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The Witchwood Crown (Last King of Osten Ard) Hardcover – June 27, 2017
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“Inspired me to write my own seven-book trilogy.... It’s one of my favorite fantasy series.” —George R. R. Martin, New York Times-bestselling author of A Song of Ice and Fire
“Groundbreaking.... Changed how people thought of the genre, and paved the way for so much modern fantasy. Including mine.” —Patrick Rothfuss, New York Times-bestselling author of The Name of the Wind
"Tad Williams is a master storyteller, and the Osten Ard books are his masterpiece. Williams’ return to Osten Ard is every bit as compelling, deep, and fully-rendered as the first trilogy, and he continues to write with the experience and polish of an author at the top of his game." —Brandon Sanderson, New York Times-bestselling author of Mistborn
“Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is one of the great fantasy epics of all time.”
—Christopher Paolini, New York Times bestselling author of Eragon
"Building upon the revered history of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Williams has outdone himself by penning a 700-plus page novel that is virtually un-put-down-able.... Williams’ grand-scale storytelling mastery is on full display here. Not just utterly readable—an instant fantasy classic." —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Readers who delight in losing themselves in long complex tales of epic fantasy will be in their element here, and there is the promise of much more to come in future volumes.” —Locus
“Panoramic, vigorous, often moving.... Williams adroitly weaves together the tales...heralding a suitably epic and glorious conclusion.” —Publishers Weekly
“Highly Recommended. [Williams] draws on many mythologies for the background of his fantasy epic...story spiced with political intrigue and strong appealing heroes.” —Library Journal
“A grand fantasy on a scale approaching Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.” —Cincinnati Post
About the Author
Tad Williams is a California-based fantasy superstar. His genre-creating (and genre-busting) books have sold tens of millions worldwide. His works include the worlds of Otherland, Shadowmarch, and Osten Ard—including the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, and The Last King of Osten Ard series—as well as standalone novels Tailchaser’s Song and The War of the Flowers. His considerable output of epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, comics, and more have strongly influenced a generation of writers. Tad and his family live in the Santa Cruz mountains in a suitably strange and beautiful house. He can be found at tadwilliams.com or on Twitter at @tadwilliams.
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This book is just fabulous and has kept me up late for several nights. Just amazing how Mr. Williams can keep so many threads twisting in and out through the book and I know how well he ties everything up at the end of his series.
Great book by a great author, just please don’t take too long to finish the next one I’m not getting any younger!
Tad W is a master story teller. I recommend this to any fan of epic fantasy.
Instead of *blindly* repeating the threat of the original trilogy or copy-pasting in a new one, The Witchwood Crown takes the much more interesting route of being a sequel *about* how history can repeat if we aren’t careful to learn from our past. Think World War I only leading to World War II, with a small peace in-between.
The original trilogy dealt with the elf-like Norns and their Big Bad type Storm King, victims in the past of genocide at the hands of human invaders, threatening to do the same by exterminating the human race. The new trilogy manages to reintroduce the Norns as antagonists with a well-developed characterization and society of their own while upping the scale of the threat considerably. No spoilers on that front here, but readers of the original trilogy may have a good idea of what that threat could be.
Instead of shoving the old characters out of the limelight to hand over the reigns to a young and sexy cast (like so many TV and film reboots), or shock killing them off early on to score some Game of Thrones imitator gravitas, The Witchwood Crown makes them central players alongside a new cast. The book itself is a blending of the old and new styles of popular fantasy: there are adventures in astonishingly described locales, comedy that had me chuckling, and youthful innocence; there is also a harder tone to the violence, there are backstabbing political machinations, and scenes of melancholy.
There are about sixteen point of views throughout the book located in a handful of diverse locations across the land of Osten Ard, so Williams can switch effortlessly between story types, tones, and styles. Riots, potential civil war, old allies turning their coats, the Norns preparing for war again, trade battles, cults…the book has a little of everything.
More importantly, this new book not only manages to carry on the tradition of older fantasy while blending it with the new, it manages to have something human to say. A grand emotion or a theme. Most of Williams’ work does. That might not seem like much, but when too many writers are intent on throwing out RPG spreadsheets or, on the other hand, grimdark violence, it’s rare to read something with big ideas to match its big locations and creatures that can still be entertaining.
Just because a bunch of armies came together and fought a big battle together doesn’t mean the animosity between the factions vanishes for good. Just because one battle ends and peace is declared doesn’t mean that peace is forever. Again: think World War I to World War II. And just as in that real world history, by the end of The Witchwood Crown the entire land of Osten Ard seems primed to explode at each other based on fear, lies, and greed rooted in past hurts.
At the opening of the first part (a nice touch—each of the three sections of the book is named after the debris of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn’s war: Widows, Orphans, and Exiles), the backbone of the book (and presumably the trilogy) is summed up with a poem by Hsu Chao:
"Locusts laid their eggs in the corpse
Of a soldier. When the worms were
Mature, they took wing. Their drone
Was ominous, their shells hard.
Anyone could tell they had hatched
From an unsatisfied anger."
With all of this to praise, The Witchwood Crown is an easy recommend to both new readers and fans of Williams: a great start to what could be a new classic trilogy.
[This review made possible via digital ARC provided by the publisher Penguin’s First to Read program.]
It’s been over 30 years since Ineluki the Storm King and the Norns were defeated. King Simon and Queen Miriamele have ruled wisely and well, but problems have started to crop up in the outlying provinces. The king of Hernystir subtly slights Simon and Miri on a state visit. The Duke of Nabban is being challenged by other lords of the Nabbani noble houses. The Thrithings men are attacking Nabbani settlers encroaching on their territory. Simon has not heard from his friend Prince Jiriki of the Sithi for years, in spite of hopes for closer ties between humans and the Fair Ones. Now, perhaps most troubling of all, there are signs that the Norns are beginning to be active again in the North.
Simon and Miri also have more personal concerns. Duke Isgrimnur and other heroes of the conflict with the Norns are passing away. Prince Josua and his family disappeared years ago, and no one has been able to find out what happened to them. Membership in the League of the Scroll has been seriously depleted, with only a few members remaining to share their wisdom. Simon and Miri’s only son died young, and their heir is their grandson Morgan, a seventeen-year-old princeling who is more interested in gambling and drinking than in learning the intricacies of statecraft.
Readers learn all of this in the opening chapters of the novel. This is a Tad William’s book, so of course there’s a lot more story left to tell. What seems clear from the way he sets the stage (and from the subtitle of the book, The Last King of Osten Ard) is that there will be widespread conflict and the potential for great loss as Simon and Miri try to hold everything together. At one point, Simon muses that he and Miri are supposed to be living the “happily after” of their tale, but clearly that’s not the case. The biggest question in my mind is whether the theme of this trilogy is the passing of an era and the establishment of a new order. What will remain of Osten Ard, and what (and who) will be lost?
Although I liked the meaty plot shaping up in this book, it didn’t quite have the same magic for me as The Dragonbone Chair did all those years ago. I think it’s because there isn’t really a strong linchpin character to anchor the action as Simon did in the first trilogy. While lots of other characters (particularly Miri) played important roles, the heart of those books was Simon and his adventures, particularly as they shaped his growth from a boy innocently dreaming of being a hero to a man who knows that heroism is a myth, that it simply involves doing what needs to be done, with pain and death along the way. Simon really can’t carry the action this time around, because as Miri regularly points out, he’s the king, and not a young one, either. He can’t just ride off to the Aldheorte forest to search for Jiriki himself; others must act in his stead. (I wonder—if this trilogy is about the passing of an era, and Simon is still at the heart of the story, if not the action—is it also about the passing of a king?)
The new characters who play the biggest roles in the plot of this book don’t have the same appeal for me as Simon. There’s Morgan, who displays all of Simon’s boyhood stubbornness and sulkiness without his redeeming qualities (at least so far); Nezeru, whose half-Norn, half-human perspective is a little too foreign for me to fully sympathize with her; and Jarnulf, a mysterious Black Rimmersman who is apparently working against the Norns. I hope they will grow on me as the story continues, or other new characters—like Josua’s missing son and daughter—come to the forefront later in the series.
Obviously, this is a must-read for anyone who loved Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Even if they haven’t read the earlier books, readers who enjoy big epic fantasies with a huge cast and lots of plot will probably like this novel, especially since they won’t have any of my reservations about the book and can just dive into the story.
An eARC of this novel was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. And then I bought it, because how could I not?