I will write a full review here later.
To Green Angel Tower awaits and it is as long as the first two books combined.
Okay, the review of Stone of Farewell.
I dropped this down to 4 stars instead of 4.5 ( which I gave to The Dragonbone Chair ) for a couple of reasons.
My biggest complaint was that the beginning was so draggingly slow. The first 100 pages could easily have been condensed to 50; not even the wonderful writing was enough to justify the slow pace. Had I not known where the book was ultimately headed, I might have given up on it.
The slowness of the beginning served to make the later section of the book where Simon sojourns with Aditu and Jiriki even more, well, just plain boring. I like fat books, but not when they're just fat; they need to be meat and muscle.
One thing that surprised me was how much of that later section I remembered above all else from my earlier reading of this series.
This is not a series to be read casually, and this book especially, unless the reader is just passing time. The action takes place on multiple stages, with characters moving back and forth between them, and even having access to the cast of characters list at the end isn't enough help to keep track of names, ethnicities, and allegiances. This does become a little easier by the end of this volume, simply because so many characters have been conveniently killed off and fewer new ones introduced to replace them.
I still wish there had been better maps, but that may have been laziness on my part. My book-club editions of LOTR have big, lovely fold-out maps of Middle Earth that make following the Fellowship's journey a lot simpler. Given that there are so many different "fellowships" on so many different journeys in the Williams saga, good maps would have been very helpful.
By the end of this volume, which is roughly the halfway point of the series (not including sequels), Simon and some of his closest companions have reached a rejoining at the actual Stone of Farewell, but nothing has actually happened there . . . yet. Other members of the alliance are still on their own missions, and will presumably be reunited in the third/fourth volume.
There are a lot of similarities between this saga and LOTR, including the mythical "Uttermost West," the magnificent ruins of a mythical underground kingdom, even magical seeing stones for communicating that get usurped by the evil power, and so on. This tends to make me back out of the reality of the book's world a little bit.
But I'm now getting ready to plunge into the big final volume, so we'll see how it turns out.