Tad Williams has crafted a richly detailed back story, full of character development, history, and settings with as strong a sense of character as SimTad Williams has crafted a richly detailed back story, full of character development, history, and settings with as strong a sense of character as Simon. Although the tale moves slowly, as many first volumes in a series do, the details set the stage for events to come later. There is a great deal of foreshadowing.
There is a delicate balance between the sharing of history, and showing the challenges that the characters presently face; between the myths and legends that haunt people's mind, and the truths that beggar belief. Perhaps the reader may roll his or her eyes at the history, just like Simon (who is, after all, a young man of fourteen or fifteen), or scoff at tales of the Sitha early on as stories of The Little People, in the same way as any of the Erkynlanders or Rimmersmen do. This is not a bad thing, this feeling of impatience with the story - if anything, it brings the reader a greater sense of affinity for the characters.
Simon spends the first part of The Dragonbone Chair longing for adventure, daydreaming of acts of bravery. Once his actual adventure begins, he laments the innocence of his daydreams . . . when he has time to catch his breath.
I was struck, during this re-reading, with the sheer number of Tarot references I picked up. Every time I've reread the series, I've noticed smaller and more obscure details. This one made me stop and reflect for some time. There are many references to the Major Arcana, including: The Magician, The Emperor, The Sycophant, The Empress, The Hermit, The Priestess, The Hanged Man, and The Tower. Simon seems to be following the path of The Fool, moving from innocence of the world toward wisdom.
There are bursts of action and plot along the way, too. Thank goodness! However, if action is more what you're looking for, skip straight to Stone of Farewell - it contains a short synopsis of The Dragonbone Chair so that you can get the skeleton of the story built in your mind. However, the depth of Jiriki's debt, or the motives behind various schemes and treacheries, the significance of waking and sleeping dreams, and the bittersweet history of Osten Ard will be missing from your understanding...
Rather than attacking the book in a manner that a starving person would a hearty meal, treat it as a fine wine to be sipped and savored. Rather than growing impatient with the pace of the tale, use the time to get to know, and develop fondness for, or grudges against!, characters....more