Some 30 years ago, Tad Williams started his Osten Ard series with The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, and concluded it in 1993 with To Green Angel Tower. I never expected him to return to this wonderful world and characters. Now, we have a long novella The Heart of what was Lost, which picked up some threads directly after the first trilogy, and this new doorstopper of a novel. So, yes dear newcomer, you have to read all the books before this one.
Those 30 years gone are also reflected in the setting – the main characters got old, mayhaps wiser. Imagine a Mooncalf Simon Snowlock established as a renown king of some 50 years old, shouting around at his drunkard grandson! The Duke of Rimmersgard, Isgrimnur, kind of old back then, is now about to die of age. After some 100 pages, the old gang has gathered: Simon, Miriamele, Binabik, Isgrimnur, Tiamak, and Eolair travel around in a state visit in their dominion, which sounds as boring as it reads. Heavily missing are the Sithi Jiriki and Aditu, but that has its reasons.
On the antagonist side of the Norn, that mischievous folks are gathering their strength again. We get good insights into the culture, heroic characters, and traditions resembling a template for every roleplaying dark elf.
Williams takes his good time to elaborate a tension arc, lets the book start easy, happy, nice, and only Simon’s grandson Morgan seems to be a problem child with his drunkard friends – one of them old Sir Porto from the prequel novella – dangling around. But immortal Norn queen Utuk’ku has awakened and prepares for war against the mortals of the realm. She sent out elite warriors to get her the eponymous Witchwood Crown. Also, political unrest drives the southern part of the realm.
Only the last third of the book takes up urgency again and develops speed. Take your time and enjoy the slow cruising before taking the roller coaster ride! Because that is, what the last 100 pages will bring you.
I feared that I wouldn’t be able to return to this beloved epic fantasy world, because I changed myself in the last couple of years. But Tad Williams has outdone himself to picked up the character, changed them in time without loosing the atmosphere of the first books. He transported me back again to Osten Ard without headaches. Oh joy!
I recommend this to readers who need a different taste in their diet of dark, gritty, near pornish Fantasy worlds of GRRM, Lawrence, or Abercrombie, who want to go for a lighter reading without loosing complex settings, characters, and plots.