I make no secret that Tad Williams is one of my favourite writers, and Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, the fantasy trilogy that put him on the map, is my favourite completed fantasy series. So it was good news when he returned to his roots with Shadowmarch. But, if there’s anything Williams is known for, it’s writing humungous tomes, and it looks like that’s biting him in the ass with the conclusion to the Shadowmarch trilogy.

Shadowplay by Tad Williams

From Suvudu:

It appears his next conclusive hefty book is getting a different treatment!

Tad returned to “epic” fantasy in 2004 with Shadowmarch. Originally it was an online serialized venture but Tad quickly decided to publish it in book form and write two sequels to tell the entire story—Shadowplay published in 2007 and Shadowrise was to publish later this year or early 2010. An odd beginning, but I was happy to see Tad return to his roots!

And here comes an odd ending for the Shadow trilogy!

Tad wrote this on his Facebook page today:

“Jell-o brain, Night Two. Just got back from New Jersey and a story conferencing day. All good work, but it’s now three a.m. and my brain…well, you know. Wibble-wobble-wibble. However, one piece of news for the Tad readers. Shadowrise is definitely going to have to be two volumes, but only a few months apart.”

So, no longer a trilogy. Kind of like Memory, Sorrow & Thorn shouldn’t have been, I suppose, since that last story could barely handle the physical binding of the book!

It’s nice to see that the novels will be published close together. One has to expect that this split is the result of industry economics (putting out a 1200 page hardcover, like To Green Angel Tower would be very difficult/expenseive these days) rather than any inability on William’s part to finish the book on time. Still, though it’s too bad we’ll have to be shelling out twice the dough to finish off the series, at least we should still see the conclusion to the ‘trilogy’ in 2010.

Brandon SandersonFor obvious reasons, most of the word these days out of the Brandon Sanderson/Tor camp has been about the upcoming release of The Gathering Storm (you know, the first-volume of the concluding trilogy to the 13-volume long series authored by two authors?), with little being said about Sanderson’s upcoming non-Wheel of Time project, The Way of Kings

Well, Sanderson spilled some of the beans over on the Barnes & Noble forums:

I’ve told Tor that I want to release KINGS on a schedule of two books, followed by one book in another setting, then two more KINGS. The series of KINGS has been named The Stormlight Archive. (The Way of Kings is the name of the first volume.)

So I should be doing plenty of shorter series in between. We’ll see how busy this all keeps me. I think I’d go crazy if I weren’t allowed to do new worlds every now and again.

But, then, KINGS turned out very, very well. (The first book is complete as of yesterday.) What is it about? Well…I’m struggling to find words to explain it. I could easily give a one or two line pitch on my previous books, but the scope of what I’m trying with this novel is such that it defies my attempts to pin it down.

It happens in a world where hurricane-like storms crash over the land every few days. All of plant life and animal life has had to evolve to deal with this. Plants, for instance, have shells they can withdraw into before a storm. Even trees pull in their leaves and branches. There is no soil, just endless fields of rock.

According to the mythology of the world, mankind used to live in The Tranquiline Halls. Heaven. Well, a group of evil spirits known as the Voidbringers assaulted and captured heaven, casting out God and men. Men took root on Roshar, the world of storms, but the Voidbringers chased them there, trying to push them off of Roshar and into Damnation.

The voidbringers came against man a hundred by a hundred times, trying to destroy them or push them away. To help them cope, the Almighty gave men powerful suits of armor and mystical weapons, known as Shardblades. Led by ten angelic Heralds and ten orders of knights known as Radiants, men resisted the Voidbringers ten thousand times, finally winning and finding peace.

Or so the legends say. Today, the only remnants of those supposed battles are the Shardblades, the possession of which makes a man nearly invincible on the battlefield. The entire world, essentially, is at war with itself–and has been for centuries since the Radiants turned against mankind. Kings strive to win more Shardblades, each secretly wishing to be the one who will finally unite all of mankind under a single throne.

That’s the backstory. Probably too much of it. (Sorry.) The book follows a young spearman forced into the army of a Shardbearer, led to war against an enemy he doesn’t understand and doesn’t really want to fight. It will deal with the truth of what happened deep in mankind’s past. Why did the Radiants turn against mankind, and what happened to the magic they used to wield?

I’ve been working on this book for ten years now. Rather than making it easier to describe and explain, that has made it more daunting. I’m sure I’ll get better at it as I revise and as people ask me more often.

In typical Sanderson fashion, there are a ton of names and systems and jargon thrown around that’s sure to make a lot more sense once we’ve read 200 pages of the novel. Still, Sanderson’s always been strongest at pulling together big ideas and weaving them together into a decent story.

Being near the end of The Final Empire, I’m paying a lot more attention to Sanderson now, and The Way of Kings seems like something that would be right up my alley. I’m curious to know why he’s planning it to be a ten-volume series. I can’t imagine any series that needs ten volumes to be told.

In any case, it’s nice for those of us who won’t be reading The Gathering Storm to finally find out a bit more about Sanderson’s next project.

Brian RuckleyBrian Ruckley, author of the Godless World trilogy, has some news on what he has in the pipeline:

The working title (and so far everyone, including me, seems to quite like it, so I imagine it’ll probably survive all the way through to publication) is The Edinburgh Dead. The setting is, as you might guess, Edinburgh; specifically, Edinburgh in the first half of the 19th century. Since I write fantasy rather than history, though, it’s not quite as simple as that.

I’m taking some gruesome and rather famous aspects of Edinburgh’s past and spicing them up a bit with veteran warriors, magical conspiracies, killers both human and decidedly not, desperate combat and sinister goings-on in general. In short, it’s a dark, heroic fantasy set in 19th century Edinburgh. With swords and gaslamps.

Ruckley also mentions that it’s going to be a stand-alone novel (yay!) and we’re probably looking at late 2010 publication date, at the earliest, since he’s still in the middle of the first draft. One major criticism of his work so far has been some glacial pacing, so it’ll be nice to see him working in a format that requires him to move the story along at a quick pace. On top of this, I have a feeling his gritty style will translate well to a story set in 19th century Scotland.

It would be interesting to find out what made him make the switch from full-on Epic Fantasy to something a bit closer to Urban Fantasy. One has to wonder if Orbit‘s marketing team might have come up with the suggestion…. In any case, count me curious and excited by this news.

In one of those cases that is sure to make fans burn with envy, Jason Denzel, of Dragonmount, has had a chance to read, and review, The Gathering Storm, the first Wheel of Time novel to be published since Robert Jordan’s death.

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Some snippets of the review:

The Gathering Storm is, in my opinion, quite easily one of the most intense and exciting books in the entire Wheel of Time series. Yes, you read that right. I avoided writing this review right after I finished reading. Instead, I purposely waited some time to let the initial rush and enjoyment wear off. It certainly has cooled a great deal, but I can still say with grounded and sober confidence that the book is outstanding. I would rank it up there in the top 4 in the series along with The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, and The Great Hunt. Pacing-wise, I would agree with Brandon Sanderson’s statement that it’s similar to books 4-6 in the series.

There is a scene towards the middle of the book that was so dramatic and intense, that I … I don’t even know to say it. As a long time fan of the novels, it rocked me to read it. I had to set the book down and let it soak in. Remember the intensity of Dumai’s Wells at the end of Lord of Chaos? This is like that, minus the armies. I am certain that in the years ahead, we’ll run polls on DM for the “Best Scenes in the Series”, and this will be one of the popular choices. Trust me. You’ll know it when you read it.

So now the other burning question: does this feel like a Robert Jordan novel? Does it have his “voice”? Well, truthfully, I thought the prose stayed very true to previous novels. … it seems like Brandon put himself into the heart of the saga and allowed himself to be its vessel and storyteller. The result is that this book is clearly and undeniably a novel which belongs in the WoT series. There were only a few times where I suspected the scene I was reading was entirely from Brandon’s imagination.

Even though it’s a thick tome, none of it feels padded or rushed. Before he was the writer tasked with finishing this series, he was a fan like you and me.

Guided by a strong plot outline, familiar characters, and a knowledge of the franchise that was honed to a razor sharp edge by lots of research, it became quickly apparent to me (or “intuitively obvious to the most casual observer”) that Brandon was the best person in the world to take this gig, and that he did as fine as a job as was even possible.

There’s no doubt that The Gathering Storm deserves an equal place on your top shelf next to the previous eleven volumes. Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson have crafted a remarkable novel fraught with dark, foreboding themes that will remind you why you first fell in love with the series to begin with. Even though we know it’s Brandon who pulled the actual words together, this is undeniably Robert Jordan’s work, and perhaps one of his best.

Now, as Jason admitted, no one out there has glasses more rose-tinted than he does. He was friends with Robert Jordan and his wife, Harriet; he [i]is[/i] friends with Brandon Sanderson; he runs the biggest website out there devoted to the series. One might consider that it’s in Jason’s best interest to pump up the novel, but equally that he might be a harsher critic than anyone, due to his love of the series.

Still, he has very positive things to say about the novel, and it should be a relief to fans of the series that Sanderson was able to hold his own in the world. Being frank, I prefer Sanderson’s prose, plotting and pacing to Jordan’s, so it’s nice to know that his touch is firmly on the novel. I doubt it will really be possible to judge the novel for a few years, once the initial reaction dies off and people have some time to properly analyze its place in the series, but this early review is no doubt a positive thing.

The quotes I pulled only scratch the surface of the lengthy review, so I urge any one interested (especially skeptics) to read the whole thing. Then come back here and let me know what you think of Sanderson taking over the series.

The Warded Man by Peter V. BrettNeed more proof that Peter V. Brett’s debut novel, The Warded Man (or The Painted Man, for those in the UK) is really, really popular? Well, The Hollywood Reporter is, erm… reporting that the film rights to Brett’s novel have been picked up by the fellows behind the Resident Evil movies.

Filmmaker Paul W. S. Anderson and longtime producing partner Jeremy Bolt, the duo behind the moneymaking “Resident Evil” franchise, have picked up film rights to Peter V. Brett’s debut fantasy novel “The Warded Man.”

The book is set in an undetermined future where mankind is beset by nightly attacks from demonkind and has been thrown back into a feudal state. Three young people emerge with the potential power to turn the tide, including the title character, a man who has wards (spells) tattooed on his body.

“It was an occasion where it paid to be British,” Anderson said. “It launched in the U.K. six months earlier than in the U.S., and we got wind of it when it was in galley form before the U.K. release. We think it has the potential to be a new ‘Lord of the Rings’-style epic, and the book has all this great imagery.”

Added Bolt: “We put our own money to buy it. We were reading all these great reviews, and we thought someone was going to buy it pretty fast.”

Exciting news, to be sure, but I’m not without reservations. As with all things Hollywood, I’ll believe it when I see the first trailer, and even then I may take it with a grain of salt. These things have a tendency to be announced and then simply disappear into the ether. Just ask fans of Terry Brooks, whose The Elfstones of Shannara and Magic Kingdom for Sale — Sold! have been in movie-making limbo for a few years now, despite the rights being picked up, scripts being written and directors being attached to the projects.

Second… the Resident Evil movies kinda sucked.