The Witchwood Crown – guest review by a friend …

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was fortunate enough to acquire an uncorrected proof and would like to share my review below.

The High King and Queen of Osten Ard are on a tour of their country, visiting their friends and allies in Hernystir and Rimmersgard. But not all who welcome them are friends… Suspect activities, dark rumours, and eventually an encounter with the deadly and secretive Norns call the royal entourage home early. Meanwhilst, their allies the Sithi are mysteriously silent. And that’s just the beginning of the story. A story that draws on all the wonders, and all the terror, of this magical world.

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The Witchwood Crown is the continuation of the trilogy “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” and the short novel published earlier this year: The Heart of What Was Lost. But it isn’t necessary to have read those to read this book. Whereas the old trilogy is a buildungsroman, and much of the early story is told through the eyes of the hero, this time there are multiple, equally important, storylines from the beginning. This makes sense, since many of the mysteries of the world were revealed in the original trilogy, and the author can’t pretend that old readers haven’t already lived through those discoveries. New readers are introduced to Osten Ard gently, and in a way that isn’t tiresome to old fans.

Naturally, old characters are reintroduced in this book, though they have aged more than three decades. But there is at least an equal part of new important characters. We get to see the Norns up close and personal, and we also get more insight into the Thrithing clans.

The theme of the story has changed from the original trilogy of the kitchen boy thrown into adventure to discover his own self, into a more familial and pensive approach to the goings on. The King and Queen keep a close eye on their offspring and subjects, though admittedly the King has to be reigned in a bit by his spouse.

The secrets and mysteries that drive the plot are uncovered slowly and carefully. Not many realisations are acquired without much resistance. After all, why should we believe the world is different than what we have always known?

I love this book (and the previous ones) for the care and nourishment poured into them by the author. A well-developed world allows for a convincing story, however magical it might be. The characters are also supremely real and easy to like.

The publication of the next book, Empire of Grass, cannot come soon enough!

©by Kenan, fellow regular @ http://www.tadwilliams.com/forum

A glorious return to Osten Ard

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do not start this review the usual way with the book but with myself. I was one of the first human beings in the whole wide world who knew that Tad would return to Osten Ard. The thought that there would be more stories in my favourite parallel universe overwhelmed and excited me in a fashion I never thought news about fiction could.
Later I was one of the first readers of The Witchwood Crown, giving comprehensive feedback on each new version. Now I write a review on the ARC I got from the publishers. I still feel like in a dream – this is surreal.

All this shall make transparent where I come from. Expect a eulogy.

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So. The long awaited and highly anticipated sequel to Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. News from the vast world I keep going back to for 25 years now because I love it so much. It features a mind-swirling amount of characters: old and new, awesome and annoying, funny and frightening. And multiple places: familiar yet changed like the Hayholt. Others described in much more detail like Nabban. Those that never before had featured like Elvritshalla. And of course Nakkiga where the old enemy stirs again.

Tad masterfully manages to revive the old heroes although it took me a few chapters to feel close to them again. Simon and Miriamele, Eolair and Tiamak after all are not the same people I know – 33 years of story time have passed since I last met them.

A reunion scene brought tears of joy to my eyes, and from that moment on I was emotionally engaged with The Witchwood Crown as I am with Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.

The multiple plots burble along like mountain spring creeks: there are trade wars, unrest in the west, fights for power and territory in the South, the occasional bloody fight – all the stuff expected from a civilisation on the brink of enlightenment and it is a joy to see it unfold in Osten Ard. Plus fearsome monsters and fairies, demons and a hilarious troll. All this is wonderful to behold while the real mysteries are slowly growing in a few passing paragraphs and the occasional subclause. A beautifully composed set-up for a great story. I would have been perfectly happy with that book and would have praised Tad über den grünen Klee for it. And I did not notice that it did not truly accelerated my heart rate for page after fast turned page… until it did.

The last 200+ had me reading until dawn. Tad shifts gears and… major stuff starts happening. The thing is hitting the other thing. Like big time.

This showdown had me respectively gasping in surprise, shouting: Finally!, laughing with joy, holding my breath for two pages straight, slapping my head, shedding more tears and smiling woefully at the very end. An incredible rollercoaster ride that made me crave for more the moment I turned the very last page. I’ve said it elsewhere and I say it again: I have not read a final act that exciting and surprising since George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords.

And I mean that literally.

A lot has been said about the similarities between MS&T and GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin himself names the former a major inspiration for his own epic.

While he was writing TWC in 2014 I talked to Tad about stories and tropes influencing each other in general and these two in particular and he said he “would like to keep the conversation going.” And darn, he fricking did. Iconic scenes from A Song of Ice and Fire are mirrored in The Witchwood Crown and I yayed every single one of them. This seesaw between two masters of story telling is an additional treat in this awesome book.

I am so much looking forward to reading the final version of The Witchwood Crown come June 27th. At last it will be a beautiful proper hardcover book with a shiny envelope. We’re all in for such a treat!

The Unwrapping of Smarch Gifts

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ad Williams  – or as we, his friends on his message board call him: The Dogly One – turned 60 last week. Reason enough for us to send him some presents as he has gifted us with his stories for so long. We plotted for months on a hidden part of the message board and also brought Tad’s wife Deborah Beale in to the conspiracy. She took the following pics of the unwrapping:

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Happy to have prezzies …

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Yes exactly,  this is the main one.

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Don’t hurt yourself!

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What might this be?

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Too bad this is so blurry. It says Norn Porn in beautiful black rhinestones, made by cyan who planned this for ages and ages …

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Hmm.

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This utterly beautiful witchwood knife was made by Sojourn.

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Yes, you might keep the bubble wrap as well.

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Frankie is definetly mad but does he deserve this?

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This is my favourite. Tad fondly looking at the festschrift we all made for him. A book with stories, art and pics of the many Smarchmoots in the last 15 years …

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Cover art by Kia.

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No, there won’t be pics of every page.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY DOGLY ONE!

German edition of The Witchwood Crown to be split into two volumes

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erman publisher Klett-Kotta announced this today: the first volume of Tad Williams’ latest High Fantasy Series “The Last King of Osten Ard” turns out to be considerably larger than has been planned. Instead of the 800 pages which had been assumed to amount to in the German version, its extent will now be nearly 1,300 pages.

To make sure that our numerous fans get a quick access to the German version we have, together with Tad Williams, settled that the work will be split in two parts and will be out in September and November. As Stephan Askani, editor of the Hobbit-Presse, has it: “If we handled it any other than that, the publication date (of a one-volume-edition) would have to be postponed until November, although two translators are working intensely on the text.”

Die Hexenholzkrone Bd. 1 will amount to about 750 pages, Bd. 2 will be about 550 pages. Each of the  volumes will cost 20 Euro.

Neues von Tad Williams

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lett-Kotta in einer Presseerklärung von heute: Der erste Band von Tad Williams neuer High-Fantasy-Serie Der letzte König von Osten Ard wird wesentlich umfangreicher als geplant. Statt der für die deutsche Ausgabe ursprünglich angenommenen ca. 800 Seiten, wird Die Hexenholzkrone  nun auf einen Umfang von fast 1.300 Seiten kommen.
Um den zahlreichen Fans einen möglichst raschen Zugang zur deutschen Ausgabe zu ermöglichen, wird das Buch in Absprache mit Tad Williams in zwei Teile aufgeteilt und im September und November 2017 veröffentlicht.
Hobbit-Presse-Lektor Stephan Askani : „Würden wir nicht so verfahren, würde sich der Erscheinungstermin einer einbändigen Ausgabe auf November verschieben, obwohl bereits zwei Übersetzer unter Hochdruck am Text arbeiten.“

Die Hexenholzkrone Bd. 1 wird etwa 750 Seiten umfassen, der Bd. 2 etwa 550 Seiten.
Beide Bände werden jeweils 20,- € kosten.

Band 1: Aus dem Englischen von Cornelia Holfelder-von der Tann und Wolfram Ströle
1. Aufl. 2017, ca. 800 Seiten, gebunden mit Schutzumschlag
ISBN: 978-3-608-94953-7
Erscheinungstermin 05.08.2017

Band 2: Aus dem Englischen von Cornelia Holfelder-von der Tann und Wolfram Ströle
1. Aufl. 2017, ca. 550 Seiten, gebunden mit Schutzumschlag
ISBN: 978-3-608-96196-6
Erscheinungstermin 11.11.2017

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Rejoice – Osten Ard is truly back

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o, The Heart of What Was Lost (or HOWWL – I just love this acronym) hit the shelves. Tad Williams’ long anticipated return to Osten Ard is finally out for everyone to read and cherish.

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This review is written by me, ylvs, and represents my view of the book. Other contributors to the site might add their own later. I was a beta reader of this book, following its development from first draft to final manuscript and I am delighted to finally be able to share my thoughts.

This is a must read for fans of MS&T. It is amazing how perfectly Tad manages to match the flavour and texture of the original. It just takes a few pages and you’re right back in Osten Ard. For someone loving this story as much as I do it feels like coming home …

It is also a fine starting point for those unfamiliar with Osten Ard. You never read MS&T and shy away from the sheer mass of it? Try this and find out if the world is to your liking. Of course the story has less depth without the background provided in the old books, but it is self contained and makes sense on its own.

When I first heard that Tad was writing a novelette (which finally became a short novel – anybody surprised?) about the aftermath of the final battle of MS&T I was not that excited. The victorious humans chasing their beaten fairy foes back to where they came from – that sounded more like “a story for the guys” than one for me. I do not mind reading about war and battles and people suffering but a book which is prominently about that? Nah, not really. But alas, it is a sequel to my favourite story of all time so of course I did read it and yes I do love it.

Why? First because it features one of my favourite characters from the old books: Sludig already was the hero of many deeds and battles and here he keeps doing the right thing although there never seems to be a reward or promotion for him. This is actually a sort of running gag in the novel, mentioned more than once – poor old Sludig.

Secondly HOWWL finally throws a floodlight on the Norns and their culture. In MS&T they were the unknown faceless enemy (apart from their queen Utuk’ku), here they are real people with hearts and souls and their enmity to humans and the century old hate for them becomes much more comprehensible. On a meta level this can be interpreted as a parable for us all: you cannot continue to blindly hate or fear the foe/stranger/immigrant you became familiar with. Little by little I felt my allegiance shifting from the human army seeking revenge and attempting to “root out evil for once and all” (which can also be called genocide) to the Norns trying to survive as a people and save their home.

And third and lastly what really makes this shine is the aliveness and humanity of the characters. Amidst war’s horror and desolation there is also loyalty, friendship and hope – on both sides.

Tad Williams is a master of ambivalence and changing perspectives and if a fantasy novel manages to make one question one’s view on the world it does deserve a label usually denied to genre fiction: literature.