09 July 2017

Books: The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams (2017)

I’ve always had a soft spot for Tad Williams Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series he published between 1988 and 1993. While it was high fantasy in the vein of Lord of the Rings, Williams skill as writer set many other writers penning books in this genre to shame. While I was enjoying Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks, and Stephen R. Donaldson during this same period, this series seemed so much different that it has stuck with me these past two and half decades.

The series had everything that I had already read in Brooks and Tolkien, but what set this apart from others was Williams world building skill –and shockingly how good he was at, considering The Dragonbone Chair was only his second novel. Here was a more distinctive, more lived-in universe than either Brooks or Donaldson had created. Osten Ard had a vast landscape, filled with cadre of interesting, realistic characters and Williams tale had depth and breadth to it (and, according to George R. R. Martin, this series inspired him to begin his legendary A Song of Ice and Fire).

But the tale was finished in 1993’s door-stop tome To Green Angel Tower (a book so long that the mass market paperback version of the book had to be split into two, each well over 700 pages long).  But back in 2014, Tad Williams announced he was returning to the world of Osten Ard for a new trilogy. 

But before he would officially return, he further announced two short novels would be published, with the first being The Heart of What Was Lost, which finally saw release this past January (the books missed two release dates over the years since it was first announced; shades of Robert Jordan). A second one is due to be released between books two and three. 

The Heart of What Was Lost serves a great purpose: it’s a reminder for fans of what had happened, and an introduction for those who didn’t read it in the first place. This book, more or less, tells readers what is going on and hints at what is to come. 

“At the end of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Ineluki the Storm King, an undead spirit of horrifying, demonic power, came within moments of stopping Time itself and obliterating humankind. He was defeated by a coalition of mortal men and women joined by his own deathless descendants, the Sithi.

“In the wake of the Storm King’s fall, Ineluki’s loyal minions, the Norns, dark cousins to the Sithi, choose to flee the lands of men and retreat north to Nakkiga, their ancient citadel within the hollow heart of the mountain called Stormspike. But as the defeated Norns make their way to this last haven, the mortal Rimmersman Duke Isgrimnur leads an army in pursuit, determined to end the Norns’ attacks and defeat their ageless Queen Utuk’ku for all time.

“Two southern soldiers, Porto and Endri, joined the mortal army to help achieve this ambitious goal—though as they venture farther and farther into the frozen north, braving the fierce resistance and deadly magics of the retreating Norns, they cannot help but wonder what they are doing so very far from home. Meanwhile, the Norns must now confront the prospect of extinction at the hands of Isgrimnur and his mortal army.

“Viyeki, a leader of the Norns’ military engineers, the Order of Builders, desperately seeks a way to help his people reach their mountain—and then stave off the destruction of their race. For the two armies will finally clash in a battle to be remembered as the Siege of Nakkiga; a battle so strange and deadly, so wracked with dark enchantment, that it threatens to destroy not just one side but quite possibly all.

“Trapped inside the mountain as the mortals batter at Nakkiga’s gates, Viyeki the Builder will discover disturbing secrets about his own people, mysteries both present and past, represented by the priceless gem known as The Heart of What Was Lost.”

While I purchased the book upon its release back in January, I was still playing with the idea of re-reading the original trilogy. After all, now almost 24 years had passed and maybe (despite the many books I have unread) I should take the time to re-familiarize myself with Osten Ard. 

And as January turned to February and that month into March, I was well into re-reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series when I put them to down to begin reading A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. I was nearly three-quarters through that book, and was planning to then read The Heart of What Was Lost, when my life turned upside down.

On March 17, three days after his 60th birthday, my roommate and long-time friend of twenty-five years suffered a stroke at work. Complications ensued and six-days later he was gone. Suddenly, everything I knew was thrown to the ground, torn and shredded. I knew I would have to move (could not afford the three-bedroom house on my Goodwill salary) and until I got that settled, reading was not something that consumed me.

As a matter of fact, I seemed to lose my desire to read. Yes, too much was going on to sit in that now quiet house on D Street. I could not sit still, and my thoughts wandered away like puppy at a pet store. In the nearly four months that have passed since Bill’s passing, I’ve not completed a book. I’ve tried, but I just didn’t feel like reading. 

But even as some semblance of normality has returned –a new place, a new roommate, a long commute to work (which is another story) - I could not fully spend much time reading. But I tried and Osten Ard seemed like a good place, as this book was short (just over 200 pages) and even though it took me nearly two-months to read, I’m glad I did.

I will also note that before I left my last place, an ARC of the first book in Tad Williams new series showed up on my front porch. I still don’t remember entering a contest, though obviously I did. It was one of few good happenstance things that have occurred in the last three and half months. 

So back to this book.

In many ways this book serves as an epilogue for To Green Angel Tower and a prequel to The Witchwood Crown.  It’s got enough bite, humor, horror and magic to keep readers wanting more. 

And while that book is not next on my list –I have much to get caught up with- it will be read before the summer has passed into memory (though summers continue here in SoCal, sometimes well into October).

No comments: