If you’ve haven’t read the original “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” trilogy, and you’re a fan of fantasy, then you’ve missed out on some remarkable writing. That being said, you do not need to have read how this sojourn into war began to enjoy this trip into the World of Osten Ard.
In The Heart of What Was Lost, the Ineluki, the Storm King is dead, humanity’s been saved from obliteration, and the war is over…ish. In the aftermath of a crushing defeat the Norn scramble north to return to their last remaining stronghold, Stormspike, with human battalions in deadly pursuit. This flight gives you a look at two weary armies struggling to see their task through. Williams brings some important but secondary characters from the trilogy to the forefront in this short novel, but he also focuses on themes that never die in times of war or prosperity: loss of life, uneasy alliances, and the desperate hunt for truth.
All this unfolds the Norns flee towards home in a seemingly futile attempt to retreat then try to hold off the following annihilation-minded humans. As battles are waged, strategies revealed, and loyalties are tested, Williams keeps you fully engaged with glimpses into the post-war aspirations of would-be leaders grabbing for power, struggling to preserve an ancient culture and secure a future. The story trades off perspectives; you’re never in doubt as to what each side is doing even as you question it. There are characters (on both sides of the battle lines) to root for, sympathize with, and ultimately be conflicted over. Willian’s writing style is uniquely suited to conveying deep concepts with few but thoughtful word choices.
The Heart of What Was Lost is a great step back (or introduction) into the world of Osten Ard and a fantastic standalone tale of the aftermath of an epic war you don’t often get in once an author completes a trilogy. It’s a brilliant tale of political intrigue and buried history set in a world where nothing is ever simple and choosing sides doesn’t mean you’re safe. I greatly enjoy this story and highly recommend it if you like well thought-out and engaging fantasy.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams
Series: Osten Ard
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: DAW (January 3, 2017)
A NOVEL OF OSTEN ARD
At the end of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Ineluki the Storm King, an undead spirit of horrifying, demonic power, came within moments of stopping Time itself and obliterating humankind. He was defeated by a coalition of mortal men and women joined by his own deathless descendants, the Sithi.
In the wake of the Storm King’s fall, Ineluki’s loyal minions, the Norns, dark cousins to the Sithi, choose to flee the lands of men and retreat north to Nakkiga, their ancient citadel within the hollow heart of the mountain called Stormspike. But as the defeated Norns make their way to this last haven, the mortal Rimmersman Duke Isgrimnur leads an army in pursuit, determined to end the Norns’ attacks and defeat their ageless Queen Utuk’ku for all time.
Two southern soldiers, Porto and Endri, joined the mortal army to help achieve this ambitious goal—though as they venture farther and farther into the frozen north, braving the fierce resistance and deadly magics of the retreating Norns, they cannot help but wonder what they are doing so very far from home. Meanwhile, the Norns must now confront the prospect of extinction at the hands of Isgrimnur and his mortal army.
Viyeki, a leader of the Norns’ military engineers, the Order of Builders, desperately seeks a way to help his people reach their mountain—and then stave off the destruction of their race. For the two armies will finally clash in a battle to be remembered as the Siege of Nakkiga; a battle so strange and deadly, so wracked with dark enchantment, that it threatens to destroy not just one side but quite possibly all.
Trapped inside the mountain as the mortals batter at Nakkiga’s gates, Viyeki the Builder will discover disturbing secrets about his own people, mysteries both present and past, represented by the priceless gem known as The Heart of What Was Lost.