THE LAST KING OF OSTEN ARD | THE WITCHWOOD CROWN & EMPIRE OF GRASS (Spoiler Free)

New York Times-bestselling Tad Williams’ ground-breaking epic fantasy saga of Osten Ard begins an exciting new cycle! • Volume One of The Last King of Osten Ard

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….

Review

Many of you will have read MST some time ago so this is really more of ‘why you should read’ post, more than it is a straight review. I felt that i would cover some of the questions that think you may have and try and inspire you to pick up this series after such a lengthy break.

Should you return to this Osten Ard after all this time ?

Absolutely yes !!! Many of you may be apprehensive about the follow up to such a hugely successful series such as this, but this instalment delivers and will likely exceed you’re expectations !! I can tell you that i was totally overwhelmed when i began these books and i was so drunk on being back in this world and re-joining the cast of beloved characters, that i just couldn’t put these books down. As you would expect from Tad Williams, the prose was as sharp and as flawless as MST, the world building was even more immersive and the characterization was just phenomenal. Every aspect of this book felt polished and sharper and I can definitely say that this Duology does not suffer with middle book syndrome at all. What i really like about reading the middle books essentially is that the world is obviously very much established and means that you can just absorb the parts of this world that were formerly unseen and just makes you appreciate the scope of the world that Williams has created. I was hugely captivated by new cast of characters and I was totally engaged from the moment that i picked it up The Witchwood Crown. Williams is so consistent in every aspect of his story telling and the pacing for a Duology of this size is amazing.

The Cast new and old…..

Williams characterization always has a huge impact on me as its always to the point of being as close to perfect as you’re gonna get! I love the meticulous attention to detail with the development of the characters and the way he describes them, they’re always so stylized and totally vivid in there description that they really burst into life within your imagination. The character development of the original cast is portrayed incredibly well and the progression of their characters felt natural and provoked a feeling nostalgia in that it was almost just like seeing old friends again. But as they didn’t over shadow the new characters it really put the focus on the new cast and it was really balanced. The multiple character POVs served as well as they did in MST and provided intimate insights into these complex characters and by the end of the duology, the new characters were as engaging as the original cast. The new cast members that we’re introduced to are Morgan, Nezaru, Jarnulf, Tanahaya, Tzoja, Viyeki and Unver and we spend most of our time with these characters. I felt that each of their POVs had hugely emotive themes which really helped me to connect with them and the tone changed when we shifted from one to the other. This was something that i felt really kept me engaged and something that i feel is so important with books of this size. At no point did feel that the pace drag at all and as always the intrigue surrounding these characters was hugely captivating. I’d say my favourite characters were Unver and Nezaru. The majority of the characters development was a slow burn, each having a cliff hanger towards the EOG. But I liked the above characters more as I felt that there PoVs definitely had the most impact, especially Unver, with one of his scenes being amongst my favourite scenes of any novel that I’ve ever read. I definitely gravitate towards the darker more tortured characters.Some people might find some very common character tropes in these novels, but I found all the characters to be quite nuanced in so many ways.

How does the History/Lore of this world progress in this Duology?

The Lore and the history of this world is as spellbinding as its always been and over the course of these books it unfolds perfectly. I’m more engaged in this series now more than ever and this is mainly because we find out so much more about the garden born and their origin story. After reading MST i was so eager for the expansion on the history and the lore of this world and these books delivered and it was so worth the wait. But in general terms all of the different races of Osten Ard bloom in this part of the story, especially the Norns, the Thrithings men and the Nabbanai. This duology clearly defines the cultural identities of all the of the races within Osten Ard with much more depth. This is very much the build up to the concluding part of the series and the wealth of history and Lore that comes with it. The deeper dive into the Nabbanai culture really brought a new level of political intrigue which really made the the Italian, Roman catholic, almost Machiavellian influences on the politics abundantly clear. In MST we did nt spend that much time with the Thrithings clans, but in this Trilogy we see a much broader picture of their Nomadic culture and with it and there place within this worlds history and their major role in the story going forward. So as you can imagine by far the biggest focus is with the Norns and by the end of this duology you’re fully immersed in there complex culture, which really ushers in a much darker atmosphere to these books. Their culture is the polar opposite to the Sithi culture and so we see a very brutal, dark and unforgiving nature to their world, that is completely structured in a way that serves there queen Uttuk’ku. They really represent a large portion of the magic users of this world and really turn these books into a high magic fantasy compared to its MST. It does have that traditional feel to the magic system as it did before and the mystery surrounding it really suits the series so well. Towards the end of the book we’re guided towards the history of the Tinukeda’ya which grows in importance the further we go into the series. You will have known them from MST as the Niskies and the Dwarrows. In this duology you understand that they too have a huge part in what’s to come in the final conclusion of this story. So despite finishing everything that has been released thus far, there is still so much more to know about this world. I can’t wait to find out more in The Navigators Children, which will be realeased in 2022.

Its a huge Duology. Is there a big pay off ?

Heading towards the ending I didn’t expect that it was going to be as impactful as it was given that these are the middle books of a huge series and it’s not something I expected. I can tell you that the intrigue leading up to the dramatic conclusion was earth shattering. The pacing and the general execution a series of this size really has meant that in no way was it a slog to read. The way that Williams has sets up the final leg of this series is perfect. It leaves you with the impression that what’s to come is going to be magnificent! I just think that after all this time and given that Tad Williams is better than he’s ever been, I cannot even imagine how amazing The Navigators Children will be !! I’m more than confident that we will get an equally satisfying ending as we did with Green Angel Tower, perhaps better… Much better, which totally melts my mind.

My final thoughts….

This was quoted as being one of the seminal works of modern Epic Fantasy and in my opinion this installment is another glowing example of why Tad Williams is one of the most respected Epic fantasy writers working today. I was so excited to return to Osten Ard after becoming obsessed with Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and i cannot emphasize how satisfied i was with The Last King of Osten Ard. I think fans that have read MST will not regret returning Osten Ard and will be as excited as I am for what’s to come. Everything that has come before has convinced me that this series when completed will be revered as one of the definitive works of epic fantasy ever to hit the shelves. It is totally captivating and I consider it to be a stand out series that towers over most epic fantasy from that era . Tad Williams is without doubt amongst my favourite authors within the fantasy genre and has managed to improve on something that I all ready considered to be near perfect.

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