The Witchwood Crown

It took a long time to read the book, a far to long time. It’s been nearly a whole year. But this is my own fault, not the author’s. The book isn’t written to difficult, it’s not even the fact, that I chose to read the English original. I simply took myself to less time to read.

About the story

Twenty years have passes since the Storm Kings war. The lands of Osten Ard are in relative peace so far but now an old enemy is rising, the Norn queen is woken. And she seeks revenge for the death of the Storm King.

But the Norns are not the only foe, Osten Ard has to face. The Thrithings men are raiding the cities of the kingdom, there are quarrels between noble families and it seems, that there are even enemies with the royal household itself. And so intrigues are spun, envoys are ambushed and the evil Norns seek out for an ancient artifact, which may give them the power to overthrow the mortal men and the Norns own cousins the Sithi.

And as if this isn’t enough the High Queen and the High King have to deal with raising their teenager grandson, who doesn’t seem to be willing to stick to his duties as a prince and the heir to the throne but prefers to drink with friends and to lie with whores.


About the book

I must admit, that The Witchwood Crown is my first Tad Williams book. I promise hereby to change this. I have already bought the Otherworld books and stored them at my Kindle.

A very remarkable thing at the Last King of Osten Ard, of which The Witchwood Crown is just the first book, is the fact, that it continues the “Memory, Sorrow and Thorne” series but one can read it with out knowing the first Osten Ard books. Maybe the fact, that this story is put twenty years after “Memory, Sorrow and Thorne” is helpful to achieve that. The tale of the Last King shows up as a story that completly stands for itself. Everything you need to know is told and things of old one might have missed by not having read the first books are referenced in a way, that gives all necessary informations.

If you ask now, why you should want to read the second before the first, I’ll give you the same answer, I gave to someone, who asked the same at Twitter: Because it makes you eager to learn, how the story began. As I bought the book last year while visiting Scotland, I actually had not been sure, if it was a good idea to start with the Last King, knowing nothing about Osten Ard. It turned out to be the best buy of a book, I’ve ever done. And I am sure, that I will get my hands on the first Osten Ard books too. There will be nothing, that can stop me from that.

But be warned, my friends: This is not a book to be read in one evening.

You most likely will not sit for a year as I have done. But nearly 700 pages want their own time to be read. Still if you have stuck your nose into the fabulous world painted in words by Tad Williams, it won’t let you go. So you might want to warn your partner, your family and your friends, that you will be away for a while. Just for them not to wonder, why you do not respond to messages on your cellphone or social networks.

And you might want to leave your car at home and to buy a ticket for public transport. That would give you the opportunity to read on your way to work, to school, to the universaty…


About the telling of the story

At times when I had the feeling, Tad Williams is a master of letting nothing truely happen. I had this feeling only once until now. I was reading Marion Zimmer Bradleys “The Fall of Atlantis” and turned every page with the thought: “Now it happens!”. Nothing really happend until the end, but Mrs. Zimmer Bradleys had caught me in her web.

If I’m calling Mr. Williams a master of letting nothing happen, I mean it in the most postive way. The story of The Witchwood Crown is obviously only a beginning. Mr. Williams is a strategist, a chess player, who patiently and carefully sets his figures preparing his final strike to check mate his opponent.

The Royal couple travels north and meets old friends, then travels back. The Norns fetch some ancient bones, then set out, to get their hands at some dragons blood. The Thrithings are stirring, plans are made and plans against the plans, nobody knows of. Every small event, every moment of action seem to be quite unimportant to the whole story and is just preparing something bigger. Characters are introduced to those, who don’t know them – one point, why you can read this book absolutly independently form the first Osten Ard series.

The Witchwood Crown is clearly fantasy. It’s got everything that makes a fantasy book since the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. And then again it has not.

There are Elven folks, the Sithi and the Norns. But they are not those figures of light Tolkien had painted.The Norns are the pure evil. And then again they somehow aren’t. The Sithi seem to have no (more) interest in the dealings of other people (except their dark cousins, who are a threat to all the rest of the world). And the Sithi appear far more fierce then Tolkien Elven folk.

There are dwarves. Well, some kind of dwarfs. Trolls they called. But they are not like the “normal” dwarves you can find in any fantasy story. I believe, the trolls are fierce warriors, but they are not the smiths and stone masons, Tolkiens (and any other) dwarves are. The trolls are highly bound to nature and to a kind of shaman magic.

There are human and they are very different among themselves. There’s a riding folk (the Thrithings), but they are more like the Mongoles (or like George R.R. Martins Dothraki). But you may see even this different. Anyway they are not like Tolkiens Rohirrim. There is a kind of Viking folk, the Rimmersmen. The Rimmersmen appear in some points like the people of Rohan, but they are no horsemen. What you won’t find is a barbarian folk, that seems to belong to a fantasy tale. But actually there would be no barbarians in fantasy at all without the low fantasy (but still great fantasy) of Robert E. Howard.

So Tad Williams paints his truely own world with his truely own people. He doesn’t stick to the standards of a genre but defines his own standards. And this is – aside from having no dragon slaughtered every seventh page and no wizard throwing fireballs for no reason except being able to do so – what distinguishes mere fantasy from high literature.

Yes, I mean “paints”, because Mr. Tolkien didn’t just tell a story and Tad Williams doesn’t too. They both made up the picture of a world, describing it to the single stem of grass. But still there is a difference.

Reading “The Lord of the Rings” had been quite difficult for me at the beginning, because Tolkien described to much at the beginning. Tolkien gave a lot of facts about the Hobbits and the shades of the Shire’s grass. And he was setting his figures as carefully as a chess player too.

As Tad Williams does the same, he does it differently. He leaves the making of the picture to the reader himself/herself. And he sets up his chess board throughout the whole story, while Tolkien does it mostly at the beginning and later punctually.

And as Tad Williams does so, he gives the tale twists and turns, puts side stories into it (which quite likely all join in some moment in the next books) and leaves riddles.

There are riddles, I think already solved. At least I seem to have solved the riddle of the siblings. Of course the stories characters don’t know as much as the attentive reader. But then again there was a twist at the end of the story, that puzzles me, which I didn’t expect, that has to be solved in the later books. Tad Williams’ tale is set up far wider than Tolkiens. There are far more parties and far more interests. Mr. Williams doesn’t just send the good into a fight against evil, he puts many a party into different conflicts with other people. And still the whole story doesn’t appear as complex and complicated as Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire”.

In all that Tad Williams use a quite clear language. His choice of words is easy to read (if you only take the time to read) without appearing to be profane. The words he writes and those, he doesn’t write, make up a vivid world in the mind of the reader. Without having to much written about the environment I had clear pictures before my inner eye, had been in Osten Ard myself.

All that can be called nothing less than a master piece. And that master piece has left me now longing for the “Empire of Grass”, which is apointed in English for May 2019. Half a year left to read more Tad Williams.

If I just take myself the time to read. But as House Stark says: Winter is coming. Time enough to sit in the warmth, having a cup of coffee and a good book.

Story:5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
Style of writing:5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
Reading fun:5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
Average:5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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