Tad Williams Updates His Readers About Empire of Grass


Cover detail from The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams.

Fans rejoiced when Tad Williams announced he would return to Osten Ard.

For those who don’t know, Osten Ard is the fictional setting of his bestselling Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy. Beginning with The Dragonbone Chair in 1988, the trilogy helped define a new direction for the genre, with writers like Patrick Rothfuss and George R. R. Martin stating their series would not have been possible without Williams. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn has always been the platinum standard for epic fantasy in my own writing life. It’s that good.

Then, after almost two decades, Williams announced that he was returning to Osten Ard in a new trilogy titled The Last King of Osten Ard. The Witchwood Crown is the first book and it published last year to great success, with Williams already hard at work on its sequel, Empire of Grass. I reached out to Williams and his wife Deborah for and upate on the new book.

First, this is what Deborah had to say about Empire of Grass:

“I’m reading/editing at the moment. It’s very smooth. It reminds me of Stone of Farewell, or at least my own reaction to Stone of Farewell, because it just drops into story-telling gear from the start. And also, there are a bunch of notable story echoes at work…

It’s really interesting to me that you’re wondering about middle volumes. I’ve been thinking about them too, at least in terms of good functioning (that’s the editorial side of me, watching the gears spinning). I ‘m at the middle of the mss at the moment; it IS long, longer than TWC, and what I’m most involved in, in my head, right now is questions of pacing & length. The only other things I have to say are probably pretty predictable! – it’s a beautiful novel. Some chapters, some scenes, I emerged from them gasping, they had so enscorcelled me, to use an olde worde.”

And what does Williams have to say about Empire of Grass? Read his comments below!


I’ve just finished the first draft of EoG, and — not coincidentally — also had my first chance to read it through. In the earlier part of my writing career I used to reread (and edit) whatever I wrote the day before, then start the day’s work. In the last five to ten years (I think — didn’t really keep track of dates) I’ve changed to just writing the first draft and not editing it until I’d finished the whole thing, which causes a few problems (I’m more likely to repeat myself on some small things, like mentioning character habits, since it’s been perhaps months since the last time I wrote the character) but overall speeds up the process.

Anyway, it’s now gone off to my publishers and is in the hands of a few other select readers, mostly my wife and a couple of close friends who know my own world of Osten Ard better than I do, since they’ve read the original books far more often than I have.

The interesting thing about second books (and third books, if it’s a tetraology) is that they have to be more self-supporting than those that begin or end the story. That means you don’t have the reader-forgiveness you get when you’re starting something and setting everything up, or the reader-forgiveness you get when you at last hand out some answers and catharsis at the end. So the book itself has to entice and entertain without those useful crutches. It also means it’s where most readers, if they finished the first book, will decide whether they care enough about the story to finish it, so you can’t have any long, dull patches either.

I kind of like them, because they’re usually the place where I most divert from the original outline/plan, and where I can spend time on things I hadn’t expected when I started the book, including interesting characters who aren’t necessarily the leads. This means that sometimes it’s the book where you have the least need to deliver expected stuff, and thus you have the most leeway to deliver the UNexpected.

Anyway, I’ve now re-read my own manuscript for Book Two, most of which I haven’t seen again since I wrote it as part of the first draft work. The good/bad news: EoG is -very- long. I think it’s probably the longest second volume I’ve ever written, but part of that is probably due to my determination to actually finish this trilogy in three books. Right now the manuscript is running nearly 1200 pages — about 460K words. But I think it all hangs together very well, I’m glad to say — Deb said she was pleased and surprised by how smooth it was, and how much it reminded her of the way Stone of Farewell took the stuff from Dragonbone Chair and ran with it. (You can ask her what that means, but I think it’s meant to be good.) Also, as is the nature and necessity of these books and my work, there are a lot of twists and turns meant to combat that dreadful habit of readers, being smart. That and having read a lot of fantasy. It’s hard to work to outsmart them, so I think about it a lot. In fact, like a Bond villain, a great deal of my working day is spent by me sitting in my chair in front of my screen, rubbing my hands together and chortling in an evil fashion.

(I know, that’s pathetic, but what can you say? My only other childhood role model was Willie Mays but I was never going to be a major league center fielder.)

I have no idea how long the editing process will be, but I think we have a pub date set for fairly early in 2019. Because that’s a bit of a wait, I’m thinking of writing the last short Osten Ard novel (tentatively titled The Shadow of Things To Come) during the next year as well as doing the rewrites on EoG. I’ve also promised a longish story to a Gardner Dozois anthology called “LEGENDS” — they just need me in any anthology with that name, for some reason — and very possibly a surprise story set in another universe of mine as well, which we’ll tell more about when we’re sure it’s going to happen.

Empire of Grass, Book 2 in The Last King of Osten Ard trilogy, is currently being edited and has no release date other than possibly early 2019. When we know a firm date, Unbound Worlds will definitely share it.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read the Osten Ard books, begin with The Dragonbone Chair!

And be swept away by the epic fantasy wordsmithery of the masterful Tad Williams.