by Tad Williams
Series: The Last King of Osten Ard #1
Published on June 27, 2017 by Daw Books
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
The Dragonbone Chair, the first volume of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, was published in hardcover in October, 1988, launching the series that was to become one of the seminal works of modern epic fantasy. Many of today's top-selling fantasy authors, from Patrick Rothfuss to George R. R. Martin to Christopher Paolini credit Tad with being the inspiration for their own series.
Now, twenty-four years after the conclusion of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad returns to his beloved universe and characters with The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the long-awaited sequel trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard.
Thirty years have passed since the events of the earlier novels, and the world has reached a critical turning point once again. The realm is threatened by divisive forces, even as old allies are lost, and others are lured down darker paths. Perhaps most terrifying of all, the Norns--the long-vanquished elvish foe--are stirring once again, preparing to reclaim the mortal-ruled lands that once were theirs....
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Goodness this was a long book. It’s probably the first massive fantasy I’ve tackled in a long time and I’ve learned that my reading tastes have changed since the last time around. The Witchwood Crown continues the story of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, starting a couple decades later with characters new and old.
I haven’t read the first series in this world but I never found that it hindered my reading experience. In fact, the author did a wonderful job of weaving in details from the past books into the present one without spending pages upon pages of history to set the stage. Sure, there were info dumps, but not to the extent I expected for a book continuing a previous series but written many years later (for the record, the first book of the previous series came out in 1988).
The story itself is a slow build. And I mean slow. There are a lot of characters to introduce and a lot of the world to establish before the last third of the book can hit the plot home. The pacing was an issue for me and part of it is the format of the book itself. This doesn’t reflect in my rating in any way but the font of the hardcover is very small and I found myself reading with a pair of over-the-counter glasses to avoid a headache (I don’t wear glasses or contacts, by the way). It made the reading experience more tedious and I recommend grabbing an eBook version if smaller font is an issue for you.
Much like larger fantasy epics, I felt the need to keep a guide of who is who and what is what. The cast is HUGE and trying to mentally keep track of everyone was a challenge. But each character is developed in full and I never felt that their growth was lacking in favor of the world or story.
But when it comes down to it, I’m reading for enjoyment, right? The Witchwood Crown is very well written, and the author clearly knows how to manage a story this vast without letting any part of it be sacrificed for another. So perhaps it is a change in reading taste, perhaps the book moved too slowly for me to be fully hooked, but I didn’t quite enjoy this one as much as I had hoped to. It took a long time to get through and I think some of the action was lost in the description. Definitely recommend it to fans of the author’s previous work, as well as readers of epics like A Game of Thrones and The Wheel of Time series, just not quite for me.