer. It all becomes clear and epic in the end, but getting there can sometimes be something of a chore.
In comparison to other epic fantasy books of this nature, it Tad Williams has always (and I mean, long before the modern trend,) been a slow and methodical storyteller. He takes a long, long time to build up characters' histories, developing them in such a grandly detailed way that there cannot be any doubt in our minds that he is a SERIOUS writer.
But by the same token, the BIG stuff doesn't come around quickly. Indeed, the meandering wilderness (some literal, some not,) takes up 90% of these pages. And there's a LOT of pages. As is most of his epic fantasies. And that's just it: they're all RICH with detail. Plot is almost secondary. It is definitely secondary to character building.
What we do have here is a long complicated and real-feeling build-up of tensions within the immortal Nords, the cold-weather fae that are willing to sacrifice amazing numbers of their own to summon amazing monsters in order to fully wipe out the mortals. That is, us. Why? Oh, it's all here. In detail wrapped in secrecy wrapped in politics and subversion and crazy hope and the willingness to care between species... and this is just on the Nord side. :) The humans, and in particular, Simon, the old king who used to be the young commoner hero from the original Dragonbone trilogy, is completely out of his depth and his kingdom seems to on the verge of collapse.
This book is definitely all about the journey, the build-up for the next blowout book. It isn't as big, as in awe-inspiring, as some epics, but the richness more than makes up for it.
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