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

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  36,357 ratings  ·  751 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 Trade (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
35th out of 2,304 books — 15,929 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
40th out of 1,704 books — 7,132 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
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

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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Ayman Teaman
Jul 28, 2014 Ayman Teaman rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Ayman by: A friend...
Shelves: gave-up-on
Rating: 1.0
I rarely drop books; but I had to drop this one.
Pretentious storytelling using a hacked mesh of cliches through an overextended tale.

Why did I pick this book?
I asked a friend of mine for recommendations, and he pointed me to this book.

Overall reading experience
The book did not manage to grip me at all in the 176 pages I spent reading it, which was more excruciating than I ever remember while reading any type of book. And to think that I thought Robert Jordan was slow! He i
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
May 27, 2008 Rob rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Connie Jasperson
Tad Williams' masterpiece, the Dragon Bone Chair is the first book in the epic fantasy series, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. I first read this book when it came out in 1988 and had to re-read it again immediately upon finishing it. This book and indeed the whole series had a profound impact on my own style of writing.

Just like the best and most enduring of love affairs, The Dragon Bone Chair begins a bit slowly, as the author establishes the background to the tale. However, once you are into it, thi
Luca Lesi
"Eccomi qui" gridò allora. Con un sibilo vibrò la magica Thorn contro l'orrido occhio. "Sono ...Simon!".
Atmosfere che mi fanno proporre come brano musicale correlato , qualcosa tipo Poets of the fall
In questo bel libro fantasy ci sono tutti gli elementi e i valori tipici del genere : una quest, il male che vuole distruggere il mondo, diverse razze che si uniscono per combatterlo ma sono deboli e sparuti, draghi, cavalieri, troll, creature orriede e fantastiche, stregoni, re, regine, eroi, amic
Out of all of Williams books that I have read this one has not been the best. It got off slow - which I was expecting, I remember the 1st of the Otherland series was excrutiatingly slow, in part due to the introductions to the stories of the vast amount of characters involved in the story.

The first of MS&T is also quite slow but not in the same way, unfortunately. Its just slow plain & simple. I don't find the characters (particularly Simon) nearly as interesting as the characters Willia
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Sci-fi and Heroic...: The Dragonbone Chair 48 73 Nov 20, 2014 09:06PM  
Hesitant to read series/book again? 17 177 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 37 Sep 17, 2012 11:45AM  
  • The Briar King (Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, #1)
  • Black Sun Rising (The Coldfire Trilogy, #1)
  • Daggerspell (Deverry, #1)
  • The Curse of the Mistwraith (Wars of Light & Shadow, #1; Arc 1, #1)
  • A Cavern of Black Ice (Sword of Shadows, #1)
  • The Star Scroll (Dragon Prince, #2)
  • The Broken Crown (The Sun Sword, # 1)
  • Fortress in the Eye of Time (Fortress, #1)
  • A Song for Arbonne
  • Lamentation (Psalms of Isaak, #1)
  • Transformation (Rai-Kirah, #1)
  • A Man Rides Through
  • Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders, #1)
  • Winterbirth (The Godless World, #1)
  • Acacia: The War with the Mein (Acacia, #1)
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.” 156 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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