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Tad Williams....Book Three of Memory, Sorrow & Thorn

The World of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

The books are set on the continent of Osten Ard, whose inhabitants include Sithi (elf-like immortals), Qanuc (troll-like mountain-dwellers), and other races, as well as several distinct human nations. The youthful conquests of King John the Presbyter (also called Prester John) united most of the human world into a single realm, but by the beginning of the first book, the former conqueror is too old and feeble to stop his sons from quarrelling. As the conflict widens throughout their world and beyond, a young orphan struggles to understand enough of it to survive.

The world and story draw upon many sources from history and folklore. Several characters' elements and experiences mirror the legends of Great Britain and other lands (e.g., King Arthur and Sir Lancelot, Alfred the Great, Baba Yaga, and Amaterasu). The dominant Erkynlanders resemble the medieval English, with Anglo-Saxon/Biblical-sounding personal names in addition to the usual castle-based feudal/agrarian setting of stock fantasy. The other peoples of Osten Ard also have identifiable real-world parallels in their names, cultures, and native tongues:

* Hernystiri: Ireland/Scotland/Wales
* Rimmersmen: Vikings and early Germanic cultures
* Nabbanai: Ancient Romans, medieval Byzantines, and Renaissance Italy
* Thrithings: Horse nomads of the Steppe such as the Magyars, Kipchaks, and Mongols
* Qanuc: Inuit
* Wrannamen: Indigenous peoples of Africa/Asia/America
* Sithi/Norns: Japan

Also, despite lingering polytheistic echoes of Germanic and Celtic mythology, the main human religion is a reinvented fantasy version of Christianity whose primary figure, Usires Aedon, was executed by being nailed upside-down to a tree.

Throughout the trilogy, these allusions give Osten Ard more complexity and believability than a wholly-invented milieu.
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