The Witchwood Crown: The Last King of Osten Ard #1 by Tad Williams continues a fantasy saga first published in 1988. Whew, that's a long time to wait to continue a series. I have not read the first three books (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn) of the original trilogy, but since the events in The Witchwood Crown take place thirty years later, it is not a requirement.
The book is very long, has a huge number of characters and is set in numerous places among several cultures in this fantasy world. The pacing is sometimes slow, but the slower portions alternate with intensely interesting sections.
Con: Some of the characterization is weak, but with so many characters (the list of characters in the back goes on for 25 pages) and with so many different settings with specific plot lines--in-depth characterization of even central characters would be difficult.
Some of the dialogue is awkward and repetitive, as if to remind the reader what the character had thought or said previously.
Some of the names (of people or places) feel like gargling, and each time one of these awkward names appeared, it gave me pause, interrupting my engagement with the story long enough to ponder the gawky name.
Particularly in Hayholt, I found a lack of background to explain the behavior of certain characters--mostly involving the king and queen and their relationship and guidance or (lack thereof) of the grandchildren. I mean, Morgan's "guards" seem the worst kind of influence. If Simon and Miri have been so concerned with Morgan's drinking and gambling and lack of responsibility (the boy is only seventeen, how long has this behavior been going on?), it feels strange that they have done nothing about it.
Pro: In spite of my complaints, I was thoroughly invested in this huge tome of a book. The parts that were good were very good.
The book doesn't have the overall sense of continuity and cohesion that some great fantasy writers achieve, and yet...in spite of some of the things that bothered me, I was immersed in most of the plot. Usually an ongoing mental conversation about what I perceive as problems in a book will make me lose interest. That did not happen. Something that I can't quite explain shines through what I perceive as flaws. Something compelling above my minor complaints kept me engrossed.
I found these endorsements of Tad William's original 1988 saga impressive:
“Inspired me to write my own seven-book trilogy.... It's one of my favorite fantasy series.”
—George R. R. Martin, New York Times-bestselling author of The Games of Thrones
“Groundbreaking...changed how people thought of the genre, and paved the way for so much modern fantasy. Including mine.”
—Patrick Rothfuss, New York Times-bestselling author of The Name of the Wind
I will certainly read the next in this series because I need to know how all of these characters and situations evolve.
Fantasy. June 27, 2017. Print version: 736 pages.