The Dragonbone Chair: Review

The Dragonbone Chair: Review

Science fiction and fantasy are probably two of my favorite genres. I grew up on Tolkien and Terry Brooks Shannara series. So, when I got the recommendation to add Tad Williams trilogy of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, figured this would easily be something I would inhale.

It definitely was engaging, and I enjoyed it, but at the end of the day, when putting a critical eye to it, the first book, The Dragonbone Chair, had several elements that I find less appealing.

  1. It was long – 672 pages!  I was easily engaged, but even with an engaging book, to only get halfway through it in the time it would normally take me to get through an entire regular book.
  2. There were a lot of characters to learn about. Often times too many for my tired old mind.  Once I got to the end, I noticed there was an Appendix of all the names that Williams introduced in this book, and I was stunned.  I was reading the Kindle version of this, and when reading a Kindle version, it’s trickier to “flip to the end” for reference.
  3. Spoiler alert:  At the end of the day, this story becomes a quest for not a ring, but a sword.  Hmmm…where have I read that before?
  4. Language:  I consider myself fairly competent with the English language. Heck, I’ve been called a grammar cop on more than one occasion in various online venues. So, when an author prompts me to look up words I can’t get from the context, or just flat out never heard of before, that’s a good day! I say that because I enjoy learning new words. I love learning about language. But I am an unusual egg in that vein. Many people read just for entertainment. So, that being the case, if you’re thinking of getting into Tad Williams solely for entertainment – forget about it.
  5. My only other beef is that with so many books to read, it would be nice if his were available via Overdrive in my library, or at least on Kindle Unlimited. I am happy to buy one book to read/review, but with two more, not sure I really want to spend the $35 on reading the series, especially given the time needed to really take it in. Book 2 is another 602 pages, and Book 3 is 1098!!!  Sorry, but that is super long, even by my wordy standards!

All that said, I really did enjoy the read, so much so that I even made note of several passages where the flow of words and language was just so beautiful. Here’s a few passages that have stuck in my online moleskin:

  • “…the sighing grass from the winds…”
  • “…The sun had dropped until there was nothing left but a bright residue along the crest of the hill…”
  • “…Honor is a wonderful thing, but it is a means, not an end. A man who starves with honor does not help his family, a king who falls on his sword with honor does not save his kingdom.”
    “The sky was black as pitch, salted with stars…”
  • “Elsewhere the ice cliffs had cracked and fallen, in crystalline chunks, gemlike raw edges etched in stormy blue, crumbling into tesselate confusion like the abandoned blocks of some giant architect.”

Seriously – who can write like that? Some of the descriptions are just phenomenal.  Other times though, even in these wonderful descriptions that really are true testaments to high fiction, you can almost get lost in the narrative.  That happened to me a lot, and is perhaps why it took me some time to really absorb this book. I’m glad I did take my time with it though. because I really did learn from it too.  Not just in terms of writing style (things I like, things I don’t like), but also in my command of the English language, as referenced above. For those of you interested, here’s the words I learned (or refreshed in my mind after many years of not reading or writing any sort of fiction) from reading just Book 1 in this series:

  • copse – (n) a small group of trees
  • limn – (v) – depict or describe in painting or words
  • vertiginous – causing vertigo especially by being extremely high or steep
  • tesselate – decorate (a floor) with mosaics

Having said all that, the cliffhanger that Book 1 ends on makes me want to jump into Book 2, but…I need a break from Williams. I need something lighter that I can just enjoy and not have to stop and re-read it because a thought or name was lost on me, or to look up a word.  Not sure what I’ll pick up tomorrow, but I’d like to make some headway in my Reading List for 2017, so definitely something shorter!

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