Tad Williams has announced that he has written around 400 pages of The Witchwood Crown, Book One of his new epic fantasy series “The Last King of Osten Ard”:
I’ve had a lot of other things going on, so I’m only at about page 400 of the book, but I’m back into a stretch where I can work on it full-time again.
The first volume of the new Osten Ard series, a sequel to the classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” books, is expected to be published sometime late next year, but no concrete date has yet been set. Each new novel in the series is expected to be about the size of previous Osten Ard novels, which were between 750 and 1,600 pages each.
The cover of The Dragonbone Chair features Simon Snowlock and the dwarfish Binabik, as well as the wolf Qantaqa (on back cover). The cover of A Game of Thrones features Jon Snow and the dwarf Tyrion, and the direwolf Ghost.
It is no secret that George R. R. Martin drew inspiration for his A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels from the best-selling Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series by Tad Williams. Martin has stated repeatedly that Williams inspired him to write ASOIAF:
Tad’s fantasy series, The Dragonbone Chair and the rest of his famous four-book trilogy was one of the things that inspired me to write my own seven-book trilogy. I read Tad and was impressed by him, but the imitators that followed — well, fantasy got a bad rep for being very formulaic and ritual. And I read The Dragonbone Chair and said, “My god, they can do something with this form,” and it’s Tad doing it. It’s one of my favorite fantasy series.
In fact, Martin purposely buried some homages to MS&T in ASOIAF, while at other points, he seems to reuse the same plot elements, often to a surprisingly detailed degree. Here are 31 similarities between the two book series [contains spoilers for both series of novels]:
1) A high-born girl named (M)arya disguises herself as a boy, and learns to fight with a sword as she travels throughout the lands. In both “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” (MS&T) and “A Song of Ice and Fire” (ASOIAF), a young noble girl, called either Marya or Arya, flees her home, traveling in disguise as a boy. Despite the fact that many people see through her flimsy ‘disguise’, she keeps wearing it. Author George R.R. Martin’s naming of Arya is clearly an homage to the original cross-dressing noble girl, Marya from MS&T.
2) On her journey, the girl-in-disguise (M)arya meets many characters, including a man wearing a helmet shaped like a hound’s head, who is sent to bring her back to the king. In MS&T, this hound-helmeted character is named Ingen Jegger; in ASOIAF, his name is Sandor Clegane.In both cases, these men are skilled warriors who manage to escape death on multiple occasions.
3) Two princely brothers who hate each other fight over the royal throne after the death of the old king. The country is torn apart as various factions choose sides. In MS&T, the princes are named Elias and Josua. In ASOIAF, the feuding brothers are named Stannis and Renly Baratheon.
4) A red-robed advisor to the new king convinces the king that he needs to sacrifice his hated younger brother; this blood sacrifice, the red-robed advisor says, will make the kingdom whole once more. In MS&T, this red-robed advisor is named Pryrates; in ASOIAF, her name is Melisandre. In both series, these red-robed priests slowly convince their respective royal masters to allow them to practice a strange fire-ritual which they claim will allow them victory. This fire ritual requires royal blood in order to be successful.
5) A tailed star appears in the sky, portending doom/change. In MS&T, this tailed star is called the Conqueror Star, or sa Astrian Conquidilles, and it appears in the sky for three years after an absence of 497 years. In ASOIAF, this star is called shierak qiya, the Dragon’s Tail, or the Red Comet.
6) Feuding brothers named Elias/Elyas and Josua appear in the story. In a not-so-subtle nudge in Williams’ direction, author George R.R. Martin names two feuding background characters Elyas and Josua, in a tribute to one of his favorite Fantasy series, MS&T (which features the feuding brothers Elias and Josua). In an even less subtle nod, these two feuding brothers are said to be the sons of Lord Willum. These three characters are mentioned in chapter 22 of A Clash of Kings, the second volume of ASOIAF.
7) Strange, otherworldly icy creatures who live in the far north appear, and although they have been inactive for centuries, they plot to take over the mortal world Their ruler is called the Night King/Storm King. They have been exiled at the northern edge of the world for many years, but the Night King/Storm King plots to soon take it all back, displacing Mankind. In MS&T, these icy creatures are the Norns; in ASOIAF, they’re known as the Others.
8) It is foretold of the coming of an unusual winter which will last a very long time, at the same time as the otherworldly invasion from the north. Only the northern farmers in rural areas take these old legends seriously. Everyone else laughs at such absurd tales. But the people of the north never forget.
9) An unusual throne lies at the center of the human dispute for the kingdom, but it is only a distraction for the real conflict. In MS&T, this throne is named the Dragonbone Chair, crafted by King John after he slaughtered the fire-drake Shurakai. In ASOIAF, it is the Iron Throne. In both cases, the mortal kingdoms are so busy fighting one another that they fail to take notice of eldritch powers rising in the north.
10) A major noble character, a close relative of the king, loses his hand in battle. In MS&T, the handless character is Prince Josua Lackhand. In ASOIAF, the character is Ser Jaime Lannister. In both instances, the nobles lose their respective right hands.
11) A wolf plays a major role in the series. In MS&T, it is the gray wolf Qantaqa, Binabik’s wolf companion, who is loyal to her friend, but a menace to all his enemies. In ASOIAF, the direwolves the Stark children discover in the first volume are named Ghost, Grey Wind, Lady, Nymeria, Shaggydog, and Summer. These canines are just as loyal to their masters as Qantaqa is to Binabik.
12) A character that is the ‘Hand’ figures prominently. In MS&T, the Prince’s Right Hand is Sir Deornoth, Prince Josua’s right-hand man. Early on in ASOIAF, the Hand of the King is Lord Eddard Stark.
13) A slender sword named ‘Needle’/’Naidel’ is wielded by a main character, who can’t use a heavier sword. In MS&T, the sword is named Naidel, and is wielded by Prince Josua Lackhand, while in ASOIAF, Needle’s owner is Arya Stark.
14) Everybody laughs at the idea of giants and other otherworldly creatures in the north… until they see them for themselves. In both series, the soft southlanders eventually realize their folly, after encounters with what Tyrion originally dismisses as legends of “grumkins and snarks,” while in MS&T, these are legends of “pookhas and niskies”.
15) Young, noble children are cruelly thrust out into the cold, cruel world by evil adults. In both series, teenagers are chased by murderers, thieves, and con-men, as they slowly learn to fend for themselves as they grow into young men and women.
16) A crown made to resemble antlers is worn by a king. The crown in MS&T appears on the brow of Ineluki the Storm King, while in ASOIAF, the antlered crown is worn by Renly Baratheon.
17) A very short yet intelligent character has a betrothal as part of his storyline. But he is soon put on trial, where the penalty is death, and everyone seems set on killing him… even his own lover. In MS&T, this character is Binabik, and his betrothed is Sisquinanamook; in ASOIAF, the character is Tyrion Lannister, and his betrothed is Shae.
18) The story begins shortly before the death of the old king, whose reign was peaceful, and which kept the kingdoms safe. The king brought peace and prosperity to the lands, but now his death has thrown the empire into conflict, with factions fighting. In MS&T, the old king is the nonagenarian King John Presbyter of Warinsten, who brought the language of Westerling to his people as he united all the realms under one rule. In ASOIAF, it is King Robert Baratheon, lord of Westeros.
19) The Children of the Dawn/Forest, who once lived throughout the realm, but who are now living in hiding in the forests of the world, have a role in the story. In both MS&T and ASOIAF, both the Children of the Dawn and the Children of the Forest appear to be at odds with the otherworldly creatures in the far north.
20) A character whose name is Snow(lock), who is forced to journey into the north, is a main character. In MS&T, Simon Snowlock bears some similarities to ASOIAF’s Jon Snow.
21) A guilt-tormented knight spends years in exile in the south, only to return, where he is at last revealed as still being alive. In MS&T, this is Sir Camaris sa-Vinitta, while in ASOIAF, it is Ser Jon Connington.
22) A major character lives thousands of miles from the rest of the other main characters, for over a thousand pages having no real interaction with the main groups. But eventually, in both series, Danaerys/Tiamak interact with characters in the rest of the world.
23) The series was meant to be a trilogy, but got out of hand. In the case of MS&T, three volumes grew to four, while ASOIAF may eventually be seven volumes, if author George R.R. Martin ever completes the series. Martin has humorously referred to both Williams’ “four-book trilogy” and his own “seven-book trilogy”.
24) A major young male character likes to climb his castle’s walls and turrets, and can do so with ease. Eventually, he will be forced to leave his childhood home, no longer able to climb the castle’s walls and turrets. In MS&T, this character is Simon Mooncalf climbing the walls of Hayholt Castle, while in ASOIAF, it is Bran Stark climbing the walls of Winterfell.
25) The same character who climbs castle walls is plagued by prophetic, spooky dreams. These dreams appear to be a curse, as they usually do not reveal enough to be helpful.
26) A new god, the Red God, demands blood sacrifice. His adherents are more than willing to do the Red God’s bidding, no matter how awful the sacrifice is. Once blood is spilled, the spell is created, and shadowy figures begin appear…
27) A fierce people of nomadic grasslanders lives to the east of the world. In MS&T, these are the Thrithings-folk, while in ASOIAF, they are called the Dothraki. In both cases, these warriors treat their women horribly, and live in loosely-knit clans where the leaders rule through barbaric acts. In both series, horses are treated better than the women of the clan, who hold no power in the society.
28) Birds are used as messengers between intellectuals. In MS&T, they are sparrows, sent between members of the League of the Scroll, while in ASOIAF, maesters send messages via ravens.
29) In both series, a battle takes place on a frozen lake. This is technically not yet canonical in ASOIAF but the scene appears in the television series. In MS&T, the battle scene takes place in the Stefflod River Valley.
30) In both series, a girl strikes a blow to the otherworldly king of the north. In both respective series, (M)arya shoots/stabs the Storm/Night King.
31) In both series, a young woman of royal blood has an advisor who falls in love with her, as she tries to protect her people, who are refugees fleeing war. In both series, the young woman slowly falls into madness, after sending away her advisor, who has fallen in love with her. In MS&T, the young woman is Princess Maegwin of Hernystir, who sees Count Eolair of Nad Mullach slowly fall in love with her. She sends him away, and slowly falls into madness. In ASOIAF, the young woman is Daenarys of House Targaryen, whose advisor, Ser Jorah Mormont, falls in love with her. She eventually sends him away, and then — at least, according to the TV series — falls into madness.
Edited by John Joseph Adams, Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West has just been published by Titan Books. The anthology includes short stories written by Orson Scott Card, Hugh Howey, Kelley Armstrong, Joe R. Lansdale, Elizabeth Bear, Alastair Reynolds, Seanan McGuire, Jonathan Maberry, Ken Liu, Ben H. Winters, David Farland, Mike Resnick, Charles Yu, Alan Dean Foster, Beth Revis, Rajan Khanna, Tobias S. Buckell, Jeffrey Ford, Laura Anne Gilman, Walter Jon Williams, Fred Van Lente, Christie Yant, and Tad Williams. In all, the collection includes 23 stories.
Tad Williams’ story, “Strong Medicine”, fits in nicely with this collection of weird tales from the Old West. Taking place on June 20th and 21st, 1899, the short story recounts the bizarre events that took place in Medicine Dance, Arizona, when dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures are suddenly spotted in the community.
While the community of Medicine Dance is fictional, Tad Williams may or may not have known of a real-life report of a living pterodactyl supposedly shot by ranchers, made in the Tombstone Epitaph on April 26, 1890:
A winged monster, resembling a huge alligator with an extremely elongated tail and an immense pair of wings, was found on the desert between the Whetstone and Huachuca mountains last Sunday by two ranchers who were returning home from the Huachucas. The creature was evidently greatly exhausted by a long flight and when discovered was able to fly but a short distance at a time.
After the first shock of wild amazement had passed the two men, who were on horseback and armed with Winchester rifles, regained sufficient courage to pursue the monster and after an exciting chase of several miles succeeded in getting near enough to open fire with their rifles and wounding it.
The creature then turned on the men, but owing to its exhausted condition they were able to keep out of its way and after a few well directed shots the monster partly rolled over and remained motionless. The men cautiously approached, their horses snorting with terror, and found that the creature was dead.
They then proceeded to make an examination and found that it measured about ninety-two feet in length and the greatest diameter was about fifty inches. The monster had only two feet, these being situated a short distance in front of where the wings were joined to the body. The head, as near as they could judge, was about eight feet long, the jaws being thickly set with strong, sharp teeth. Its eyes were as large as a dinner plate and protruded about halfway from the head.
They had some difficulty in measuring the wings as they were partly folded under the body, but finally got one straightened out sufficiently to get a measurement of seventy-eight feet, making the total length from tip to tip about 160 feet. The wings were composed of a thick and nearly transparent membrane and were devoid of feathers or hair, as was the entire body. The skin of the body was comparatively smooth and easily penetrated by a bullet.
The men cut off a small portion of the tip of one wing and took it home with them. Late last night one of them arrived in this city for supplies and to make the necessary preparations to skin the creature, when the hide will be sent east for examination by the eminent scientists of the day.
The finder returned early this morning accompanied by several prominent men who will endeavor to bring the strange creature to this city before it is mutilated.
Williams begins with a similar element in his tale, with two men shooting at a pterodactyl in 1890s Arizona, but the story quickly diverges from there. He also weaves a mystery surrounding one of the men, but the reader isn’t able to ponder this enigma for very long, as Medicine Dance is quickly transformed to Jurassic Park:
We left the rest of the citizens arguing about why exactly the Devil had brought the sea to Medicine Dance and made our way back along the shore on the edge of town, reptile-birds wheeling and croaking high above us.
We paused for a moment to watch a bunch of boys — Clay Hopyard’s sons, Billinger told me — who had made themselves a raft out of stripped saplings and were wading out into the water. The young sailors were being watched by a half a dozen men taking some rest, who said they’d been chasing the springy little lizards out of nearby houses for the last hour, but I was concerned. I shouted to the boys to come in, but we were still too far away for them to hear. As they listened to me, the men watching seemed to realize that this new ocean might contain things bigger than the fish they were used to pulling from the local streams, but before they could do more than look thoughtful, a long neck suddenly came coiling up out of the water near the children, silver in color and as long as a horseshoe pitch. The boys screamed when they saw it, and all of them ran to one end of their raft, which promptly capsized.
This is a satisfying tale with some similarities to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1912), which only receives two minor demerits from me. One demerit for setting the story so close to monsoon without mention of the heavy seasonal rains, which would have been on the minds of the settlers in 1890s southern Arizona. And one nit-picking demerit for having a prehistoric animal eat grass, which did not exist until near the end of the Cretaceous Period.
Cover of The Dragonbone Chair, book 1 of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn
The blogosphere is already rumbling about the news: DAW Books has announced they will be publishing The Last King of Osten Ard, a sequel trilogy to Tad Williams’ New York Times bestselling Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. The series will begin with The Witchwood Crown, followed by Empire of Grass, and then volume three, The Navigator’s Children.
From the DAW press release:
In this new trilogy, Williams journeys back to the magical land of Osten Ard and continues the story of beloved characters King Simon and Queen Miriamele, married now for thirty years, and introduces newcomer Prince Morgan, their heir apparent. Also expanded is the story of the twin babies born to Prince Josua and Lady Vorzheva—a birth heralded by prophecy, which has been the subject of feverish fan speculation since the release of To Green Angel Tower in 1993.
In The Last King of Osten Ard, Williams returns with the ingenious worldbuilding, jaw dropping twists and turns, and unparalleled storytelling that have made him one of fantasy’s brightest stars for more thirty years.
This is the story of my love for Tad Williams. And of why I will buy every book he releases, forever, and tell people why they should read his books, and generally act like a Tad Williams televangelist. And of why being human is the best possible thing you can be as an author.
Waaay, way back, in the 90s, I worked in bookstore. (Shocker, I know.) It was an odd sort of place, an Italian-owned chain called Rizzoli’s. We mostly sold expensive coffee table books of art and architecture, and did a surprisingly brisk trade in the Italian newspapers Corriera della Sera and La Repubblica too. Fiction was relegated to a back corner of the store. Genre fiction? Forget about it. I was an assistant manager for a while, running the Music Department, huddled in a small balcony area in the back of the store. I sold a lot of classical and jazz and European pop music. There was no American rock or pop in stock. We weren’t that kind of place. The store was located on the fourth floor of the Water Tower Place, a high end shopping mall on Michigan Avenue [more…]
This month marks the 25th Anniversary of the publication of Tad Williams’ fantasy novel, The Dragonbone Chair, Book One of “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn.” The epic series begins as the story of a simple castle servant named Seoman who stumbles upon treachery as nonagenarian King John lies dying. The book went on to become a nationwide best-seller in the US.
A war fueled by the dark powers of sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard–for Prester John, the High King, slayer of the dread dragon Shurakai, lies dying. And with his death, an ancient evil will at last be unleashed, as the Storm King, undead ruler of the elvishlike Sithi, seeks to regain his lost realm through a pact with one of human royal blood. Then, driven by spell-inspired jealousy and hate, prince will fight prince, while around them the very land begins to die. Only a small scattered group, the League of the Scroll, recognizes the true danger awaiting Osten Ard. And to Simon–a castle scullion unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League–will go the task of spearheading the quest for the solution to a riddle of long-lost swords of power…and a quest that will see him fleeing and facing enemies straight out of a legend-maker’s worst nightmares!
Williams’ series went on to inspire George R. R. Martin to write “A Song of Ice and Fire,” which was adapted for television as Game of Thrones.
Possible good news for fans of Tad Williams’ “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series:
Is Tad Williams returning to the world of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (Osten Ard)? Looks like it.
By Aidan Moher
With work wrapping up on the third Bobby Dollar novel, speculation has begun about what Tad Williams will begin working on after his first foray into novel-length urban fantasy. The answer might be something close to his roots. Williams has discussed the fan pressure for him to return to the world of Osten Ard, made famous in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, the modern fantasy classic that inspired George R.R. Martin to write A Song of Ice and Fire.(more from A Dribble of Ink)