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.

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.

 

 

 

Tad Williams, George R.R. Martin, Deborah Beale, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, others appear at WorldCon 2018

Today legendary speculative fiction authors Tad Williams (“Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”), George R. R. Martin (“A Song of Ice and Fire”), Deborah Beale (The Dragons of Ordinary Farm), Nina Kiriki Hoffman (A Fistful of Sky), Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn), and many others appeared at WorldCon 2018 in San Jose, California. Here are some photos of the event, some taken at the Tachyon Publications kiosk:

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Deborah Beale, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Tad Williams.

 

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George R. R. Martin, Tad Williams. Photo credit: Deborah Beale.

 

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Tad Williams, Peter S. Beagle. Photo credit: Deborah Beale.

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 …

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.

 

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

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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 Writes About Editing Process of New Osten Ard Novels, Hints of More to Come…

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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 began writing The Witchwood Crown in 2014, and had finished the rough draft  back in May 2015. The first draft of The Heart of What Was Lost was completed in November 2015.

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, book 2 of Memory Sorrow and Thorn

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.

He then reveals that he is considering, down the line, writing an Osten Ard compendium, perhaps something like the Tolkien Companion or George R.R. Martin’s The World of Ice and Fire:

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.

Williams’ original newsletter posting can be found here. You can subscribe to the newsletter at this link. Readers can speculate on who “so-and-so” is, and of what import the eight Gardenborn ships might play in the new series, and what role long-dead King Eahlstan has to play, on the Tad Williams Message Board, where there are already speculation threads for The Heart of What Was Lost and The Witchwood Crown.

An Interview with Tad Williams, part 2

Below is Part Two of OstenArd.com’s interview with Science Fiction/Fantasy writer Tad Williams, author of the “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, “Otherland”, “Shadowmarch” and “Bobby Dollar” books, and who recently announced the completion of the first draft of The Witchwood Crown, the first volume of a series of sequel novels to his classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” trilogy.

(Part One of the interview can be found here).

In this interview, we asked Williams what it’s like to return to the world of Osten Ard, how he’s reacted to the announcement that Michael Whelan will be illustrating the covers, and what he’s been researching while working on The Witchwood Crown.

Michael Whelan painted the covers for the US and UK editions of "Memory, Sorrow and Thorn".

Michael Whelan painted the covers for the US and UK editions of “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”.

OstenArd.com: It’s been recently announced that Michael Whelan will be doing the covers for the new Osten Ard books, just as he did for the classic MS&T series. When I spoke to him in person in November, he was excited and proud to be asked to create the new cover art for your books. How excited are you to know that his amazing work will be on the new books?

Tad Williams: I think it’s wonderful. It’s hard to imagine what anyone else could do with them, since Michael put his stamp on them so authoritatively. And I’ve always loved Michael’s work, since long before he intersected my career, or I even had a career to intersect. So, yes, thrilled to see what he’ll come up with, proud that he wants another go.

OA.com: On the TadWilliams.com message board, you revealed a partial character list. Any plans to reveal a more detailed or more extensive character list? Or would that be too spoilery?

Tad: I intend at some point — probably closing of rewrite of first draft — to update and correct that list. Also, I may very well release the chapter titles, which won’t necessarily give anything away conclusively, but will certainly inspire some guesswork.

OA.com: When MS&T was first published the initial critical reaction was disappointing since critics only read it as a generic fantasy trilogy and failed to see more than that. Only a few critics (like Roz Kaveney) saw beneath the surface and recognized it as a revisionist fantasy. But 30 years on, a new generation of writers is acknowledging their debt to MS&T (Brandon Sanderson, Christopher Paolini, even GRRM), and MS&T is widely regarded as “classic”. Are you still disappointed over the lack of critical appreciation? Do you think that the new trilogy will change that?

Tad: I’m kind of resigned to the fact that for whatever reason, I will remain one of those weird tastes, like some odd ice cream flavor, that some people will be passionate about, and others won’t quite get the fuss. And, in all fairness, I’m just writing fantasy and science fiction books that I’d like to read. It’s not like I think I’m all that important myself in the first place. But, yes, it’s heartening when people DO understand that I put a lot of thought and care into this, that I’m not just writing extra-long role playing adventures, that I bring a few other skills and interests to the table. My wife says, “Don’t worry, they (critics and trendsetters) will kiss your ass after you’re dead”, to which I usually reply, “That doesn’t sound like it will be all that much fun for either of us.”

OA.com: Has Osten Ard society changed in the last 30 years? Does Simon’s upbringing have lasting influence on his kingship and if so was he able to change things? Did he want to?

Tad: That’s one of the things that will definitely be a part of the story, so It’s hard to discuss without giving things away. But, yes, Simon and Miri and the lessons their lives have brought them will have a lot to do with the future of Osten Ard, and they both want to be “good” rulers, so they’ve spent a lot of time since the end of TGAT trying to figure out what that means and how to accomplish it, with mixed success (as is true with all of us with just about anything).

OA.com: How difficult is it to “collaborate with yourself”, as it were, in writing a sequel to a story you wrapped up over twenty years ago? Are you trying to match the style and mood of the original, or are you just trusting yourself that it will come out right? Do you find yourself remembering any of the feelings or thoughts you had when writing MEMORY, SORROW AND THORN, even things you’d forgotten until now?

Tad: I won’t really know until I’ve finished, because when I’m writing things they are always composed of dangly bits and rough edges that have to be fixed, and that’s where I am right now — all dangly bits.

Some of the process is easier than a first-time novel, because for instance I already feel I know who Simon and Miriamele are in a deep sense, and can guess which things would be appropriate to their adult selves, and which wouldn’t be. But of course I’m not just trying to match a style, or match older characters to their younger selves, I’m also trying to match an -impact- as well, because I’m messing with material that in some ways means more to readers than it does to me. While I know I will never be able to write new stories which have the same impact for the older fans, I want them to feel appropriate, and that I took the best possible care of old favorites while justifying a sequel by adding new material. And of course, I can’t forget about all the people who may read this without having read the first books. I don’t want to freeze them out and make it some kind of nostalgia fest. So it’s a very interesting, occasionally terrifying thing to do.

OA.com: For the Shadowmarch series, you mentioned doing research on geology, iirc. What sort of research did you do (are doing) for TLKOOA?

Tad: Ohmigod, what amn’t I researching? I’ll pick some bookmarks at random:

The Morrigan
Battle of Walcourt
List of Anglo-Saxon place names
Ice Cave Picture
3D plans for Skipton Castle
Tetraplegia
Traditional Gaelic Names
Monasticism in Western Europe
The Male and Female Names of Animals
History of the Wool Trade
Crows roosting
Proto-Indo-European
Akasha (name)
Entheogens of Antiquity
Parthenocarpy
Central Asian Steppes
Mythical Thule
Sami People

and so on and so on, to the tune of about five hundred bookmarks. Not to mention the fact that I’ve got about forty or so research books that I have out and in use just for this story alone, as well as copious notes from the first book and various other bits and bobs. (Message Board conversations, Maps, etc.) So, yeah, there’s research in all my stuff, but I think this one is second only to OTHERLAND in terms of how much material I’m using.

(To be continued…)

Part Three