Tad Williams’ long-awaited return to the world of the Memory, Sorrow And Thorn trilogy picks up from the end of 1993’s To Green Angel Tower and acts as the bridge between that book and his new series, The Last King Of Osten Ard. Fans of Williams’ work have been waiting for this for decades, but this novella also acts as a jumping-on point for new readers, which is how this reviewer approached it.
The Heart Of What Was Lost throws you right into the aftermath of a battle and doesn’t really give you time to catch your breath. The defeated Norns are on the run, shocked and outraged that their forces have been overcome by the humans, led by Duke Isgrimnur. Both sides are vengeful, exhausted and driven, and both battle fiercely at each successive step. Will there be a clear victory for either side? Or will this fight drag on and on until there’s nothing left?
This tome weighs in at a relatively brief 224 pages but Williams packs his story full of rich characters, gripping action and some prime political scheming, and the recaps and explanations for newcomers are carefully sprinkled throughout so as to be almost seamless.
While there are several excellent action sequences, the story really works when Williams shows us different perspectives on the conflict. Norn foreman Viyeki struggles to understand the plans of his wily master Vaarike, who seems to hold some of his race’s traditions in disdain. Veteran human foot soldier Porto tasks himself with looking after a goodhearted, scared young lad, while Isgrimnur must balance satisfying the violent urges of his vengeful generals with his duties as a leader.
There are plenty of fascinating characters who don’t get a POV (particularly the ferocious, stone-cold Norn General Suno’ku), and as a first-time Williams reader, the richness and brilliant detail of this world is fantastic, making it easy to lose yourself in this world.
Yes, it’s a bridge novella, but fans will relish the chance to dive back in, and newcomers should take this opportunity to jump on board. This is gritty, gripping fantasy with heart and guts, and we can’t wait to read more.