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Untappd Venue Badges

Five Years of Beer on UnTappd

Untappd profileAccording to the Untappd app, August 23, 2017 marks five years since I started using the app. Also according to the app and website, during the last 1,826 days (plus 1 added for a leap year!) I have consumed 1,753 Unique Beers, 2,589 Beers Checked-in (not all of the beers I drank in that time frame were checked in) and earned 985 incredibly valuable badges.  This includes the nice “For a Few Unidragons More” from Clown Shoes checked in on that anniversary date. As a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western fan and a stout lover, I really like this series from Clown Shoes.

I’ve also hooked innumerable friends onto this addictive app, and also wrote an article about the psychology of the app from a gamification perspective.

As an Untappd Supporter, one can download one’s entire glutinously logged beer consumption history. Just a note for those that attempt this:

  • the CSV file download gets screwed up with some of the check-in comments, so make sure that the number of rows of data after CSV import is equal to your total number of logged beers.
  • There are some HTML characters in place after import (like the code for ampersand instead of &). I’m sure there’s a way to get rid of this in the import process, but I just did a “Replace” of the few I cared about.

A bit of slicing and dicing later, and here’s what the numbers tell:

Top Breweries

Firestone WalkerMy list includes beers from 497 different breweries. Firestone Walker is my favorite brewery and the numbers reflect it. Also reflected is the “drink local” mentality with breweries around Houston, Tampa (where I go for business) and Austin high on the list.

 

Brewery
Beers
Firestone Walker Brewing Company124
Saint Arnold Brewing Company107
Karbach Brewing Co102
Boston Beer Company55
Cigar City Brewing54
Grupo Modelo54
Founders Brewing Co.40
Stone Brewing40
Real Ale Brewing Company39
Clown Shoes36
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery34
New Belgium Brewing Company31
Guinness30
Buffalo Bayou Brewing29
Goose Island Beer Co.29
Spoetzl Brewery28
Big Storm Brewing Co.26
Brooklyn Brewery26
Anheuser-Busch25
Ballast Point Brewing Company25
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.24
Oskar Blues Brewery23
Avery Brewing Co.22
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company22
Odell Brewing Co.22
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company21
Abita Brewing Company20
Cerveceria Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma S.A. de C.V.20
Lagunitas Brewing Company20
(512) Brewing Company19
Freetail Brewing Co.19
8th Wonder Brewery17
BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse17
Left Hand Brewing Company17
Prairie Artisan Ales17
Southern Star Brewing Company17
Alaskan Brewing Co.16
Crooked Thumb Brewery16
Deschutes Brewery16
Sixpoint Brewery16
Boulevard Brewing Co.15
Funky Buddha Brewery15
Stella Artois15
North Coast Brewing Company14
Great Divide Brewing Company13
Independence Brewing Co.13
Breckenridge Brewery12
Deep Ellum Brewing Company12
Southern Tier Brewing Company12
SweetWater Brewing Company12
Victory Brewing Company12
Blue Moon Brewing Company11
Dundee Ales & Lagers11
B-52 Brewing Co.10
Brewery Ommegang10
Dunedin Brewery10
Hops & Grain Brewing10
Kona Brewing Company10
No Label Brewing Company10
Rogue Ales & Spirits10
Samuel Smith's Old Brewery10
3 Daughters Brewing9
Brigadoon Brewery9
Epic Brewing Co. (Utah, Colorado)9
Evil Twin Brewing9
Fort Collins Brewery (FCB)9
Jester King Brewery9
Arkane Aleworks8
Arrogant Brewing8
Austin Beerworks8
Baltika Breweries (–ë–_–ª—Ç–_–_–_)8
Bare Arms Brewing8
Barley Mow Brewing Company8
Cerveceria Costa Rica (Florida Bebidas)8
Community Beer Company8
Coppertail Brewing Company8
Cycler's Brewing8
Lone Pint Brewery8
Miller Brewing Company8
Terrapin Beer Co.8
Widmer Brothers Brewing8
Yuengling Brewery8
11 Below Brewing7
Bell's Brewery7
Full Sail Brewing Company7
Green Flash Brewing Company7
Lakewood Brewing Company7
Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company7
Anderson Valley Brewing Company6
Belhaven Brewery6
Brash Brewing Company6
Coors Brewing Company6
Heineken6
Innis & Gunn6
Pair O' Dice Brewing6
Pinthouse Pizza6
Redhook Brewery6
Shipyard Brewing Company6
Shmaltz Brewing Company6
Tampa Bay Brewing Company6
Tr__egs Independent Brewing6
7venth Sun5
Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy5
Alamo Beer Company5
Asahi Breweries5
Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan5
Bear Republic Brewing Co.5
Bi_®res de Chimay5
Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana5
Charles Wells Brewery5
Cycle Brewing Company5
Darwin Brewing Company5
Franconia Brewing Company5
Humboldt Brewing Company5
John Smith's5
Labatt Brewing Company5
Martin House Brewing Company5
Monday Night Brewing5
Ska Brewing5
St. Pete Brewing Company5
Anchor Brewing Company4
Big Bend Brewing Company4
Big Sky Brewing Company4
Birra Peroni4
Brazos Valley Brewing4
Brouwerij St. Bernardus4
Brouwerij van Hoegaarden4
Capitol City Brewing Company4
City Acre Brewing4
Funkwerks4
Golden Road Brewing4
Green Bench Brewing Co4
High Mesa Brewery4
Infamous Brewing Company4
Koninklijke Grolsch4
Le Corsaire Microbrasserie4
Live Oak Brewing Company4
Magic Hat Brewing Company4
Moon Tower Sudworks4
Oasis Texas Brewing Company4
Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Co.4
Paulaner Brauerei4
Pedernales Brewing Company4
Rio Grande & Sierra Blanca Brewing Company4
Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery4
Santa Fe Brewing Company4
Sapporo Breweries4
Shock Top Brewing Co.4
The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery4
Thirsty Planet Brewing Company4
Twisted X Brewing Company4
Uinta Brewing Company4
Wasatch Brewery4
Angry Orchard Cider Company3
Ayinger Privatbrauerei3
Back Pew Brewing Company3
Big Dog's Brewing Company3
Big Texan Brewery3
Blue Point Brewing Company3
Bold City Brewery3
Boreale3
Brouwerij Huyghe3
Circle Brewing Co.3
Copperhead Brewery3
DC Brau Brewing Company3
Evolution Craft Brewing Company3
Flying Dog Brewery3
Fredericksburg Brewing Co.3
Friends & Allies3
Gordon Biersch Brewing Company3
Guadalupe Brewing3
Harpoon Brewery3
Harviestoun Brewery3
Heineken Brasil3
Highland Brewing Company3
Kiuchi Brewery3
Lost Coast Brewery3
Marker 48 Brewing3
Molson Coors Canada3
Mother Earth Brewing (North Carolina)3
Nebraska Brewing Company3
Peticolas Brewing Company3
Phantom Ales3
Port City Brewing3
Prescott Brewing Company3
Rockyard Brewing Company3
Se_±orial Brewing Co.3
Sea Dog Brewing Company3
St. Peter's Brewery Co.3
Staatliches Hofbr_§uhaus M_ºnchen3
The Bruery3
The Lost Abbey3
Wynkoop Brewing Co.3
Zilker Brewing Company3
10 Barrel Brewing Co.2
21st Amendment Brewery2
4th Tap Brewing Co-Op2
5 Stones Artisan Brewery2
AleSmith Brewing Company2
Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co.2
Alpine Beer Company2
Archibald Microbrasserie2
Ass Kisser Ales2
Atwater Brewery2
Birra Moretti2
Blue Mountain Brewery2
Boddington's Brewery2
Boon Rawd Brewery2
Boulder Beer Company2
Branchline Brewing Co.2
Brasserie McAuslan (St-Ambroise)2
Brew Bus Brewing2
Brouwerij Palm2
Brouwerij Van Steenberge2
Brouwerij Van Viven2
Busted Sandal Brewing2
Central 28 Beer Company2
Commonwealth Brewery2
Compa_±ia Cervecera de Puerto Rico2
Coney Island Brewery2
Coopers Brewery2
CooperSmith's Pub & Brewing2
Coronado Brewing Company2
Denver Beer Co.2
DuClaw Brewing Company2
Elevation Beer Company2
Equinox Brewing Company2
FiftyFifty Brewing Co.2
Fort Bend Brewing Company2
Four Corners Brewing Company2
Fuller, Smith & Turner 2
GolfBeer Brewing Co2
Great Lakes Brewing Company2
Grupo Damm2
Hand-Brewed Beer2
Heavy Seas Beer2
Heineken Asia Pacific2
Hi Sign Brewing2
Hinterland Brewery2
JDub's Brewing Co.2
Johnson Brewhouse2
Joseph James Brewing Company2
Kirin Brewery Company2
Krombacher Gruppe2
La Cumbre Brewing Company2
Last Stand Brewing Company2
M.I.A. Beer Co.2
Manitou Brewing Company2
Maui Brewing Company2
Motorworks Brewing2
New Holland Brewing Company2
Old Bust Head Brewing Company2
Pabst Brewing Company2
Pizza Boy Brewing Co.2
Rabbit Hole Brewing2
Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling2
Red Brick Brewing Co.2
Red Horn Coffee House and Brewing Co.2
Revolver Brewing2
Rhinelander Brewing Company2
Rock Brothers Brewing2
Rogness Brewing Company2
Small Town Brewery2
Solid Rock Brewing2
South Austin Brewery2
Squatters Craft Beers2
Strange Land Brewery2
Swamp Head Brewery2
Texas Big Beer Brewery2
Thai Beverage PLC2
Three Nations Brewing2
Tsingtao Brewery2
Warsteiner2
Weyerbacher Brewing Company2
Yards Brewing Co.2
3 Floyds Brewing Company1
3 Stars Brewing Company1
81Bay Brewing Co.1
Abbaye de Leffe1
Abbaye de Maredsous1
Abnormal Beer Co1
Adelbert's Brewery1
Ajeper S.A.1
Alchimiste Microbrasserie1
Allagash Brewing Company1
Amstel Bier1
Angel City Brewery1
Angry Chair Brewing1
Atlas Brew Works1
Augustiner-Br_§u M_ºnchen1
Avondale Brewing Co.1
B. Nektar Meadery1
Baja Brewing Company1
Barq's1
Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery1
Bass Brewers1
Beachwood Brewing1
Bearded Fox Brewing Company1
Berkshire Brewing Company (B.B.C.)1
Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven1
Big Top Brewing Company1
Birrificio Del Ducato1
Bitburger Braugruppe1
Black Shirt Brewing Co1
Blue Star Brewing Company1
Brasserie Caracole1
Brasserie de Silly1
Brasserie Lefebvre1
Brasseurs Illimites1
Brauerei Beck1
Brew Hub1
BrewDog1
Bristol Brewing Company1
Brooksville Brewing Company1
Brothers Craft Brewing1
Brouwerij Alken-Maes1
Brouwerij Boon1
Brouwerij De Brabandere (Bavik)1
Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle1
Buffalo Bill's Brewery1
Bull and Barrel Brew Pub1
Caboose Brewing Company1
Captain Lawrence Brewing Company1
Carlsberg UK1
Cascade Brewing Company (USA)1
Cat Cora1
Ceiba1
Celis Brewing Company1
Cerveceria Mexicana1
Cerveceria y Malteria Quilmes1
Cerveza R__stica Yucateca1
City Star Brewing1
Cocoa Beach Brewing Company1
Compa_±ia Cervecera de Nicaragua1
Copper Kettle Brewing Company (Colorado)1
Covington Brewhouse1
Darwin Brewery1
de Bine Brewing Co1
Dej Buh Stesti Brewery1
Desnoes & Geddes1
Devils Backbone Brewing Company1
Dixie Brewing Co.1
Driftwood Brewing1
Dry Dock Brewing Company1
Duvel Moortgat1
Easy Pretzel Brewing Company1
Einst__k _ñlger__1
Elk Mountain Brewing Company1
Elysian Brewing Company1
Engine 15 Brewing Co.1
Escape Brewing Company1
Faction Brewing1
Falls City Beer1
Farnham Ale & Lager1
Florida Avenue Brewing Co.1
Florida Beer Company1
Foster's Group1
Galveston Bay Beer Company1
Gigantic Brewing Company1
Goodwood Brewing1
Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant1
Grapevine Craft Brewery1
Green Man Brewery1
Green's Beers1
Grimm Brothers Brewhouse1
Grist Brewing Company1
Grupa _ªywiec1
Grupo Mahou-San Miguel1
Guns And Oil1
Hall Brewing Company1
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery1
Heineken Brewery Ireland1
Hellenic Brewery of Atalanti (EZA)1
Heritage Brewing Company1
Hermitage Brewing1
HOB Brewing (Dunedin)1
Holsten-Brauerei1
Horse & Dragon Brewing Company1
Huff Brewing Company1
Industrias La Constancia1
Intuition Ale Works1
Islamorada Beer Company1
J. Wakefield Brewing1
JailHouse Brewing Company1
Jekyll Brewing1
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales1
K__nig Brauerei1
K__stritzer Schwarzbierbrauerei1
Key Brewing Company1
Kinnitty Castle1
Kronenbourg1
Latitude 33 Brewing1
Laughing Dog Brewing1
Le Trou du Diable1
Left Coast Brewing1
Legend Brewing Company1
Long Trail Brewing Company1
Lost Rhino Brewing Company1
Magnolia Brewing Company1
Margaritaville Brewing Company1
Mike Hess Brewing1
Moa Brewing Company1
Moody Tongue1
Narragansett Brewing Company1
Naughty Brewing1
New Republic Brewing Company1
Nico's Brewing1
Nine Band Brewing1
Ninkasi Brewing Company1
NOLA Brewing1
NXNW Restaurant & Brewery1
O'Dempsey's1
Old Harbor Brewery1
Olympic Brewery1
Omission Beer1
Orpheus Brewing1
Pale Fire Brewing Company1
Paradox Beer Company (Colorado)1
Parkway Brewing Company1
Pateros Creek Brewing1
Peak Organic Brewing Company1
Pensacola Bay Brewery1
Perennial Artisan Ales1
Perrin Brewing Co.1
Pikes Peak Brewing Co.1
Pinellas Ale Works1
Pivovary Staropramen1
Plze_àsk__ Prazdroj1
Prost Brewing Company1
Rapp Brewing Company1
Red Hare Brewing Company1
Reformation Brewery1
Renegade Brewing Company1
Rhinegeist Brewery1
Ridgeway Brewing1
Rinku_°kiai1
River North Brewery1
Rivertown Brewery & Barrel House (Ohio)1
RJ Rockers Brewing Company1
Robinsons Brewery1
Russian River Brewing Company1
Saint Alexandre Pub1
Saint Patrick's Brewing Company1
Saltwater Brewery1
San Antonio Beverage Company1
San Luis Valley Brewing Company1
Santa Clara Valley Brewing1
Schlenkerla ("Heller-Br_§u" Trum)1
Schneider Weisse G. Schneider & Sohn1
Silverking Brewing Company1
Sin City Brewing Co.1
Sinebrychoff1
Six Ten Brewing1
Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill1
Smuttynose Brewing Co.1
Spaten-Franziskaner-L__wenbr_§u-Gruppe1
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers1
SpindleTap Brewery1
Starr Hill Brewery1
Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg1
Stift Engelszell1
Straight to Ale1
Tap Room No. 21 Brewing1
Texas Ale Project1
Texas Beer Refinery1
The Alchemist1
The Headquarters Homebrewing Club1
The Palace1
The Post Brewing Company1
Thomas Creek Brewery1
Three Taverns Craft Brewery1
Tin Roof Brewing Co.1
Titletown Brewing Company1
To _òl1
Tommyknocker Brewery1
Traveler Beer Co.1
Treaty Oak Brewing1
Triple Voodoo Brewery and Tap Room1
Trumer Privatbrauerei1
Twin Peaks Restaurants1
Twisted Pine Brewing Company1
Two Brothers Brewing Company1
Uncle Billy's Brewery1
Unibroue1
United Breweries (India)1
Upslope Brewing Company1
W_ºrzburger Hofbr_§u1
West Flanders Brewing Co.1
Westbrook Brewing Co.1
Whistle Stop Ale House1
Wrecking Bar Brewing1
Wychwood Brewery1
Wynwood Brewing Company1
Yazoo Brewing Company1
Yee-Haw Brewing Company1
ZEOS Brewing1
Zevia1
Grand Total2588

 

While the majority of the beers were from breweries in the United States, this includes beers from brewers in 38 countries:

Brewery Country
Beer Count
United States2222
Mexico78
Belgium52
England34
Ireland32
Germany29
Canada25
Scotland16
Japan14
Netherlands12
Costa Rica8
Russia8
Italy7
Puerto Rico6
Dominican Republic5
Thailand4
Australia3
Austria3
Brazil3
Greece3
Spain3
Bahamas2
China / People's Republic of China2
Czech Republic2
Singapore2
Argentina1
Denmark1
El Salvador1
Finland1
France1
Iceland1
India1
Jamaica1
Lithuania1
New Zealand1
Nicaragua1
Peru1
Poland1

Top Styles

Out of the 134 different styles of beer tasted, my preferred styles are dark (stouts and porters) but due to their seasonality (I’d drink them year round, but most breweries release them in the fall for cool weather drinking) I cannot get the ones I want all the time. I was surprised by how far ahead American IPAs were over other styles.

Style
Beer Count
IPA - American254
IPA - Imperial / Double122
Stout - American Imperial / Double106
Pale Ale - American104
Porter - American94
Stout - Russian Imperial70
Red Ale - American Amber / Red69
Lager - Vienna62
Stout - Oatmeal59
Stout - Milk / Sweet56
Lager - North American Adjunct50
Porter - Imperial / Double48
Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy48
Lager - Pale47
Stout - American45
Porter - Other44
Marzen38
Pumpkin / Yam Beer37
IPA - Session / India Session Ale36
Pale Wheat Ale - American35
Witbier34
Blonde Ale31
Lager - Dark31
IPA - Black / Cascadian Dark Ale30
Brown Ale - American29
Pilsner - Other29
Stout - Irish Dry29
Barleywine - American28
Lager - Euro27
Brown Ale - English25
Lager - American Light25
Strong Ale - American25
Fruit Beer24
Old Ale24
Saison / Farmhouse Ale24
Belgian Quad23
K__lsch23
Pale Ale - English23
Stout - Imperial / Double23
Lager - Helles21
Pilsner - German21
Stout - Other21
Belgian Tripel19
Doppelbock19
Hefeweizen19
Belgian Strong Dark Ale18
Lager - American Amber / Red18
Porter - Baltic18
Barleywine - English17
Belgian Strong Golden Ale15
Pale Ale - Belgian15
Spiced / Herbed Beer15
Winter Warmer15
IPA - English14
Lager - Dunkel Munich14
Red Ale - Irish13
Belgian Dubbel12
Brown Ale - Imperial / Double12
Porter - English12
Winter Ale12
Cream Ale11
English Bitter11
Pilsner - Czech11
Shandy / Radler10
Smoked Beer10
Sour - Ale10
Stout - Imperial Milk / Sweet10
Schwarzbier9
Stout - Foreign / Export9
American Wild Ale8
Golden Ale8
Kellerbier / Zwickelbier8
Rye IPA8
Sour - Gose8
Bock7
IPA - Belgian7
IPA - White7
Lager - Winter7
Red Ale - Imperial / Double7
Stout - Imperial Oatmeal7
Blonde Ale - Belgian Blonde / Golden6
Sour - Berliner Weisse6
Altbier5
Dunkelweizen5
Lager - Japanese Rice5
Root Beer5
Scottish Ale5
Scottish Export Ale5
Brown Ale - Other4
Cider4
Extra Special / Strong Bitter4
Gluten-Free4
IPA - Imperial / Double Black4
IPA - Red4
Kristallweizen4
Lager - Euro Dark4
Lager - IPL (India Pale Lager)4
Maibock / Heller (Helles) Bock4
Other4
Pumpkin / Yam Beer - Imperial4
Weizenbock4
Dark Ale3
IPA - Triple3
Lager - Amber3
Pilsner - Imperial / Double3
Rye Beer3
Strong Ale - English3
California Common2
Festbier2
IPA - International2
Lager - Dortmunder / Export2
Lambic - Gueuze2
Malt Liquor2
Pale Ale - International2
Barleywine - Other1
Biére de Garde1
Burton Ale1
Eisbock1
English Mild Ale1
Grisette1
Gruit / Ancient Herbed Ale1
IPA - New England1
Lager - Euro Strong1
Mead - Braggot1
Mead - Cyser1
Mead - Other1
Non-Alcoholic1
Pale Ale - Australian1
Rauchbier1
Roggenbier1
Sour - Flanders Oud Bruin1
Specialty Grain1
Stout - Oyster1
Wheat Wine1

Top Beers

There’s lots of variety in the list of 1,751 unique beers. I did not typically record every beer, but certainly did for the unique ones. Negra Modelo would be even further out in front if I checked in every one that I had. Every Mexican food dinner is enjoyed with one plus a reposado tequila of some sort. Try it!

I blame all of the Stella check-ins on Bob. I successfully avoided most of his Miller Lite temptations. (How is Miller Lite like sex in a canoe? They are both f-ing near water!).
Untappd top beers
Untappd Top beers

Untappd

Badges

At first I thought the Untappd badges were meaningless trinkets. Now I see them as worthless trinkets, some of which show interesting trends. Untappd recently made badges retroactive, so if they announced a new badge all of your previous check-ins would count towards it. They also allowed some badges to go up to a level 100.

Untappd Beer Badges

For those mathematically inclined (like me) who are wondering why Untappd says I have 982 badges but this screenshot only shows 977 – it’s because they count the “Local Badges” separately. I like the local badges, and I wish more venues would do them. And, if you haven’t tried Craft Pride on Rainey Street in Austin, you really should (they are my highest local badge).

From a trend standpoint, maxing out on the US beer badge (Land of the Free) and the “I take pictures of my beers and post them to the Reddit beer porn sub” badge (Photogenic) are obvious. The “Heavy Weight” badge reflects my penchant for stouts and porters (see the “Top ABV” section below). And given that IPAs are at the top of the Top Styles count, it is somewhat surprising that the “I Believe in IPA” badge is so low.

Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 8.51.00 PM

The “Bar Explorer” badge almost being maxed out is not surprising. But the “Layover” badge only being a level 5 seems to reflect what I have discovered: airports have crap beers. I’m also surprised that the “Big Game” badge is only at Level 2, but this is probably because we hit the same place for every Packers game.

Top ABV

It figures that the top ABV is a home-brew mead (way to go Nick!).  There are lots of Firestone Walker and Clown Shoes brews on this list. I’ve only put the top few (ABV > 13).

ABV
Beer
Brewery
Style
18.5I Feel the Need For MeadNico's BrewingMead - Other
18120 Minute IPADogfish Head BrewingIPA - Imperial / Double
120 Minute IPA (2012)Dogfish Head BrewingIPA - Imperial / Double
Raison D'ExtraDogfish Head BrewingBelgian Strong Dark Ale
17.5120 Minute IPA (2013)Dogfish Head BrewingIPA - Imperial / Double
17.1Mephistopheles' (2015)Avery Brewing Co.Stout - Imperial / Double
Mephistopheles' Stout (2014)Avery Brewing Co.Stout - American Imperial / Double
Uncle Jacob's StoutAvery Brewing Co.Stout - American Imperial / Double
17He'Brew Jewbelation RebornShmaltz Brewing CompanyStrong Ale - American
15Bolt Cutter (15th Anniversary Barley Wine)Founders Brewing Co.Barleywine - American
Bourbon County Brand StoutGoose Island Beer Co.Stout - American Imperial / Double
14.6Mephistopheles' Stout Avery Brewing Co.Stout - American Imperial / Double
14A Fistful of UnidragonsClown ShoesStout - Russian Imperial
For a Few Unidragons MoreClown ShoesStout - Russian Imperial
For a Few Unidragons More (2017)Clown ShoesStout - Russian Imperial
ParabolaFirestone Walker Brewing CompanyStout - Russian Imperial
Parabola (2014)Firestone Walker Brewing CompanyStout - Russian Imperial
Smoking Wood (Bourbon Barrel Aged) (2014)The BruerySmoked Beer
The Good, The Bad & The UnidragonClown ShoesStout - Russian Imperial
13.5SucubaFirestone Walker Brewing CompanyBarleywine - English
Sucuba (2014)Firestone Walker Brewing CompanyBarleywine - American
Track #10: Bat Out of HellThe Lost AbbeyStout - American Imperial / Double
13.4Stickee Monkee (2014)Firestone Walker Brewing CompanyStrong Ale - American
13.3Sucuba (2015)Firestone Walker Brewing CompanyBarleywine - American
13.2Bravo (2017)Firestone Walker Brewing CompanyBrown Ale - Imperial / Double
HelldoradoFirestone Walker Brewing CompanyBarleywine - American
Helldorado (2015)Firestone Walker Brewing CompanyBarleywine - American
13.1Bishop's Barrel No. 15Saint Arnold Brewing CompanyBarleywine - English

Top IBU

Palate Wrecker is thy name! Again, only the top few (IBU > 100) are shown on this table.

IBU
Beer
Brewery
Style
149Palate WreckerGreen Flash Brewing CompanyIPA - Imperial / Double
120120 Minute IPADogfish Head BrewingIPA - Imperial / Double
120 Minute IPA (2012)Dogfish Head BrewingIPA - Imperial / Double
Dreamcrusher Double IPADeep Ellum Brewing CompanyIPA - Imperial / Double
118Cedar Aged More CowbellBuffalo Bayou BrewingIPA - Imperial / Double
More Cowbell Double IPABuffalo Bayou BrewingIPA - Imperial / Double
115Hop DelusionKarbach Brewing Co.IPA - Imperial / Double
Pussy WagonBrash Brewing CompanyIPA - American
114The JabberwockyLone Pint BreweryIPA - Imperial / Double
110Stone RuinTen Triple IPAStone BrewingIPA - Triple
ValkyrieSouthern Star Brewing CompanyIPA - Imperial / Double
108PuffSixpoint BreweryIPA - Imperial / Double
The EffectBrazos Valley BrewingIPA - Black / Cascadian Dark Ale
104Hog HeavenAvery Brewing Co.IPA - Imperial / Double
Hog Heaven Barleywine (2014)Avery Brewing Co.IPA - Imperial / Double
103Mr. Chain-Blue LightningWest Flanders Brewing Co.IPA - Imperial / Double
ResinSixpoint BreweryIPA - Imperial / Double
102The MaharajaAvery Brewing Co.IPA - Imperial / Double
101Imperial IPA (2014)Green Flash Brewing CompanyIPA - Imperial / Double

Top Check-in Locations

Of the 451 locations I was brazen enough to check a beer in at, there are 165 where I checked in only once. Some of those were just for fun (Luckenbach Texas, Thumb Butte Lookout, The Carousel Bar in New Orleans, Leavenworth Federal Prison (the kids were so proud), Houston Air Traffic Control Tower (fly by), Hidden Corner Ewa Beach on Oahu, Grand Canyon National Park Airport, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Locker Room (at the game where the Packer came back from 21 down to beat the Cowboys with a backup QB!),  Cenote Yokdzonot (in the Yucatan), and the Bull Shark Feeding Grounds (I don’t remember where this was!).

Obviously at home check-ins were the highest. And yes, I’ve checked in 4 beers at Lambeau Field (so far!).

Check-In LocationTotal
Ketchersid Sports Bar484
Topgolf108
Kilburn's Tavern & Grille81
Mike's Pizza & Tap House56
Rockwell Grill49
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema- Vintage Park44
Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill42
Willard's Tap House39
Mo's Irish Pub38
The Shack37
Whole Foods Market31
Bar fly31
Cigar City Brewing30
Buffalo Wild Wings24
The Holy Grail Pub23
Juanita's22
BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse20
Big Storm Pinellas20
World of Beer18
US Post Office18
Freetail Brewing Co.17
Brick House Tavern + Tap16
Rumba Island Bar & Grill15
Petrol Station15
Mellow Mushroom14
Karbach Brewing Co.14
Flying Saucer Draught Emporium14
Texas Renaissance Festival13
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott13
Ker's WingHouse Bar &; Grill12
Crooked Thumb Brewing12
Craft Pride12
Brix Wine Cellars &; Restaurant12
The Hay Merchant11
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens Liberty Station11
Omni Dallas Hotel at Park West11
Moon Tower Inn11
G'Raj Mahal Cafe11
City of Highlands Ranch11
Banger's Sausage House & Beer Garden11
Amalie Arena11
Old School Pizza &; Suds10
Ketchersid Sky Bar10
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion10
Ceviche Tapas Bar &; Restaurant10
B-52 Brewing Company10
Taco Mac9
Fort Collins Brewery &; Tavern9
Dunedin Brewery9
The Westin Alexandria8
The Hideaway8
Tampa International Airport (TPA) (Tampa International Airport)8
Mike's Pizza and Tap House 28
Meddlesome Moth8
Hooters8
Ballast Point Tasting Room &; Kitchen - Little Italy8
Abel's on the Lake8
Peli Peli7
Mongoose vs Cobra7
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) (George Bush Intercontinental Airport)7
Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen7
Chester's Hamburgers7
Brooks Tower7
Art and Soul7
Arkane Aleworks7
Valley Tavern6
Saltgrass Steak House6
New Belgium Brewing6
El Tiempo Cantina - Vintage Park6
Courtyard by Marriott6
BRC Gastropub6
54th Street Restaurant & Drafthouse6
Whistle Stop Grill &; Bar5
Trademark Drink &; Eat5
The Quarter Bar &; Grill5
The Porter Beer Bar5
The Original Ninfa's on Navigation5
Penn Social5
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen5
La Taberna L__pulo5
JW Marriott Austin5
Jester King Brewery5
Freshcraft5
Frenchy's Rockaway Grill5
Cypress Street Pint &; Plate5
Brigadoon Brewery5
8th Wonder Brewery5
3 Stacks Smoke &; Tap House5
Watson's House of Ale's4
Twin Peaks Restaurant4
Taps Valley Gastropub4
Southern Star Brewing Company4
Shadow cliff swim club4
Saint Arnold Brewing Company4
Rock Bottom Brewery4
Reserve 1014
Punta Cana Dominican Restaurant4
Pizza e Birra4
Outback Steakhouse4
Omni Shoreham Hotel4
Omni Austin Hotel Downtown4
Oggi’s Pizza &; Brewhouse Point Loma4
Mike's Pizza &; Deli Station4
Makaha Valley Towers4
Maggiano's Little Italy4
Luz En Yucatan4
Lucky's Pub4
Lambeau Field4
La Bierhaus4
L'affaire est Ketchup4
Javelina4
Hop Scholar Ale House4
Hank's Oyster Bar4
Great Divide Brewing Co.4
Draught House Pub &; Brewery4
Corsaire Microbrasserie4
City Acre Brewing4
Cedar Creek Caf_©, Bar &; Grill4
Capitol City Brewing Company4
Bare Arms Brewing Company4
American Airlines Center4
Wynkoop Brewing Co.3
White Horse Tavern3
Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie3
United Club3
Tropicana Field3
Tilted Kilt King of Prussia3
Thumb Butte Trail3
The Vortex Bar &; Grill3
The Marketplace3
The Local Peasant3
The Jefferson Hotel3
The Big Texan Steak Ranch3
Rockyard Brewing Co.3
Ramen Tatsu-ya3
Prescott Brewing Company3
Poblano's Grill &; Bar3
Phantom Ales &; Home Brew Shop3
Odell Brewing Co.3
Mussel Bar &; Grille3
Mulligan's3
Megg's Cafe3
Lucille's3
La Merienda3
Kahlo3
Hotel S_°mara Inn3
Hog Island Oyster Co.3
Growler's Beer and Wine To Go3
Funkwerks3
Fredericksburg Brewing Company3
Foxworthy Shopping Center3
Falling Rock Tap House3
Exhibit Ale3
El Prez3
Dixie Tavern3
Cottonwood3
Carrabba's Italian Grill3
Can Can Brasserie3
Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co.3
Brick Store Pub3
Big Woodrow's3
Big Hops Gastropub3
Beer Market Co.3
Bavarian Brauhaus3
Baba Yega3
Avery Brewing Company3
Anothai Cuisine3
20 Mile Tap House3
Zona Arqueol__gica de Uxmal2
Wung Thai and Sushi Bar2
West Flanders Brewing Company2
USS Midway Flight Deck2
United Club - Terminal C2
TJ's Sports Bar &; Grill2
The Townsend2
The Sunset Restaurant2
The Strand Historic District2
The Shack Burger Resort - Rose Hill2
The Raven2
The Oasis on Lake Travis2
The Moon Under Water2
The Lion &; Rose British Restaurant &; Pub2
The Hoppy Monk2
The Crafted Plate2
The Cherry Cricket2
The Brown Hotel2
Tarpon Tavern2
Table and Tavern2
Swanky's Oysters &; Libations2
Stats Sports Bar &; Grill2
Sprouts Farmers Market2
South City Kitchen Vinings2
Shogun Hibachi Grill - Vintage2
Shady Grove2
Shack Burger Resort Telge2
San Antonio International Airport (SAT)2
Saint-Alexandre Pub2
Saigon Fresh2
Safety Harbor Grill &; Bar2
Royal Gorge Train Route2
Roy's Ko Olina2
Rolling Stone Bar &; Grill2
Rolling Oaks Golf and Sports Bar2
Raymond James Stadium2
Prescott Ear Nose &; Throat2
Pizza Italia2
Pete &; Shorty's2
Pacific Moon2
Omni Houston Hotel2
Odd Duck2
Norman Y. Mineta San Jos_© International Airport (SJC) (Norman Y. Mineta San Jos_© International Airport)2
Nolan's Pub2
Noe at the Omni Los Angeles2
Nick's Sports Bar &; Grill2
New World Brewery2
Naschmarkt2
Mythos Greek Taverna2
Mar y Tierra2
Manning's2
Manitou Springs Memorial Park2
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino2
Lone Pint Brewery2
Locatelli's Pizza2
Locatelli2
Local Pour2
La Vela Latina Beach Bar2
La Chapelle Pub &; Grill2
Knife &; Fork Gastropub2
Kaua'i Marriott Resort2
John Wayne Airport (SNA) (John Wayne Airport)2
Hobbit Cafe2
Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Perimeter Center2
Hido Japanese Grill &; Sushi2
Hearsay Gastro Lounge2
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)2
Harrisburg International Airport (MDT)2
H-E-B2
Grind House Bar &; Grill2
Grille District2
Green Bay Distillery2
Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant2
Fourth Street Shrimp Store2
FM Smoke House2
Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue2
Ferg's Sports Bar &; Grill2
Eureka!2
Equinox Brewing2
Embassy Suites by Hilton Austin Downtown Town Lake2
El Jarro De Arturo2
El Chile Cafe y Cantina2
Ducky's2
Drago's Seafood Restaurant2
Dr. Pepper Star Center2
Denver International Airport (DEN)2
Denver Beer Co.2
Cypress Station Grill2
Courtyard Marriott Atlanta Cumberland Center2
Courtside Grille2
Copperheads Taphouse2
CooperSmith's Pub &; Brewing :: Pubside2
Colorado Renaissance Festival2
Clearwater Yacht Club2
Clear Sky Draught Haus2
Chart House Restaurant2
Champions Restaurant &; Sports Bar2
Cenote2
Brother's Pizza2
Boiler House Texas Grill &; Wine Garden2
Boardwalk - Santa Monica Beach2
Black Sheep Lodge2
Billy's On Burnet2
Bernie's Burger Bus Stop2
Bear Creek Soccer Fields2
BB's Tex-Orleans Cooking!2
Barton's Lounge2
Barren Hill Tavern &; Brewery2
Barley Mow Brewing Company2
Baker St. Pub &; Grill2
Auberge St-Antoine2
Apoala | Mexican Cuisine2
All_¥ French Rotisserie2
Alamo Drafthouse Ritz2
A_©roport International Jean-Lesage de Qu_©bec (YQB) (A_©roport International Jean-Lesage de Qu_©bec)2
8th Avenue Pub2
400 Beach Seafood &; Tap House2
11 Below Brewing2
Wrecking Bar Brewpub1
Woodway &; Voss1
WinStar World Casino and Resort1
Via 3131
Twin Liquors1
Twin Liqours1
Tuckahoe Plantation1
Train1
Toyota Center1
Toby Keith's I Love This Bar &; Grill1
Titletown Brewing Co.1
Tilted Kilt Clearwater1
Thumb Butte Lookout1
The Villa Restaurant of Woodland Hills1
The Trinity Hotel1
The Train Tracks1
The Ronald Reagan Pub1
The Ranch at Las Colinas1
The Pool1
The Palace1
The Old Stone Church Restaraunt1
The Hot Tub At The Fairfield Inn1
The Goodwin1
The Container Bar1
The Carousel Bar &; Lounge1
Thai Chili1
Terminal B1
Tanq1
Tampa Bay Brewing Company1
TAG Lounge &; Bar1
Swift's Attic1
SUR Beach House1
Stopped By A Train1
St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater1
SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza Overland Park1
Speakeasy1
Southside Flying Pizza1
Southern Star Brewing Company Taproom1
somewhere in houston1
Soda Springs Park1
Smart Financial Centre1
SLS Las Vegas1
Shaburi1
Sea Devil Tavern1
Santikos Silverado 19 IMAX1
Sam Snead's Tavern1
Sal's Italian Restaurant1
Rusty Bellies1
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport)1
Richmond International Airport (RIC)1
Poppy's Seafood Grill1
Polish Pub1
Piedra de Agua1
Phillip's Seafood1
Phantom Ranch1
Perfect Landing Restaurant1
Pepsi Center1
Pateros Creek Brewing1
Pappas Seafood House1
Osteria Mazzantini1
opa's schnitzel haus1
Onion Creek1
Omni Hotel at CNN Center1
Nocturne1
Niko Niko's1
New Orleans City Park1
Native Bar and Kitchen1
Na Pali Coast1
Monarch Restaurant1
MKT BAR1
Minute Maid Park1
Miller Outdoor Theatre1
Mellow Mushroom - San Antonio1
McCray's Tavern on the Square1
McCarran International Airport (LAS)1
MAX's Wine Dive Austin1
Luis Mu_±oz Mar__n International Airport (SJU) (Aeropuerto Internacional Luis Mu_±oz Mar__n)1
Luckenbach Texas and Dance Hall1
Luckenbach1
Local Republic1
Little India1
Little Colorado River Gorge1
Levi's Stadium1
Lemaire1
Leavenworth Federal Prison1
Latin Bites1
Lankford's Grocery &; Market1
La Tratto Santa Luc__a1
La Chaya Maya1
La Carafe1
Kurios By Cirque Du Soleil1
King's Bierhaus1
Kennedy's Chicago Pizza1
Kansas City International Airport (MCI) (Kansas City International Airport)1
Johnson Beer Fridge1
Jackson's Denver1
Houstonia Magazine1
Houston Greek Festival1
Houston Air Traffic Control Tower1
Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin1
Hotel El Convento1
Hopdoddy Burger Bar1
Hoover's Cooking1
Hilton Austin1
Hidden Corner Ewa Beach1
Harvest by Roy Ellamar1
Hard Eight BBQ1
Hall of Fame Chophouse1
Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen &; Bar1
Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken1
Grand Canyon National Park Airport (GCN)1
Gordon Biersch Bar &; Restaurant1
Galveston Seawall1
Galveston Beach @ Murdochs1
Frankies Spuntino 5701
Frank &; Angie's1
Fort Worth Museum of Science and History1
Ford Thunder Alley - West Plaza, Tampa Bay Times Forum1
Flight 17051
El Tucho1
El Naranjo1
Editing Desk1
Echo Lake Lodge1
Dubliner Restaurant &; Pub1
Dover's Grill1
Discovery Green1
Denver Oktoberfest1
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)1
Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Locker Room1
Cypress Saloon1
Cured1
Craft Street Kitchen Oldsmar1
Courtyard San Diego Airport/Liberty Station1
Clicks Billiards San Antonio North1
Chipotle Mexican Grill1
Chinatown Express1
Chi'lantro1
Chefusion Bar/lounge UPstairs1
Cenote Yokdzonot1
Carlyle Club1
Capparelli's Restaurant1
Canyon Creek1
Cafe Marrese1
Cabo Wabo1
Bull shark feeding grounds1
Bonefish Grill1
Bombay Pizza Co.1
Blue Bar at Brenner's on the Bayou1
BJ's1
Bikestation Washington DC1
Barclays Center1
Ban Thai Restaurant - Clearwater1
Ban Thai Restaurant1
Bam Bam Vietnamese1
Balliceaux1
Bahama Breeze1
Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) (Austin Bergstrom International Airport)1
AT&;T Stadium1
AOA Bar &; Grill1
Antico Pizza Napoletana1
AMC Willowbrook 241
Alley Theatre1
Alamodome1
Acme Oyster House1
3rd Bar Eating House1

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The Witchwood Crown

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams (Book 1 of The Last King of Osten Ard)

The Witchwood CrownIt was with equal parts anticipation and trepidation that I began reading The Witchwood Crown, the first book in The Last King of Osten Ard series which follows the classic Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. The anticipation points are obvious: there is evidence all over this blog how deep I’ve gotten into Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and how much I and many other readers were looking forward to continuing the story, revisiting the world of Osten Ard. And while I had no trepidation about whether it would be a good book (I’ve read almost everything Tad has written, and have enjoyed them all), my concerns were split between personal and magnanimous. Personal, in that as Tad is the GOD of Osten Ard he has the power and the right to not pursue characters and plot lines that I the self-absorbed reader would want to follow. Magnanimous, in that Tad deserves the kind of world-wide recognition and success that authors whose works came out in the Internet age of Reddit, HBO and You-Tube receive. When Memory, Sorrow and Thorn hit the presses between 1988 and 1993, an author’s legend was formed on word-of-mouth and newspaper reviews. The DAW flyer that was sent out with promotional copies described Tad Williams as a “California-based fantasy superstar.” This book, this series is and was the chance to show the world what those of us who are fans of MS&T knew was true.

I was also very interested to see how Tad’s writing experience would express itself. After thirty years of writing, plus some great collaborative editing with his wife Deb and with the experience of venturing outside of fantasy with other series, Tad’s had a lot of pages to hone his craft.

Happily, my worries on most of the above were all for naught. The Witchwood Crown is better than we could have hoped for – at times poetic in its philosophizing, blatant in its treachery, tear-jerking (no, Audrey, I didn’t cry reading this book either!) and exciting. My biggest issue was trying to slow down my reading at the end, knowing I’d be waiting twelve months for the next installment.

Though I do not believe a new reader would be lost starting here instead of reading MS&T (and the follow-on novel, The Heart of What Was Lost), I highly recommend riding the entire Osten Ard train, and then diving into this one. Or at least read the re-read eBook (shameless plug).

My reactions fall into several categories:

  • Past characters – who would be in the plot? who, after 30 years, were too old to continue? who would be left out? How many times would I cry out “No, Tad! Don’t do it!”?
  • New characters – how would they blend in? I’m including those characters that were introduced in The Heart of What Was Lost (THOWWL) as well here.
  • Motivation – Tad has spoken in many interviews about his motivation for getting back to Osten Ard. What would be the motivation for the story, what would keep the characters moving?
  • Repetition – in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, Tad paid homage to and broke some of the (at the time) well-laid and well-worn fantasy tropes. And the story of a boy who turned into a man who turned into a hero with a to-be-revealed past played well with Simon. Would we see more of that, or a different plot line? Would this be Utuk’ku vs. mankind part deus (since we know she is only in the deep sleep)?
  • Differences in Tad’s writing - Tad’s older and has many pages under his belt. How would his writing show the changes?
  • Continuity – there are at least two more books planned in the Last King of Osten Ard series. What will be the reason for continuing?

I will mark each section if there are potential spoilers for those who have not yet read the book. If it is on the cover blurb and freely available, I’ll assume it is not a spoiler. The potential spoiler passages will be blurred out like this next section   this is a SPOILER  - just hover over to see it.

Past characters

One of the hardest challenges of The Witchwood Crown, of continuing a series such as Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, is how to handle the characters that Tad knew all of us had grown very attached to, while weaving in the new ones that will carry the story forward. I am totally enthralled in the way Tad is pursuing this.

Tad writes the reunions of his old characters like they are reunions between his readers and those same characters, as it should be:

But both the King and the wolf-riding apparition had stopped in the middle of the bridge and were climbing down from their mounts, paying little attention to nobody but each other.
“Binabik!” his grandfather shouted, then pulled the small figure into his arms like a father whose child had been returned to him after a long, frightening absence. (pg. 91)

While I wouldn’t call the time without Osten Ard frightening, it has certainly been long and arduous!

The returning mortal characters are 30-or-so years older, and King Simon and Queen Miri have been working to rebuild a war-torn kingdom in that time, while Simon learns what it is to rule. The interplay between these two 50-somethings is one of the best characterizations of the writing. Tad lets us see glimpses of the people that they were (Simon referring to himself as “mooncalf”, Miri telling stories about him) while showing us the people and couple that they are now. They should be enjoying the twilight of their lives, but their kingdom is under siege from forces within and outside.

He didn’t mean to sound like a hurt child, but he knew that he did. At the moment though, hidden by the darkness, he did not care. “When we argued earlier, you all but called me a ‘kitchen boy.’ As if, despite more than thirty years of being a king, of ruling at your side, I was still a child you thought you had to instruct.”
“No, no. That’s not true. It’s not even fair.” He heard her bare feet pad across the floor, felt the bed sag slightly as she climbed back in. “It’s just…sometimes I lose patience.”
“As you would lose patience with a child. Or a simpleton.”
“Simon, please. It isn’t like that. Not truly.” Her hand found his in the darkness and curled within it, like an exhausted animal looking for shelter. “I love you so much that is sometimes makes me think I would go mad without you. But sometimes you don’t seem to think beyond what you can see, what you can reach. If someone tells you the mean well, you believe them. If someone fails you but tried hard, you never punish them or even dismiss them.” (pg 590)

This occurred after the oldsters had just made mad, passionate love. Relationships are complex, even after 30 years of marriage. Tad knows this, and his depiction of their relationship is complicated and engaging. I’ve never been a big fan of Miriamele, but I am a fan of her vivid depiction: a spoiled former princess who has maintained some of her airs as Queen. She is balanced out by Simon, who she constantly chides for being too nice and naive.

As noted above Binabik is back, as are Tiamak, Count Eolair, Jerimias and others. Alas, age affects mortal men and mortal beasts. Duke Isgrimnur, a key figure in both the original trilogy and THOWWL, was old in those books and barely makes it to this one. Also, Qantaqa, Binabik’s wolf partner, has went to that great wolf home in the sky. He will be sorely missed.

Josua, Miri’s uncle, has not been heard from in quite some time, along with his wife and his twin children (who were the subject of Aditu’s prophecy – see below). This is from the book cover blurb.

Utuk’ku was, at the end of MS&T (and in THOWWL as well) in a deep recovery sleep after her defeat in To Green Angel Tower. As the book cover blurb states, she has awakened.

The Sithi are back as well, though the ones we know and love do not make their presence known until the very end of the novel.

New characters

There are two vectors here: how would the new characters introduced in The Heart of What Was Lost influence this new series? And how would new characters be integrated amongst the Simon, Miriamele, Binabik, Tikmak core group of players?

On my first reading of The Heart of What Was Lost my impression of it was that it was a nice vignette (short by Tad standards!), a standalone novel if you will, the main purpose of which was to get readers back into the world of Osten Ard and get them primed for the series. Au contraire! There are major plot points and characters that were introduced in that lovely bridge novel that highly impact The Witchwood Crown.

From The Heart of What Was Lost, the characters of Porto the misplaced warrior, Viyeki the Norn High Magister of the Order of Builders and and several half-breed Norn-mortals (which was excellently setup by THOWWL) play a roll in The Witchwood Crown, with  Viyeki and his half-breed daughter Nezeru  acting as point-of-view characters in several chapters. With The Heart of What Was Lost, we were able to see a Norn’s point of view, and luckily this continues even more so in The Witchwood Crown. There is no black and white/good and evil, lots of shades of grey on all sides.

Tad always has written strong female characters, and the new characters introduced here are no exception. Viyeki’s half-breed daughter Nezeru is a central character, strong but conflicted between her human and Norn selves. She is my favorite of all of the new characters introduced.

Prince Morgan, grandson of Simon and Miri, is a central character. There are some similarities with Simon from the first book; they both have some growing up to do. But there the similarities end. Morgan drinks and cavorts his way through his first chapters. Will he be able to grow out of that and be able to lead the Kingdom? Is he the titular Last King of Osten Ard? Tad writes spoiled rotten kid roles very well (see above comment about Miri), but Morgan is very  complex depiction of that personality.

Motivation

In my article on where MS&T fit in the history of fantasy, I wrote “From a certain perspective, Williams’ MS&T is at once an homage to LOTR and a commentary on those parts that seem a bit ‘black and white.’ I still believe this was the motivation for the series – to take the success Tolkein had with his imageries of pure good vs. pure evil, and make them more grey. I was very interested in trying to discern what Williams’ motivation for diving back into the world was…but even after devouring this first book, I do not yet know. Anticipation is a GOOD thing.

All of the characters that we followed in the first series are 30 years older. For the immortal ones, that is a minor blip; but for the mortals, many of them have reached the advanced ages of life; Simon and Miri would be in their 50s if my math is correct. There are certainly the plot points of ruling a kingdom, of lands whose rulers are less that subservient or whose rulers are in danger of being usurped. However, this is certainly not motivation enough to extend the classic MS&T.

The prophecy that Aditu foretold in MS&T about Josua and Vorzheva’s twins was seen by many as motivation. For those that don’t have it memorized (I had to go back and find it) it is:

“They will be as close as brother and sister can be,” Aditu intoned, her voice suddenly solemn and powerful, “although they will live many years apart. She will travel in lands that have never known a mortal woman’s step, and will lose what she loves best, but find happiness with what she once despised. He will be given another name. He will never have a throne, but kingdoms will rise and fall by his hand.” The Sitha’s eyes opened wide, but seemed to gaze far beyond the confines of the room. “Their steps will carry them into mystery.” (pg. 411-412 of To Green Angel Tower)

The twins are in this book, not quite in the way I’ve imagined them. I’ll leave no spoilers here because I thought the reveal was pretty sweet. But I do not think this is Tad’s main motivation for restarting the series.

Nor do I think a second battle with Utuk’ku (though with her awakening that certainly seems likely) is Tad’s motivating factor either.

I was hoping for a view into the Norns’ perspective. That came with THOWWL and increases here.  The breeding of Norns with mortals, and the pursuant issues of prejudice and judgement of the pure bloods vs. half-breeds that comes with that, are a central part of the Norns story in this series, central to their survival and a major change in their culture. Williams writes scenes involving these characters very well, showing the  full blood Norns disdain for their less than pure brethren.

I do not think the reason for the series has been revealed by the end of this first book, although the search for the item that is indeed The Witchwood Crown (though we readers still do not know what it is) leads me to believe that it, its backstory and its usage will provide us the answer for Tad’s return to Osten Ard.

Repetition

There are several themes and plot lines that are similar between MS&T and this new novel.

MS&T can be described as a coming-of-age story of a boy that grows up to challenge dark forces led by a vengeful immortal Queen (with a Storm King side-kick, plus a mad mortal King). And that one line description could be used to describe the basis of The Witchwood Crown as well, as a lot centers on Prince Morgan who indeed has quite a bit of growing up to do.

MS&T could also be described as a treatise on love…and not just Simon’s and Miri’s. The motivation for King Elias to do the evil things he did, though it was never explicitly stated, was to go back in time to when his dear wife was alive. And let’s not forget about the love between Binabik and Qantaqa!!! The Witchwood Crown richly explores the love of Simon and Miri, but it does not seem to be as deep a theme as the first series.

There’s also a bit of familiarity of Simon and Binabik’s friendship with the one between Morgan and the Qanuc Snenneq.

I’m not pointing these out as bad things, and certainly not laziness on the writer’s part. These tie ins of familiarity are actually stimulating for readers of the first series, reminding us of what happened and how it felt to make that journey.

Differences in Tad’s Writing

It’s easy to forget that, as legendary as Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is in the annals of fantasy (see my article on SFSignal), it was the second piece of writing Tad Williams did (after Tailchaser’s Song if my history is correct). Like the characters in his book, Tad is older (though the shaved head hides it well!) and wiser…and certainly a more experienced writer. With Otherland, ShadowMarch, Bobby Dollar and other works under his belt, the pacing in The Witchwood Crown feels more natural, the characterizations more defined, the plot tighter. Some of this may be attributed to the familiarity of the world, much could be the editing of Tad’s lovely wife Deborah. It feels like a runner hitting his stride, and I can’t help but wonder if this is why Tad picked up the thread of the story…like a runner who’s feeling it and signs up for a race with confidence.

One of the knocks on The Dragonbone Chair is that it starts off slowly. There are a couple of chapters in that first book where I would agree with that sentiment – though I do enjoy the setup, the surrounding of the reader with the normalcy of Simon’s everyday life before all heck breaks loose. I personally experienced no such slowness of pace in The Witchwood Crown. I was told that I would speed through the last 200 pages – and the temptation and motivation was certainly there (though I resisted to make it last).

There are some situations here that are much more adult than the previous series, which I welcome…as they are a specific part of either the plot, or, more importantly of characterizations (especially of Simon and Miri, Pasevalles and Nezeru (not together). ).

Continuation

I do not recall reading any of Tad’s books that possess more cliff hangers than this one. Perhaps the fact that I could re-read the first trilogy back-to-back-to-back made any cliff hangers seem less significant.

In this novel, it seems that almost every major character was left hanging in one form or another – or revealed something about themselves that made us wonder how they were motivated to do that. On the one hand, I’d like to poke Mr. Williams in the ribs and shout “what the hell, Tad?” for doing that to us loyal readers. On the other hand, that might slow him down from completing the 2nd book in the saga.

There are certainly more than enough plot lines and secrets to be revealed to keep this series barreling along through the inevitable fourth book (a large third book split in two equals four)!

Things I wish would have happened

These have nothing to do with anything, just random thoughts. These contain MAJOR spoilers, so tread lightly.

  •  Aditu’s child was Simon’s. C’mon, we’re all thinking it, I just wrote it out loud!
  • Qantaqa, Binabik’s first wolf, was still alive. Maybe the wolf could have had an injection of Sithi blood or DNA to make the wolf immortal.

In Conclusion

If DAW, the publisher of this series, does a year between books, then there’s only 11 months until Empire of Grass. At least I’ve got a Packers season and the rest of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series to tide me over. Tad recently posted on Facebook that he was cleaning out the garage. If that was in any way slowing down the writing/publishing of the next novel, he could have found ample volunteers for the chore!

Tad’s trophy chest, though full of awards for bass playing, garage cleaning and promoting clowns, is empty of Hugo and Nebula awards. This books is a great story, a great start to a new series. We’ll see what else comes out this year, but The Witchwood Crown should certainly be in consideration.

Tad Williams Osten Ard

The Witchwood Crown – Thoughts on the return to Osten Ard – Part 5

As much as I tried to make the return to Osten Ard in The Witchwood Crown last, for there is a wait of at least a year before The Empire of Grass arrives, it had to end at some point. Similar to the binge watching Netflix crowd who like to feast on entire seasons of a show in a few (or one!) sittings, I like to line up the books in a series and plow right through them. This is not just for continuity, but also for the freshness that comes with the characters. I’m in the midst (interrupted only by Tad’s latest) of a straight read through of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, which is a march through ten massive novels (with some of his cohort Ian Esselmont’s stories thrown in as well).

But for an Osten Ard novel, I will make an exception.

It will take me a while to get my thoughts together, but I would certainly agree with the job title attributed to Mr. Williams in the DAW promotional note that accompanied the book I received (thanks John!)….Tad Williams is indeed a  California-based fantasy superstar. He may not get paid as much as that other California-based fantasy superstar (who plays for Tad’s hometown Warriors)…a deeper conversation on the compensation differences between those who write prose that will last several lifetimes, and those who entertain us with skill in sports.

Tad Williams Osten Ard

In the mean time for my friend Ylva (who probably already has this memorized), here’s a list of the chapters (which I need to aid my memory as I write some notes). From my perspective after having read the book, there are no spoilers in reading these titles.

Foreword

Part 1 – Widows

  1. The Glorious
  2. The Finest Tent on the Frostmarch
  3. Conversation with a Corpse-Giant
  4. Brother Monarchs
  5. Awake
  6. An Aversion to Widows
  7. Island of Bones
  8. A Meeting on Lantern Bridge
  9. Heart of the Kynswood
  10. Hymns of the Lightless
  11. The Third Duke
  12. The Bloody Sand
  13. Lady Alva’s Tale
  14. Ghosts of the Garden
  15. Atop the Holy Tree
  16. A Layer of Fresh Snow
  17. White Hand
  18. A Bad Book
  19. The Moon’s Token
  20. His Bright Gem
  21. Crossroad
  22. Death Songs
  23. Testament of the White Hand

Part Two – Orphans

  1. Terrible Flame
  2. Example of a Dead Hedgehog
  3. The Inner Council
  4. Noontide at the Quarterly Maid
  5. Cradle Songs of Red Pig Lagoon
  6. Brown Bones and Black Statues
  7. The Slow Game
  8. A High, Dark Place
  9. Rosewater and Balsam
  10. Secrets and Promises
  11. Feeding the Familiar
  12. The Man with the Odd Smile
  13. A Foolish Dream
  14. Two Bedroom Conversations
  15. The Factor’s Ship
  16. A Grassland Wedding
  17. Watching Like God

Part Three – Exiles

  1. Hern’s Horde
  2. Forest Music
  3. Into Deeper Shadows
  4. Charms and Tokens
  5. A Nighttime Sun
  6. River Man
  7. Hidden Chambers
  8. The Little Boats
  9. Blood as Black as Night
  10. Several Matters of State
  11. Stolen Scales
  12. Homecoming
  13. Their Masters’ Folly
  14. Voices Unheard, Faces Unseen

Afterword

The Witchwood Crown

The Witchwood Crown – Thoughts on the return to Osten Ard – Part 4

As I sit on Chapter 28 of 54 chapters in The Witchwood Crown, a few random observations:

Chapter Names

I mentioned this in the re-read and commentary eBook that I put together, but I’ll bring it up again. I normally never read the Chapter names in a book. Some authors keep it simple by naming the chapter at the PoV character (looking at you, Mr. GRRM!); some do not even bother with naming their chapters (guilty!). But I noticed during the re-read that Tad’s chapter names had either foreshadowing, humor or serious sarcasm in them.

The name of Chapter 28 made me think Tad was laughing when he pulled that one out of his…head. It conjures up many different images at once, and somehow made me think of the WerePig from the Bobby Dollar series!

The Witchwood Crown chapter name

 

The Appendix of The Witchwood Crown

There is a 15 page Appendix in To Green Angel Tower (which is 1,066 pages in hardback) versus a 25 page Appendix in The Witchwood Crown (which is 694 pages in hardback). Obviously the world of Osten And has grown, and/or Mr. Williams marching band of personal Scrollbearers did great research (perhaps a bit of both, and kudos to Ylva and Ron, great mentions in the Acknowledgements!). I’ve tried hard to stay out of the Appendix, for the same reason I’ve tried hard to stay away from other people’s reviews…no spoilers please!

The Back Cover Flap

To Green Angel Tower and The Witchwood Crown back cover flaps, side by side…I’ll just leave this image here. The Dogly one ages well!

The Witchwood Crown

The Witchwood Crown

The Witchwood Crown – Thoughts on the return to Osten Ard – Part 3

Binabik-isms

The Witchwood Crown is set some 30-odd years after the end of To Green Angel Tower. This implies that some of the mortal characters will be around in the new series, and some will not. It should not be a spoiler (and I apologize if it is) to anyone that Binabik is around.

In the re-read and commentary eBook that I put together on Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (on Amazon here), I tried to call out every saying that Binabik mentioned, every Binabik-ism. Given that they were translated from his native language into Simon’s Erkynlandish, they had a very roundabout but wise-sounding way of getting to the point. As the “Singing Man” of his people, perhaps cataloging these phrases is part of the job?

The first Binabik-ism that I came across in The Witchwood Crown reads like a parallel to getting back into Osten And:

“My people are saying that to meet an old friend is like the finding of a welcoming campfire in the dark,” the little man said.

The Witchwood Crown

And, one page later, yet another:

“As we also say on Mintahoq, hanna via mo siqsiq, chahu naha! – as easily be trying to catch an avalanche in a thimble as to make the seasons stand still.”

I’m sure there will be many more

The Witchwood Crown maps

The Witchwood Crown – Thoughts on the return to Osten Ard – Part 2

Maps

I like maps. And I’m not referring to Google Maps, Waze or Apple Maps. I’m talking about paper maps. I still have the Texaco maps of states we drove through on camping trips with my parents in a Jayco Pop-Up camper, with my own felt-tip pen lines showing the roads and the stops along the way. Thus I’m quite content with the maps in The Witchwood Crown.

As an aside, if you also like maps, you should really subscribe to the MapPorn Reddit subgroup.

In the original Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, our hero (not Simon – the author, Tad Williams) not only played the role of writer but also of cartographer. He’s listed on the credits page, and in the bottom right of the maps is a “TW” set of initials.

In The Witchwood Crown, the maps are by Isaac Stewart. Using my google-fu, I found out that he is THE Isaac Stewart who has done the maps for Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn and Stormlight Archives series…and now he has added The Witchwood Crown to an impressive portfolio.

Below is an image of the map in the first pages of To Green Angel Tower (on the right) with the map from the first pages of The Witchwood Crown on the left. Clicking on the image will take you to a mo’ bigger one.

The Witchwood Crown maps

The new map is excellently similar to Tad’s original map. Stewart’s has more detail, more names of places that were visited and discovered in MS&T. But I like the way it carries on the old tradition while embellishing on the original.

In typical Tad fashion, The Witchwood Crown has three parts (no names as thar be no spoilers here) and each part has one of Mr. Stewart’s maps at the beginning (in addition to the map pictured above which is at the beginning of the book). Each of the maps show additional detail of particular areas of the first overall map.

8 chapters in (out of 54 chapters)!

The Witchwood Crown

The Witchwood Crown – Thoughts on the return to Osten Ard – Part 1

The Witchwood CrownMy personal wait for Tad Williams’ new Osten Ard novel, The Witchwood Crown, is finally over, thanks to my friend John D. who provided me the copy sent to him. I’m interrupting my goal (as I suspected I would) of reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen series straight through to read this. It’s a good stopping point, as I just finished the fifth of Steve Erikson’s books in the series (and it is a very good series, highly recommended).

The Last King of Osten Ard series (of which this is the first book) takes place thirty years after the original Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series. As readers we all carry our preconceived notions of what the characters were and what they would become. So there’s always the question of what happened to the characters in that series…who died, who lived, who changed.

I’m only about 50 pages in, but already have a couple of observations:

  • Thus far, the character transitions are handled not only with respect but with reality. One example is of a character from the original series (no names to prevent spoilage) who reflects upon what those of us readers who read the original series when we were young feel about aging:

I have become Time’s poppet, he thought sadly. She plays with me as a child with a doll, pulling off a piece here, another there, dragging me through the mud, then carrying me back to sit at some mock-banquet.

  • The other unexpected piece is a tie-in with The Heart of What Was Lost. I enjoyed this novel, set just after the events of To Green Angel Tower but was happily surprised by how early Williams tied those pieces and characters together with this new narrative.

So far I’m able to throttle the desire to speed through it, and enjoy it like a fine tequila…Only 900 or so more pages to go!

SXSW 2017

SXSW2017 Bruce Sterling

SXSW2017 Bruce Sterling – notes from his customary keynote at the end of the Interactive portion of SXSW titled “The Future: History that hasn’t Happened Yet.”

SXSW2017 Bruce Sterling1st half – normal cantankerous recap

Some quotes from Sterling’s recap:

Intro – calls himself a “South-by Heritage item”

About global warming:

“Every year I appear, I’m like ‘wanna know about the future, climate’s changing.’ And every next year I come back, and it’s worse. CO2 this year, out the roof. There will be hell to pay.”

About the Donald:

“It tires me to hear America say this is not our America because Donald is President. That’s silly, right? Nobody outside America has that attitude. Of course they know this is the President of the United States. This is the president of the United States – a rich TV-star con-artist who mostly talks self-serving bullshit. And that’s very American. Russians, Germans, French, Norwegians, South Africans – none of them have a moments illusion about it.”

I haven’t been able to find a posted video of the talk, but there is an audio recording at Soundcloud.

2nd half – Universal Basic Income

The topic Mr. Sterling chose to be of interest this year was Universal Basic Income. It’s got an acronym – UBI.

He reviewed other times in history when cultural change has frightened people into thinking jobs are going away (e.g., the industrial revolution) but, as he says “people don’t just stand around….people just pickup, and life kind of proceeds diagonally.”

So it’s possible that UBI is hokey and will never happen, but it is possible that deep learning and automation will force a surplus of people that are unnecessary. There might be zero work with plenty and leisure, but they might be zero work with scarcity…”universal robotized poverty.”

UBI might get support from the polarized left and right…for different reasons.

He noted that we’d done this kind of thing before, “if it happens, it will be like previous historical human arrangements.”

I believe I captured his list, which is classified as in order from worst possible outcome to least harmful (which Sterling says is always the best way…”like going to gym first thing in the morning…it’s painful, but it’s the worst thing that will happen to you all day.”

  1. reservations (Native American Indians). “Took a couple of centuries….today we’d use drones.”
  2. prison systems and labor camps. “…an engineering solution….you don’t do it to be the villain.” Mentions Nazi death camps.
  3. refugee camps. “displaced people, they don’t have an economy.” Mentions UN Camps at $1200 per year.
  4. armed forces. “one huge paramilitary defense corps.” “an Army is not at the mercy of the robot engineers.” “Probably the most plausible.”
  5. retirement villages. “universal pension income.” “Everybody just learns to mimic the elderly.”
  6. academic. “Everybody learns. People are busy even if they aren’t making a wage.”
  7. religions. “No competition because the robots are all atheists.” Monasteries and nunneries. “Maybe you could be religious and in an army.”
  8. healthcare uber alles. “would you rather be rich and employed or be immortal?”
  9. intentional rural communes. “go back to the land, live next to nature.” “traditional, romantic, never works. Sucks unless you’re the Amish.”
  10. drop out urban bohemia. “like Christiania, Denmark…why doesn’t everyone just become a beatnik?” “This is the Austin solution…this is the Keep it Weird contingent….you’re going to pay me to keep it weird, let’s see how weird I can get!”
  11. enlightenment. “an aspiration for many centuries…become spiritual mendicants….permanent vacation from economics.” “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment – chop wood, carry water.”

It is possible that a UBI solution is completely new and bizarre and totally revolutionary and not something from human history.

“We’re so inventive that we’ve got no use for ourselves. We’re making ourselves obsolete.” If you said that to people 100,200 or 400 years ago, would they congratulate us?” They would probably question why they are defaulting our future to robots and AI? They are not historical participants.

“If humanity declared itself useless and we all vanished, our machines would stop.” Long discussion about machines having no ambition or appetite. Sterling is obviously not on the side of AI taking over the world.

“When we say our machines can render us irrelevant, we are buying into a suicidal ideology.” His basic concept here is the UBI concept is humanity bailing out on its responsibility, leaving running the world to machines.

I tried to find videos of Mr. Sterling’s other closing keynotes so I could keep them all in one place. Here’s what I’ve found:

2016:

2015

none found yet

2014

2013

2012

none found yet

2011

 

empire-tor-2x3-175

book notes: Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont (Malazan)

There are at least 15 books in the Malazan world. From all I have heard, they are quite complex. So that I do not forget plot points or people, these are the reading notes for the Malazan novels by Steve Erikson and Ian Esslemont. I am somewhat following the reading order at this link.

I read the prologue for Gardens of the Moon (Steve Erikson’s first novel in his series) and saw that it had the same timestamp as this novel…so I switched over. The writing style between Erikson and Esslemont is quite a contrast. There are points in this novel by Esslemont that are vague; at first I thought that was because I was new to the series and names/places/plot points were many. But after re-reading some passages, it is actually vague. I’m not certain if this is on purpose, but it is another good reason to take notes.

Timeframe: 1154th year of Burn’s Sleep, 96th year of the Malazan Empire, last year of Emperor Kellanved’s reign

Location: Malaz Isle (at this point I have no clue if this is important or not, but, since it is called the Malazan Empire…CLUE!)

Same timeframe and location as the prologue of GARDENS OF THE MOON.

Prologue

Captain Murl’s ship, Rheni’s Dream, is getting stuck in ice south of Malaz Isle and his men are freezing to death. Ice riders pass them riding the sea and the ice, apparently heading for the Isle.

A Path Within Shadow

A creature named Edgewalker is walking along sand dunes. He comes across a creature he knows as Jhedel and asks him if anyone has passed. Jhedel is being held here against his will, and Edgewalker feels some type of change is coming (a disturbance in the force, Luke?). Apparently Jhedel slew his predecessors to take a throne, and then was bound by some who overthrew him in turn.

Edgewalker continued on. He was late, and time and the celestial dance of realms waited for no one. Not even entities as insane and portent as the one pinned behind him. When they conversed during more lucid moments, it could remember its full name, Jhe’ Delekaaran, and that it had once commanded this entire realm as King. Liege to the Que’tezani, inhabitants of the most distant regions of Shadow. And mad though he may be, Jhedel was right in one thing: it had been long since the Throne last held an occupant. With the coming of each Conjunction, this absence worried Edgewalker. But this time what intrigued him most was something so rare he’d almost failed to recognize it…the coiled potential for change. (pg 11)

Chapter One – Portents and Arrivals

We meet Temper, who from the get-go is obviously more than he seems. He thinks about previous battles and injuries, and the fact that the arrival of an Imperial Official couldn’t have anything to do with him. Temper gets off guard duty around Mock’s Hold, and beats the crap out of some pretender named Larkin. Temper is a bad man, but he holds his temper pretty well…get it?

Kiska is a young lady who knows the town and spies on people, hoping it will get her somewhere, raise her station in life. She’s stalking the Imperial Official’s group that Temper saw when on guard duty. They don’t jive with her either. She gets caught by a “Claw” (“Imperial intelligence officers, mages, enforcers of the Emperor’s will!”), but let go, after she begs for a job. She continues to watch, and just as she’s about to follow the party, a grey-cloaked man she didn’t see comes out of hiding in front of her, following the same quarry.

Temper is heading home, stops to help a known acquaintance named Rengel, who tells him of the Shadow Moon…which is the event that will apparently affect this entire book. And Rengel mentions the “Return.”

“Return stank of the cult that worshipped Kellanved, the man who along with his partner, Dancer, had founded the Imperium. They’d been missing for years. Some thought both dead, others that they’d vanished into some kind of thaumaturgic seclusion.” (pg. 38)

Temper thinks about a house across from the Hanged Man Inn, called the Deadhouse.

“Rumour also held that it was there that Kellanved and Dancer, along with others including Dassem and the current Regent, Surly, had live and plotted everything that followed. ….locals called it the Deadhouse.” (pg 39)

Interesting since book two from Erikson is titled Deadhouse Gates.

There’s a different crowd at Temper’s local bar (called Coop’s Inn, after the bar keep), and Coop warns Temper away from them.

I have no clue if Temper and Kiska come up again anywhere in the Malazan books. After the prologue of Gardens of the Moon the timeline skips forward a few decades, so my assumption is that they are just being used as story telling vehicles. But I’ve been wrong before.

Chapter Two – Assignations

This chapter ends up with more re-read notes that I had intended, but a lot goes on here that I assume is background for the entire series.

A quick para on the “Fisherman” who apparently has to head out in inclement weather. Must be important, or they wouldn’t have mentioned him.

Kiska lost track of the guy she was following (“She smelled the warrens on him”).  She follows on, through to an estate, climbs a wall and see two men on a bench.

The one on her right  was the man she’d followed, hood back, shaved scalp dark as rich loam, a long queue draped forward over one shoulder. The other was an old man, ghostly pale, white haired, thin shoulders hunched like folded wings. (page. 53)

She watches them for a while, one leaves. Kiska is about to leave when she hears something, jumps back up on the wall and see the “intruder from the wharf” (the other gent she did not see) standing over the form of the old man. She thinks him adept (that’s what Warrens are – a type of magic!). After a while, the magic man leaves and Kiska goes to rifle through the dead old man’s clothes to see who he is…only he isn’t dead, grabs her, she stabs him, but he still talks to her.

Temper heads to his room upstairs at Coop’s. Corinn (a lady he was hoping to see) waves Temper to her room, trying apparently to protect him. She reveals to him that she is a Brdgeburner…”once of the Third Army. An army that Daseem, with Temper at his side, had led in Falar and the Seven Cities.” (Pg. 58)

Corinn tells him that she knows who he is.

“I was at Y’Ghatan. I saw the Sword broken. I know.” (Pg. 58)

Soldiers barge in and take Temper back down stairs, seating him with Coop the bar owner, Trenech the bouncer who seems not all there, and an old man named Faro.

Kiska finds herself in an alternate world. A Realm – the Path of Shadow….with the dead guy who just grabbed her. He provides some education in what is going on.

“You’re still on your wretched little isle. And at the same time, you are here. Two realms overlapping. Two places at once. What is called a Convergence.” (pg. 63)

“My name is Oleg. Many years ago a man came to me. He claimed to be interested in the arcanum of my research. We worked together. We shared knowledge. His prowess and grasp of Warren manipulation astounded me. I, who admit no peer in such mastery. He -He betrayed me. He stole my work and left me for dead.

That man was Kellanved, Emperor of Malaz. He returns tonight to this island. The Claws and their mistress no doubt think he returns to reclaim the throne, but all who believe such things are fools. He returns to atempt to re-enter the Deadhouse. They are after another, far greater prize. He and Dancer.” (pg 63-64)

And, just like that, we have the summary of the conflict in this book, and what are in the Prologue of Gardens of the Moon.

Oleg tells Kiska that “transubstatiation must be the time of striking. Entombment is the way”. Then Kiska is back in Malaz, in the garden with the dead man (apparently Oleg). The other man who she had seen with him (the one she originally followed) comes back and tries to kill her (she shoots a crossbow but it goes right through where he was). Oleg rises up and puts some serious hurt on the assassin, freeing Kiska before she is garroted.

Sergeant Ash (the Bridgeburner) and Corinn after some planning, take most of the men away, leaving four to guard the Temper, Coop, Trenech and Faro. Temper feels Warrens (magic?) growing, and Trenech responds to a threat by killing all four guards barehanded. Faro and Trenech are more than what they seem, telling Temper to leave, as Shadow and Others come.

Chapter Three – Hounds of Shadow

The fisherman is in his boat, rowing and chanting. The same riders who froze out the boat in the prologue keep trying to approach, but are unable to because of the chant.

Kiska is walking around Malaz, and then flips into another realm. There she meets Edgewalker, (who she describes as a walking corpse) who tells her that he “…walks the borders of Kurald Emurlahn. What you call Shadow.” So, Edgewalker walks the edges of Shadow, eh? He tells he she was swept there by a shadow storm, and that he will send her back. She asks Edgewalker if he knows Oleg, or if Shadow has a ruler. Edgewalker does not know Oleg, and says that many including he have tried to take the throne of Shadow. Kiska asks him what is entombment, and he tells here “the price of failure. Eternal enslavement to Shadow House.” (pg 81).

Then they hear a Hound. Edgewalker tells Kiska it has caught her scent, and she must seek protection in Obo’s tower. Obo is a myth, but so were the Hounds! She reaches the tower and finds a “doddering oldster” who does indeed turn out to be Obo. He somehow gets her back to her Realm on Malaz, and she bolts for the house of Agayla, her friend and caretaker who apparently is also a powerful mage.

Agayla warms her up, treats her wounds while Kiska tells her about her adventures (leaving out Edgewalker and Obo, for some reason). Apparently Agayla knows Oleg. While they are talking, something (one of the Hounds?) comes sniffing and scratching at their door, scaring them both; Agayla somehow makes it leave.

Agayla repeats the story to Kiska the version of the Emperor’s story that we’ve mostly heard before: the Emperor and Dancer have been seen less and less, and Dassem, the Sword of the Empire and two others of the sword, who survived the battle where the Sword of the Empire was broken, were killed later that night, presumably by the Claw (who are loyal to Surly). Agayla also says that Oleg Vikat was an acolyte of Hood and a theurgical scholar who “claims to have discovered a foundations understanding of the Warrens.” The man in grey (who attacked Oleg and later Kiska) was a “cultist. A worshipper of the Warren of Shadow” and an assassin.

Kiska thinks Agayla is going to lock her in a room, like she did when there was a purge against all who are talented (possess knowledge of the Warrens…apparently Kiska has some talent). Agayla used her talents to disuade the soldiers from taking her on. But this time Agayla gives her a letter to take to the man Oleg wanted her to give a message to, and sends her out into the night.

Temper takes Coop to the house of Seal who is apparently a healer with a bit of an addiction to the poppy plant. Temper gets his old armor and gear (which Seal was apparently storing for him), borrows some really old stuff that Seal kept of his father’s dumps Coop and heads out.

Kiska has also headed out into the night of Shadows, and is at once disoriented. She remembers the last time, when there was a purge against those with talent, which she had dropped down to the street to save an old man, had almost gotten raped but ended up fighting and knocking out two of three men and scaring off the third. Kiska has some skilz as well as talent! She also apparently has a crossbow this evening. She spies some more grey clad “cultist” figures, and follows them. She comes across a dead girl, with the mark of a Talon, and then spies the gent she was following (this is described a bit vaguely, IMHO) with four bodyguards. She sees more than 50 cultists sneaking in with three tall grey-clad cultists (obviously in charge and bad mama-jammas), and a fight ensues, with two of the man’s bodyguards kills. Just as the man she is following and on of the grey-clad cultists are about to have a magic battle royale (Kiska can sense it) she is grabbed from behind, bound, gagged, hooded and taken.

Kiska hood is taken off and she is in a inn she recognizes as the Southern Crescent. Turns out that she has been taken by the group that Corrin, Temper’s lady friend is part of. She is questioned, slapped, and apparently on the list to be killed (leave no witnesses) when scratching is heard at the door. Long story, short – a Hound comes in, Corrin and the leader and some others bail, and the Hound feasts on most everyone else. Kiska slips under a table, uses her one remaining hidden knife to slice her bonds, and, when the lone survivor pulls out some kind of magic grenade, dives down the stairs and out the door before the place explodes in magic and light.

Back to Temper, who is running around the city. He is drawn by a girl’s cries, and when he picks her up she wraps herself around him, and turns into something with more than two legs and starts to attack him. Just when he is down and it looks like she/it is going to bite his neck off, someone grabs the creature by the head and chops its neck off. That someone turns out to be Edgewalker, who departs after introducing himself as quickly as he came.

Temper cleans himself off in a fountain, then gets the Shadow treatment as the city starts to shift. He heads up – and finds one of the guards he met back at Coop’s Inn walking toward him with his entrails in hand, saying the Hound was behind him. Temper takes off running. A Hound eventually catches him, and though he fights back and hurts it, the Hound leaves Temper with a broken arm, mauled.

Kiska is hiding after her own encounter with a Hound but pulls herself together and takes off again to deliver her message. She takes a shortcut she knows up to Rampart Way, by way of climbing. She reaches a hole, a cave she has hidden in before, but is surprised by someone already hiding there, whom she fights and loses. She recognizes her opponent of the bodyguard of the man she is trying to get the message to. She convinces the bodyguard, who is called Hattar, and she speaks with a man who identifies himself as Artan. She gives him the scroll from Agayla, and Artan asks for her real name (“Kiskatia Silamon Tenesh”). Kiska tells Artan what Oleg said (about conjunction and transubstantiation). He thanks her for the information, then leaves her tied up as Artan and Hattar climb out. Kiska frees herself and follows.

Ch5OldEnemiesChapter Four (though it is labeled Five in my book) – Old Enemies, Old Friends

Who’s the editor that let two chapter five’s out the door in a Malazan series? Oy vey!

The fisherman who was rowing gets overrun by the boat from the intro (Rheni’s Dream) which was encased in an iceberg. An unknown woman goes into a hut where Agayla was knitting, but as she “reached out to gather up the knitting the wool shattered into fragments.”(pg 147). Then Agayla is meeting with Obo, who she tells of the fisherman’s fate and of other things.

“And the fisherman?” Obo asked, cocking a brow at her.
“Overcome. He was out there all alone. They knew how naked we are. They could sense it.”
“That fool, Surly, trying to outlaw magery on the island. Why didn’t she stop to consider why this island should be such a hotbed of talent? Wind-whistlers, sea-soothers, wax-witches, warlocks, Dragons deck readers. You name it. The Riders dare not come within hundreds of leagues.”
“She didn’t know because no one knows, Obo, “Agayla observed. (pg. 148)

She tells him she has recruited someone to their side in the upcoming fight, but won’t tell him who.

Temper dreams of the siege of Y’Ghatan, where he is with Dassem. Dassem has faced and beaten all of the champions – except one.

As they advanced, Temper kept a look ahead for Surgen – Surgen Ress, the man who claimed to be the last of the Holy City’s patroned and anointed champions. Never mind there were only seven Holy Cities and that all seven champions had fallen to Dassem’s sword. He gave life to Y’Ghatan’s claim to be the eighth Holy City, hidden, but the eldest. (pg. 153)

With Temper and his other bodyguards, Dassem advances, easily defeating the normal soldiers (I am assuming here that “patroned” means something like blessed or backed by one of the gods in this world?) as they make their way to Surgen. As Dassem is fighting, Temper sees something flash in front of him and hit Dassem (an arrow or something), wounding him. The bodyguards surround him, each in turn standing between Dassem and Surgen. Temper gets his turn and somehow holds the anointed one off until a wave of Malazan soldiers rescues them. We readers already knew Temper was a baaaad man, but this really pushes home that point.

Temper awakens from his nightmare looking at a hooded man, who has apparently used healing magic. The healer says his people saw Temper’s “duel with Rood”, which is apparently the name of the Hound (in the dramatis personae in the front of Gardens of the Moon, it lists seven Hounds of shadow). Temper is not sure who they are, but there are a lot of these hooded men, who say “We control the island two or three nights every century.” They take Temper to the top of the ridge and show him a strange set of lights, what Temper thinks accompanies manipulations of the warrens. The robed man tells him they think it is a door.

“An entrance to the realm of Shadow. And he who passes through commands that Warren as a King. A stunning possibility, yes?” (pg. 161)

They ask Temper to help defend the door, but offer him safe passage if he refuses. He accepts their offer of safe passage and goes to Rampart Way.

Temper has another flash back, wakening in a medical tent after being healed with only one Dassem’s bodyguards  (Ferrule) alive with him. They are being held under guard by members of the Claw, Surly’s troops. They fight and kill them and go to find Dassem. When they do, he is barely alive, and Surly and three more Claw are in the tent. They “negotiate”, though Temper believes neither side will hold up their end of the bargain. Surly leaves with one of the Claw, leaving the others with reinforcements to to take care of Temper, Dassem and Ferrule. While Ferrule guards him, Temper pulls a blade and thrusts it at Dassem – thus awakening him (or his patron awakened him? The text is unclear). They easily beat the remaining guards and flee. Dassem leaves them to go do something “he must do.”

So Dassem, the sword of the empire, is alive somewhere! Surly covered up their escape, saying they died in a raid from the Holy City troops….which is why Temper has been trying to avoid the Claw. I’m pretty quick on the up-take here….except for those whose suspected this several chapters ago.

Back to Kiska, who has finished her climb to the top of Rampart Way. There are signs of fighting, the mercenaries who had captured her are dead here. The gatekeeper Lubben grabs her from a door and pulls her in. He’s hiding, she borrows a weapon and leaves again. She finds more of the mercenaries dead, but one alive, who tells her that Surly’s Claw had lain in wait and attacked them. She sees a man coming wearing lots of armor brandishing two swards (Temper, obviously) who has two Claw stalking him. He kills one and calls the other “Possum” which was the name of one of the Claw’s Temper fought with to free Dassem.

Kiska heads further up, into the rooms that used to be used by Sub-Fist Pell (who was over the fort until all hell broke loose). Of course she finds Artan and Hattar. She tells them of the crazy armored man, and Artan catches a glimpse of him, and acts like he knows him. They watch as Temper (the crazy armored man) begins talking to a cultist who appears, who Temper obviously knows (and Artan seems to as well). They negotiate and a woman appears on the floor, one whom Kiska recognizes as Corinn (though she doesn’t know her name). They seem Temper take Corinn and walk away.

Then we see the same thing from Temper’s perspective. He passes Lubben’s quarters, kills a Claw who tries to raise a Warren, and keeps going. He fights Possum and the other Claw (killing that one), and heads further up. He meets the one Kiska thought was a cultist – it is Dancer, “Kellanved’s co-conspirator, bodyguard and the top assassin in the empire.” Temper asks for Corinn, and Dancer asks for something in return.

“One last first, Temper. One last service from the last shard of the shattered Sword.”
The last? Something stabbed at Temper’s chest. Truly the last? He seemed unable to breathe. Then Ferrule – even Dassem – dead? (pg. 191)

Dancer wants Temper to fight and send him back to Pralt, the cultist he had met before in the lower city. Temper takes Corrin, but asks Dancer a question, which I’m guessing may be want the entire series ends up being about:

“You two mean to retake the throne?”
The hooded head tilted to one side. Temper imagined a teasing smile. “We’re not here for a lark; you know that. But even from the beginning we didn’t want such an unwieldy entity. A kingdom, an Empire. There are just symbols. Kellanved and I see much further. We’ve always been after greater things.” (pg 192)

Temper takes Corinn back to Lubben’s, and heads back out.

Night of Knives Chapter 5Chapter Five (the real Five) – Feints and Fates

See? Two chapter 5s!!

Dancer has seen Artan, Kiska and Hattar and comes to confront them, calling Artan “Tay.” He suggests they stay where they are, as everyone upstairs is a “participant” (i.e., possible dead meat). They do as he suggests…for a while. Kiska asks and has confirmed that Artan is actually Tayschrenn, Imperial High Mage. He in turn asks her about her background and Kiska finds out that Tayschrenn considers Agayla a “colleague.”

After a while, she asks him what he is thinking:

“I am wondering,” he began, his voice low, puzzled, “just who is trapping whom. Surly has set a trap above for Kellanved. But he picked the time and place long ago – who knows how long – and has been preparing all the while. So perhaps this trap is for her. One she likely recognizes but cannot avoid. She had to come. They both had to come.” Then he frowned. The lines bracketing his mouth deepened into furrows. “And what could he and Dancer hope to gain? Their followers have been killed or scattered. No organized support remains but for Dancer’s Shadow cult, and they gone to ground and so few. Their authority would not be accepted by the Claws – or the governing Fists – should they return.”
“And Oleg. What of his message?”
The magus actually grimaced, touched one temple as if to still a throbbing vein. “Yes. Oleg. Our hermit mystic. A self-mortifier and flagellant. Drive insane, perhaps, by his own blind ambition? Or a prophet foolishly ignored?” He sighed. “If I follow the lines of his reasoning accurately, they lead to suicide for Kellanved and Dancer. That I simply cannot accept. I know those two and neither would allow that.” (pg 202)

They hear something on the floor above them – pacing, then a battle and screams. The three go upstairs (reluctantly taking Kiska with them).

Surly is there, with a bandaged hand and many bodes strewn around (including Ash, the Bridgeburner from the inn). Surly’s surviving claw, Possum and Topper are there. The balcony is destroyed, the impression is that Kellanved and Dancer lost the battle and were blasted off the balcony. Tayschrenn says he was there for a different reason but Surly does not believe him. Surly declares herself Imperial Regent, says she and Tay must plan. He sends Hattar and Kiska away, back down the stairs…where Kiska falls asleep.

Two cultists meet Temper after he has dropped off Corinn. One gets mouthy, threatens Temper, Temper hits him, the cultist pulls a knife and ends up with it in his stomach. The remaining cultist escorts him into Shadow, to the Deadhouse, surrounded by cultists. The one called Pralt tells him what he traded for – a “simple assault” on the Deadhouse.  When Temper says “I ain’t no stalking horse,” Pralt replies “That’s all you’ve ever been.” So Temper’s assault is to be a diversion for Dancer?

Faro and Trenech show up, telling Temper and the cultists not to enter the gate to the Deadhouse. “By crossing the barriers, you weaken them. And that is not to our liking.” (pg. 217). Temper goes in with Pralt and one other cultist…who magically vanish behind the gate, leaving Temper alone.

Agayla and Obo are holding back the forces attacking Malazan Island, when Tayschrenn arrives (he was the assistance that Agayla had talked about at the beginning of Chapter 4). Agayla is obviously exhausted. She tells him that before the dawn they will fail without Tayschrenn’s help.

“Yet some force was forestalling this. Where are they?”
“He has been overcome.”
“He? One against all of this? There is no one. Osserc, perhaps -”
Obo snorted again.
Agayla merely massaged her fingers across her brow. “Really, Tay. You, above all, should know there are ancient powers, those that see past your and Kellanved’s empire-building as just another pass of season. The paths of Ascendancy are far more varied that you image.” Sighing, Agayla straightened. “But now is not the time for that. Surly’s campaign against magery had left him sorely diminished. A fraction of talent remained to draw upon and so he was overwhelmed.” (pg. 220)

Paths to Ascendancy? Sounds like a huge motivation for the entire series, don’t it?

Tayschrenn uses his Thyr Warren (which I’m sure we’ll learn about in the series) and probes the power behind the Stormriders, called the Wandweilders. He senses a power similar to his old master, D’rel, the Worm of Autumn. Agayla asks him what if their goal was not just to get past the barrier at Malaz island, but to get to the House. Could the house withstand that force? With this thought, Tayschrenn joins them to contain the Riders.

Kiska awakens, Corinn the mercenary mage above her, and Lubben with her, but Tayschrenn and Hattar gone. She tells them what she thinks has happened. They decide to go to the House (isn’t everybody?), and Kiska convinces them to take her. Corinn uses the Thyr Warren (the Path of Light), and Kiska steps in after her. Kiska sees images, and Corinn comments that she must be a “natural.” Kiska thinks of Agayla, and then sees her, exhausted by the sea, and warning her away. Somehow (the writing is a bit vague) Kiska again ends up in Shadow, and finds Edgewalker. She sees the House in Shadow (which looks alive) but also sees a glacier (which we assume is the shadow parallel of the Stormriders force/attack against the isle). Edgewalker says that is the more deadly threat in this “Conjunction”. Edgewalker sends her back…right near an assassin, who Kiska kills…but also near a Hound, who Kiska charges but trips and is knocked out.

Temper see a giant stepping out of the house, a giant that Faro calls the Jaghut (whom Edgewalker has also referred to). He tries to leave, but Faro, Trenech, Cultists and Claws prevent it. The Jaghut calls forth skeletons from the ground, and marches toward the gate, flinging Temper out of the way. Temper fights to get out, fighting Cultists, his old Claw ‘pal’ Possum, skeletons and a tree that wraps its tendrils around him.

Kiska wakes up yet again, this time in the Deadhouse with Oleg. Oleg asks about Edgewalker, then he spies a place over the wall where the vines move, smoke and die. Kiska watches as Oleg jumps over the wall and finds a man near the vines who he attacks. Kiska spies his face and believe it is Kellanved. A third figure – “in rags, scarecrow thin with elongated, oddly proportioned limbs” – grabs Kellanved, much to Oleg’s delight. Another person, Dancer appears, grabbing Oleg and throwing him onto Kellanved and the creature who he struggled with. The creature grabs Oleg, and Kellanved and Dancer proceed into the house, and in through a door in the back of it.

Kiska then runs into Tayschrenn, supported by Hattar. She tells them what she saw, and Tayschrenn forcefully tells her that she must be mistaken, as he and Surly have agreed that Kellanved and Hattar are dead and gone. Tayschrenn goes to talk to “the Guardian”, and a battle erupts with the Jaghut trying to escape with Faro, Trenech, and Tayschrenn trying to stop it. Hattar runs in and rescues Tayschrenn, who is unconscious and Kiska and Hattar take him to be healed.

Temper survives, and Corinn finds him. Lubben and Corinn want him to leave, but they see that magic battle at the gate. Temper finds Faro, a smoldering ruin, and Faro tells him to “step into the gap, soldier.” Temper realizes that the Jaghut cannot be allowed to get through the gate. He “receives the Guardianship” from Faro as he dies. Temper asks Corinn if she can shield him from the magic energies surrounding the Jaghut. She responds “for a heartbeat.”

Temper and Lubben attack the Jaghut, with Lubben quickly thrown aside. Temper defends, not attacking, with something giving him strength (maybe a patronage? the gods choosing sides?). Soon, the Jaghut stops fighting, and starts talking. It’s name is Jhenna, a name it expects Temper to know. It says it was a teacher of humans long ago, defending them from the K’Chain. Then it asks Temper to name his price to stand aside. He declines. The Jaghut says it has brought Temper to its Warren, where his battle would go on forever. As the Jaghut is taunting Temper, Edgewalker walks up. Edgewalker announces that the Riders have been repulsed, and the Shadow cultists have withdrawn. The Jaghut continues to push Temper to stand aside, and Temper asks Edgewalker to tell him what is truth in what the Jaghut says. The Jaghut finally realizes that Temper is the Temper of the Sword, and tells him that Daseem Ultor is alive. But the Jaghut had been stalling, Temper finds his legs and torso encased in ice. Some energy allows him to explode the ice and fend off the sudden resumption of attacks of the Jaghut. The Jaghut attacks furiously, then is hit by weapons thrown from behind Temper. The House sucks the Jaghut back into the ground, as Corinn and Lubben grab Temper who has passed out. It is dawn. The Conjunction appears to be over.

Chapter Six – Resolutions

Kiska awakens to find herself in Coop’s tavern and healed by Seal. She gets a message that the men who she came in with (Hattar and Tayschrenn) are down at the wharf. She runs down to the wharf, finds them and is taken as an apprentice. She runs and tell Agayla and her mother good bye.

Temper is back at guard duty the next day, acting like nothing happened. The guards and his officer only know that there was an assassination attempt, but nobody saw anything.

Epilogue

Edgewalker comes across two prone figures, encountering an old man he calls “Lord” and Cotillion. Based on how the plot has gone, I assume these are Kellavaned and Dancer, now rulers of Shadow. Edgewalker says to himself that this could “continue the possibility of…progression.”

Some of the folks of the island find a body washed up, that of an injured Rider. The Rider speaks to the old man, asking him “Why are you killing us?” before the old man does just that, slicing the Rider’s throat, surprised by the red blood.

 

the-heart-of-what-was-lost

book notes: The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams

The long wait for the return to Osten Ard is almost over. I was grateful to be given an opportunity by Tad Williams and his wife Deborah Beale to read an advanced copy of The Heart of What Was Lost (available at the beginning of January). Returning there was indeed the sweet breath of cold fresh icy Nakkiga mountain air that Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (MSantT) fans have been waiting for. And, since it made me want more, luckily the three books in the new series, The Last King of Osten Ard, are not far behind.

Full disclosure: this is based on an advanced copy. Slight spoilers may be below. If you don’t want to read further, the TL;DR of this review is…it sure as hell was worth the wait…but makes the months until The Witchwood Crown seem like an eternity.

I normally include snippets from the book in my notes to emphasize certain thoughts, but in deference to the author and readers of this unreleased book, I will forego that practice here.

After wars there is hatred. If you’ve ever talked to an American veteran of World War 2 who experienced the Pacific battles, many of them had an undying hatred of the Japanese. And that hatred was reciprocated. It may heal over time, but directly after the conflict it is fierce.

Tad Williams captures this (and other points) scarily well in this novel that takes place shortly after the battle at the Hayholt at the end of To Green Angel Tower. Duke Isgrimnur, whose son Isorn was killed by Pryrates and Norns in that battle, leads an army of Rimmersmen and others to chase the Norns as they retreat north, all the way back to Nakkiga. The Duke’s men’s increasingly fervent goal is genocide, to completely exterminate the Norns. Though tired of war, they are propelled by a hatred and an “it’s us or them” mentality (as it was the Norn’s intention to end the human race with The Storm King and Utuk’ku’s plans).

The Norns return the harsh sentiment. In MSandT the reader saw little of the Norn viewpoint, save for small vignettes from Utuk’ku. In The Heart of What Was Lost, as hoped for, the curtain is pulled back to reveal a very complex and developed Norn society, as one would expect from a people who had been around for many human lifetimes. The Norns believe, rightly so, that they are fighting for their very existence. With their Queen Utuk’ku in a deep sleep of recovery after her part in the battle, they are on their own. And their is “court intrigue” as those leaders who would normally bow to Utuk’ku vie for leadership roles and influence in what remains of the Norm kingdom.

There are dark parts of this novel, parts that remind me of Williams’ writing in Happy Hour in Hell (reviewed here on the archived and Hugo-award winning SFSignal) from his Bobby Dollar series (a series I highly recommend, and hope Williams continues to write…AFTER he’s finished The Last King of Osten Ard, of course). There is a viciousness to the battle scenes and tactics not seen in MSandT but appropriate for the enmity of these two armies. In MSandT, when a long-lived Sitha was killed, there was an almost palpable sorrow in the writing…that one who had lived so long and had so long yet to live would perish. In this novel, perhaps because there is so much death for the Norns, that sentiment is different; it is the blasphemy of genocide that permeates each Norn death. 

There is not much character development in the humans (we’ve known the Duke and Sludig through thousands of pages, so not much is needed), other than the view of a Pedruin named Porto who gives the common soldier’s perspective. This is well played, as in any war the common soldier normally wants nothing more than to survive and return home, and desires the same for his brothers-in-arms. Porto portrays this well, as the hatred of the Norns is left mostly for others (save when the Norn violence hits close to him), and Porto stays, committed to his fellow men but constantly pining for distant, warmer places…and survival.

I admit that after the mysteriousness of the Norns in MSanT (which fed their mystique), as a reader I was apprehensive about seeing them as real characters, and losing that veil of unknowing. But that apprehension faded the as the story moved. The Norns are paraded out for all to see, with their family histories and specialities: Singers, Builders, Sacrifices. Simply put – Singers work with magic, Builders build and Sacrifices are soldiers – an interesting but appropriate name for the riskiest job of a long-lived people. Family histories are hinted at and in some cases revealed. The Norns have human slaves as well, unlike the Sithi. One wonders if this was another of the reasons for the split between the two (Sithi and Norn), or if the Sithi learned to survive without the Dwarrows (the other part of the Gardenborn who were used mostly as slaves) better than the Norns. It would be interesting (and perhaps will be revealed?) to learn if the Norn builders learned from the dwarrows how to do their craft of bending stone to will. And, though hinted at here (no spoilers), it will be interesting to see how the Norns and their slaves change in the The Last King of Osten Ard. There are several great new characters to follow into the forthcoming series.  

There is a building suspense in the question of whether the Norns would survive, fed by notes interspersed amongst the novel from a Chronicler of the Norns (Lady Miga). With The Last King of Osten Ard series looming, and the Norns set to play a roll in those tomes, there is little room for such suspense of whether the Norns would be wiped out. But there is uncertainty on which of the long-lived Norns will survive and how the Norns will be changed; and how, if at all, the humans like the Duke will be changed from this last ordeal. One assumes this book would be the Duke’s last hurrah, as the Last King series is said to be set 30-40 years after these events. The Duke is already an old man, and one would assume he would not make an appearance. From my standpoint, he will certainly be missed; his characterization was outstanding throughout the entire MSanT series, as well as in this addition to the canon.

With MSandT there were some glimpses of the Garden, of the time before the Gardenborn (Norns, Sitha and Dwarrows) were driven out by “Unbeing.” And there is a bit more of that in The Heart of What Was Lost. As we are shown a more complete vision of the Norns world in this novel, I hope we see more of the history of the “Garden” and what really drove them out in the next series..

One note on the setting, the descriptions of which show the effort Williams puts into such things: much of the latter half of MSandT took place in the cold, in winter-like conditions, and this book has more of the same. As the locale moves further north, the weather grows colder. It is amazing how Cali-based Williams can write the cold so much that the reader knows, even feels, how much the characters abhor it.

This is a novel that requires an extensive background in Osten Ard (or at least of the events of To Green Angel Tower), but given Mr. Williams’ tendencies in all of his series, this book will be prefaced by a “What had gone before” section to catch up old and new readers. This practice should be the norm among writers on long works and series, other than expecting readers to re-read or catch-up via Internet scraps. There are already (as of December 1) photos around the InterWebs of some spectacular maps that will be included in the book. Hopefully this will be accompanied by “previous events in the series” blurb for new readers…and there should be a lot of new readers. This series influenced the legion of great fantasy writers that are being published today (for more background on this, see this SFSignal article).

It’s been more than two decades since To Green Angel Tower, the last book in MSandT, was released. The 1990s were a different world, or so they seem. But Tad’s books have remained timeless. I, like many, have so been looking forward to this continuation, so much that I hope, in typical Tad fashion, he turns The Last King of Osten Ard “trilogy” into a 4 or 5 book set! (or at least a record setting length for the books).

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Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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