When I first learned that Tad Williams was planning to revisit the world of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn in a new trilogy, I was immediately a bit skeptical. The first trilogy was so deep, thrilling, and expansive that I assumed there wouldn’t be any story left to tell. At best, I feared we’d get a pale rehash of that fantasy epic; at worst, we might be in for a Crimes of Grindelwald situation, with a new installment uneven enough to cast a pall over the entire franchise. Could the world of Osten Ard, with its deconstructions and reconstructions of fantasy’s best-known tropes, still matter in a literary landscape that takes far more cues from Martin and Sanderson than from Tolkien and Lewis?
I should have taken my own advice. Earlier this year, I argued that in the age of hopepunk, Osten Ard has never been more relevant. Empire of Grass, the second installment in the Last King of Osten Ard trilogy, drives that relevance home with Williams’s usual relentless creativity. I’ve never been happier to be wrong. There’s still one more book to go—The Navigator’s Children—but whatever happens in that final volume, these new installments have achieved something special.