Tad Williams reveals “Heart of Regret”, new Osten Ard novel

ver the last few years, speculative fiction author Tad Williams has been writing new stories set in Osten Ard, the mysterious world of his now-classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” books. In April 2014, Williams announced “The Last King of Osten Ard”, a sequel trilogy to “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”; the first volume of the new series, The Witchwood Crown, is expected in March 2017, with subsequent volumes Empire of Grass and The Navigator’s Children published sometime thereafter.

Last week came the news, leaked by Tad Williams on his Facebook account, that another Osten Ard novel, in addition to the three already announced, is already in the works. This week, Williams revealed the working title of the fourth new Osten Ard novel on his message board; the title is Heart of Regret.

Williams stated that the book started out as a novella, but (as is typical with his writing) grew in the writing process:

The short novel is no longer a novella, which was how it started.  I’ve just finished the first draft and the current page length is 213 manuscript pages, which is something in the order of 70K words.

This is certainly no surprise. Nearly all of Tad Williams’ novels have been lengthy, with To Green Angel Tower being one of the longest English-language novels ever written. The 70,000 words of Heart of Regret works out to about 280 pages, according to one word-count website. Williams goes on to explain that the Heart of Regret title is only a working title, and may well change by the time of publication. He also reveals many new details about the new story, including quite a few spoilers:

The original title was “Heart of Regret”, and I still lean toward that, although Deborah is worried that it’s too much of a downer and would rather have something about the Battle of Nakkiga in the title.  (The Heart of Regret is a symbolic jewel belonging to an important Norn character, but the words also say much about the nature of the story and its events.)  It takes place in the half-year after the end of [To Green Angel Tower], and tells of the attempt by Isgrimnur and a force largely made up of Rimmersgard soldiers to destroy the remaining Norns as they flee back to their homeland and their mountain.  Of course, it gets a bit more complicated than that.  It also answers some questions about what actually happened in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Green Angel Tower.

osten-ard-mapSo the main characters will be the returning Rimmersmen characters Isgrimnur and Sludig; Isgrimnur is the Duke of Rimmergard in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, a point-of-view character. Sludig was his lieutenant, and a dynamic and important character in the original trilogy; he accompanies Simon, Binabik and Qantaqa north from Naglimund Castle, skirting around the western and northern sides of Aldheorte Forest in their long, cold quest to retrieve the Great Sword Thorn from the “Rhymer’s Greate Tree”. He then travels south with Binabik and Qantaqa around the eastern edge of Aldheorte to the Stone of Farewell, where he becomes Prince Josua’s Man Friday, accompanying the prince south to Nabban and then back north to Hayholt Castle.

According to Williams’ announcement, Heart of Regret will continue almost directly from the ending of To Green Angel Tower, though it’s unclear what this exactly means for the story. The fall of Green Angel Tower happens one year before the ending of the classic series, as the Afterword, after Chapter 60, takes place one year after the fall of the tower.

Williams also revealed more about the plot of Heart of Regret, including these juicy details:

The only real returning characters from MS&T are Isgrimnur and Sludig, but there are several prominent characters from “The Witchwood Crown” as well, including the Norn lord and engineer, Viyeki, and Sir Porto, a Perdruinese man who is young in the short novel but pretty old by the time Witchwood Crown begins.  There are also a few others such as Akehnabi (a Norn magician, very important in the new books) who had brief appearances in MS&T.

Williams had previously revealed the names Viyeki and Porto last year on his message board (along with about 40 other names), and these names had been identified, correctly as it can now be said, by readers on the Smarch forums as belonging to a Norn man and a Perdruinese man, respectively, through careful guesswork.

The third name on Williams’ announcement, Akhenabi, appeared in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” as the embittered spokesman at the ruins of Naglimund, the “nail-fort” in the northern part of Erkynland. It was Akhenabi who caused the corpses of the dead of Naglimund to rise once more in a macabre display of eldritch power.

Williams then announced some details on the publication of Heart of Regret:

Deb and I are still considering options as far as how it will be published, in part because we would like to see it come out when “Witchwood Crown” was originally scheduled, i.e. Spring of 2016.  When I have more information — and there WILL be more information — I promise I will tell you immediately.

I will be happy to answer other questions, but of course I will be very conservative with any more story information than I’ve already given here.  Without giving anything away, there will be threads in this story that will become very important in the trilogy to come, so it’s probably not safe to ignore if you want to stay up with the Canonical Osten Ard.  (I am grinning at my own self-indulgence here.)