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.

 

 

 

Details revealed regarding Tad Williams’ “The Shadow of Things to Come”

osten ard t

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).

collab

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.

Tad Williams, The Witchwood Crown, and the Gardenborn calendar

osten ard e

arly this morning, Tad Williams released the latest edition of his newsletter, where he talks about his writing, specifically with regard to The Witchwood Crown and the Gardenborn calendar.

Readers of Williams’ classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series (comprised of The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower) will remember that the Gardenborn are the elder, elf-like race who sailed across the seas to Osten Ard from a mysterious eastern land known as Venyha Do’sae, the Garden That is Lost. The Gardenborn clans, composed of Sithi, Norns, Dwarrows and Niskies, settled in Osten Ard and established rule over a land empty of men… until centuries later, when mortal men arrived from across the western seas.

In “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, Williams had previously developed calendars that were used in most of the mortal realms; the main calendar closely resembled our own (Gregorian) calendar: months with alternate-reality names like Septander, Octander, Novander and Decander. The months July and August were named Tiyagar and Anitul, after the Nabbanai imperators Tiyagaris and Anitulles. (An interesting aside: although they are never mentioned in the text or the appendices, a careful reader can infer (even though readers are told to “avoid assumptions,” we’ll risk it here) that there are old Nabbanai gods named Jonevus (or similar) and Marris based on the Erkynlandish months named Jonever and Marris, and also likely an old Nabbanai god named Satrinus, based on the Erkynlandish day named Satrinsday).

Despite Williams’ detailed work on the mortal calendars of Osten Ard, the full calendars of the long-lived Gardenborn were never revealed in the original Osten Ard novels. However, with the upcoming release of the new “The Last King of Osten Ard” sequel series, the focus has turned to the Norns, according to the author, and their calendar now plays a part in the new books.

Mr Williams gives some insight into his creative writing process as he talks about how the Gardenborn calendar developed in the writing process. He also gives some insight into how important it was for him that the new books match up with the old books when it comes to continuity. Williams writes:

So a few weeks ago I’m working my way through the 1st novel of the new trilogy, The Witchwood Crown, in final rewrite.  One of the many things that happens during my final rewrites is that I crystallize a lot of the smaller details, or sort out confusions and inconsistencies and commit to a final version of troublesome bits of the history/plot/etc.  In this case, I decided I needed more references to calendars for the “immortals”, especially since in this book I’m actually spending a lot of time with the Hikeda’ya — aka, the Norns.  One of the things that we learn in the new books is that the name of the Norns and Sithi when they were still one people was “Keida’ya” — “Witchwood Children”, because of the importance of that tree and its products to their civilization going all the way back to their old home, the Lost Garden.

There’s already some built-in complexity because of their old calendar from the Garden and their way of counting years — a Keida’ya Great Year is a bit more than sixty years in length (and why that’s true is another story for another newsletter) but they’ve been living in Osten Ard, which is more or less like our world, for thousands of years, so they have to have developed some kind of calendar that matches our world.  The most obvious markers for such things are the stars, the sun, and the moon.  The stars feed into the Great Year idea and others, so I concentrated on moons as the source of the calendar, as they are (roughly) with most real-world societies.

Williams states that during the writing of The Witchwood Crown, he conceived of months with names like Mother, Father, Child, Flower, etc. Eventually, however, he discarded these names entirely when he realized a partial list of months might potentially already exist in the later chapters of Stone of Farewell, in the magical song that Aditu sings when she brings Simon to Jao e-Tinukai’i, the Gardenborn settlement hidden deep in the ancient Aldheorte Forest:

"Memory, Sorrow and Thorn"

Aditu and her brother Jiriki, cover of To Green Angel Tower

I realized that I already had the beginning of what could be a symbolic lunar calendar back in Stone of Farewell, when Aditu the Sitha leads Simon “from winter into summer” — from the rest of the world, in the grip of the Storm King’s winter, into Jao é-Tinukai’i, a place where the Sithi hold sway, which is at least temporarily immune to the Storm King’s magic.  When I thought about all these evocative characters that Aditu mentions as she takes Simon from one season into another, it suddenly made sense that she should be invoking the names of things or powers or spirits or gods or whatever pertaining to different times of the year — in other words, her journey through seasons should be in part evoked in the names of the moons from different parts of the year.

The character names that Aditu invokes in this passage (the Serpent, Wind-Child, Tortoise, Cloud-Song, Otter, Stone-Listener, Lynx, and Sky-singer), then temporarily became the basis for the Gardenborn calendar in Williams’ draft of The Witchwood Crown, providing an explanation for Aditu’s invocation of those names in the novel. Williams then added four additional names (Ice-Mother, Wolf, Raven, and Fire-Maiden) to the already existing names to bring the full number of months to twelve. Then the author ran into a major problem:

I made this list and was all happy and pleased with myself — I even went back to the Witchwood Crown manuscript and put these moon names in various places where I’d left a blank space waiting for a date-name, especially in the Norn sections — I had a horrible recollection.(Horrible because it would mean more work.  Thank God it came to me before the book was finalized!)

Anyway, what I remembered was that when Simon, Binabik, and Miriamele entered into the deserted Sithi city of Da’ai Chikiza by river (and the city will almost certainly feature in the new books) they passed under a succession of bridges, called “Gates”, that had something to do with moon cycles.  So I went back to The Dragonbone Chair and looked it up and damned if Binabik didn’t specifically say “These gates represent cycles of the moon”.  So immediately my most recent moon calendar turned out to be wrong, because TDC mentions several “gate” names, and none of them correspond with Aditu’s incantation.

So there I was.  I either had to say Binabik was mistaken (which goes clear against my principles, unless it’s in a minor, minor mistake that can be easily explained) or I had to throw out everything that didn’t match, which would mean that the new Da’ai Chikiza stuff would wipe out my (still unpublished) second version based on Aditu’s incantation.  Which would be a shame, because I really liked the connection, and it brought a little quasi-historical light to a magical section of the old books.

The author then decided to merge the two draft calendars together to create one unified calendar:

Thinking about it, I decided that what seemed quite realistic to me was that each patron spirit (or god or ancestor, or legendary hero/heroine, or whatever) might have both attribute names and animal names — that both could be ways to describe them, but neither would be the patron spirits’ actual NAMES.  So then the problem was to make the two lists match up somehow.

Williams’ letter not only sheds light on his creative writing process, it also reveals how deeply committed he is with establishing a continuity between two series of novels (“Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” and “The Last King of Osten Ard”) which were written thirty years apart. It is clear that Williams has been working diligently to avoid major continuity errors.

The Dragonbone Chair, book 1 of Memory Sorrow and Thorn

The cover of The Dragonbone Chair shows Simon, Binabik, and Miri traveling through the ruins of Da’ai Chikiza

Hidden in Williams’ text is another (small, but important) revelation: that the lost Sithi city of Da’ai Chikiza, Tree of the Singing Winds, will also feature somewhere in the new series. Da’ai Chikiza is the ruined city depicted on the cover of The Dragonbone Chair; what remains of the city are the old Sithi ruins through which the main protagonists, Binabik, Simon, and Miri, travel as they attempt to escape the Queen’s hunter Ingen Jegger and his deadly white hounds.

The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the upcoming “The Last King of Osten Ard” series, is set for publication in April 2017, to be proceeded by the shorter Osten Ard novel The Heart of What Was Lost in January 2017, and to be followed sometime thereafter by three more long Osten Ard novels (provisionally titled Empire of Grass, The Navigator’s Children, and The Shadow of Things to Come).

To subscribe to Tad Williams’ mailing list, and for regular updates on the publication schedule for the five new Osten Ard novels, click here.

 

 

 

 

Dragonbone Chair Reissued; Tad Williams Talks About Upcoming Novels

osten ard l

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!

osten ard t

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To-Green-Angel-Tower

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

osten ard t

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.

Tad Williams’ “The Witchwood Crown” Delayed

The Witchwood Crown, first volume of the highly-anticipated sequel to Tad Williams’ “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” has been delayed, and unfortunately does not appear in DAW Books’ Spring 2016 catalog.

Deborah Beale, wife and business partner of Tad Williams, has released this statement:

“Book one of Tad Williams’ ‘The Last King of Osten Ard’ isn’t in in the DAW spring schedule owing to pressures arising from the integration of Penguin/Random House.  We will know more about that after Tad’s September meeting with his publishers.

“Beyond this, we have been focussed on a number of projects related to ’The Last King’.  The road to volume one, ‘The Witchwood Crown’, will be dotted with many Easter eggs, some of which will be announced after that September meeting.  This is a trilogy that is expanding from the front end of things!”

The Witchwood Crown is the first volume of “The Last King of Osten Ard“. This sequel to Williams’ classic 1980s fantasy trilogy/tetralogy was set to be released in Spring 2016, though no definite date had yet been set. The announcement of “a number of projects related to “The Last King of Osten Ard” is intriguing. Williams has written of several possibilities on his official message board over the years.

More news will come from Tad Williams or Deborah Beale when it is available; hopefully in September. Meanwhile, Hodder Books in the UK has released The Dragonbone Chair on audiobook, via Audible.com/Amazon.co.uk, the first time MS&T has been available as an audiobook for the general public. A review of the reading from this site is forthcoming.