The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams

(7.0/10)

One need only spend a few minutes traversing the massive catalogue of reviews we have here at Fantasy Book Review to realise that there are a lot of fantasy books out there. Similarly, it is not difficult to acknowledge that we only have so much time in our lives for reading – though we each may wish for more. There are a lot of authors I’m “supposed to have read” that I have actually read – Janny Wurts, Raymond E. Feist, Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, J.R.R. Tolkien (of course), David Gemmell, etc. One of the authors that I haven’t read much of, however – much to my great disappointment – is Tad Williams. Specifically, I’ve never read his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series.

Many of you are likely Tad Williams fans already, and are well aware that he has finally returned to the world which made him famous – and the progenitor of authors like Patrick Rothfuss and Christopher Paolini. The Witchwood Crown was recently released, and it was only then that I realised it was a sequel. Further confusing the matter, Wikipedia told me that there was another book which came before it – The Heart of What Was Lost, which I finally tracked down, secured, and discovered was little more than a novella-length Osten Ard bridging book.

But boy did I enjoy it!

Having not read much of Williams before, it took me a little while to get into this book. Williams writes with a confidence that extends to what he expects from his readers, and as such many of the names and places – the languages that he uses for his various races – made it hard-going at first. Similarly, the race of men in Williams’ work are all very much Anglo-Saxon, thanes and jarrls and all rough-and-tumble, we-wish-we-were-Vikings. It’s not my particular cup of tea, but I grew to love it as it became less the focus, as we moved away from setting the scene and got into the heart of the story.

Other than some vague Wikipedia-ing, I don’t know much about Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn – and I’ve had enough of fourteen-year-old boys saving the world. I’m going to give them a miss, for now, and just read these new Osten Ard books as if they stand on their own. That being said, I didn’t feel like I was missing much for not having read the original trilogy. Williams deftly lets you know the world exists, hints at what has come before and characters who were central to those stories, without relying on what has come before to tell the current story. I believe I have a pretty good idea of the world in which I’m now reading and am looking forward to reading more – and soon, considering that I already have The Witchwood Crown on my shelves.

The book itself was, as mentioned, relatively short – pretty much novella-length – and so definitely doesn’t dig into the larger world too much. There’s a lot there, I suspect, for readers of the original trilogy who may have forgotten things, but there was a lot there for me as I begin to read this world as well. Fast-paced, but with a lot of time to learn about the different races and characters, and using character- and time-jumps to speed the story along, with a chronicler’s one-sided account of the events to fill in any of the skipped gaps. Williams writes so well that, even jumping around as he did, it didn’t come across as laziness, just efficiency in telling a short story.

I was a little frustrated at times at the stubbornness and dim-wittedness of the men in the story – perpetually unwilling and unable to understand or comprehend what was being told to them. I also walked away almost entirely siding with the Norns, the Hikeda’ya. Stupid humans!

Regardless of my anti-human tendencies, however, The Heart of What Was Lost is a great read for fans of Tad Williams and newcomers alike.

Review by

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All reviews for Tad Williams's Memory Sorrow and Thorn series

The Dragonbone Chair

by Tad Williams

A war fueled by the powers of dark sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard—for Prester John, the High King, lies dying. And with his death, the Stor [...]

Series: Memory Sorrow and Thorn: Book 1
Published: 1988

Score: 91

Our rating: 8.5 | positive reader reviews

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The Stone of Farewell

by Tad Williams

Following a brutal civil war, Osten Ard has been crushed under the rule of the two villainous High Kings. A single hope remains: if the rebels can find the three swords of [...]

Series: Memory Sorrow and Thorn: Book 2
Published: 0000

Score: 89

Our rating: 8.8 | positive reader reviews

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To Green Angel Tower

by Tad Williams

In order for the Storm King can cement his power over Osten Ard, he must find and defeat the rebel forces massing against him. But the rebels, led by the exiled Prince Josu [...]

Series: Memory Sorrow and Thorn: Book 3
Published: 0000

Score: 85

Our rating: 8.5 | positive reader reviews

12+

The Heart of What Was Lost

by Tad Williams

The world was nearly destroyed, but now knows hope again. At the end of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Ineluki the Storm King, an undead spirit of horrifying, demonic power, ca [...]

Series: Memory Sorrow and Thorn: Book 5
Published: 2017

Score: 70

Our rating: 7.0 | positive reader reviews

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More Tad Williams reviews

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlepig

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Bobby Dollar, Advocate Angel and perpetual thorn in the side of Heaven, is about to save the holidays for a very special someone. Or somewolf. Or maybe even some pig... Bob [...]

Series: A Bobby Dollar Novella
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Score: 80

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The Dirty Streets of Heaven

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Bobby Dollar has a problem or four of epic proportions. Problem one: his best friend Sam has given him an angel's feather that also happens to be evidence of an unholy [...]

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Sleeping Late on Judgement Day

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Empire of Grass

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Set in Williams' New York Times bestselling fantasy world, the second book of The Last King of Osten Ard returns to the trials of King Simon and Queen [...]

Series: Last King of Osten Ard #2
Published: 2019

Score: 90

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The Dragons of Ordinary Farm

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Tyler and Lucinda have to spend summer with their Uncle Gideon, a farmer. They soon discover that Ordinary Farm is well, no ordinary farm. The bellowing in the barn comes n [...]

Series: NA
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Score: 73

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The Very Best of Tad Williams

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Within these pages you will find such delightful and curious things as a strange storytelling vampire, two woefully-overmatched angels, a dragon in cahoots with a knight an [...]

Series: NA
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Score: 83

Our rating: 8.3 | 0 positive reader reviews

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Shadowmarch

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At the uppermost edge of the northern kingdoms, towers shrouded in mist, lies Southmarch Castle. For hundreds of years it has remained hidden from the affairs of empire. No [...]

Series: Shadowmarch Quartet: Book 1
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Shadowplay

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Darkness has fallen on the lands of the sun as an army of misshapen fey spill out from beyond the Shadowline. At their head is Yasammez, dark creature of nightmare. A furti [...]

Series: Shadowmarch Quartet: Book 2
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Shadowrise

by Tad Williams

As shadows threaten to consume the kingdom of Southmarch, Barrick Eddon, heir to March throne, battles his way across the sinister Shadowlands. He must journey through this [...]

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Published: 2004

Score: 98

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Shadowheart

by Tad Williams

Southmarch Castle is about to be caught between two implacable enemies, the ancient, immortal Qar and the insane god-king, the Autarch of Xis. Meanwhile, its two young defe [...]

Series: Shadowmarch Quartet: Book 4
Published: 2010

Score: 100

Our rating: 10.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

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