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The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn #1)

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  38,566 ratings  ·  804 reviews
In the peaceful land of Osten Ard, the good king is dying-and a long-dreaded evil is about to be unleashed. Only Simon, a lowly castle scullion apprenticed to a secret order dedicated to halting the coming darkness, can solve the dangerous riddle that offers salvation to the land.
Paperback, 672 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by DAW (first published 1988)
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A Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinJ.R.R. Tolkien 4-Book Boxed Set by J.R.R. TolkienThe Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussThe Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. LewisThe Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
The Best Epic Fantasy
34th out of 2,391 books — 16,871 voters
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienA Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinThe Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. LewisThe Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Best Fantasy Series, Trilogies, and Duologies
41st out of 1,860 books — 7,664 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dirk Grobbelaar
“He who is certain he knows the ending of things when he is only beginning them is either extremely wise or extremely foolish; no matter which is true, he is certainly an unhappy man, for he has put a knife in the heart of wonder.”
- Qanuc Proverb

The Dragonbone Chair is chock and block full of wonder. If you have the patience to master this piece of work (it is incredibly dense and filled with first class world building and heaps of lore) you'll find it an extremely rewarding experience. It is a
Adam Oleksa
The opening to what is easily the best fantasy series I've ever read. Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn remains, IMHO, one of the most underread and underappreciated series out there. I suspect that the length of the novels scares some people off; Dragonbone Chair is the shortest, and it's still around 700 pages. The series as a whole incorporates most classical fantasy elements: an epic quest, dark sorcery, an unlikely hero, etc., but what makes it unforgettable for me is one main thing.

A classic in the fantasy field, this is best suited for readers looking for the traditional orphan-identity quest. While I enjoyed it overall, I was able to set the book down and walk away, coming and going from the story until Simon reached the woods. I consider it a bad sign when I'm able to set a book down--my favorites have me locked into reading position until I reach the end page. Eventually it picked up and reeled me in, but there was skimming involved.

A combination coming-of-age and cas
Kat  Hooper
This review refers to the trilogy.
Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn trilogy was one of the first fantasy series I ever read and it's still one of my favorites.

The writing style is very pleasant and the pace is slow enough to be savored, but characters actually accomplish things by the end of each book (you know what I mean). The characters are well-developed and loveable, but not annoyingly perfect. This is a classic epic fantasy plot: Simon the kitchen boy saves the world. But please do
Apr 25, 2015 Dustin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all fantasy fans
Recommended to Dustin by: Cheryl Hall
“The Dragonbone Chair stood like a strange alter-untenanted, surrounded by bright, dancing motes of dust, flanked by statues of the Hayholt’s six High Kings..”

Last fall, my good friend and fellow A Song of Ice and Fire enthusiast, Cheryl Hall, invited me to join her in the reading of The Dragonbone Chair. I immediately said yes, for four reasons: Tad Williams was a new author for me, one I’d been curious about every since the 1998 publication of City of Golden Shadow, Book I in his Otherland se

As far as fantasy goes I believe it is possible to be both derivative (at least in some sense) and still create a decent story. Take The Eye of the World, The Name of the Wind, Theft of Swords or even The Lord of the Rings. Yes The Lord of the Rings is itself derived from the classic Norse mythologies and even the other mythologies of, say, the Celtic people. Fantasy is in many ways a genre composed of derivation - it derives its ideas and imagined civilisations from reality. Yet The Dragonbone
OK, here's the deal. I've met this author at a convention and he seemed a nice enough fellow; and plenty of other people have read this book and given it four or five stars. But I am an unusually picky reader.

I like high fantasy. I could read Tolkien over and over again, love Martin, and have put away my fair share of Eddings, Jordan, and Brooks. But I spent the first 100 or so pages of this thinking I would have liked this book a lot more if I were (a) still fifteen and (b) a boy.

I made it th
I came into this book a little forewarned by the good readers here at Goodreads: "that this book is a SLOW buildup".

0-20%, slow. 20-30%, something could happen, are we leaving yet? 30-35%, is this it? No, false start. 35-45% OK, we left the castle, something has to happen right? 45%-end: Bam! Fires, dragons, magic swords, trolls, elves, demons, mountains, crossing the map, wolves (good and bad), bad dreams/good dreams, death, sieges, magical storms, ships.......

The slow build-up eventually drop
Anthony Ryan
One of the seminal works of epic fantasy which, along with the works of Robert Jordan and David Eddings, made the genre what it is today. Williams makes a virtue of starting small as we follow orphaned kitchen boy Simeon through his childhood in the castle of King Prester John. However, the king's death heralds an age of discord and Simeon finds himself drawn into valiant Prince Josua's rebellion against his increasingly despotic and magically deranged brother. The scope of the story expands wit ...more
Oct 30, 2007 Mary rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fantasy & adventure fans
Shelves: fantasy
I have to be honest, I love Tad Williams. A lot of my friends aren't fans of his because he really does take ages and ages to get to the point. He's very big on character development, which is basically all I read books for. I not only forgive three hundred pages of character introduction and exposition and plot set-up, I gleefully embrace it.

This book isn't any different from others of his that I've read in that respect, and in all others, it's a classic fantasy adventure. Orphan boy tapped for
I love this series. I hadn't thought of it in a little while, but speaking about books today with a friend brought it to mind and I thought, "I haven't read that this year...I should." The four LARGE volumes are quite an investment, both in money and in time, (get it from the library, or let me know and you can borrow mine when I'm done) but it's worth it in the end. I know that sci-fi/fantasy are seriously formulaic, and these are not that different...young boy, thrown into circumstances beyond ...more
Dear Tad Williams,

I cannot thank you enough for writing a book...well, set of books...that I can read as a full-on grown-up and still enjoy as much as I did when I was an angsty teenager.

It has hurt to find so many of my favorite when-I-was-young reads (looking at you, Shannara and DragonLance) aren't actually good at all and that I must adore them from afar with only sentimentality stoking the fires of young love.

Thank you for not adding to that hurt. I appreciate the effort you put into this s
This is one of my all-time favorite series and I reread it almost every year. That being said, I can understand why many people have given it negative reviews. There are two things that are cited most often 1) the slow start and 2)that there is nothing new (no new magic system, cultures are copies of Earth cultures, main character follows scullion to hero story, etc.), and I want to briefly address both those concerns before giving my final recommendation.

Whenever I recommend this series to som
Dennis Meier
Struggling a bit in Chapter 5 as the protagonist (Simon) observes things and reveals little disconnected snippets of history that (I assume) play a role in the story I hope is about to begin. (I am becoming a little tired of the comings and goings of Simon.)

I am hoping for the best. Tolkien ruined most other fantasy stories for me decades ago.

* * * *

After seven chapters, I gave up hope that an actual story would break out and something interesting will happen--or at least something more intere
I really enjoyed this book once I concentrated on it. Williams isn't really breaking any new ground in fantasy with it, but it's well-written and well-imagined.
Dec 17, 2010 Crperry13 rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Patient people who don't care about dialog.
My introduction to Tad Williams was the Otherland quartet, which rank among the very best books I ever read. Otherland had strong characters, an engaging plot, and a fast-paced movielike quality about it. I expected the same from other Williams works, so I picked up The Dragonbone Chair for some summer vacation reading.

And I was incredibly disappointed. The utter lack of engaging dialog and prevalence of weak, forgettable characters ruins this book. I found myself flipping past 2-3 pages at a ti
Nov 06, 2009 Shivesh rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: castle scullions, trolls, brutal warriors
Shelves: fantastical
About 15 years ago, when I was a wan, neurotic preteen wandering in the suburban wasteland of Southern California, my daily afterschool routine would lead me to the local library: a smallish building tucked under the overhanging boughs of a massive oak, it had a more visible neighbor in the even tinier city hall. In my later life, I would grow to realize that the entire complex, from library to city hall to the grocery store and mom-and-pop joints, were one of the last remnants of the "old towne ...more
Out of the older tradition of fantasy writing, this one takes its time and builds slowly, carefully, meticulously, until we have a world and conflict that feels real and surprising in the present with the depth that a long history provides. Really good stuff if you're patient enough to let it simmer.

I will admit to being bored at times, and frustrated with Simon's ignorance and naivete, especially in this first book. What I would consider to be the introduction takes about 200 pages. Then it's
Mike (the Paladin)
A group of heroes...Elven "like" folk...magic...swords...magic swords....dungeons...lost castle...all the ingredients are here. I like it and liked it. Maybe I'm easy, but I'm a sucker for heroics.
Gemma Alexander
More than one person recommended this book to me with the assertion that it was as good as Tolkien. So of course this influenced my reading, and as I read, I evaluated each chapter against Tolkien. It was easy to do because I recognized so many of the same elements; many of them were the same ones Tolkien himself took from the Scandinavian mythology. There was a lot of T.H. White in there,too. I kept score in my head, tallying up fantasy elements in two columns. There was Merlin/Gandalf/Morgenes ...more
This is the third time I've reread this series since I stumbled on it a long long time ago in the faraway galaxy of my teenage years, and I can say with no reservations that it's my favourite series to reread. It's one of those worlds where every time I return there, it's like a long-overdue catch-up with old, beloved friends. I love these characters, this world. I love the unique quality that arises from mixing fantasy staples with elements from history and myth and then throwing onto that canv ...more
Well, that was interesting. The Dragonbone Chair is a strong beginning to a fantasy story that is different than a lot of what you will find today. It is also a very traditional fantasy story, featuring tropes that are well beaten into the ground by now but were perhaps a bit less so in the late 1980s, when this book first came into being.

The generational difference is what I found so fascinating. I like many books that I've read in recent years in the genre, but particularly within the realm of
3.0 stars. It has been awhile since I read this and it is on my list of books to re-read so this review may change in the future. I remember thinking that the book was well written, epic fantasy that had some really interesting characters and back story. I also remember that the book seemed to drag and was much longer than the story needed. Thus, I liked it but I thought it could have been better plotted.
Definitely worth the 700+ pages. What a fantastic story. Some people don't like special snowflake Simon, but I love it all.
This isn't a terrible book but I think I simply wasn't in the mood for this style of novel. Having read a goodly chunk before lethargy set in, I was determined to keep reading (it is a fantasy classic, after all). I have never been so glad to finish a book in my life. My recent root canal was more fun than this in the end and only my personal brand of masochism kept me going.

In the story, the old king, and uniter of a troubled land, dies and his sons don't like each other. Ancient baddies are lo
The Dragonbone Chair is the first book in Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series and one of the better traditional epic fantasies that’s out there. The novel follows the young castle scamp Simon an apparently unassuming and unimportant young man who gets drawn into a dire events far beyond his meager station. Apprenticed to the castle doctor Simon spends most of his days dreaming of being a hero but the machinations of an ancient evil soon creep into his own and Simon soon finds himself o ...more
Greg Strandberg
Tad Williams really did a great job on this series and this first book stands out. I'm very, very tempted to give it 5-stars but when I read it several years ago I thought it was a bit too YA for me at the time. Maybe when I read it again I'll think otherwise. Or perhaps it's just one you should read in high school.

Either way, it's a good book and I do see myself reading the first volume of the series again at some point.

I recommend you read it soon if you haven't.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jul 16, 2010 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those Who Can't Get Enough of Wordy Tolkien Clones
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
This is highly thought of by fantasy authors. Tamora Pierce rates it five stars on GoodReads and this was the series that inspired George RR Martin to try his hand at epic fantasy.

This first volume of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn consists of 766 pages of such tiny print I feared for my eyesight. It's the kind of book with maps up front and an appendix and glossary in the back, written in omniscient point of view, populated with elves, giants, dragons and trolls, and studded with songs and poems. I
Joshua Bryant
Well, I tried to write this as positives and negatives, but the two were too intermingled to be separated.

On the whole, good writing, with some excusable mistakes and awkwardness (the one unexcusable writing mistake he does is have his main character use the word "mooncalf" two or three times every time he talks to himself. So sick of that word). He sounds like Tolkien, except a bit easier to digest. His descriptions really work usually, and sometimes strike me with their poetry. His songs
2nd READ :

You know, there's a french saying that goes like this : "Seuls les imbéciles ne changent pas d'avis" which means "Only fools never change their mind."

I am not a fool.

To be honest, I don't understand how I could judge this book with such harsh words after my 1st read.

When I started it for the 2nd time, I waited for the bad things to come. The bad things I was remembering from the 1st time.

And waited...

And waited...

The bad things never came. There were still a few typos here and there an
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Sci-fi and Heroic...: The Dragonbone Chair 48 84 Nov 20, 2014 09:06PM  
Hesitant to read series/book again? 17 179 May 16, 2014 01:09PM  
Mansfield Public ...: The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams 1 7 Aug 18, 2013 05:28AM  
Read by Theme: Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series 4 38 Sep 17, 2012 11:45AM  
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Tad Williams 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 ...more
More about Tad Williams...

Other Books in the Series

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn (3 books)
  • Stone of Farewell (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #2)
  • To Green Angel Tower (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #3)
Stone of Farewell (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #2) To Green Angel Tower (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #3) To Green Angel Tower, Part 2 (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #3; Part 2) City of Golden Shadow (Otherland, #1) To Green Angel Tower, Part 1 (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #3; Part 1)

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“He who is certain he knows the ending of things when he is only beginning them is either extremely wise or extremely foolish; no matter which is true, he is certainly an unhappy man, for he has put a knife in the heart of wonder.” 174 likes
“Has everyone gone mad?”

“Everyone was mad already, my lady,” Cadrach said with a strange, sorrowful smile. “It is merely that the times have brought it out in them.”
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