oday writers Tad Williams and Deborah Beale confirmed rumors that The Witchwood Crown has again been delayed, this time until June 2017. According to their latest newsletter:
Note from Deborah: We’re less than a week from publication, US and UK territories, for ‘The Heart of What Was Lost’. I truly hope you enjoy it, and see what I see, which is that it’s one from the heart (as well as see all the things you see, of course).
We’ve just heard that publication of ‘The Witchwood Crown’ has been delayed two months to June. We’re not entirely clear on all the details. Partly it’s this: it’s a big book, the copy-editing was complex and took a gargantuan amount of time, and other aspects of the book’s production were affected too; and partly it’s because sales and marketing want more time to more effectively sell the book. We don’t know anything more than that at the moment, but will tweet or facebook when we do.
This confirms earlier rumors that the date for The Witchwood Crown had been pushed back. (We at Treacherous Paths have been involved in the review process, and are glad for the extra time to gear up.)
The Heart of What Was Lost is set shortly after Williams’ last Osten Ard novel, 1993’s To Green Angel Tower. According to press releases (and without too many spoilers for the new books), this is the plot summary of the new novel:
Ineluki’s loyal minions, the Norns, retreat north to Nakkiga, an ancient citadel which holds a priceless artefact known as The Heart of What Was Lost. They are pursued by the army of Duke Isgrimnur who is determined to wipe out the Norns for all time.
Meanwhile, enjoy this rendition of Marya’s River Song (the song Marya sings as she, Binabik, Simon, and Qantaqa sail down the River Aelfwent in The Dragonbone Chair) by Osten Ard fan Sebastian Barwinek:
Here are the lyrics to the song:
“…Now those who sail the Big Pond
Will tell you of its mystery
They’ll brag of all those battles
And all that bloody history
But talk to any river-dog
Who sails upon the Gleniwent
He’ll say God made the oceans
But the River’s what he really meant
Oh, the Ocean is a question
But the River is an answer
With her rollicking and frolicking
As fine as any dancer
So let Hell take the shirkers
For this old boat won’t carry ’em
And if we lose some crew or two
We’ll drink to ’em at Meremund…
Now some men go away to sea
And they’re never seen again
But every night we river-dogs
Are found down at the inn
And some may say we drink a bit
And punch it up a mite
But if the river is your lady
That’s just how you rest at night
Oh, the Ocean is a question
But the River is an answer
With her rollicking and frolicking
As fine as any dancer
So let Hell take the shirkers
For this old boat won’t carry ’em
And if we lose some crew or two
We’ll drink to ’em at Meremund…
In Meremund! In Meremund!
We’ll drink to ’em in Meremund
If we don’t spy ’em floating by
It’ll save the penny to bury ’em… !”
he first review is in for The Heart of What Was Lost, the new novel by fantasy author Tad Williams, and it is very good. Set in the Osten Ard universe, the novel continues the story told in Williams’ now-classic “Memory, Sorrow, Thorn” series, one of the inspirations for George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books.
Douglas Croft from YouTube channel Geek In has reviewed The Heart of What Was Lost, calling it “a fantastic book”; he reveals that the story centers around the Norns, the embittered immortals of the far north, after the end of To Green Angel Tower. Croft states that readers who are curious about the ancient Norn society will finally have some of their questions answered, after an excruciatingly long 23-year wait, and that the novel “adds a whole layer of subtlety and meaning to what [readers] saw in the first three books.”
Mr. Croft also opines that The Heart of What Was Lost is likely setting up characters which will be important in upcoming Osten Ard novels The Witchwood Crown, Empire of Grass, and The Navigator’s Children. (The Witchwood Crown will be released in April 2017). The Witchwood Crown and The Heart of What Was Lost are both listed on Goodreads’ 2017 Highly Anticipated Epic Fantasy Novels list, near the top at #2 and #3, respectively.
The Heart of What Was Lost is scheduled for a January 2017 release, and the novel is now available for pre-order from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other retailers. Doug Croft received an Advance Review Copy (ARC) of the novel.
Doug’s full video review, with major spoilers for “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, and some mild spoilers for The Heart of What was Lost, is below:
(Bonus points for Douglas Croft correctly pronouncing Jao e-Tinukai’i).
here’ve been lots of interesting things happening this month, some of which we can now share with you. Yesterday, Tad Williams, author of the classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” books, announced the completion of The Witchwood Crown, volume one of “The Last King of Osten Ard”. The book is scheduled for release in April 2017, just a few months after The Heart of What Was Lost, another Osten Ard novel, is scheduled to hit store shelves.
Hi, guys. I’ve just sent in the final manuscript (except for the page proofs, once it’s been typeset) for [The Witchwood Crown]. My last pass actually added a few lines, net, I think. 347K words — that’s about a 1200 page manuscript for me. I think that might come in second behind only [To Green Angel Tower] — I’d have to go back and check the Otherland books.
Anyway, it’s good to have someone take something like this out of my hands, because I’d keep fiddling ’til Doomsday otherwise.
347,000 words would make The Witchwood Crown Williams’ third-longest novel, with the order in length being:
1. To Green Angel Tower (520,000 words; 1,083 pages)
2. Sea of Silver Light (443,000 words; 922 pages)
3. The Witchwood Crown (347,000 words; 721 pages)
4. City of Golden Shadow (303,193 words; 770 pages)
5. Shadowheart (295,038 words; 730 pages)
6. The War of the Flowers (686 pages)
7. The Dragonbone Chair (288,297 words; 654 pages)
8. Mountain of Black Glass (285,272 words; 689 pages)
9. Shadowmarch (269,602 words; 656 pages)
10. Shadowplay (266,486 words; 656 pages)
11. River of Blue Fire (266,003 words; 634 pages)
12. Stone of Farewell (269,000 words; 589 pages)
13. Shadowrise (236,103 words; 564 pages)
(The Heart of What Was Lost comes in at a comparatively slender 224 pages). Williams later added:
The sad thing is, I can’t be as celebratory as I’d like because I’m several weeks overdue to start writing [Empire of Grass], the second full volume.
However, the good thing is that means I can sit around staring into the air for a few days while I order my thoughts about how the book is going to be shaped. That’s my favorite part of writing, to be honest. The part where you just think, not write yet.
Meanwhile, legendary illustrator Michael Whelan is hard at work creating the cover art for the new book, which will be the fifth in the Osten Ard series. On his official website, Whelan writes:
I’ve been painting a LOT of weird trees lately for the new Osten Ard Trilogy, trying to come up with a design idea that Tad Williams, Betsy Wollheim, and I like. The trees figure importantly in the new books so I’ve been working on them for weeks! It’s been a long slog, but I edge a little closer each day and I know it will all be worth it in the end.
Excerpts of The Heart of What Was Lost are already appearing in the Blogosphere, as Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist shared an excerpt on October 9th, and Treacherous Paths’ own contributor ylvs laDuchesse shared a sample of the text on Twitter yesterday. We at Treacherous Paths will be sharing more excerpts soon!
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…
So 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.
Williams’ 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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”.
First 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.”
Scheduled 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.”
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.
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.
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.
The 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. The 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.
his week, acclaimed Science Fiction and Fantasy author Tad Williams, author of the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn;Otherland; and Shadowmarch series, announced via his official newsletter that he is in rewrite mode on two of his new novels, The Heart of What Was Lost and The Witchwood Crown, both due for publication by DAW Books in 2017. Both novels are set in Osten Ard, in the same universe as his classic Memory, Sorrow and Thorn books. Williams wrote:
I am deep, deep, DEEP in Osten Ard history at the moment. Having finished the first drafts of both THE WITCHWOOD CROWN and THE HEART OF WHAT WAS LOST — in the first case, most of a year ago — I’m in rewrite mode on both to finalize the stuff I left vague in the first drafts.
Williams has communicated that the writing process for the new Osten Ard novels has been unusual in that although he normally writes very detailed drafts, in this case, he has spent much more time on the worldbuilding, because returning readers already know this world:
I know so much more about my own imaginary environment than I did a year ago, despite the fact that I think it was already one of the more catalogued invented worlds. I know the name of all the original Scrollbearers (the learned folks who make up the League of the Scroll) when King Ealhstan began it, two hundred years or so before Simon and company. I know the history of the two great families of immortals, the Hamakha and Sa’onserei, all the way back to the garden, in far more detail than anyone else needs to know. I know the order in which the Eight Ships came to Osten Ard, and I know what happened to Seni Ohjisá, mentioned only in a song in the first set of books. I know the names of people’s horses when even the names of the people who ride those horses will remain essentially meaningless trivium in the final story, if they even show up.
Stone of Farewell (1990) discusses the Hamakha-Sa’onserei feud and the eight ships of the Garden
Williams’ mention of the families Sa’onserei and Hamakha refers to the ruling dynasties of the Sithi and the Norns, two of the immortal (and ever-feuding) races in the classic Osten Ard novels, with Queen Amerasu no’e-Sa’onserei presiding over the mortal-hating Sithi, and Queen Utuk’ku seyt-Hamakha ruling over the even-more-mortal-hating Norns.The two families’ bitter, centuries-long feud is a central plotline in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and lies at the heart of the conflict in the series.
Williams’ reference to the “Eight Ships [that] came to Osten Ard” harkens back to the legendarium of the Gardenborn, the immortal clans exiled from the Lost Garden, which the author only briefly hinted at in passages of the classic Osten Ard novels, written in the 1980s and 1990s. Stone of Farewell (1990) mentions the eight ships, as the protagonists Simon and Aditu enter the Gardenborn city of Jao e-Tinukai’i, and pass by the woven cord art at the edge of the city:
They crossed a bridge over one of the river-forks, then turned and followed the watercourse down a long corridor of willows. A ribbon of white cloth wound in and out among the trees on their left, wrapped about trunks and looped over branches. As they passed farther down the row of willow sentries, the initial ribbon was joined by another. These two snaked in and out, crossing behind and before each other as though engaged in a kind of static dance.
Soon more white ribbons of different widths began to appear, woven into the growing pattern in knots of fantastic intricacy. These weavings at first made up only simple forms, but soon Simon and Aditu began to pass increasingly complex pictures that hung in the spaces framed by the willow trunks: blazing suns, cloudy skies overhanging oceans covered with jagged waves, leaping animals, figures in flowing robes or filigreed armor, all formed by interlaced knots. As the first plain pictures became entire tapestries of tangled light and shadow, Simon understood that he watched an unfolding story. The ever-growing tapestry of knotted fabric portrayed people who loved and fought in a gardenlike land of incredible strangeness, a place where plants and creatures thrived whose forms seemed obscure even though precisely rendered by the unknown weaver’s masterful, magical hands.
Then, as the tapestry eloquently showed, something began to go wrong. Only ribbons of white were used, but still Simon could almost see the dark stain that began to spread through the people’s lives and hearts, the way it sickened them. Brother fought brother, and what had been a place of unmatched beauty was blighted beyond hope. Some of the people began building ships…
“Here,” Aditu said, startling him. The tapestry had led them to a whirlpool swirl of pale fabric, an inward-leading spiral that appeared to lead up a gentle hill. On the right, beside this odd door, the tapestry leaped away across the river, trembling in the bright air like a bridge of silk. Where the taut ribbons of the tapestry vaulted the splashing stream, the knots portrayed eight magnificent ships at sea, cresting woven waves. The tapestry touched the willows on the far side and turned, winding back up the watercourse in the direction from which Simon and Aditu had come, stretching away from tree to tree until it could no longer be seen.
Williams then writes about the editing happening on both of the new novels, writing that he has received (hopefully useful) feedback from early readers of the manuscripts:
And I’ve also been getting the first feedback from readers of the new manuscripts in the last half-year, so I’m trying to let that wash over me as well, influencing the rewrites in a good way without overwhelming my own natural trust in what I’m doing.
That last part is particularly important, because I chose to let my first readers see a much rougher first draft (at least of TWC) than usual, so of course everyone pointed out the stuff that I would most liked to have fixed first before releasing, like “So-and-so has no personality”. I mean, it’s true — So-and-so is definitely a stiff at this point, but part of that is because when I was writing it I wasn’t exactly sure how old So-and-so was, or what he or she had experienced in life, or what was going to happen to him or her later on, and which of the character’s traits and what part of his or her life history would be useful and necessary to deepen the character, and so on.
The balance point here, as in any worldbuilding, is knowing how much material you need to know to feel comfortable writing in that world — which will always be less than you’ll actually use. Even though my worlds are generally long on history and convoluted recitations thereof, I obviously won’t cram everything I’ve figured out into the books themselves (although I am getting more resigned to having to do an Osten Ard Companion someday, with Silmarillion-like tellings of all this background material. A good project for my old age, shortly before all the dog hair I breathe and cat scratches I suffer from every day finally kill me).
If such a project takes place, the Osten Ard Companion would become the tenth or eleventh Osten Ard book, after The Burning Man, The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, To Green Angel Tower (parts one and two), The Heart of What Was Lost, The Witchwood Crown, Empire of Grass, The Navigator’s Children, and The Shadow of Things to Come, the last three of which are expected sometime after the publication of The Witchwood Crown.