Category Archives: Book Reviews

#BookReview: The Witchwood Crown by @TadWilliams

I am a great fan of Tad Williams’ work, in all its many incarnations. The Witchwood Crown is his most recent release, a follow up to his masterpiece series, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. It is a fitting continuation of the original story featuring four great characters, Simon Snowlock, Miriamele, Binabik, and Jiriki.

I became a confirmed fan of epic fantasy in 1988 when I first entered the world of Osten Ard and The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams. Simon was such a complex, sometimes clueless character that I was immediately drawn to him. Miri was also clueless and naïve. Binabik, Tiamak, and Jiriki had the wisdom needed to guide these two toward making good decisions.

Throughout the original series set in Osten Ard, it seemed like each character was deserving of a novel, and the diverse races whose cultures were so clearly shown fascinated me. The bigotry and arrogance shown by some members of each race, each believing in their innate superiority struck me as illustrating a sad truth about the real world.

When this new series set in Osten Ard was announced, I was curious as to how Tad Williams would maintain that deep connection to the story after such a long absence. In my opinion, The Heart of What Was Lost proved Williams had not lost his touch, that indeed, he had matured as a writer.

I bought the Kindle version of The Witchwood Crown, but also downloaded the Audible book, because I have a monthly subscription. Andrew Wincott is the narrator, and he’s an incredible reader. His narration makes this one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. I read along with his narration, which is an awesome experience.

The Witchwood Crown, by Tad Williams

  • Series:Last King of Osten Ard (Book 1)
  • Hardcover:736 pages
  • Publisher:DAW; First Edition edition (June 27, 2017)
  • Language:English

MY REVIEW (as originally posted on my review blog, Best in Fantasy):

This book is not a light read. Tad Williams’ work is brilliant and complex because he understands the character arc and the importance of agency and consequences. Change and growth or degeneration happen to each character over the course of the story—no one is allowed to stagnate. With a character-driven plot set in a fantasy world, the growth of the characters is the central theme. The events, shocking and yet unavoidable, are the means to enable that growth.

The story opens some thirty years after final passages of To Green Angel Tower. Many events have occurred in that time, leaving scars on those who have lived through them. Prince Josua and his family have vanished. The League of the Scroll is no longer what it was, death and age having taken most of the people who had the knowledge. Simon and Miriamele have lost a son to a deadly fever, and are deeply concerned about the behavior of Prince Morgan, their grandson and heir. They have reservations about their son’s widow and fear her influence has ruined him. They also fear for their very young granddaughter, Lillia.

There are other problems for Simon and Miri to contend with. Political unrest, lack of hospitality and rudeness by the King of Hernystir, trouble in Nabban, and rumors that the Norns are stirring. Simon, who has always been gifted (or cursed) with prophetic dreams, is no longer dreaming. A council is held, and it emerges that Binabik the troll also has concerns.

Prince Morgan is more than just a womanizing young noble, but he doesn’t know it. Jiriki and the Sithi will have a large part to play in Prince Morgan’s journey, as they did in his grandfather Simon’s journey to manhood. Whether or not Prince Morgan is the kind of man his grandfather is, remains to be seen.

The Witchwood Crown is an epic fantasy which will put some hoity toity literary purists off. It is literary, illuminating the internal lives of the many characters, and is centered upon how the perception that the king is dying has gendered plots and plans for coups among many factions. This lack of focus on one primary hero will put off the genre purists who need more noise and sixty-second sound bites in their literature. Those readers will find it difficult to follow the many threads.

Osten Ard is a place of contrasts. Dark, in many ways Gothic, negotiating the rough waters of this dark-age world is not easy. The three main cultures differ greatly from each other and are worlds of extremes. These contrasts drive the plot and frame the story in such a way the world of Osten Ard seems more real and tangible than this world. The room in which I read grows colder when the Norns breeze into the narrative.

In the years since the original publication of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad Williams has matured as an author. His prose is beautiful, almost poetic yet not going there. Harsh, lush, and carefully designed with layers of allegory and subtext, some readers will find the narrative too literary, difficult to read. Williams has a large vocabulary and sometimes takes the long way rather than dumping you into the fray immediately. He isn’t afraid to use compound sentences, which makes it an adult read. Other, more avid readers, like me, will devour it, savor it, and think about the deeper concepts long after closing the book on the final page.

I give this novel five stars for its complexity, maturity, and sheer originality. A powerful narrative, this book left a different kind of mark on me as a reader than the original series did. That series is young and brash, detailing the early days of kitchen boy who became king. A young and brash author wrote that first amazing series. This book is mature, not only because the author has matured in the craft but because the king is older—it shows us who that boy became, what kind of man he is, and offers us a glimpse of who might succeed him.

I look forward to the next chapter in this very large story.


Tad Williams is a California-based fantasy superstar. His genre-creating (and genre-busting) books have sold tens of millions worldwide. His considerable output of epic fantasy and epic science-fiction series, fantastical stories of all kinds, urban fantasy novels, comics, scripts, etc., have strongly influenced a generation of writers. Tad always has several secret projects on the go. 2016 will see the debut of a number of them; March 2017 brings ‘The Witchwood Crown’, the first volume in the long-awaited return to the world of the ‘Memory, Sorrow & Thorn’ novels. Tad and his family live in the Santa Cruz mountains in a suitably strange and beautiful house.

You can find out more about Tad Williams and his books at www.tadwilliams.com  


Credits and Attributions

This review of The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams, as reviewed by Connie J. Jasperson,  was originally posted on Best in Fantasy,  on November 16, 2017

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#amreading: The Wheel of Time, series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Once again, epilepsy has reared its ugly head in my family, and travel to and from hospital the hospital 70 miles north of my home has interfered with my ability to write. So, for today’s post I’ve chosen to reprise my review of a hearty 14-book trilogy. I’ve warned you that many of the books I love and turn to when I need a good book are NOT comforting in any way, and for many people the incredibly long, epic series, The Wheel of Time, definitely falls into the UNcomfortable category. This is for a variety of reasons.

The Eye of the World was the opening volley in what would ultimately become one of the most controversial series in epic fantasy. Written by Robert Jordan and first published in 1990, this series of books has polarized the most dedicated fans of true fantasy into two groups: the lovers and the haters.  No reader walks away from this series unscathed.

The story begins in the exceedingly rural village of  Emond’s Field. They are so rural that they have no concept that they are still considered to be a part of a larger country. The village is suddenly attacked by Trollocs (the antagonist’s soldiers) and a Myrddraal (the undead-like officer commanding the Trollocs).  These creatures are intent on capturing the three protagonists, Rand al’Thor, Matrim (Mat) Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, although why they are being hunted is not revealed at first. To save their village from further attacks, Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene (Rand’s first love interest) flee the village, accompanied by the Aes Sedai Moiraine Damodred, her Warder, Al’Lan Mandragoran, and gleeman, Thom Merrilin.They are later joined by Nynaeve al’Meara, who is their village’s medicine woman.

This huge range of characters and the many, many threads that weave an incredibly tangled plot are what polarizes the reading community over this series of books. Originally intended to be a trilogy, it eventually expanded to encompass fourteen LARGE, long books.

Robert Jordan passed away in 2007 while working on the final book, leaving the series uncompleted, but he left the rough draft and enough notes behind that Brandon Sanderson was able to finish the series, eventually breaking that final volume into three very large  books, and bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion.

So what is the basis for the plot’s tension, what conflict could possibly draw the reader in and keep them reading for such a long, drawn out process? It’s Robert Jordan, folks–the eternal quest for power, and dominance through violence, religion and politics is the core of this tale.

According to Wikipedia, the Fount of All Knowledge: The series draws on numerous elements of both European and Asian mythology, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Buddhism and Hinduism, the metaphysical concepts of balance and duality, and a respect for nature found in Daoism. Additionally, its creation story has similarities to Christianity’s “Creator” (Light) and Shai’tan, “The Dark One” (Shaytan is an Arabic word which in religious contexts is used as a name for the Devil). It was also partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869).”

I loved the first three books in this series. I both enjoyed and endured the next three, hoping Robert Jordan would get to the point and finish the damned series. I had become a little irritated with book eight, Path of Daggers, but by the time Winter’s Heart came out, I was resigned to never seeing an end to it, and was back to simply enjoying each strange plot twist and new random thread for what it was–just a great tale.

When Robert Jordan died, I was thrilled that Brandon Sanderson was the author tapped to finally bring that unwieldy mess together. There were so many different stories within the greater story that the task of winding up each thread must have been incredibly daunting, and he did it magnificently.

The reason so many devoted fans abandoned the series somewhere around book six , Lord of Chaos, was that Rand al’Thor’s story ( and Mat’s and Perrin’s) stalled, and Jordan was sent way off track by the stories of Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elaine Trakand. In fantasy, there is a large contingent of readers who want instant gratification are not going to wait around for eight more books. They proved it by jumping ship and trash-talking his work.

Throughout the series, the quality of the writing never faltered. The depth of story and the intensely alive characters whose stories graced those pages never failed to intrigue me. The fact that it felt like the conflict would never be resolved was, at times, upsetting to me as a reader, and is a lesson authors should take to heart with their own work.

To write a story that is so compelling that readers become so violently polarized over it is quite an accomplishment.  I see this happening with George R.R. Martin‘s fans right now. Although I adore him as a person, I’ve never cared much for his style of writing, as he jumps around too much even for me. Have patience, people! It looks like George has a large story there too, so it may take him a while.

For Brandon Sanderson to step into the wasps’ nest of controversy that was The Wheel of Time and complete the series with such grace and finesse is nothing short of amazing, and I am glad I stuck with it to the end. Brandon Sanderson has become one of my favorite authors because of what he did to wind up this epic series.

In the end, the final resolution was satisfying, and was well worth the journey.  I have gotten rid of most of my hard copies, and am down to only one room’s worth of hardbound books at our house. I don’t buy too many hard copies of books, being a fan of the Kindle, and  but I did make an exception for this book.   For me, some books need to be in hard copy form and the Wheel of Time Series is one of them, as are the Harry Potter books. There was a large contingent of people who were upset that the epub edition wasn’t released until 4 months after the paper book, but this was a choice made by Robert Jordan’s widow and her publisher, TOR. It was a strange one in my opinion, but it was their choice.

Amazon’s early reviews of the later books in this series were rife with trolls and naysayers who couldn’t wait to emerge from the woodwork and have their say. Apparently very few of these people purchased the book, much less read it. That is the price of success and these days it’s almost an honor to have so many haters just spoiling to knock you down. But their strident caws and self-important rants should have no effect on the true fans of WoT. In my humble opinion these works are masterpieces and Brandon Sanderson’s three books are a triumphant finish to the series.

I love Brandon Sanderson’s handling of this series finale, and feel I more than got my money’s worth from this series of book, as I will definitely read it again and again–in my opinion it’s that good. If you love this series, you will love the way it ends!

The original cover artist for these amazing books was none other than the late Darrell K. Sweet, who was just as amazing a fantasy artist as is Michael Whelan. The newer covers are nice, but for me they lack the power of Sweet’s brilliant paintings.

And as we all know, I buy most books for their covers, even epubs, and then fall in love with the tale.


This post has been recycled and was previously posted as Comfort Books, the main course: The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson  in February of 2015 here on Life in the Realm of Fantasy, Copyright 2015-2017  Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved.

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#amreading: Into the North, by Lindsay Schopfer

Today I’m talking about a book written by Indie author, Lindsay Schopfer. I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Beast Hunter, and Into the North is a fitting sequel to Keltin’s first adventure. Both are stand-alone novels, so you don’t have to have read The Beast Hunter to know what is going on.

But First, THE BLURB:

Professional beast hunter Keltin Moore is returning home a changed man. With a new apprentice and a lifetime of experience gained in faraway Krendaria, he prepares to settle into his old life of being a small town hero. But when gold is discovered in the far north, Keltin must again leave his home in order to protect the prospectors from the beasts ravaging the gold fields. Arriving in the boom town of Lost Trap, Keltin soon discovers that there are dangers beyond beasts in the frozen north. A local gang has established themselves as the resident Hunters Guild and will not tolerate any competition. Meanwhile, a specter haunts the gold fields. A legendary creature known as the Ghost of Lost Trap stalks the snowy countryside, testing Keltin and his friends to their very limits as they try to hunt their most dangerous beast yet.

MY REVIEW:

Like Schopfer’s other work, this novel is well-structured, with creative environments, good tension, and deep characters. It is a complex tale, layered with political and ethical themes. As in The Beast Hunter, the technology is all that which we would find available in any late 19th century steampunk tale, but there the similarity ends. Keltin is a beast hunter, and the Ghost of Lost Trap is not your average Edwardian creature. The creatures in this series are some of the most horrific things I have seen outside of an RPG, all of them fun and dangerous.

Keltin Moore is still slightly flawed, and still intriguing. He still has family troubles and will likely always have trouble getting along with certain members of his own species. He lives in a world of diverse sentient races of people, and the prejudice and political intrigue stemming from that diversity is central to their culture. One of my favorite characters is Bor’ve’tai, a member of a species called the Loopi, and he makes a return.

A bounty hunter, Keltin is used to working alone, but now he has an apprentice—Jaylocke, the Weycliff Wayfarer. Jaylocke is, at times, hilarious, and is a good foil for Keltin’s intensity. The people they meet along the way and the relationships they forge with other species are the core of this story. Lindsay Schopfer’s knack for showing a good story really shines, as the action driven plot, rather male-dominated but multicultural society, and solid, well-drawn characters of many different species make this novel a good read.

I received an advance copy of this book as a Beta reader. I enjoyed it very much in that incarnation, and liked the finished product even more. I highly recommend it as an action adventure.


I will be a guest author participating in the official online launch party on Facebook, Saturday April 15, beginning at 4:oo p.m. Pacific time. Four other wonderful authors will also be participating, helping to boost the signal so feel free to log into Facebook and  join in the conversation. Some awesome prizes could be yours!

Into the North Online Launch Party

Log on and engage with some fantastic fantasy and steampunk authors as we celebrate the release of Lindsay Schopfer’s latest novel, “Into the North.” Our lineup of authors is as follows:

4:00 to 4:30 pm PDT – Pembroke Sinclair (7:00 EDT) (US) Pembroke Sinclair is a literary jack of all trades, playing her hand at multiple genres. She has written an eclectic mix of fiction ranging from horror to sci-fi and even some westerns. Born in Rock Springs, Wyoming–the home of 56 nationalities–it is no wonder Pembroke ended up so creatively diverse. Her fascination with the notions of good and evil, demons and angels, and how the lines blur have inspired her writing. Pembroke lives in Laramie, Wyoming, with her husband, two spirited boys, a black lab named Ryder, and a rescue kitty named Alia, who happens to be the sweetest, most adorable kitty in the world! She cannot say no to dessert, orange soda, or cinnamon. She loves rats and tatts and rock and roll and wants to be an alien queen when she grows up.

4:30 to 5:00 pm PDT – Terry Persun (7:30 EDT) (US) Terry Persun’s books have taken readers to the uncharted worlds near the edge of the galaxy (“Hear No Evil”), to lands where shape shifters battle humans (the “Doublesight” series), to the near future in both technology (“The Killing Machine” and “Revision 7:DNA”) and shamanism (“The NSA Files” and “The Voodoo Case”), all while keeping the pace with thriller/suspense novels. He’s also ventured into history (“Sweet Song” and “Ten Months in Wonderland”), contemporary crime (“Man by the Door” and “Mistake In Identity”), and mainstream novels (“The Perceived Darkness”, “Wolf’s Rite”, and “Deception Creek”).

5:00 to 5:30 pm PDT – Katherine Perkins (8:00 EDT) (US) Katherine Perkins lives wherever the road of a Visiting Assistant Professor’s family takes her, her husband, and one extremely skittish cat. She was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and will defend its cuisine on any field of honor. She is the editor of Jeffrey Cook’s Dawn of Steam series and serves as Jeff’s co-author for the YA Fantasy Fair Folk Chronicles (beginning with Foul is Fair) and various short stories, including those for the charity anthologies of Writerpunk Press. When not reading, researching, writing, editing, or occasionally helping in the transcription of Braille songbooks, she tries to remember what she was supposed to be doing.

5:30 to 6:00 pm PDT Connie J. Jasperson (8:30 EDT) (US) This is ME!!! I bill myself as an author, blogger, and medieval renaissance woman. Feel free to join the conversation on Facebook–I will be talking about the Tower of Bones series and giving away 2 eBook downloads of book one in the series, Tower of Bones.

6:00 to 6:30 pm PDT – Nicole J. Persun (9:00 EDT) (US) Nicole J. Persun started her professional writing career at age sixteen, when Booktrope Editions published her novel A Kingdom’s Possession. Her second novel, Dead of Knight, won Gold in Foreword Magazine’s 2013 Book of the Year Awards. Aside from novels, Nicole has had short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and essays published in a handful of literary journals. With a Master’s in Creative Writing, Nicole lives in Washington State.

6:30 to 7:00 pm PDT – Lindsay Schopfer (9:30 EDT) (US) Lindsay Schopfer is the author of The Adventures of Keltin Moore, a series of steampunk-flavored fantasy novels about a professional monster hunter. He also wrote the sci-fi survivalist novel Lost Under Two Moons and the fantasy short story collection Magic, Mystery and Mirth. His short fiction has appeared in Merely This and Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk from Writerpunk Press and Unnatural Dragons from Clockwork Dragon.

All the participating authors will share tidbits about their work, and some will have games. Several are offering prizes to participating visitors. As I mentioned above, I will be talking about the Tower of Bones series and giving away Kindle downloads of Tower of Bones to two lucky winners.

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