The Witchwood Crown (Last King of Osten Ard)
by Trisha Quezada
Technically, The Witchwood Crown is a continuation of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series though it is set about 40 years after that series ends. This is a book that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time – the original series is one I’ve read 3 or 4 times and some scenes still haunt my dreams occasionally. So, I pre-ordered this next book and started it as soon as it was available for download. I had read that even though this book was set in the same world, with many of the same characters, as the first 3 (or 4 depending on how you count them) books you could read it without prior knowledge of the story. I’m actually very surprised to say that it’s probably true. I was extremely skeptical of that going into this book, and I’m still not sure that the experience will be as good if you don’t read the original books…but if this is your kind of story I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it – even to people who haven’t read Tad Williams’ work before.
So what kind of story IS this (I guess I haven’t really gotten there yet, have I)? Well, this is true epic fantasy – both in scope and in length. Amazon tells me that the hardcover is 736 pages, but since I read most things on the Kindle I can just confirm that it’s long. However! Don’t let the length scare you away. Unlike certain other series (cough…Game of Thrones…cough) this one doesn’t drag. While the style is descriptive and rich, each detail has a purpose and each story line that you follow, connects to all the others. One of the things that Williams does brilliantly is give you enough information to follow the story threads while keeping you at the edge of your seat on each one. Also, his characters are just likeable. I was so sad when the first series ended and picking this up felt like being able to give old friends a hug after many years apart.
Simon and Miriamele are the High King and High Queen of Osten Ard and they have a lot of problems on their hands. Their son is dead, their grandson is a typical irresponsible teenager, the Sithi are missing, the kingdoms under the High King’s ward are restless, and the Norns are up to something. There’s a lot of intrigue but that’s balanced by quite a bit of action among all the different story threads. Now, back to the part about this being both new and a continuation. Much, if not all, of the people and happenings in the first half of the book relate back to the original series. In order to make it accessible to new readers there’s a bit more history woven into the plot than is typical for Williams’ style. In other words, the first half is slower than the second but I expect that the other books in the series will have plots that move pretty quickly.