The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the first time that I've read this book after having re-visited the original trilogy almost 25 years before. It's so weird to get into this with Simon as a Grandfather, his son dead, and his grandson something of a wastrel.
The book is a huge one. Quite dense and detailed, and it brings us to a point where everything is about to get hellish again. This time, it's the Morrigan. The immortals are restless. And let's face it, everyone is restless.
I frankly enjoyed the worried grandfather bits more than the upset kid bits, but overall it's just a huge sprawl of a novel. This is not an epic fantasy overflowing with battles. But it is dense with worldbuilding and it helps to have gotten yourself lost in all that came before.
Of course, I know very well that this is merely the OPENING novel to something really badass. It takes time to do these things right. :)
I'm almost speechless.
I mean, reading this long, long book takes me back to all the long, long books of Tad Williams and especially his most well-known and beloved original fantasy. (Of which this picks up many years down the line, with Simon the Scullion a grandfather and King of the kingdom.)
What this does extremely well: worldbuilding and characters. He takes his time. And I mean, he lets all the characterizations come out gloriously slowly, with rich detail, and living in such a world that runs so deep as to reclassify the term "escapist fiction".
We live there. We become one with the world of Osten Ard. Whether we're a Norn, one of the elfish immortals, or of men, we dive really deep into the world. I can't find real good or evil anywhere. Just people of all kinds, be they giants, shapeshifters, any kind of immortal, half-immortal, or of the race of men. It's easy to just "say" this, as well, but Tad Williams shows us in all the glory just how true it is.
And then we have the echoes of the undead king, the darkness of magics to come, all the reasons why all these kingdoms are on the path to being laid very, very low, and it all boils down to PEOPLE (of any flavor) doing what they think is right, and still they bring about the greatest evils.
Did I mention how much glorious, deep, well-thought-out, detailed worldbuilding is going on here?
A taste: Prester John, Herne, echoes of catholicism twisted into undead rituals, elves coming across the sea from far away to live here (rather than the reverse), and a whole immortal ppl lied to and left in poverty... for what? It reminds me of Dragon Age, but let's get real here. Tad Williams' epic came out over twenty years ago and this only continues (gloriously so) the long, long tale. :)
I can't say that this fantasy has anywhere near the epic bloodshed and magics that anyone might expect out of today's epic fantasy genre, but when it comes to depth of character, the main story, and worldbuilding... few and perhaps none can compare.
Frankly, I'm lost in admiration.
It's far from a hard read (aside from the length) and it's easy to fall deep into the good writing. I'm remembering my initial response to his first fantasies in just the same way.
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