January 3rd 2017 sees the long awaited return of Tad Williams to the land of Osten Ard which was the setting for his mammoth beast of a trilogy (or quadrilogy if you bought the paperback version) Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I was fortunate enough to get hold of an advance copy so here are my thoughts.
It has been 23 years (give or take) since Tad wrote in this setting and since then has gone on to write other series in other worlds - Otherland, Shadowmarch, The Bobby Dollar series - and the stand alone novel War of the Flowers. My main concerns when hearing of the return to writing in Osten Ard, I guess, were, would it be the same OA we left behind all those years ago, would the characters feel the same?
I can safely and happily say that after only a few pages reading THoWWL it was clear that we were back in Osten Ard I remember and all was good. I guess it was the literary equivalent of comfy slippers and a favourite arm chair.
The story is set just after events at Green Angel Tower. The day has been won, Ineluki, The Storm King, has been defeated and his Norn army are in retreat, heading north to their ancient citadel Nakkiga harried by an army led by Duke Isgrimnur.
Character views come from both sides and although the Norns are the obvious 'bad guys' Williams does a good job of making us bothered about them. You feel for their plight as they rush toward Stormspike and (hopefully) safety. Don't get me wrong though, there are still heinous acts performed by some of their number (one of which, quite early on, had me thinking for days 'did they really just do that?). But also there are moments of poetic beauty in here - the revelation of The Heart of What Was Lost (don't worry it'll all make sense when you read it) nearly moved me to tears.
All things, as they must, come to an end and as this chapter in the history of Osten Ard closes both sides are put through the wringer. How it all ends I will leave you to find out for yourselves but what I will say is, I'm glad Tad decided to return to Osten Ard and to allow us to travel the paths again with him, THoWWL leaves me waiting eagerly for The Witchwood Crown, the first in he series 'The Last King of Osten Ard (Spring 2017)
One final thought, and this is just a personal thing really. When I first picked up The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow and Thorn book 1) back in 1988 I was a mere strippling of 21 years old. The character of Simon was very easy to associate with but now, with The Heart of What Was Lost more or less ending M,S and T I find myself knocking on the door of 50 and find myself associating more with Duke Isgrimnur (older and more weary I guess ;-D)