How will “Game of Thrones” end? “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” tells us…

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his month marks the conclusion to HBO’s fantasy series Game of Thrones, based on the A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels by George R. R. Martin, which themselves take many elements from Tad Williams’ classic fantasy series “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn”. “MS&T”, written in the mid-1980s to early 1990s, tells the tale of a fantasy world beset by political intrigue, while in the frozen north, supernatural creatures plot to destroy mankind.

Martin weaves much of his own tale into A Song of Ice and Fire, but many of his story elements are closely based on Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn; particularly the Stark children and their fates.

The following contains spoilers for both series of books.

The characters of Bran Stark and Jon Snow seem to have been based on Simon Snowlock from Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn: like Bran, Simon spends many hours climbing castle walls, and later, after a devastating injury (Simon’s from being burned by dragon blood, Bran’s from being pushed from a tower), both acquire spooky, prophetic visions. Simon dreams of spinning wheels, of titanic trees, and of birds, while Bran dreams of titanic trees and birds.

Simon and Miriamele gained a throne thirty years ago... How have their experiences changed them over the decades?

“You know nothing, Simon Snow!”

Similarly, Jon Snow shares many plot elements with Simon Snowlock: his parents are dead, and he’s been raised as an orphan, but he secretly (but unwittingly) has a claim to the throne of the realm. Unknowing of his heritage, he journeys to the north to fight against the otherworldly creatures, befriending wolves, facing dragons, and bandying words with a dwarfish companion (in both series, the dwarfish companion is later put on trial and his own lover testifies against him).

Martin’s female characters, Arya and Sansa Stark, seem to have been borrowed from Marya in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Marya is split into two Stark girls: the tomboyish, cross-dressing Arya, and the more regal Sansa. In MS&T, the noble girl Marya disguises herself as a boy, learns to fight with swords and bows, and begins traveling with a wolf companion. One slight difference is that Marya’s uncle’s sword, Needle, in ASOIAF becomes Arya’s sword, also named Needle.

Marya’s adventures are also clearly mirrored by those of Sansa Stark: seduced by a handsome young nobleman, she is raped, and goes from one gilded cage to another: Marya goes from being imprisoned by Count Streawe to being imprisoned by Earl Aspitis Preves. Likewise, Sansa Stark becomes the plaything of Lords Littlefinger and Bolton.

The April 28th episode of Game of Thrones yet again solidified the parallels between the two series; in the episode, Arya kills the supernatural Night King, the leader of the northern creatures, by plunging a sharp object into his chest. This perfectly mirrors MS&T, in which Marya kills the supernatural Storm King, leader of the northern creatures, by plunging a sharp object into his chest. In both series, the single blow is enough to destroy the magicks of the Storm/Night King entirely.

With just two episodes left, it is likely, just like in MS&T, that Jon Snow will take the throne, deposing Cercei Lannister; Cercei (if she follows MS&T’s Duchess Nessalanta), will take poison rather than admit defeat. The hound-helmed Hound (aka Jegger the Queen’s Huntsman) will die, but not before proving himself with one last kill.

In Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, prophecies are tricky prospects, and this clearly influenced A Song of Ice and Fire, as described in this video:

Williams’ latest novel, Empire of Grass, was published just this week, to rave reviews. It remains to be seen, however, how much inspiration George R.R. Martin will derive from the new volume. It is clear, though, that Martin owes a great deal of debt to an earlier author.

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.

 

 

 

A conversation at Worldcon 75

Today I queued for 90 minutes for the privilege to talk to GRRM for a few moments.

Me: “Did you already read Tad Williams’ new Osten Ard novels?”
GRRM: “No but I intend to. Are they as good as the old ones? I love the old ones.”
Me: “For me they are.”
GRRM: “Great to hear.”

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And that was totally worth the wait …

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!

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

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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.

 

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.

Dragonbone Chair Reissued; Tad Williams Talks About Upcoming Novels

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ots of interesting news this week, as DAW Books issues a newly-revised trade paperback edition of Tad Williams’ classic fantasy novel The Dragonbone Chair, book one of “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn”, the same week that they release the book in audiobook format.

U.S. readers have been denied the audiobook for many years, but at long last the audiobook, read by Andrew Wincott, is available to an American audience. The audiobook runs 33 hours and 19 minutes and is available for purchase right now on Amazon.com. A sample file clip is available here.

The-Dragonbone-ChairThe new trade paperback features beautiful new cover art by legendary artist Michael Whelan, who also created the original cover art for The Dragonbone Chair 28 years ago, upon the book’s original 1988 publication.

The new edition runs 652 pages and measures 6 x 9 x 1.5 inches. The cover features a blurb by George R. R. Martin: “Inspired me to write my own seven-book trilogy… it’s one of my favorite fantasy series.” The back cover features quotes praising The Dragonbone Chair written by popular fantasy authors Patrick Rothfuss and Christopher Paolini.

Inside, the the book is largely the same as in previous editions. However, there are a few new extras, one being a new introduction by Williams’ longtime editor, Betsy Wollheim, titled “How Tad Came to Write The Dragonbone Chair”, and a new acknowledgement page at the end of the book. (We at Treacherous Paths are extremely pleased to have been included in the acknowledgements).

The book is definitely worth picking up just for the new cover art, which features one of the Great Swords mentioned in The Dragonbone Chair. Sequel novels Stone of Farewell and To Green Angel Tower will be re-released later this year, and in audiobook format for the US as well.

Also new this week are a few snippets from Tad Williams’ official message board, where the internationally bestselling author discussed three of his upcoming Osten Ard novels, set in the same world as The Dragonbone Chair. Williams discussed his on-going work writing/revising The Heart of What Was Lost, which will be published in January 2017. He wrote:

As I’ve been going through the copyedited manuscript of HoWWL [The Heart of What Was Lost] this afternoon, I’m realizing I’m going to have to write a Tolkien-ish “On Norns and the Sithi” piece as well as a complete index of characters, because otherwise it will just be too confusing for new readers.  My poor copyeditor is asking about what the differences are with Hikeda’ya/Zida’ya/Norns/Sithi/White Foxes/Keida’ya (a term that will be new to the new books, meaning the race before they split up) and various others, as well as if Rimmersmen are Northmen and if mortals only means them or others…and so on.

I always worried about the fine line between not boring the readers who already knew Osten Ard and those new to the place.

Long-time readers of Williams’ novels will remember that in Williams’ world of Osten Ard, the Gardenborn, the elder elf-like race who came to Osten Ard from the east on eight great ships, were divided into several tribes. These tribes included the proud Sithi (also called “peaceful ones”, Zida’ya, or Dawn Children), as well as the embittered Norns (“white foxes”, Hikeda’ya, or Cloud Children) and the pacifistic Dwarrows and Niskies (variously called “dvernings”, Tinukeda’ya, or Ocean Children).

The Keida’ya is a term not mentioned in the original series. Williams states that the term is new, and refers to (some of?) the Gardenborn before they split into factions.

Williams also wrote about the progress of the novels:

I finished the final draft of HoWWL a while back, but this is the copyedited manuscript, which has comments on it from the copy editor (and others — everybody likes to get in on the Exciting Tad Action).  Then I’ll have one more pass at the proofs stage, which is mostly about looking for mistakes in typesetting, but is also my last chance to kill an infelicitous phrase, or at least bury it in disguising prose.

On a few hundred pages at most it’s not such a big deal, but I’ll be really sick of Osten Ard by the time I’ve been through all the different versions of TWC [The Witchwood Crown].  I’ll also be writing EoG [Empire of Grass] at the same time, so I’ll be doubly or even trebly sick.

Thank God I’m used to this kind of getting-sick-of-my-own-book.

The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the upcoming “The Last King of Osten Ard” series, is scheduled for publication in April of 2017, with sequel novels Empire of Grass and The Navigator’s Children following sometime thereafter.