Tag Archives: Andrew Wincott

#bookreview: The Heart of What Was Lost, by @TadWilliams #OstenArd

tadwilliams-the-heart-of-what-was-lostI just finished reading Tad William’s latest book. Wow! Told from three points of view, Duke Isgrimnur of Rimmersgard, a Norn leader, Viyeki, and Porto, a Perdruinese mercenary, The Heart of What Was Lost, by Tad Williams is a gripping, worthy return to the world of Osten Ard.

But first, THE BLURB:

At the end of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Ineluki the Storm King, an undead spirit of horrifying, demonic power, came within moments of stopping Time itself and obliterating humankind. He was defeated by a coalition of mortal men and women joined by his own deathless descendants, the Sithi.

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

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

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

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

MY REVIEW:

the-heart-of-what-was-lostI became a confirmed fan of epic fantasy in 1988 when I first entered this world of Osten Ard and the books of Tad Williams. 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 some members of each race have with regard to 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. When The Heart of What Was Lost was launched, I bought the hard-copy, 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. Like some gutter-dwelling book junkie, I read along with his narration–an awesome experience.

This is not a long novel, only 224 pages. It is well-written, with the harsh, beautiful prose I have come to expect from Tad Williams. Most importantly, an inspiring story is encapsulated in those pages. I found the pacing excellent, and at times, heart stopping. There is no place where it slows or becomes pedestrian.

Osten Ard is created from both good and evil, with all the many grey places between those two absolutes clearly defined. For each misery, some small glimmer of hope is introduced, offering a reason for the characters to keep struggling. The unlikely friendship between Porto and Endri is deep despite their humorous rivalry. Through their eyes we see the truth of the conflict and what it means in terms of human suffering.

Duke Isgrimnur is strong and resolute, driven on every level. He is faced with hard decisions, an impossible task, and does what he has to. A many-layered character, Isgrimnur is one of my favorite people in the series, as is Sludig. I had wondered about them at the end of To Green Angel Tower. This ties up their threads well.

Opposite Isgrimnur is Viyeki,  a Norn who has risen high in the Order of Builders. He has also been given an impossible task. It is through him we feel some compassion for the Cloud Children, the immortal Norns, and what they have lost. His thoughts and the way he deals with the constraints he is under illustrate the alien society he loves, making their reasoning more clear to us. He sees many things that worry him, but as a Host Foreman, his position is somewhat perilous. His world is at stake, but faced with conquering the terrors of the deeps or being crushed by the enemy, he is beset on all sides, caught in the middle. He has questions, doubts, and the answers he is given offer him no comfort.

I give this book five full stars. In the watershed series, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad Williams originally created the world of Osten Ard masterfully, exploring it through the diverse people’s thoughts and conversations. This novel is a brilliant continuation of that tale. He uses his characters’ impressions to show the setting, the history, and the core of the conflict. Through their eyes, we know this amazing world. At the end of the book, it’s hard to let them go.

You can find  The Heart of What Was Lost, by Tad Williams  in paper, as an audiobook, or a Kindle download at Amazon. It is also available at other eBook retailers, and in paper at all brick and mortar stores.

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#amreading: cold, dark days and four books worth reading

the-heart-of-what-was-lostI read a lot, and I’ve become a fan of audio books, especially when I am editing for clients or wrangling tough plot points in my own manuscripts. It frees my mind to enjoy more books when I can put on the wireless headphones and cook or do my house work and never miss a thing.

My current audio book is Tad Williams’ new novel, The Heart of What Was Lost. It was only launched yesterday, and I’m already about six hours into it. (And so far, WOW!) I bought the hard-copy, 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 audio books I’ve ever listened to.

the-woman-in-the-mirror-cathryn-grantWhile I love audio books, I do still read my Kindle, and one I recently read and enjoyed was The Woman in the Mirror by Cathryn Grant. Published July 01, 2016,  it is a dark, contemporary tale, a psychological thriller. The many twists and turns make what could have been a rant on misogyny and abuse into a many-layered mystery you never quite get to the bottom of. The book is set on the foggy central coast of California, in a house perched on the edge of the crumbling cliff. The precarious state of the house is almost an allegory for Alex’s character: looks beautiful and feels dangerous.

The author, Cathryn Grant, did a good job. The storyline is compelling, doled out in bits and pieces. Each time you have the pieces to one puzzle, another has reared its head. Every character is a riddle you finally begin to understand as the novel progresses, even “sweet, responsible” Noreen. Behind that facade is a scary woman. The author’s voice is unique, and the narrative flows smoothly, although the switching of POV between Alexandra and Jared is occasionally jarring. But overall, it works. I had a hard time putting the book down, reading it straight through, and staying up late to finish it.

The ending is surprising, but when you look back, it fits perfectly. I highly recommend this book to readers of dark, contemporary fiction.

the-couple-next-doorAlso, recently I read Shari Lapena’s mystery thriller, The Couple Next Door. This is a tale of love, fear, greed, and secrets. Nothing is what it seems, except for the central plot point: A baby is missing from her crib.

Anne and her husband, Marco Conti have gone to a dinner party in the house next door. The sitter has cancelled at the last minute, and the hostess has insisted on an adults only party, as she doesn’t like children. Since they share a wall with these neighbors, they have brought the baby monitor with them, leaving their baby home in the row house next door.

The baby, Cora, disappears during the dinner party.

No one is free of secrets.

Rasbach is the detective, Jennings is his assistant. As the case unfolds they discover that Anne Conti’s family is more than merely rich. They are old money and secure in their sense of privilege, and her parents are quick to offer a ransom.

Little by little, evidence emerges about each character, none of it flattering. Anne herself is not without secrets.

Anne is a well-drawn character, with a mysterious history she has never fully explained to her husband. She is portrayed realistically, flaws and all. Marco is also a flawed protagonist, which makes him intriguing. This book was full of twists and turns, and the ending is a complete surprise.

broken-numbersAnd to cap off my recent completed reads was the third installment in Dean Frank Lappi’s dark fantasy Aleph Null series, Broken Numbers. Violent and graphic, this series is not for the faint of heart, as it combines elements of horror, with a magic system based on mathematics and sexual energy. After a brief prologue bringing us up to speed on the Korpor (one of the creepier beasts of dark fantasy), Lappi opens the story with our protagonist, Sid, considering his losses, the death of his mother and loss of his magic being the two worst of them.

Sid, the Aleph Null, is a deep character, a man whose life has been seriously altered by events beyond his control. He has been traumatized by incidents that occurred in his early childhood, yet he remains kind and caring of others. His former childhood friend and now leader of the Oblate, Tris, has managed to rip away the Black Numbers from Sid. It’s a partial victory, but he won’t rest until Sid is dead.

The plot is full of twists and hard-hitting. Sid is desperate to get his numbers back but knows it won’t be easy. Nothing is simple, and every step forward brings another step back. Yet through it all, his companions remain strong in their support of him. This novel also had a surprise ending, and left me jonesing for the next book!

With the new year, we have entered my favorite reading time. Something about the dark and the eternal gloom of the Northwest winter encourages escapism, and what better way than through books?

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