The Heart of What Was Lost,” by Tad Williams, transports us back to the world of Osten Ard—and a fresh perspective on the country’s greatest enemies…

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I read this wonderful book some time ago, but neglected to write a review for it. Reading it—and revisiting to Osten Ard—was a pleasure. I’ve  been a fan of the fantasy genre for decades, but the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series became my all-time favorite book(s). Because there are so many books to read, I rarely return to any of them twice. The Osten Ard books are on that list.

REVIEW of The Heart of What Was Lost

In a small way the lack of meatiness to this tale disappointed me. It’s a lack that clearly cannot be accomplished in the short space it was given. And by “short,” the hardback version comes in at a mere 224 pages, in comparison to the 672 pages of The Dragonbone Chair. It begins with the defeat of the Norns in Osten Ard and the subsequent attempt to hunt down and exterminate them. It ends with questions unanswered and a definite sense that the story *must* continue.

Throughout, Williams keeps up his wonderful ability to describe scenery, depict disparate characters, explain a foreign culture and government without getting boring about it, and present the sheer awfulness of war—of the goal of genocide from each side of the fight.

The original series gave pretty fair treatment to all the various races and cultures—except for the Norns, who appeared as purely evil characters despite the Sithi insights into their culture. I loved the opportunity to see things from a Norn perspective. I expect (and hope!) the books in “The Last King of Osten Ard” will pick up that thread.

But, as is often the case with races that live for thousands of years, one thing trips me up. How is it that a person XXX years old—and a member of the nobility with, presumably, greater access to everything including a good education—does NOT know about the undercurrents of his own society? Has he been blind all his life? More, has his blindness been willful?

I feel that humans fall down badly when portraying nearly-immortal races. We don’t have any kind of perspective on that kind of existence, and so largely fall back on treating them as if they were just like humans, but really, really old…

That bit of nitpicking aside, I truly enjoyed the tale. I delight in the world-building, the characterization, the surprises and twists, and the ease with which Williams suspends my disbelief. Truly a joy to read, and I will certainly go on to read The Last King of Osten Ard.

SUMMARY

Book Review: The Heart of What Was Lost, by Tad WilliamsAt the end of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Ineluki the Storm King, an undead spirit of horrifying, demonic power, came within moments of stopping Time itself and obliterating humankind. He was defeated by a coalition of mortal men and women joined by his own deathless descendants, the Sithi.

In the wake of the Storm King’s fall, Ineluki’s loyal minions, the Norns, dark cousins to the Sithi, choose to flee the lands of men and retreat north to Nakkiga, their ancient citadel within the hollow heart of the mountain called Stormspike. But as the defeated Norns make their way to this last haven, the mortal Rimmersman Duke Isgrimnur leads an army in pursuit, determined to end the Norns’ attacks and defeat their ageless Queen Utuk’ku for all time.

Two southern soldiers, Porto and Endri, joined the mortal army to help achieve this ambitious goal—though as they venture farther and farther into the frozen north, braving the fierce resistance and deadly magics of the retreating Norns, they cannot help but wonder what they are doing so very far from home. Meanwhile, the Norns must now confront the prospect of extinction at the hands of Isgrimnur and his mortal army.

Viyeki, a leader of the Norns’ military engineers, the Order of Builders, desperately seeks a way to help his people reach their mountain—and then stave off the destruction of their race. For the two armies will finally clash in a battle to be remembered as the Siege of Nakkiga; a battle so strange and deadly, so wracked with dark enchantment, that it threatens to destroy not just one side but quite possibly all.

Trapped inside the mountain as the mortals batter at Nakkiga’s gates, Viyeki the Builder will discover disturbing secrets about his own people, mysteries both present and past, represented by the priceless gem known as The Heart of What Was Lost.

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Book Review: The Heart of What Was Lost, by Tad Williams This book is for you if you:

  • enjoy well-developed, realistic characters
  • like your fantasy to feel like it could be a real place
  • love beautifully told epic fantasy

This book is not for you if you:

  • don’t like reading from multiple perspectives
  • need a door-stopping, lengthy tome like the books in the original series
  • want something light-hearted
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