“God gives us all youth, and the takes it away again. What have you gained to offset that loss? Patience? Perhaps a little wisdom? Then be patient, and perhaps you’ll also be wise.”
So what’s the book about?
Osten Ard is in turmoil. For 30 years King Simon and Queen Miriamel have ruled their land with wisdom and kindness. But the dark forces are gathering around the Queen of the Norns and want to subjugate Osten Ard. The Queen of the Norns reaches out for the legendary Witchwood Crown, and the shadow of a looming war settles over Osten Ard. Then a Sithi envoy, on her way with a message for King Simon and Queen Miriamele, is found badly wounded in the forest near the palace. And an assassination attempt on an old companion within the palace walls causes even greater unrest. The attacker keeps mentioning the Morriga, an ancient goddess of war. King Simon and Queen Miriamele must send their only heir to the throne, Prince Morgan, on a mission to the ancient Sithi people. Can peace still be saved?
“God’s Blood, have we truly become old? he wondered. I do not feel old. I feel the same, but . . . weathered. Like a ship that has plowed the same waves for many years. The rigging is slack, the sails have holes, but the bottom is still seaworthy.”
These aspects attracted me the most while reading.
- The mix of characters in this book is really well done by Williams. Almost better than in the previous cycle. Various characters have been taken out of the universe, others have grown in their roles. First and foremost, of course, Simon and Miriamel. But apart from the partly charmingly aged acquaintances, the new cycle is enlivened by many new characters. For one thing, there is the grandson Morgan, who has been given the role of adolescent boozer and is even more immature than Simon was in the first volumes. But his development in the course of the book is really very well done, even if he is not the hero and doesn’t want to be one – he remains a teenager who has been literally thrown into this story. But what particularly makes the character landscape in this book is that we get to know more of the other side. We finally learn more about the bad guys, the Hikeda’ya. Nezeru shows us the cruel world of the Hikeda’ya. Her human nature forms a good contrast to her people and also shows that evil only wants what is right for itself. The contrast of Nezeru’s kind is made even stronger by Jarnulf, who I find by far the best and have taken him very much to my heart. These two make such an interesting twosome, through their similarities but also differences, that I am very excited to see how their relationship will end. As always, Tad Williams shows that his characters are the highlight and although it is always difficult to let new characters into your heart in a world in which you have already won your favourites, the author manages to integrate them extraordinarily well here, through their authentic and multi-faceted nature and to make Osten Ard something new.
- The reader is offered High Fantasy at its best with this book and I personally find the new cycle even more atmospherically dense and the story even more varied. Of course, there are again several storylines, many characters and names and various convoluted events that give the story a typical complexity. The focus on the different peoples of Osten Ard gives the book an unprecedented complexity that was not present in the previous series. We can read about different perspectives of the peoples and see how much they differ and how much they do not. We also see that the popular Sithi are perhaps not the holy and perfect race we always think they are, but that there are also egoistic trains of thought in them. William’s writing style is very pleasant and, as always, detailed and quickly draws the reader into the action, although it takes a little while for it to pick up speed. Initially, the story plods along without any exciting incidents, but this will be due to the fact that the basis for further volumes is laid here and I can already promise that the second volume is worlds better and perhaps even the best book in the Osten Ard series. But there are also great emotions, intrigues, betrayals and of course various skirmishes that simply belong in this world.
- This book gives you exactly what you need in difficult times. A beautifully detailed story with heart-warming characters and a lovingly crafted world, it has to be said that you quickly forget that evil lurks here too. When I opened the book and read the first sentences, it was as if a door had opened. A heavy, solid wooden door, richly decorated with ornate carvings by Tad Williams himself. I took a deep breath and could taste Osten Ard on my tongue, its scent tickling my nose and all the wonderful memories of times past tugging at my heart. It was eerily poignant to return to Osten Ard. Nostalgic and yet surprising. How good it was to see Simon, Miriamel, Binabik, Sludig and their allies again! I can justifiably say that they have hardly changed at all. They may be older and more mature, but they are still the same. I recognised all of them immediately, which implies how deeply Tad Williams must have thought about their characters. After all, it is not only in Osten Ard that 30 years have passed and it is certainly not easy to empathise with characters constructed so long ago. It is awe-inspiring that after 30 years, Tad Williams summoned the courage and discipline to start all over again, to get to know both Osten Ard and its characters afresh, and to explore the possibilities of this breathtaking universe. All his work resonates on every page of this trilogy opener and I admire him deeply for it.
“Men do not manage well with too much peace. Someone will find a quarrel.”
What did not work for me!
- Readers who are unfamiliar with the first volumes should have little difficulty with the new series, as many events from the past are roughly outlined again. However, this is also the biggest shortcoming of the text, which will certainly make connoisseurs of the series uncomfortable. At every opportunity, the old stories are rehashed between the veterans. For me as a fan of the previous series, the wind was taken out of my sails again and again, and as a result the story stalled again and again. But of course this is the perfect introduction for new readers, although as a big fan of the Osten Ard series, I would always recommend reading all the books in this epic.
“God always hears us. But He made us, so He must know what we’re capable of. That’s probably God’s First Rule—let nothing shock You.”
So what are my final thoughts about it?
I can only rave about this book, no not just this one, but all the books in the world of Osten Ard. Nothing can make you feel as beautiful and fuzzy as Tad Williams manages to do. The Witchwood Crown brings old fans back to Osten Ard and finally reunites the reader with old-loved characters. Although this volume definitely has some lengths, it successfully introduces various new characters, opens up different storylines and leaves me eager to see what will happen next. It is a complex prelude as usual from Tad Williams and is already heading for an eventful story. Now all I have to say is read this book. NOW!
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