The 30th Anniversary of the Classic “Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn” Novels

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his month marks the 30th anniversary of The Dragonbone Chair, first volume in the immensely influential “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” fantasy series written by Tad Williams. The first volume was published on October 25th, 1988, and it soon became a national bestseller, inspiring fantasy authors George R. R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Christopher Paolini to write their own hugely successful series, and in the process changing the landscape of fantasy fiction.

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Cover of The Dragonbone Chair, the first volume of “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”.

Writing for Barnes and Noble, Aidan Moher states, “Williams’ trilogy is quietly one of the most influential fantasies of the past 30 years, and is, in large part, responsible for the resurgence in the mainstream popularity of fantasy via HBO’s Game of Thrones, the television adaptation of  Martin’s hugely popular A Song of Ice and Fire novels—after all, Martin credits Williams’ books as a primary inspiration.

“On the surface, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn sounds like a paint-by-numbers secondary world fantasy: there’s an ancient evil threatening the medieval-flavored land of Osten Ard, a boy with a mysterious past, a scrappy princess, an evil prince, a dying king, and more magic swords, dragons, elves and dwarfs than you can shake a wand at (even if they’re referred to by different names.) It never eschews these tropes—though at the time they were less tiresome, as fantasy-readers reveled in the post-Brooks/Donaldson revitalization of secondary world fantasy. Instead, Williams’ trilogy feels like a surgically-precise dissection of those tropes.”

The Dragonbone Chair was followed by sequels Stone of Farewell (1990) and To Green Angel Tower (1993), and nearly three decades later by The Heart of What Was Lost (2017), The Witchwood Crown (2017), and the forthcoming Empire of Grass, The Navigator’s Children, The Shadow of Things to Come, as well as a few stand-alone stories, each set in Williams’ world of Osten Ard. Williams will be honored as the Writer Guest of Honor at the 2019 World Fantasy Convention.

sleeping_queen_by_kiraathu_webAs a way of celebrating the 30th anniversary of this seminal series, artist Jessica Steinke has created a beautiful illustration from The Witchwood Crown, showing the sleeping Queen of the Sithi, Likimeya y-Briseyu no’e-Sa’onserei. (The full resolution version of the piece is available on DeviantArt).

Steinke writes, “Since I read MS&T 20 years ago for the first time, the aesthetic concept of the Sithi have been a constant factor in my art and a most rewarding motiv. So I wanted to contribute something for the 30th anniversary of Osten Ard that could be shared with all fans out there. I’m looking forward to all future Osten Ard tales and many more Sithi to sketch.”

We at Treacherous Paths are honored to showcase Steinke’s beautiful art work as the fantasy world celebrates 30 years of Williams’ Osten Ard novels.

 

 

 

Tad Williams Q&A: Writing That Long-Expected (by Everyone but Me) Sequel

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n TadWilliams.com there is a new Question and Answer session regarding the author’s long-awaited return to the world of Osten Ard.

Williams, the author of more than twenty science fiction and fantasy novels, will be returning to his beloved realm of Osten Ard at the end of June, with the release of The Witchwood Crown, the first volume of a new series of books called “The Last King of Osten Ard”. The novel takes up the story more than 30 years after the characters were last seen in the classic Osten Ard novels.

Tad was asked about how he felt returning to his old world and the old characters; in the Q&A session, he says he had forgotten “how much effort and thought [he] had put into Osten Ard in the first place, so many years ago. Layers upon layers.” (Those layers are no surprise to longtime readers, who have compared the Osten Ard novels to the layers of an onion: peeling one layer reveals another).

He also reveals why it took him so many years to return to the world:

I sat down one time to list off for Deborah (my wife and business partner) all the reasons I had no more stories about Simon and Miriamele and Binabik and the rest, I realized that I had left most of the main characters still very much in the bloom of their youth, and that after decades of life and growing responsibility—which I had undergone myself since I wrote it—they must all look at the world very differently. That set me to thinking, and within one night the first rudiments of the story for “The Last King of Osten Ard” (the title for the whole series) had begun to take real shape. So every moment I was aging, and moving from one country to another, and becoming a parent, and so on, I was actually creating a plot for new Osten Ard books without realizing it.

So Williams’ aging has helped inspire the new books.

We at Treacherous Paths were honored to be mentioned in the Q&A session, the full version of which can be read here. The Witchwood Crown will be released on June 27, 2017. It is available for pre-order on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other booksellers.

 

Tad Williams discusses New! Osten Ard! Novels! (Part 2)

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ere is Part 2 of our video interview with legendary fantasy and science fiction author Tad Williams, author of the now-classic “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” series; the questions from the interview were submitted by readers from TadWilliams.com and Westeros.org forums.

In this interview, Tad Williams discusses his new Osten Ard novel project, including his thoughts on Tolkien, whether or not new areas of Osten Ard (such as Nascadu and Khandia) will be seen, as well as whether or not he regrets killing off characters (and if he’s ever tempted to resurrect some of them). He also discusses the problem of the Norns, and how challenging it is to write sympathetic characters who do monstrous things.

Williams also discusses both Binabik and Duke Isgrimnur, two beloved characters from the original series, as well as a 45-foot crocodile in the swamps of the Wran. The Witchwood Crown, the latest Osten Ard novel, will be released on June 27, 2017.

 

Tad Williams holds Reddit AMA interview, answers readers’ questions

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egendary Science Fiction and Fantasy author Tad Williams held an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) interview today on forum website Reddit.Williams revealed several details about his upcoming sequel to “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, The Witchwood Crown.

Williams began his AMA interview in inimitable fashion:

I have returned to the world of Osten Ard, first introduced in the now impossibly ancient days of the late 1980s, in THE DRAGONBONE CHAIR, first book of the “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” series (also known as, “Those really, really, REALLY long books by that Williams guy.”) Just published is a short introductory novel — really a bridge between the end of the first series and some of the characters who will appear in the new books — the slender volume, THE HEART OF WHAT WAS LOST (http://www.tadwilliams.com/2017/01/the-heart-of-what-was-lost-first-reviews/) which will be followed by THE WITCHWOOD CROWN (a more typical Tad shelf-buster) in June. The entire series will be called “The Last King Of Osten Ard”, because that’s what fantasy fiction needs — MORE LONG TITLES.

(I also thought about calling the first books “Osten Ard Classic” and the current series “New Osten Ard” or even “Osten Ard Zero”, until various soft drink company lawsuits got in the way. Killjoys.)

I will be answering questions about the original series AND the new books live on Friday, January 27th, 2017 at 2:30 PM ET / 11:30 AM PT. Feel free to leave a question or subpoena for me ahead of time, or to join me online.

Heart_of_what_was_lost_Tad_WilliamsAmong the gems asked during the Reddit interview were questions regarding the new upcoming “The Last King of Osten Ard” novels, as well as questions regarding characters in The Heart of What Was Lost, the new bridge novel which was just published this month.

One question asked was (minor spoilers): “Will we eventually find out what Ayaminu’s agenda was?”Ayaminu is one of the Gardenborn characters who appears in The Heart of What Was Lost.

Williams’ response:

Yes. Yes, we will.

That really frustrated a few of my early readers, by the way, wanting to know WHAT SHE WAS DOING and why the answer wasn’t in the book.

I can’t help it. I work in long form. My days are everyone else’s months, especially when I’m writing really long stories.

Williams was also asked how far apart each new Osten Ard novel would be. Williams is known as a relatively fast writer, and has not had the extended delays between books which have plagued other bestselling speculative fiction authors. While Martin and Rothfuss have struggled to finish their novels, Williams has managed to mostly keep to his publishing deadlines.Williams replied:

Can’t say for certain, but I’m aiming for a year to a year and a half max between books. I’m pretty good at that these days, and I’ve actually started and finished several multi-volume series, so it shouldn’t take too long altogether.

I’m already working on the second large volume, Empire of Grass, and Witchwood Crown (first of trilogy) has been done for quite a while.

Williams was also asked about how “open-ended” his books are, and if he plans to revisit his other worlds, which would include the virtual world in “Otherland”, Eion/Xand (“Shadowmarch”) , and San Judas, the alternate reality city in his “Bobby Dollar” novels. Williams stated:

I have never written anything except the Bobby Dollar books with the idea of the story being open-ended. I’d be in trouble if I did, since I’m only now returning to Osten Ard, thirty years later. Half my original readers are probably dead and the rest are drooling. Like me.

As I said elsewhere on the AMA, I never start something by where it takes place (like a previous world of mine) only with a story I want to tell. I may come up with ideas for stories set in some of my other worlds, and if I do, I’ll probably write them. I’ve had a couple of tentative ideas over the years, and now that I’ve found I can live with going back to Osten Ard, I’ll probably be more open to revisiting some of the other creations as well.

Most intriguingly, Williams was asked if he has any plans to link Osten Ard, the world of the “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” books, to the Xand/Eion world in “Shadowmarch”, with a reader asking “Are there any Easter eggs/connections between the worlds or Osten Ard and Shadowmarch?”

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Although the worlds of Xand/Eion and Osten Ard have been considered separate, and there has been nothing to link them together besides some small similarities (strange properties of mirrors, for example), Williams, interestingly enough, did not rule this out:

Funny, I was just thinking about this the other day — connections between the two worlds. I think it’s possible that there may be a Michael-Moorcock-style multiverse underlying all my books, but I’ve never consciously tried to link them all together.

Maybe someday…

Curious readers asked quite a lot about the Norns, the embittered fair folk in the Osten Ard novels. The most clever term “Nornithology” has been coined by one reader. Of the Norns and their undying queen Utuk’ku, Williams writes:

I took the comparatively few things I knew about the Norns when I wrote the first books and have added/expanded quite a bit during the writing of these new ones. And you’ll see a LOT of the Norns and Nakkiga in the new books. I’m glad it seems to belong with the early stuff. I certainly mean it to feel as though it’s a seamless whole.

Reader Alaron asked:

Hi Tad. Huge fan here from Germany. I finished Heart of what was Lost a few days ago. It was great. I have a question about the timeline of Sithi/Norn history in Osten Ard. In Heart it was mentioned that the Norns came to Nakkiga more than 3000 years ago. Those Norns/ Sithi as Yaarike that were born before the Parting are considered to be old even by Keida’ya standard. I estimated that the Keida’ya must have arrived in Osten Ard at least 6000 years ago, as Utuk’ku is the last of the original Keida’ya that left the Garden. Is that timeline roughly correct?

And Williams’ response:

I’d have to check, and my notes are a mess right now. My tentative timeline actually has the Norns arriving, yes, at least 6000 years ago, but I suspect actually it’s a bit longer. (Along with some of my hardest-working friends and readers, I’m still trying to stabilize the timeline.)

But yes, at least 6000 years previous to the stories.

Williams was also asked about how many pages he has completed in Empire of Grass, the middle novel of the new series. Williams responded:

Not sure. About a hundred pages, I’d say (I’m writing in separate chapter-files at first, so I don’t have a running overall page count). The last couple of months, with the holidays and various kid-related things, have been grueling. I’m expecting to have a nice long stretch in the next few months to get the first draft substantially done.

Over 200 comments were made in the thread.

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.

Details revealed regarding Tad Williams’ “The Shadow of Things to Come”

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his week, new details regarding The Shadow of Things to Come have emerged. Avid readers of the works of speculative fiction writer Tad Williams may remember that The Shadow of Things to Come is the working title of a forthcoming novel, written by Williams, and set in the Osten Ard universe (previous novels in the same universe included the now-classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series composed of The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower, as well as the forthcoming novels The Heart of What Was Lost and The Witchwood Crown, both set for publication in early 2017).

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Tad Williams with Treacherous Paths contributors RN, Ylvs, Cyan, Firs. Photo: Deborah Beale.

This week, several Treacherous Paths contributors from across the globe met with Tad Williams at his strange and wonderful home near Santa Cruz in Northern California, and the bestselling author of more than twenty science fiction and fantasy novels revealed some tantalizing new details regarding what will likely be his 23rd full-length novel, The Shadow of Things to Come.

Writes Treacherous Paths contributor Ylvs:

The Shadow Of Things To Come will feature the fall of Asu’a 500 years ago, told from the perspective of a Nabbanai envoy from the court of [Imperator Enfortis]. So we’ll see Asu’a before its fall, [and] probably witness Ineluki killing [the Erl King] Iyu’unigato…

The-Dragonbone-ChairSo Shadow will tell of the end of the Sithi empire in Osten Ard, as the Peaceful Ones are routed from the great city of Asu’a and the Erl King’s lands by the cold iron of the mortal Rimmersmen.

Many readers have long requested from Williams that he write one or more full-length novels set in this era, ever since The Dragonbone Chair was published in October 1988, with that volume containing several tantalizing glimpses (told only in flashback sequences) of the end of Iyu’unigato the Erl King’s reign in Osten Ard, as the ravaging northmen destroy the last and greatest of the nine Gardenborn cities:

During [Imperator] Enfortis’ reign the iron-wielders came. Nabban decided to withdraw from the north altogether. They fell back across the river Gleniwent so quickly that many of the northern frontier outposts found themselves entirely deserted, left behind to join the oncoming Rimmersmen or die.

Nabban withdrew its armies from the north, becoming for the first time purely a southern empire. It was just the beginning of the end, of course; as time passed, the Imperium folded itself up just like a blanket, smaller and smaller until today they are nothing more than a duchy—a peninsula with its few attendant islands.

Without the Imperial garrisons, […] the north was in chaos. The shipmen had captured the northernmost part of the Frostmarch, naming their new home Rimmersgard. Not content with that, the Rimmersmen were fanning out southward, sweeping all before them in a bloody advance.

They robbed and ruined other Men, making captives of many, but the Sithi they deemed evil creatures; with fire and cold iron they hunted the Fair Folk to their death everywhere…

Now the people of Hernystir—a proud, fierce people whom even the Nabbanai Imperators never really conquered—were not at all willing to bend their necks to Rimmersgard. They were horrified by what the northerners were doing to the Sithi. The Hernystiri had been of all Men the closest to Fair Folk—there is still visible today the mark of an ancient trade road between this castle and the Taig at Hernysadharc. The lord of Hernystir and the Erl-king made desperate compact, and for a while held the northern tide at bay.

But even combined, their resistance could not last forever. Fingil, king of the Rimmersmen, swept down across the Frostmarch over the borders of the Erl-king’s territory…

In the year 663 the two great hosts came to the plains of Ach Samrath, the Summerfield, north of the River Gleniwent. For five days of terrible, merciless carnage the Hernystiri and the Sithi held back the might of the Rimmersmen. On the sixth day, though, they were set on treacherously from their unprotected flank by an army of men from the Thrithings, who had long coveted the riches of Erkynland and the Sithi for their own. They made a fearful charge under cover of darkness. The defense was broken, the Hernystiri chariots smashed, the White Stag of the House of Hern trampled into the bloody dirt. It is said that ten thousand men of Hernystir died in the field that day. No one knows how many Sithi fell, but their losses were grievous, too. Those Hernystiri who survived fled back to the forest of their home. In Hernystir, Ach Samrath is today a name only for hatred and loss.

That was the day that Sithi mastery in Osten Ard came to an end, even though it took three long years of siege before Asu’a fell to the victorious northerners.

If not for strange, horrible magics worked by the Erl-king’s son, there would likely have been not a single Sithi to survive the fall of the Castle.

Many did, however, fleeing to the forests, and south to the waters and… and elsewhere…

About the Erl- king’s son… it is better to say nothing.

Heart_of_what_was_lost_Tad_WilliamsWilliams’ announcement regarding The Shadow of Things to Come comes just five months before the release of The Heart of What Was Lost, the first full-length Osten Ard novel since the publication of To Green Angel Tower in Spring 1993. That volume hit the New York Times bestseller list, and it remains one of the longest novels ever written in the English language, at 1,083 pages in hardcover (1,600 pages in paperback).

Altogether, five new Osten Ard novels are expected during the next five or six years (Williams writes at a fairly fast pace, and has never experienced the extended publication delays of fantasy authors like George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, or Robert Jordan, publishing, on average, one book every 1.5 years).

We at Treacherous Paths will reveal more details regarding the new Osten Ard novels when we can.

Cover art for Tad Williams’ “The Heart of What was Lost” is revealed!

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oday the cover art for Tad Williams’ new long-awaited novel set in the Osten Ard universe, The Heart of What Was Lost, has been revealed. The art features a witchwood sword with a white rose hilt. The foreground shows a snow-covered landscape, with ominous, dark mountains in the background. The novel is a sequel to the original, now-classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series; the new book will be published in January 2017, followed closely by four additional Osten Ard novels, titled The Witchwood Crown (release date: April 2017), Empire of Grass, The Navigator’s Children, and The Shadow of Things to Come.

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Williams describes the plot of The Heart of What Was Lost as: “[The novel] takes place in the half-year after the end of [To Green Angel Tower], and tells of the attempt by [Duke] 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.”

The main characters  in the new novel 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; it is he who 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, The Heart of What Was Lost 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.

The Heart of What Was Lost is now available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers worldwide.