Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Flashback - The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams

Friday Flashbacks are short reviews of books I have read previously to starting the Mind of Mr.X, they are dug out of memory and based on the lasting impression each book has made on me.

The Dragonbone Chair is the first book in the epic fantasy series Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. It follows the story of the young orphan Simon who struggles through his unfortunate life as an apprentice in the Castle Hayholt in the troubled land of Osten Ard. From it’s outset The Dragonbone Chair seems very similar to other stories in the genre, but as Simon leaves Castle Hayholt and journeys into the fantastic world created by Williams the reader soon realizes that he is immersed in a unique fantasy experience.

Tad Williams does epic fantasy well. Osten Ard is a land of racial tensions, political scheming, corruption, and religious persecution. What sets this story apart is not the narrative but the world through which Simon travels. The characters are well written and come to life on the page. While the book stumbles on many familiar fantasy tropes, there is plenty of uniqueness to keep the reader fixated on the story. The story weaves together multiple narrative threads throughout the book. Simon often seems bland and uninspired but the supporting characters carry him along extremely well. He is the vehicle through which this story is told. Williams has also created one of the finest fantasy villains of all time in the evil priest Pyrates; he is enigmatically wicked and aloof. It is William’s ability to present known characters to the fantasy reader in a new way that brings so much life to his storytelling.

While The Dragonbone Chair relies on many of the fantasy archetypes, Williams has successfully created a diverse and interesting world populated with characters the read will both love and hate. The fresh ideas brought by Williams to the series are more than enough to entice the reader to follow Simon on his journey to save Osten Ard from the perils of the Storm King.


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