The Witchwood Crown, Continuity, and Chuck Cunningham

osten ard t

his coming week marks the long-awaited return of bestselling author Tad Williams to his fictional world of Osten Ard. The Witchwood Crown, the first volume of the ominously-named “The Last King of Osten Ard”, will finally see release on Tuesday next week, after a year of delays and over 20 years of readers’ requests for this book.

The Witchwood CrownI already have my copy, of course. It arrived in the mail just last week, courtesy of Joshua Starr over at DAW Books (thanks Josh!). It is actually the fourth version of the novel I’ve seen, for I previously read and reviewed three earlier versions of the book: an early, very rough manuscript which Tad Williams kindly sent me in May 2015; a heavily-revised manuscript from June 2016; and an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) in January 2017.

heart-of-what-was-lost-_-osten-ard-map

Beautiful new Osten Ard maps!

I received these early versions of the book because it was my rare privilege to be asked by Tad to be part of the team reviewing The Witchwood Crown manuscript for mistakes, a process I very much enjoyed because I absolutely loved the previous novels ever since I first read the first Osten Ard novel, The Dragonbone Chair, in November 1988. I also later helped as a consultant for the new Witchwood Crown maps. A pictorial map I drew back in 1992 served as the basis for the beautiful new maps created by mapmaker Isaac Stewart. And near the end of the process, I also worked on the Appendix in the back of the book. That itself was an adventure. I also served on the team that reviewed the shorter Osten Ard novel The Heart of What Was Lost in 2016.

I was quite honored to serve as a beta reader; I also feel I did a good job pointing out continuity errors in the manuscripts. The truth is, I had plenty of practice: for 40 years, I was an avid television-watcher, and I grew up in an era (the 1970s and 1980s) when American television writers weren’t always so careful about the continuity of their worlds.

chuck cunningham

Chuck Cunningham disappeared without Joanie or Richie ever noticing their brother was missing.

As a television viewer, it always bothered me immensely, for example, when on The Cosby Show Cliff and Claire Huxtable claimed they had five children when previously they had stated they only had four, and when oldest child Chuck Cunningham suddenly disappeared from Happy Days without his family, or anyone else, ever noticing he was gone. “Why didn’t someone on the show say something?” I wondered. “How hard would it have been to mention Chuck was away at school?” As I grew older, I realized that most television writers of that era didn’t care about continuity. But my past irritations about the limitations of fiction helped me become a better continuity-checker, I think. You won’t find any examples of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome in The Witchwood Crown, I promise.

The Witchwood Crown is large, say those who have held it, though not quite as heavy as a small child. The 721-page volume now sits proudly on my shelf, its onyx cover a stark contrast to the gleaming white covers of the earlier novels in the Osten Ard saga: The aforementioned The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell (1990), and of course To Green Angel Tower (1993), which holds the distinction of being one of the longest novels ever written.

In 2016, in the throes of writing two novels at the same time, Tad wrote:

Been a really interesting last couple of days for me, work-wise, although nobody would have known it to look at me, since I spent most of it on my back, staring into space or with my eyes closed. Thank God Deb and the kids know that I’m actually doing something when I look like that, and I am not dead so nobody has to call the EMTs.

I have about eight or nine plot/history/worldbuilding issues that I have to commit to before I finish the rewrites on the first new Osten Ard novels (one short and one long), but all eight or nine or eleven or whatever are such broad and complex and interrelated clouds of ideas that I have to focus at a much more granular level than I did earlier in the process, nailing things down in their final forms instead of “I’ll figure that out later”. I have to know how all the details actually work because these nexes or point-clouds I’m considering all affect each other and the whole rest of the story, plus the invented world history behind the whole thing.

For regular Tad readers, when I say that I have to work out the entire history of the Sithi and Norn people from back in the Garden up to the present moment of the new story — some fifteen thousand years’ worth, probably — and integrate it with not only what is going to happen in the new books (The Witchwood Crown and The Heart of What Was Lost, which will come first) but of course everything that happened in a million words of MS&T, you may understand why although I’m lying on my back, I’m also clenching my teeth.

15,000 years of history, Tad wrote. This is an interesting number, for several reasons. The Sithi and Norns, Williams’ near-immortal characters, live for thousands of years. Clues peppered throughout the text of the original Osten Ard novels indicate that the main Sithi characters, Jiriki and Aditu, are less than 500 years old: they are youngsters among the Gardenborn. And yet their great-grandmother, Queen Amerasu, was born on one of the great ships which brought the Gardenborn to Osten Ard. And Amerasu’s great-grandmother, Utuk’ku, is still alive in The Witchwood Crown.

Williams previously stated that Queen Utuk’ku Seyt-Hamakha was around 10,000 years old during The Dragonbone Chair (for those doing the math, this would make the Norn queen roughly 10,037 in The Witchwood Crown). Almost nothing is known of a time prior to Utuk’ku’s rule of the Gardenborn in Venyha Do’sae, the immortals’ lamented Lost Garden, outside of a short, strange passage in The Heart of What Was Lost, which states:

“When Hamakho was dying,” the magister said, “he drove his great sword Grayflame into the stone threshold of the Gatherer’s Temple in the very heart of the Garden. But when the time came to board the ships, no one could pull Hamakho’s blade from the threshold, so it was left behind, another sacrifice to the Unbeing that claimed our homeland. But my forefather Yaaro-Mon prised this gem from the sword’s pommel […] The carving depicts great Tzo, our beloved city on the shores of the Dreaming Sea, lost with all the rest to Unbeing when the Garden fell.”

The appendix of The Heart of What Was Lost lists Hamakho Wormslayer as the “founder of the Hamakha Clan and ancestor of Queen Utuk’ku”. It is clear that Tad Williams is not just writing a sequel to the original Osten Ard books, he is carefully examining the roots of the Gardenborn, and expanding his mythology. It is possible that by the end of the new series, the mythopoeia of Osten Ard will cover the 15,000 years Williams mentions.

He also writes:

And of course, as everybody knew was going to happen, I’m already troubling those few, kind, long-time readers who are giving me feedback on the early drafts, because nobody is going to agree with me on every explanation of something that already existed, or new developments for my old Osten Ardians. These are characters that have been in people’s heads for thirty years in some cases, so anything unexpected is going to feel like a violation.

As one of those draft-readers, it is gratifying to see the changes Tad made to The Witchwood Crown (and The Heart of What Was Lost) based on our feedback: storylines revamped, lands renamed, bird species revised, characters renamed, and histories re-examined. Williams is an author who truly cares about preserving his old mythology while still expanding his world. He says:

[E]ven if one comes up with solutions everyone likes in these situations, there’s always the struggle to not let the cracks show. I remember reading the follow-ups to Dan Simmons’ Hyperion and (maybe because I’m another writer) feeling pretty certain that I could see places in the later volumes where he was trying to explain discrepancies between what he was doing now and what he’d done earlier; in fact, I felt pretty sure he was trying to retcon a lot of stuff that he hadn’t expected to ever touch again. (“Retcon” means retroactive continuity — it’s when you explain something later in a way that might not have been anybody’s original intention. A good example of this is how they keep trying to come up with believable reasons why nobody recognizes Superman when he puts on a pair of glasses and calls himself Clark Kent.)

Anyway, the What in this case (trying to retcon my own work in a believable way) is not as interesting to me right now as the How, because I’ve found that the only way to work with all these issues at speed (since I can’t get on with the rest of my work without solving them) is simply to grind away at it. That means clearing my mind as much as that cluttered mess can be cleared, then pursuing all different configurations and possibilities through as many ramifications as possible, examining them, reworking them, refitting with different combinations and emphases, all in detail. Then trying another set of possibilities, and another, and so on, over and over, through each nexus-point where plot and history come together. And doing that is very much like trying to meditate, at least for me. Trying to make a clear space. Trying to follow a single idea (however ramified) through until I’ve exhausted its possibilities, without being distracted.

So Tad Williams is aware of the damage an author can cause by expanding a mythos in writing sequels; while he mentions Dan Simmons, perhaps the most obvious example of sequels causing damage to a beloved world is George Lucas’ ill-advised Star Wars prequel abominations, which introduced Midi-chlorians and talking rabbits into a once-beloved franchise. But it is my opinion, after reading four different versions of The Witchwood Crown, two versions of The Heart of What Was Lost, and having read the previous Osten Ard novels The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, To Green Angel Tower, and The Burning Man countless times, that Tad Williams has been successful in expanding Osten Ard without damaging the existing mythos, in a way that George Lucas wasn’t able to do with his own sequels.

After 24 years of readers’ expectations, Williams had a Sisyphean challenge in front of him: how could he write for new readers, while still trying to please existing readers who had spent over two decades wondering what had happened to the characters at the end of the story? Not everyone will be pleased by the answers the author provides, some of which may prove very unpopular, but at least there are no flat-out contradictions, such as George Lucas’ strange decision in Revenge of the Sith to kill off Padme just after Leia’s birth when previously Leia said she could remember her mother.

Ultimately, I believe The Witchwood Crown will please most readers. I’m certainly pleased by the result, and I’m already looking forward to reading the next volume, Empire of Grass.

TOR.com publishes excerpt of Tad Williams’ “The Witchwood Crown”

osten ard o

nline Science Fiction magazine TOR.com today published an excerpt from The Witchwood Crown, Tad Williams’ upcoming new Osten Ard novel.

thewitchwoodcrown

The 4000-word excerpt, found here, is told from the point of view of Jarnulf, a new character described as a pious Rimmersman travelling in the far north of Osten Ard. Jarnulf encounters one of the Hunë, an ice giant, a race that  fought for the Norns in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.

This is the second released excerpt from The Witchwood Crown; the first, from the Foreword, and describing a scene with Tanahaya, one of the Zida’ya, was released via video format in September 2015 on Read For Pixels, and is available on YouTube:

Tad Williams discusses New! Osten Ard! Novels! (Part 1)

osten ard t

his week, we have a new video interview; the questions were submitted by readers from TadWilliams.com and Westeros.org forums.

In this interview, legendary fantasy and science fiction author Tad Williams discusses his new Osten Ard novel project, including his thoughts on Tolkien and George R. R. Martin, and news about his new Osten Ard novels. The first new Osten Ard novel in 23 years, The Heart of What Was Lost is being released this week; reviews have been positive. The Daily Mail called this novel a “thrilling, pitch perfect mini epic” and added:

There are bloody battles, back stories and, most interestingly, sympathetic characters on both sides to give insight into the conflict and add fascinating layers of complexity to the story.

Fans of Tad Williams will delight in this new addition to his work — new readers could not have a better introduction.

The Heart of What Was Lost will shortly be followed by The Witchwood Crown this summer.

 

New Covers for “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” revealed!

osten ard t

oday, Random House website Suvudu.com revealed three brand-new re-issue covers for international bestselling author Tad Williams‘ classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” dark fantasy series. The covers feature beautiful new cover art by legendary science fiction/fantasy artist Michael Whelan, who painted the original covers for “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” almost thirty years ago.

The updated artwork is the first major revamp of the classic covers of The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower since the books first went to print in the late 1980s/early 1990s, at least in America. Whelan, winner of fifteen Hugo Awards and three World Fantasy Awards for best artist, is known for his detailed and painstaking work, which often involves months of research and manuscript reading.

The new covers will appear on updated U.S. DAW Books trade paperback editions of the original trilogy, with a newly-revised edition of The Dragonbone Chair scheduled to appear in July 2016, followed by Stone of Farewell in September 2016, and To Green Angel Tower in November 2016. These volumes will be closely followed by two brand-new Osten Ard novels: The Heart of What Was Lost in January 2017 and The Witchwood Crown in April 2017. Three or four additional novels are planned, with The Witchwood Crown being the first volume in the highly-anticipated sequel series “The Last King of Osten Ard”.

The-Dragonbone-ChairFirst up is the new cover for The Dragonbone Chair, the cardinal volume, which features a blurb by George R. R. Martin, author of the bestselling A Game of Thrones: “Inspired me to write my own seven-book trilogy… It’s one of my favorite series.”

Whelan’s artwork accurately depicts the sword Minneyar, also known as “Year of Memory” or simply Memory, one of the Three Great Swords spoken of in the Mad Priest Nisses’ ancient prophecy:

“When frost doth grow on Claves’ bell
And shadows walk upon the road
When water blackens in the well
Three Swords must come again.

“When Bukken from the earth do creep
And Hunën from the heights descend
When Nightmare throttles peaceful sleep
Three Swords must come again.

“To turn the stride of treading Fate
To clear the fogging Mists of Time
If Early shall resist too Late
Three Swords must come again.”

Stone-of-FarewellScheduled for September, the new cover for Stone of Farewell features the Great Sword Sorrow, also known in the Sithi language as Jingizu. Whelan’s illustration accurately portrays the double-hilted sword, which is made of both iron and witchwood, two materials which were considered inimicable, perhaps because neither the iron nor the witchwood are native to the lands of Osten Ard: iron was brought from Ijsgard east to Osten Ard on King Elvrit’s longboat Sotfengsel, while witchwood was brought westward to Osten Ard by the undying Sithi on their eight great ships.

The great sword Sorrow is described in the text: “… in a sheath at [King Elias’] side was the sword with the strange crossed hilt […] there was something queer and unsettling about the blade… [It] had a strange double guard, the cross pieces making; with the hilt, a sort of five-pointed star. Somewhere, deep in Simon’s self, he recognized this last sword. Somewhere, in a memory black as night, deep as a cave, he had seen such a blade…”

The new cover contains a blurb from author Patrick Rothfuss (“The Kingkiller Chronicle”): “Groundbreaking… changed how people thought of the genre, and paved the way for so much modern fantasy. Including mine.”

To-Green-Angel-Tower

The third volume, To Green Angel Tower, is scheduled for a November 2016 re-release. The cover features Michael Whelan’s depiction of the Great Sword named Thorn.

The text describes the sword thusly: “it was a sword like no other he had ever seen: long as a man’s arms spread wide, fingertip to fingertip, and black. The purity of its blackness was unmarred by the colors that sparkled on its edge, as though the blade was so supernaturally sharp that it even sliced the dim light of the cavern into rainbows. Had it not been for the silver cord wrapped around the hilt as a handgrip— leaving the uncovered guard and pommel as pitchy as the rest of its length— it would have seemed to bear no relationship to mankind at all. Rather, despite its symmetry, it would have seemed some natural growth, some pure essence of nature’s blackness extruded by chance in the form of an exquisite sword.”

The cover features a blurb from author Christopher Paolini (Eragon): “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is one of the great fantasy epics of all time.” We at Treacherous Paths can’t disagree.

We will keep readers up to date on more news as soon as we’re authorized to release it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tad Williams’ “The Heart of What Was Lost” available for pre-order on Amazon

osten ard b

ig news today, as Amazon has added Tad Williams’ The Heart of What Was Lost to its website as an item which may now be pre-ordered from Amazon. The new novel, a sequel to the original classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” books, takes place sometime shortly after the events of the original series.

Amazon gives the length of the novel as 368 pages in hardcover, with a publication date of January 3rd, 2017. Amazon also lists the Kindle edition as available for pre-order. Williams, the international bestselling author of more than twenty speculative fiction novels, including The War of the Flowers, Caliban’s Hour, and the “Otherland”, “Shadowmarch”, and “Bobby Dollar” series, talked a bit about some of the plot details of the new novel, including a few spoilers:

[R]eturning characters from MS&T are Isgrimnur and Sludig […] There are also a few others such as Akhenabi (a Norn magician) who had brief appearances in MS&T.

So two of the characters will be the returning Rimmersmen Isgrimnur and Sludig; readers of the original series will recall Isgrimnur, the aging Duke of Rimmergard in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, a major point-of-view character who throws his lot in with the rebel Prince Josua Lackhand of Erkynland in their quest to remove Josua’s brother, the treacherous King Elias, from the Dragonbone Chair.

Sludig was Isgrimnur’s lieutenant, and he was a dynamic and important character in the original trilogy. It is Sludig who accompanies Simon, Binabik and Binabik’s wolf companion Qantaqa north from Naglimund Castle, skirting around the western and northern sides of Aldheorte Forest in a desperate, cold attempt to retrieve the lost sword  Thorn from the “Rhymer’s Greate Tree.” Sludig and Binabik eventually return to Prince Josua with the Great Sword Thorn, but it is Simon who is knighted by the prince.

The Heart of What Was Lost is Williams’ first new Osten Ard novel since 1993’s bestselling To Green Angel Tower, and this first new novel will be followed by four additional novels. The second novel, The Witchwood Crown, is already scheduled for an April 2017 release.

 

 

Tad Williams Releases Early Maps and Diagrams from “The Witchwood Crown”

osten ard l

egendary science fiction and fantasy writer Tad Williams, author of the “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, “Otherland”, “Shadowmarch” and “Bobby Dollar” speculative fiction series, has spent the last two years writing The Heart of What Was Lost and The Witchwood Crown, the first two of five new books set in the same universe as “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”.

Williams is now releasing some early, provisional sketches that he created during the writing of The Witchwood Crown, which his wife and business partner Deborah Beale kindly shared with us, and which we are now sharing with all readers.

5678The first sketch is a map (right, clickable) of Sturmrspeik, the great mountain of ill repute inhabited by the Norns, embittered relatives of the immortal Sithi. Beneath the great mountain lies the ancient city of Nakkiga, home to Utuk’ku Seyt-Hamahka, Queen of the Norns and Eldest of all living beings in Osten Ard. Williams’ rough map shows the location of the mountain itself, with the great Nakkiga Gate guarding the pass. Around these landmarks are the white waste of the Himilfell Mountains, which stretch both eastward and westward from the area.
1234The second map sketch (left, clickable) is also of Sturmrspeik and Nakkiga, showing the locations of several well-known Norn landmarks as well as some which are entirely new. The Queen’s throne room appeared in the classic series, and makes a reappearance in the new map. Among the new landmarks are a Black Garden and a White Garden, as well as a subterranean lake, and an area marked as Great Processional. A bridge over the moat connects Nakkiga’s tunnels with the Queen’s Bridge.

We have more maps and diagrams, and will share more soon.

Publishers Line Up for “The Last King of Osten Ard”

Stone of Farewell, book 2 of Memory Sorrow and ThornGood news for readers of Tad Williams’ books in Europe!

Following last year’s press releases that DAW Books in the US and Hodder and Stoughton in the UK will publish “The Last King of Osten Ard” is news this month that the as-yet unpublished book will be translated into German and Dutch for overseas readers.

Dutch publisher Luitingh has acquired the publishing rights to the new series in the Netherlands. Luitingh has previous translated Williams’ four-volume “Shadowmarch” series as well as the single-volume entry, The War of the Flowers.

In Germany, a major market for Williams’ books, Klett-Cotta has acquired the rights to publication in Germany, according to PublishersMarketplace.com (registration required). Klett-Cotta has previously published translations of most of Williams’ books, including “Shadowmarch”, a four-volume edition of “Das Geheimnis der Großen Schwerter” (“Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”), Traumjäger und Goldpfote (Tailchaser’s Song), the “Tinkerfarm” books (“Ordinary Farm”), Der Blumenkrieg (The War of the Flowers), “Otherland” and Der brennende Mann (The Burning Man).

The Witchwood Crown, the first volume of Williams’s upcoming “The Last King of Osten Ard” trilogy, is expected in the US and the UK in Spring 2016. Foreign-language editions will be published sometime afterwards. The Witchwood Crown will be followed by Empire of Grass and The Navigator’s Children.