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Tad Williams

Tad Williams fantasy author(1957- )
Tad Williams has held more jobs than any sane person should admit to — singing in a band, selling shoes, managing a financial institution, throwing newspapers and designing military manuals, to name just a few. He also hosted a syndicated radio show for ten years, worked in theatre and television production, taught both grade-school and college classes, and worked in multimedia for a major computer firm. He is co-founder of an interactive television company, and is currently writing comic books and film and television scripts as well. Tad and his family live in London and the San Francisco Bay Area. Read excerpts and Tad Williams’ thoughts about his novels at his website. Read Amanda’s interview with Deborah Beale (Mrs. Tad Williams).

Living With The Writer: Deborah Beale

Here we are with the second edition of Living With The Writer, a semi-regular feature where I grill the partners of those authors that entertain us with their speculative fiction. My guest today is a very special one: I'd like to introduce Deborah Beale (a name that may well be familiar to some of you), otherwise known as Mrs Tad Williams. Read to the bottom to find out details of some very lovely book giveaways, courtesy of Deborah!

AMANDA: A very warm welcome to you, Deborah, and thanks so much for agreeing to conduct this interview for the readers at FanLit. First things first, can you introduce yourself in your own words?

DEBORAH: I'm a woman who works in a room of her own in California, with a glorious view of a hill. I'm someone who always tries to live every moment to the maximum because that way there can't be any regrets. I'm obsessiv... Read More

Tad Williams talks about world-building

I'm reading two of Tad Williams books right now, and enjoying both very much. The first is The War of the Flowers, a one-volume epic fantasy with marvelous imagery and an appealing protagonist, just the sort of thing we've come to know and love from this author. The other is The Dirty Streets of Heaven, the first in Williams's urban fantasy series starring Bobby Dollar, an angel who gets caught up in a battle between good and evil without knowing what the heck is going on. It reminds me of Dashiell Hammett, only with heavenly choirs and dastardly demons; there's even a drop-dead gorgeous blonde. Tad's dropped by to tell us a bit about how he approaches world-building.

I've been writing fantasy and science fiction (and every genre in between) for decades, and if there's one thing that's a common element in pretty much everything I do, it's world-building.
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The Dragonbone Chair: Tad Williams is a great story-teller

Note: This review has been updated after a re-read, but we're keeping the old comments on the post.

The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams

Tad WilliamsMEMORY, SORROW, & THORN was one of the first epic fantasy trilogies I ever read and, two and a half decades ago, I absolutely loved everything about it. It’s one of the two series I recommend to new fantasy readers who ask me where to start (the other is Robin Hobb’s FARSEER saga). For years I’ve been wanting to re-read MEMORY, SORROW, & THORN but I’ve been waiting patiently for it to be released in audio format, even going so far as to pester the audio publishers about it, as well as Tad Williams’ wife, Deborah Beale, who does a lot of his publicity. Finally, this year Penguin Random House Audio released audio version... Read More

The Stone of Farewell: A long rambling middle book

The Stone of Farewell by Tad Williams

Twenty-five years ago I read Tad WilliamsMEMORY, SORROW & THORN trilogy and since that time I’ve considered it one of my favorite fantasy epics. For years I’ve been planning to re-read it when an audio version was published and that happened recently, so here I am. A few weeks ago I reviewed the first book, The Dragonbone Chair, which you need to read before picking up this second book, The Stone of Farewell (1990). If you haven’t, stop right here because there be spoilers (and dragons) beyond this point.

After a quick synopsis of the first book, The Stone of Farewell begins where The Dragonbone Chair... Read More

To Green Angel Tower: Too long, but an exciting finale

To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams

Note: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books.

To Green Angel Tower (1993) is the third book in Tad WilliamsMEMORY, SORROW & THORN trilogy, following The Dragonbone Chair and The Stone of Farewell. This is an extremely popular trilogy, which is why the arrival of a fourth book published a few weeks ago (23 years after To Green Angel Tower was published!) is such a noteworthy event in the fantasy community. In preparation for the new book, The Heart of What Was Lost, Penguin Audio fin... Read More

The Heart of What Was Lost: Tad Williams returns to Osten Ard

The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams

Note: This review will contain mild spoilers for Tad Williams’ MEMORY, SORROW & THORN trilogy, but please note that it is not necessary to have read MST and, in fact, this novel can stand alone.

There was great rejoicing heard around the world when Tad Williams announced he was returning to Osten Ard. His original OSTEN ARD trilogy, MEMORY, SORROW & THORN, has been popular with epic fantasy fans since the late 1980s. I’m one of those totally devoted fans who read it way back then when I was a young adult. Since then, I’ve been recommending the trilogy to every new fantasy reader I meet (along with Robin Hobb’s FARSEER saga).... Read More

The Witchwood Crown: A much-anticipated return to a classic world

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

Tad Williams’ long-awaited return to Osten Ard began with the tasty appetizer that was The Heart of What Was Lost, a bridge novella between the old series and the new. Now the first course of the main feast is here — The Witchwood Crown (2017) — and to be honest, I sort of want to order more appetizer.

Before I get into my reasons for being underwhelmed by The Witchwood Crown, I want to offer up a few caveats. The first is a matter of logistics. It’s rare for me to spend more than two sittings with a book; I greatly prefer fully immersing myself in a story for its entirety, reading start to finish in one go or, if necessary due to length, two at most. But due to circumstances, I couldn’t do that with The Witchwood Crow... Read More

Empire of Grass: A bit long, sure, but well worth the journey

Empire of Grass by Tad Williams

OK, first of all, I’ve got to give Empire of Grass (2019) an automatic four stars just because it actually has a “previously in Osten Ard” prologue. I mean, seriously people. TV shows give us a recap of what happened six days of real time and an hour of episode-time ago, and you can’t offer up a damned reminder of what happened a year or two (or five!) and six hundred pages ago? Really? So props to Tad Williams for taking pity on us hapless readers. A four is the floor for you. May others go to school on your noblesse oblige.

I’m also going to offer a slow clap to Williams for going all in with on the epic in epic fantasy with this nearly 700-page tome. Did he need all those pages? No. No, he did not. But you have to be impressed by the utter... Read More

Into the Narrowdark: Wonderfully immersive and rewarding

Into the Narrowdark by Tad Williams

Into the Narrowdark is the concluding volume to Tad Williams’ epic THE LAST KING OF OSTEN ARD series, and it … Hold on. Scratch that. Apparently, Williams and his publishers have decided to split the concluding work into two books. So readers will have to wait a bit longer for that conclusion, though at least they’ll have a short novel to read instead of … Wait a minute. OK, never mind on the brevity. Turns out Into the Narrowdark is still 600+ pages, despite only being half of a final book. Thankfully, though, splitting the book means a streamlined plot and far fewer character, making it … One moment here. All right, actually the plot remains a complicated tapestry, and the list of characters at the back runs for nearly two dozen pages. But Into the Narrowdark Read More

City of Golden Shadow: A fascinating virtual world

City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams

City of Golden Shadow (1996) is the first book in Tad WilliamsOTHERLAND quartet. The complicated plot, which is set in the near future, follows a large cast of characters all over the world who have some connection to a huge but secret virtual reality simulation that eventually becomes known as Otherland. The main characters are:

Renie Sulaweyo, a college instructor in Africa, is teaching Xabbu, a bushman from a remote African tribe, how to use the net. When Renie’s little brother Stephen, who spends a lot of time on the net, suddenly becomes comatose and the doctors can’t figure out what’s going on, Renie uses her research skills to try to discover what ails him and Xabbu offers to help.
Orlando Gardiner, a brittle boy who is dying from proge... Read More

River of Blue Fire: A great story that’s just too long

River of Blue Fire by Tad Williams

River of Blue Fire (1998) is the second book in Tad WilliamsOVERLAND quartet. You absolutely must read the first book, City of Golden Shadow, first.

Our group of heroes (Renie, Xabbu, Orlando, Fredericks, Martine, Tb4, Kwan-Le) have entered Otherland and are searching for Paul Jonas at Mr. Sellar’s request. They hope to discover what the Grail Brotherhood is up to and why some kids (including Renie’s little brother Stephen, and online pals Orlando and Fredericks) are in comas. What is the Grail Brotherhood’s plans for these kids?

But soon the heroes are accidentally separated into two groups and they are struggling just to stay alive as they t... Read More

Mountain of Black Glass: The most exciting book in the quartet

Mountain of Black Glass by Tad Williams

The third book in Tad WilliamsOVERLAND quartet, Mountain of Black Glass (1999) is better than the previous novels in the series (City of Golden Shadow and River of Blue Ice). Warning: You must read those books before starting Mountain of Black Glass.

At this point in the story, our heroes are still in Otherland, hoping to find Paul Jonas, but their progress is hampered because they’ve lost the lighter that allowed them to jump between simulations. They are still split into two groups after losing each other in the previous book. As Ren... Read More

Sea of Silver Light: An exciting but too-long finale

Sea of Silver Light by Tad Williams

Sea of Silver Light (2001) finally concludes Tad Williams’ imaginative and very long OTHERLAND quartet. You must read the previous three books, City of Golden Shadow, River of Blue Fire, and Mountain of Black Glass first. There will be spoilers for those books in this review.

If you’ve read the previous three books in the OTHERLAND quartet, I don’t need to convince you to read Sea of Silver Light. I’m sure you’re dyin... Read More

Shadowmarch: Good start, and it is just a start

Shadowmarch by Tad Williams

Shadowmarch is the start of yet another epic fantasy trilogy by one of the genre's better known authors. While I wouldn't personally equate Shadowmarch with Tad Wiliams' earlier masterpiece (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn), it does stand above much of what is being written today. As is typical of fantasy, for that matter most genre novels, there are echoes of earlier works by the same author and other works by different authors. One grows to expect that; it isn't the complete and utter originality that often makes a work but what one does with the similar situations/characters. By that comparison, Shadowmarch does quite well, for the most part.

The basic premise is the Southmarch lands border the Shadowline, a magical barrier... Read More

Shadowplay: Exciting sequel

Shadowplay by Tad Williams

On the surface, Volume 1 of Shadowmarch has all the makings of a fully realized epic fantasy: maps, appendix, a rich background history, excerpts (Book of Regret, The Book of the Trigon, Revelations of Nushash) to preface each chapter, a huge cast of characters, races, locales, gods, goddesses and much more to bring the world of Shadowmarch to life.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more involved in making a great fantasy and I felt that Shadowmarch was sorely lacking in some areas. First and foremost, the overall story is clichéd, uninspiring and predictable. Sure, some plotlines are interesting to follow like Quinnitan’s arc in the kingdom of Xis or Chert’s fun adventures, not to mention the concept behind the Shadowline/Shadowlands which offers something a bit different, but for the most part Shado... Read More

Shadowrise: A strong continuation of this series

Shadowrise by Tad Williams

Shadowrise is Tad Williams' third and thus concluding novel of the Shadowmarch trilogy, begun in Shadowmarch and continued in Shadowplay. So in this final volume… wait, hold on… I’m now being told that Williams, clearly feeling a sense of fantasy author peer pressure, has decided that, yes, while this is the “concluding volume,” it has in fact been split into two (hmmm, where have I heard that before), making this trilogy, in usual fantasy fashion, four books. At least. Maybe five. Who knows?

In truth though, I’ve found the degree to which this sort of thing annoys me is in direct inverse relation to the quality of the books themselves. And I can’t say I found myself particularly upset that Williams has extended Read More

Shadowheart: Great ending

Shadowheart by Tad Williams

Shadowheart is the concluding fourth volume of Tad Williams’ most recent trilogy (yes, yes, I know), following Shadowmarch, Shadowplay, and Shadowrise. The last was originally intended to finish the series but instead was split in half, leading to Shadowheart. The first book, Shadowmarch, started off a bit slow and had some issues I thought with pace and cliché. Shadowplay was a large improvement in nearly all facets, Shadowrise kept to the higher quality, and Shadowheart, I’m happy to say, mostly ends it all in strong fashion.

The plot, which has been wide-ranging in terms of geography and multiple plot strands, has narrowed to a single point, centeri... Read More

A Stark and Wormy Knight: A nice eclectic mix

A Stark and Wormy Knight by Tad Williams

I’ve been a fan of Tad Williams since I read MEMORY, SORROW AND THORN many years ago — a series I loved back then and need to revisit soon to see if it’s as wonderful as I remember. I’ve also enjoyed a few of Williams’ short stories that I’ve come across in anthologies — especially one that was one of my favorites in my very favorite anthology: Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance. So I was eager to read more of Tad Williams in his story collection A Stark and Wormy Knight. Most of these 11 stories have been printed elsewhere, and I had read a couple of them previously, but if you don’t already own them, this is a nice eclectic mix and a good introduction to an excellent author. Here are the stories you’ll find in Read More

The Dirty Streets of Heaven: Entertaining and unexpected

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams

Tad Williams and I go way back. (Not literally, of course: If I walked up to him on the street, he wouldn’t know who I was.) He was one of the first epic fantasy authors I read and fully enjoyed. I have been an avid Tad Williams fan for years due to the high quality of his work. Understandably, I was champing at the bit to read The Dirty Streets of Heaven, an adult urban fantasy which is completely out of Williams’ epic fantasy zone. I was excited to see how he’d handle the change.

I’ve recently read a number of books which have proven to me that religiously-themed fantasy novels don’t have to contain a sermon. Even though the discussion of God, Heaven, sin, and angels are quite common in The Dirty Streets of Heaven, the title alone should tell yo... Read More

Happy Hour in Hell: Rip-roaring fun containing a deeper message

Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams

Happy Hour in Hell is the second novel in Tad WilliamsBobby Dollar series. While readers might enjoy and appreciate the book more if they read The Dirty Streets of Heaven first, its sequel is one of those books that can be understood and enjoyed on its own merit, too. Happy Hour in Hell is darker than its predecessor, the world expands, Bobby Dollar is a more complex character (while never losing his humorous or cynical edge), and there’s strong emotional appeal. The book as a whole benefits from this immensely.

Happy Hour in Hell starts on a rather dark, lonely note with Bobby Dollar crossing the bridge to enter Hell. This sets the tone for the whole novel, which explores the afterlife and death in a... Read More

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance is the best anthology I’ve ever read. These stories will be enjoyed by any SFF reader, but they’ll be ten times more fun if you’ve read Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, because they are all written in honor of that fantastic work. Each tale is written in the style of Vance, which is quite amusing in itself, and each takes place on the Dying Earth, that far-future wasteland in which natural selection means survival of the cleverest, nastiest, sneakiest, and most self-serving.

Songs of the Dying Earth was written by “many high-echelon, top-drawer writers” (as Mr.... Read More

The New Space Opera 2: All-New Tales of Science Fiction Adventure

The New Space Opera 2: All-New Tales of Science Fiction Adventure edited by Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan

The New Space Opera 2: All-New Tales of Science Fiction Adventure is, as its name implies, the second of Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan’s themed anthologies attempting to put a modern spin on space opera, a subgenre of science fiction which causes many of us to think of big metal spaceships crewed by handsome blaster-wielding men who protect us from evil aliens that want to destroy the Earth, or at least steal it’s shrieking scantily clad women. We laugh at these old stories now — the way they ignore the vacuum of space and the effects of relativity, the way their aliens seem a lot less alien than they should, and the way that they rarely seem to display the variety in specie... Read More

The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology

The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology by Christopher Golden (ed.)

FORMAT/INFO: The New Dead is 400 pages long divided over nineteen short stories. Also includes a Foreword by the editor Christopher Golden, and biographies on all of the anthology’s contributors. February 16, 2010 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of The New Dead via St. Martin’s Griffin. Cover art provided by Per Haagensen. The UK version will be published on February 18, 2010 via Piatkus Books under the altered title: Zombie: An Anthology of the Undead. Subterranean Press is also producing... Read More

Warriors: Diverse, entertaining, rewarding

Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

FORMAT/INFO: Warriors is 736 pages long divided over twenty short stories and an Introduction by George R.R. Martin. Each short story is preceded by biographical information about the author and a short description of their contribution to the anthology. March 16, 2010 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Warriors via Tor.


“The King of Norway” by Cecelia Holland. I’ve never read anything by Cecelia Holland before, but the author is described as “one of the world’s most highly acclaimed and respected historical novelists.” Not surprising... Read More

Epic: Legends of Fantasy: Lives up to its title

Epic: Legends of Fantasy by John Joseph Adams (editor)

Epic: Legends of Fantasy, edited by John Joseph Adams, is an anthology of stories written by some of the biggest names in epic fantasy. The book clocks in at over 600 pages not just because it’s very difficult to tell short epic stories (though some of these authors do manage to pull it off) but because here the authors are not just telling epic legends, they are legends in and of themselves. George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, Paolo Bacigalupi, Brandon Sanderson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kate Elliott, Orson Scott Card, Tad Williams, Aliette de Bodard, Michael Moorcock, Melanie Rawn, Mary Robinette Kowal, N.K. Jemisin, Carrie Vaughn, Trudi Canavan,  and Juliet Marillier all contributed stories to this volume.

Epic: Legends of Fantasy opens with a novella by Robin Ho... Read More

Oz Reimagined: You might not even find yourself in Oz

Oz Reimagined edited by John Joseph Adams

Oz Reimagined is a collection of tales whose characters return as often, if not more often, to the "idea" of Oz as opposed to the actual Oz many of us read about as kids (or adults) and even more of us saw in the famed MGM version of the film. As its editors, John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen, say in their introduction: "You might not even find yourself in Oz, though in spirit, all these stories take place in Oz, regardless of their actual location." And actually, I personally found my favorites in here mostly to be those stories that did not hew too closely with Baum's characters or plots, but instead took the characters and skewed them, or sent them down a different path than the yellow-bricked one. Though as is often the case with anthologies, I found the collection as a whole a mixed bag, its stories evoking reactions varying from distaste to "meh" to "interesting" to "now that was cool."
... Read More

More speculative fiction by Tad Williams

The Dragons of Ordinary Farm — (2009- ) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Tyler and Lucinda have to spend summer vacation with their ancient uncle Gideon, a farmer. They think they’re in for six weeks of cows, sheep, horses, and pigs. But when they arrive in deserted Standard Valley, California, they discover that Ordinary Farm is, well, no ordinary farm. The bellowing in the barn comes not from a cow but from a dragon. The thundering herd in the valley? Unicorns. Uncle Gideon’s sprawling farmhouse never looks the same twice. Plus, there’s a flying monkey, a demon squirrel, and a barnload of unlikely farmhands with strange accents and even stranger powers. At first, the whole place seems like a crazy adventure. But when darker secrets begin to surface and Uncle Gideon and his fabulous creatures are threatened, Lucinda and Tyler have to pull together to take action. Will two ordinary kids be able to save the dragons, the farm — and themselves?

children's fantasy book reviews Tad Williams The Dragons of Ordinary Farmchildren's fantasy book reviews Tad Williams The Dragons of Ordinary Farm

Stand-alone novels:

book reviews Tad Williams Tailchaser's SongTailchaser’s Song — (1985) Publisher: Fifteen years ago, the story of Fritti Tailchaser, a courageous ginger tom cat in a world of whiskery heroes and villains, of feline gods and strange, furless creatures called M’an, was first told.

book review Tad Williams Nina Kiriki Hoffman Child of an Ancient CityChild of an Ancient City — (1992) With Nina Kiriki Hoffman Publisher: On a dangerous journey from fabled Baghdad to the desolate mountains of Armenia, a caravan of soldiers and diplomats is stalked by a mysterious “vampyr”. Only by telling stories of magic and enchantment can the men forestall the demon’s deadly thirst. But the vampire’s own story is stranger than any mere mortal can imagine…

book review Caliban's Hour Tad WilliamsCaliban’s Hour — (1993) Publisher: The author of To Green Angel Tower and The Dragonbone Chair weaves a tale featuring one of Shakespeare’s most mysterious characters. Caliban is a monster, but what drove him to evil? Was it Prospero, or his witch-mother Sycorax, or something unknown and unknowable?

book review Tad Willias The War of FlowersThe War of the Flowers — (2003) Publisher: Theo Vilmos is a thirty-year-old lead singer in a not terribly successful rock band. Once, he had enormous, almost magical, charisma both onstage and off — but now, life has taken its toll on Theo. Hitting an all-time low, he seeks refuge in a isolated cabin in the woods — and reads an odd memoir written by a dead relative who believed he had visited the magical world of Faerie. And before Theo can disregard the account as the writings of a madman, he, too, is drawn to a place beyond his wildest dreams… a place filled with be, and has always been, his destiny.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsRite — (2006) Publisher: Rite: Short Work gives ample evidence of Tad Williams as an accomplished practitioner of the short form! Within you’ll find a knockout novella later expanded to novel length (Child of an Ancient City), riffs on the great fantasist Michael Moorcock (The Author at the End of Time, Go Ask Elric), along with excursions into some of his most popular creations and beyond.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDiary of a Dragon — (2012) Publisher: You hold in your hand a sacred trust — a dragon’s diary. My diary. And that trust has been horribly violated by that dreadful Princess Lillian, or you wouldn’t be holding it. My own personal diary, published for all to see!  That human female has no shame. I do, however. I do not wish my secrets spread about. Please, I beg you, put this book down now and walk away, kind browser.  Respect an old dragon’s privacy. No matter what the princess thinks, these matters of violence, blackmail, and unnecessary romance are not for the eyes of others! No, no, don’t even open it!  Ignore the attractive illustrations and the shocking true secrets of dragon life! You’ll be sorry! All right, you won’t.  But I will. I hate princesses.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Very Best of Tad Williams — (2013) Publisher: Previously collected in multi-author anthologies and limited hardcover editions, these superlative tales of dragons, super-soldiers, wizards, cyberpunks, heroes, and fools, are now available together for the first time in paperback. Showcasing the exhilarating breadth of Williams’ imagination, these stories hearken to the tales of such classic fantasists as J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Ray Bradbury, and Peter S. Beagle. Including an original tale written specifically for this volume, this career retrospective from one of the most-beloved authors of the genre is a true delight to those who have imagined themselves in fantastic worlds beyond the everyday and mundane.