Memory, Sorrow & Thorn Book 3.5
“We survive. But when survival is the only goal, what do the survivors become?”
So what’s the book about?
Osten Ard is once again at a crossroad. King Simon’s and Duke Isgrimnur’s warriors have succeeded in pushing the Norns back into their stronghold in the mountains. The war seems over, but the killing continues. Not content with their victory, the mortals seek to wipe out the Norn people entirely. Then word spreads that the ancient Norn Queen Utuk’ku is not dead at all, but merely in a death-like sleep from which she will return.
Why I wanted to read this book?
Finally, I’m back to Osten Ard as the world has been with me lately and I’ve had a wonderful time here. And fortunately I am so young that I didn’t have to wait thirty years to return and beg Tad Williams to please continue writing in this world. As the book is touted as being the start of the continuing series, especially for new readers, the abundance of people, places and names certainly means a great challenge. However, the author’s very detailed descriptions are helpful here, as is the very well done glossary. In addition to explanations of the individual characters, there are also beautifully designed maps and a short history of the Sithi.
These aspects attracted me the most while reading.
- What is new is the exploration of the moral perspective, the shifting of the good/evil axis. The Norns, who until now have mainly been cruel and callous, become more comprehensible and arouse understanding and compassion in the reader when hateful and vengeful people want to exterminate them in a ruthless genocide. The Norns also have a narrative perspective here, through which the reader learns of the fears and desires of this long-lived race. To humans they seem cold and uncaring, but their complicated society is held together by honour and sacrifice, as well as the worship of their queen, who lies in a long sleep recovering from the hardships of the last war. Leaderless, this nation is almost doomed by the great losses it has suffered, which makes it all the more dangerous. Although their way of speaking and acting always seems very distant compared to the humans, there can be no doubt about the intensity of their feelings.
- Once again, the characters are amazing. Duke Isgrimnur and the minor character Sludig are already known from the previous volumes, the other main and minor characters are new, but of the usual complex liveliness and complexity. The Norn culture is hinted at in a thoroughly fascinating way. It is bitterly cold, and in the end, no one is safe from death and despair, not even beloved characters. Nevertheless, new heroes also appear, and they are vividly and endearingly created. What they fear, how they care for each other – it makes up a large part of the charm of this book. It humanises without seeming contrived. On the contrary, although the story is set in war, the interpersonal relationships give the book warmth and depth.
- Porto and Endri were the heart of this story. These two are also taking part in the campaign against the Norns, but have a very different view of things because they are new to it and not battle-hardened warriors. Isgrimnur’s troops are joined by two simple soldiers whose friendship is put to the test by the cruelty of the fighting. The two fighters Porto and Endri, who quickly became sympathetic to me, as things get tough at various stations to which the army pursues the Norns. With Porto and Endri, I was introduced to two simple soldiers who represent a brave troop of warriors and mercenaries from all human lands. The two newcomers quickly grow on you. Will Porto and the battle-inexperienced Endri survive the battles? For the two are not granted a nice ending.
So what are my final thoughts about it?
With Osten Ard, the author creates a very imaginative, harsh world in which its inhabitants fear for their survival most of the time. Characterized by cold plains, dark forests and huge mountains, the landscape does not welcome the reader in a friendly way, but with a gloomy tension, that gives the story a fitting framework. The author’s somewhat harder style of writing also fits seamlessly into the narrative and rounds off the book into a successful overall package. The alternating perspectives between Norns and mortals in particular have their very own charm. For even if both folks come across as vengeful and not very sympathetic, Tad Williams succeeds in creating understanding and sympathy for them. By looking at individual fates, but also at the well-being of the whole humans, he allows the reader to penetrate deeply into the story and thus manages to see more behind this war than just the pure killing. However, of course this is only an intermediate volume and I have to say that Tad Williams simply suits the extensive descriptions and the long chapters and books better. Nevertheless, this volume is both a long awaited sequel for regular readers and a good introduction for newcomers to the world of Osten Ard. Very nicely told, but a little one-sided story that gives hope for the further volumes.
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