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

osten ard t

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.

The Dragonbone Chair, book 1 of Memory Sorrow and Thorn

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.

 

 

 

Michael Whelan, Guy Gavriel Kay, L.E. Modesitt, Stephen R Donaldson, Rajan Khanna, others appear at World Fantasy Convention 2014

(L-R) Irene Gallo, Chris Roberts, Les Edwards, Michael Whelan, and moderator at World Fantasy Convention 2014.

(L-R) Irene Gallo, Chris Roberts, Les Edwards, Michael Whelan, and moderator at World Fantasy Convention 2014.

World Fantasy Convention 2014 begins this weekend in Arlington, Virginia. Guests of Honor include Guy Gavriel Kay (Under Heaven, River of Stars) and Toastmaster Mary Robinette Kowal (Glamour in Glass, Valour and Vanity).

Michael Whelan, illustrator of more than 350 science fiction and fantasy books, is also appearing, and will do signings, discussions, and an art tour. Stephen R Donaldson, perhaps most famous for The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, will also do a reading.

Rajan Khanna does a reading of his new zombie book, Falling Skies, at World Fantasy Convention 2014 on Thursday October 6th.

Rajan Khanna does a reading of his new zombie book, Falling Skies, at World Fantasy Convention 2014 on Thursday October 6th.

Rajan Khanna, author of Falling Sky, appeared at a reading on Thursday afternoon. This was followed later that day by an art review featuring SciFi/Fantasy illustrators Les Edwards, and Michael Whelan. Whelan, of course, did the US artwork for Tad Williams’ books The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower, among many others. Whelan pointed out that one of his influences is Frank Frazetta, illustrating his influence with the below pieces:

Whelan also stated that Donald A Wollheim refused to buy artwork that was green, stating that green wouldn’t sell well. Whelan got around the prohibition by turning in the final colored proofs as late as possible.

Guy Gavriel Kay reading from "The Summer Tree" at WFC 2014.

Guy Gavriel Kay reading from “The Summer Tree” at WFC 2014.

Guy Gavriel Kay made an appearance on “The Reading That Never Was”, a discussion about his first appearance at WFC in Ottawa in 1984. Kay had been asked to do a reading of his first book, The Summer Tree. Unfortunately, he was scheduled against Stephen King, and due to a non-existent attendance, the 1984 reading was aborted. Kay read an excerpt from The Summer Tree, reading a part of the story that he had meant to write thirty years earlier. The following day, he granted interviews with fans and made an appearance at “Dynastic China and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Kitai”, a scholarly presentation by professor Anna M Shields of the University of Maryland.


Stephen R Donaldson reads from his unpublished manuscript.

Stephen R Donaldson reads from his unpublished manuscript.

On Friday, Stephen R. Donaldson, author of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, did a reading from his new, as-yet-unpublished novella. Donaldson says that, although he thought he was through with The Chronicles, a voice told him to write more stories. The novella is the result of that voice. Donaldson has yet to find a publisher.