Friday, 4 April 2014

Tad Williams returns to his signature fantasy setting

Tad Williams has confirmed that his next project will be a new epic fantasy trilogy which serves as a direct sequel to his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn sequence.

Memory, Sorrow and Thorn was originally published as a trilogy, consisting of The Dragonbone Chair (1988), Stone of Farewell (1990) and To Green Angel Tower (1993). The final book in the sequence was so huge its paperback edition was issued as two volumes: Siege and Storm. Although traditional in set-up, chronicling a civil war between two brothers for control of the kingdom of Osten Ard whilst a kitchen boy discovers an amazing destiny ahead of him, the trilogy was notable for its mild revisionism, with Williams using a traditional fantasy narrative to chronicle on the shortcomings of the genre. It was also influential in being the first large, Tolkien-esque fantasy aimed explicitly at adults that wasn't completely trying to upend conventions (like earlier works by Donaldson and Cook), and in terms of market and timing paved the way for works like The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire. George R.R. Martin is a huge fan of the trilogy and named some very minor characters in ASoIaF after Williams's characters.

After years spent working on other works (such as the Shadowmarch quartet, the SF Otherland series, the Dragons of Ordinary Farm series for children and, most recently, the Bobby Dollar urban fantasy trilogy) and occasionally mentioning the possibility of an Osten Ard short story collection, Williams has confirmed that he is returning with a full trilogy of - probably massive - novels. The new trilogy will be called The Last King of Osten Ard and will consist of the tentatively-entitled The Witchwood Crown, Empire of Grass and The Navigator's Children.

According to Williams:
"I haven’t gone back to my old worlds very often, precisely because I never wanted to be doing so simply to be doing it. (That’s called “franchising” and I don’t like it much, personally.) I always said, “If a story ever comes to me that wants to be written, then yes, I’ll consider it.” And it finally did. In fact, it sprang out of a conversation with wife Deborah Beale late last spring, and it’s been coming together for most of a year now, so we kept it secret pretty long.

I believe I can now write a story worthy of those much-loved settings and characters, one that people who haven’t read the originals can enjoy, but which will of course mean more to those who know the original work. More than that, I feel I can do something that will stand up to the best books in our field. I have very high hopes. I’m excited by the challenge. And I’ll do my absolute best to make all the kind responses I’ve already had justified."
The blurb:
"In this new trilogy, Williams journeys back to the magical land of Osten Ard and continues the story of beloved characters King Simon and Queen Miriamele, married now for thirty years, and introduces newcomer Prince Morgan, their heir apparent. Also expanded is the story of the twin babies born to Prince Josua and Lady Vorzheva—a birth heralded by prophecy, which has been the subject of feverish fan speculation since the release of To Green Angel Tower in 1993."
No release date has been set for the first book, although Williams conceived of the idea a year ago and has been working on the project since handing in the final Bobby Dollar book a few months ago. On that basis, we will likely see the first novel in 2015 or 2016.

This is interesting news. I am cautious, as Shadowmarch felt like it steered too close to the ground already laid by Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and felt a little redundant as a result. However, Williams on top form is certainly a strong writer and it will be interesting to see if his new trilogy can make as much of a stir as the original did a quarter of a century ago.


Anonymous said...

This is great news! It's a series I've loved for a long, long time. My favorite characters are Binabik, Vorzheva, and Aditu. Any news if they're going to be in the new series?

SnowBodhi said...

I'm a little torn regarding this news. On the one hand, one of the things I've most admired about Tad Williams is that he has resisted the usual fantasy author temptation to spend his entire career writing about the same setting. On the other hand, I adore "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn," so the prospect of returning to Osted Ard is intriguing.

On the other, other hand, I hope the Bobby Dollar books gave Tad enough of a break from fantasy to get some of his mojo back: I finally picked up "Shadowmarch" a while back (almost a year ago), and have been having a very hard time getting into it. I know that both "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn," and "Otherland" were a bit slow in the beginning as well, but amazing once the story really kicked into gear, but I'm still waiting on this one, 700 pages into the first book. Has anyone out there finished "Shadowmarch"? Does this story finally come through the way those others did? To be honest, the only thing that keeps me from giving up completely is my love of Tad's other series-- I've finished 35 or 40 other books while I've been reading this one, and I keep coming back to "Shadowmarch" only because of my admiration for what Williams has done in the past. If this were a book by an author I'd never read before, I probably would have given up.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read this series yet. It's definitely in my 'to-read pile', but I want to finish the Wheel of Time saga and possibly start the Malazan series first. My Dad swears by Williams' work though. Do you think it's worth holding off and waiting for prequels before starting this. Like I said, I have a six foot pile of books in my house as it is.

Someone Else said...

This has me very excited! I have for a long time said that the original trilogy was one of the most beautifully written works in the fantasy genre, a work of pure artistry as well as a great story. While not nearly as popular and well known as Jordan's Wheel of Time or Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, it has always been my favorite fantasy trilogy.

Thank you for sharing this news Adam!

Sara said...

Although I shouldn't be, am elated about this - I too admired Tad's versatility in writing in different 'worlds' but Osten ard has so many facets to it and he lefts us so many hooks for new books that I am really quite excited.

I want to hear all about the adventures of Vorzheva's children, one of whom Aditu foretold would be a great explorer. I want to learn about what type of king Simon Snowlock became! I loved Lady Gudrun and want to know about her people. I really loved the Sithi, elves are who are probably just aliens.

Alex Walsh said...

The entry in the Fantasy encyclopaedia on Memory Sorrow and Thorn is pretty interesting. Can't remember it verbatim but it essential describes how the series is also a critique of high fantasy in some detail.