Empire of Grass by Tad Williams

Their culture is a fascinating... there is an undercurrent of secrecy and intrigue.
Empire of Grass book cover

Empire of Grass continues the epic story set in the massive world of Osten Ard. It’s fantasy at its finest because it is layered with so much history and lore. This is a world so detailed it could be real.

The very best of fantasy isn’t plain and simple; it isn’t light verses dark: its people fighting for survival in a world where only the most ruthless win. And this world is filled with cunning politicians and conniving backstabbers. There are so many motives, so many agendas and so many factions fighting for control. It’s no wonder Tad Williams has inspired so many great authors of fantasy to take up the pen. His work is, and continues to be, amongst the best of the genre. And as time has gone on it has only become more developed. History continues to be written as new factions rise.

“The world will be ours again, as it once was. We will go out form this empire of grass with our brave horseman and fight until the world bends its knee to the new Shan.”

For me, though, it’s all about the Norns: the ancient race of immortals that live in the frozen north. They have a bloody and dark history and want nothing more than to rid the world of all mortals. They will stop at nothing to get their goal. Nothing is too far, reanimating fallen heroes and sacrificing their own soldiers are necessary means. Their culture is a fascinating one and, as with all previous instalments, I find their chapters the most interesting because there is an undercurrent of secrecy and intrigue. Even high-ranking members don’t know what the Queen’s plans are; yet, they must continue to obey blindly.

There are numerous POVs across the story. High Magister Viyeki narrates much of the Norn side of the war. Eolair is captor to the rising Empire of Grass and witnesses the final stages of their full mobilisation to action and unification under one ruler. All in all, there is never a dull moment as each character brings something interesting to the story with their backgrounds and endgame. One of the most interesting for me is Jarnulf, a human hunter who plans on assassinating the Norn Queen, a dangerous path to walk.

Amid it all is the genuinely good-natured King Simon who is completely out of his depth. He does not possess the brutal nature that is necessary to control his subjects and force loyalty amongst his peers. He is surrounded by foes and his kingdom is about to fall unless he can work a miracle, forge new alliances, and put the pieces of a shattered realm back together. Simon has a lot to do and not much time to do it in. The next book will be explosive, I can just tell. Tad Williams has spent a lot of time building up the groundwork. I just wonder if Simon is up to the task that is coming his way or perhaps a new hero will step forward. Uncertain times ahead.

So, this is another solid instalment, if a little on the slow side in the beginning, but I have no doubt Tad William’s fans will be rewarded for their patience as this trilogy ends.

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