King Simon and Queen Miriamele have ruled the High Ward of Osten Ard for three decades. They have grown older together, and faced many struggles, but none as dire as the war they helped wage and win as teenagers against the undead Storm King and his deathless allies, the Norns. Bonded by love during this shared nightmare, they are far from average monarchs. Simon, once a kitchen boy, is beloved by his people as the Commoner King, while his royal wife and co-monarch Miriamele brings the experience and knowledge of one trained to rule. Together they have labored long and hard to undo the damage caused by that terrible war, and to bring justice to the many disparate countries ruled by the High Throne.
The last three decades have not been without their challenges and sorrow. Simon and Miri have suffered a terrible tragedy - the loss of their only child - and struggle to raise their wayward grandson Morgan and his young sister Lillia. They are also troubled by the disappearance of the only other members of their small royal family: Miriamele's Uncle Josua, who forfeited his crown at the end of the Storm King's war, and his wife and twin children.
But now a more overwhelming crisis looms. For the Storm King's most dangerous ally, the ancient Norn Queen Utuk'ku, has awakened from her long sleep in the depths of the remote northern mountain called Stormspike. Like all her kind, Utuk'ku dreams of revenge on the mortals who beat back the Storm King. To strengthen her cause, she plans to recover the Witchwood Crown. But though the crown will be the heart of another deadly conflict, no one but Utuk'ku herself and her most terrifying commanders know what the mysterious crown truly is.
The Norn queen's dark plans are not the only force that threatens Osten Ard's fragile peace, for many of the smaller kingdoms within the High Ward seek to rebel, some forging strange alliances, others fighting among themselves. And the high Throne's one former ally against the most unnatural perils has been missing for years: Utuk'ku's kinder kinsfolk, the immortal Sithi.
At the center of it all stands the ancient castle called the Hayholt, which eons before belonged to the Sithi. Honeycombed with unexplored tunnels and passages, the castle is as full of secrets and mysteries as any wizard's lair. Here Miriamele, Simon, and a handful of their trusted companions, both old and new, must make a stand against the lengthening shadow from the north.
At a time when most monarchs can look to the future and begin to think of their legacies, Queen Miriamele and King Simon are haunted - and the peace of the entire world is threatened - by things that should have remained in the past. Some evils, it seems, never die.
Tad Williams (US, born 1957) 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 theater and television production, taught both grade-school and college classes, and worked in multimedia for a major computer firm. He is cofounder 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.