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The Dragonbone Chair

(Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn #1)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  63,045 ratings  ·  1,987 reviews
A war fueled by the powers of dark sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard—for Prester John, the High King, lies dying. And with his death, the Storm King, the undead ruler of the elf-like Sithi, seizes the chance to regain his lost realm through a pact with the newly ascended king. Knowing the consequences of this bargain, the king’s younger brother join ...more
Paperback, 672 pages
Published March 2005 by DAW (first published October 25th 1988)
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Katie This series is definitely suitable. I read this around the series around the age of 15. I'm currently doing a re-read.
Lee The book is big, i mean really big. You could kill a cat if you dropped it on it. I am reading this at the moment, and thankfully, Mr. Williams has cu…moreThe book is big, i mean really big. You could kill a cat if you dropped it on it. I am reading this at the moment, and thankfully, Mr. Williams has cut the book up into 3 sections. The First called "Simon Mooncalf" i have just finished, so i'm having a breather before diving back in to part 2 "Simon Pilgrim". I remember the cat bit. Apparantly, Simon put a cat in his tunic and the author never described how the cat's future turned out. I think you can reasonably deduce that Simon let the cat go between chapters, but its become a big debate on forums. All i can say is, i'm enjoying thoroughly enjoying it. I only picked it up as i reaslised i'd never read a fantasy novel (I don't count Harry Potter) and I didn't want to start with the obvious (Lord of the Rings) so i came to this as a loved the cover. (less)

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Average rating 3.94  · 
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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
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Okay, so I almost dnf’d this book BUT, I read a friends review that said the same thing but they pushed on and loved it. Soooo, I did the same thing with some skimming and decided I’m just here for the wolf and the troll. Okay, so I like some others but still! 😉

I love you Qantaqa! 🐺🐾. Even though she was a white babe turned grey, I have to use my black beauty Wolfen 😘🐺

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Adam Oleksa
Jun 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stuffiveread
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.

Michael Pang
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nick Borrelli
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Truly a masterpiece and probably my favorite Fantasy book of all time. The rest of the series is pretty awesome as well. Also, the most evil villain bar none of any Fantasy series I've ever read in Pryrates the evil priest. If you haven't read Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn in its entirety, you really must. This is what made me a Tad Williams fan for life.
Stefan Bach
“Books are a form of magic because they span time and distance more surely than any spell and charm.”

The Dragonbone Chair is the first book in Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series and an amazing coming of age story, which probably had big enough impact to shape and influence many of today’s popular writers of this genre.
For that alone, it is my opinion, that it should be visited at least once in a lifetime, no matter of someone’s preference in their genres.

A truly magnifice
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 been hurtful 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 int
David Katzman
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
A bit disappointing. The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie (ps. a follow-up trilogy in that series is dropping in 2019!) sets a pretty high bar for modern epic fantasy. And this is an example of another that fell short. To cut to the chase, it simply had too many elements that felt derivative from other fantasies and too many secondary characters that I couldn’t invest in. I found everything done tolerably well enough, but it just didn’t add up to a great book.

The story is centered around a y
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  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 ser
Mark Halse
Feb 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: high-priority
O what a ponderous tome! I've been wanting to read this book for a long time and was sorely disappointed. Tropes aside this book is so long winded and dull I could barely get through it!

I almost gave up on it a few times. The only thing that saved me is that every hundred pages or so something truly interesting would happen and then right back to boring ol' Simon and his boring bullshit!

One of the biggest problems with this book was it's scope. The cast of characters was too long and Mr. Willia
GrilledCheeseSamurai (Scott)
I was 14 years old when I first read this book. I remember feeling like a boss when I turned that last page. I had done it. I had finished this monster of a book all on my own and all without anyone telling me I had to. Not only that but I really, really loved doing it too.

I wasn't a complete newb to SF/F - I had the Narnia books read to me, as well as The Hobbit, Lord Of The Rings, and A Wrinkle in Time. And while I loved those books - I had to share them with my family. I had to discover thos
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
4.5 dragon stars

I must confess that this series has been sitting on my bookshelf for a very long time now and I have somehow always skipped over it, partly due to its bulkiness and also partly because of so many discouraging reviews. Curiosity won over eventually and I gave it a try.

From the beginning itself I didn’t really love it. The pace was extremely slow and practically nothing significant happened in the first half of the book. At times it felt like dragging. And the main hero Simon – a l
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great, great epic fantasy! I don’t know why I postponed it for so long. Good thing I have the right friends here to open my eyes.

If you loved LOTR story, you’ll love this one too. It’s the story of a great quest, friendship transcending all barriers, brave companions in their struggle to save the world.

Simon, a kitchen boy is caught in a series of events which are beyond his comprehension. Fleeing for his life, he makes some unusual friends along the way. Even if the story unfolds quite slowly,
Scott  Hitchcock

The writing style is very good. However the pacing is super slow. If you're going to have a slow pace, for me, you have to balance it with some sort of engaging psychological gauging of the characters usually with a high dose of empathy or some type of theoretical discussion which is thought provoking or some witty character banter.

I think if you like old school fantasy and it's pacing you'll love this. If you don't then not so much.
Matthew Quann
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Though quite slow to start, The Dragonbone Chair rewarded my patience with a beautifully realized fantasy world with fantastic characters and some gorgeous descriptive passages.* This was a nice break from the fast-paced, nigh-instantaneous payoff that I find a lot of modern fantasy tends toward. There's nothing wrong with those books, in fact, I'm rather a big fan of those books, but Tad Williams may be too plodding for many readers of modern fantasy to stomach.

I decided to tackle this trilogy
Twerking To Beethoven
Here's what went down, in case you're interested. I read "The Old Scale Game", a short story by Tad Williams off Unfettered, and I was like "Oi! I like this shit!". I enjoyed it so much, I ran to the local used book-store and got myself a copy of "The Dragonbone Chair". And loved the muthafucken' poo out of it, hey!

Mind you, there's nothing original about this novel, it's a pretty cliched story, but I guess it was just what I needed to read: old-fashioned high fantasy, that is, Young-scullion-s
Oct 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Nathan Throop
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
This is the second series I have started by Tad Willaims and this is a purely fantasy-based one rather than the blend which was Otherland. I went into this not long after having finished Otherland becuase I really enjoyed that series and I was hoping to enjoy this one just as much. Once again, I feel as though this is a series with potential, but as yet it's not reached that potential and so I will certainly continue onto book 2, but as of right now Otherland intrigued me more by this point.

Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love this book and series, and consider it an all-time classic that belongs in the company of LotR, ASOIAF, and the other Fantasy greats.

That said, I do want to break down the things I liked and disliked from The Dragonbone Chair:

- The beginning of the book is slow, and then even after it begins to 'pick up', there are still pacing issues. I wasn't overly bothered by it, but I can definitely see how it could be a barrier to some readers. It's hard for me to think of too many other books I ha
Oh, the orphan boy with unknown talents, who under-performs until the pressure is applied—how many fantasy stories have you read with this structure? Let’s see--Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey, The Riftwar Saga by Raymond Feist, The Belgariad by David Eddings, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, even to some extent The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (substitute “hobbit” for “boy”). Maybe even the King Arthur story to some extent—until young Arthur pulls the sword from the stone. ...more
Dec 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Maja Ingrid
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I thought this book would take me at least 2 weeks to finish due to my burden of university assignments and master thesis, but ended up taking less than a week. Funny how quick you read books when you procrastinate everything university and life related for a whole weekend (because i did spend the weekdays studying a little).

This book was very fun and easy read. I look forward to the rest of the series
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
Ashley Daviau
Mar 28, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I think this may just be THE most boring book I’ve ever had the misfortune to come across. Normally I’m all for epic fantasy but this was just epically boring. I made it about 30% through before I finally gave up. And I really don’t give up easily on books, normally I power through because you never know when it might turn around! But after seeking the opinions of several trusted sources that have read this one and after a unanimous conclusion that it doesn’t get any better, I gave up on this on ...more
What a fantastic story. Some people can't stand special snowflake Simon, but I love it all.

The Dragonbone Chair is takes a long time to build, and therefore it's hard to give a spoiler free premise. Our main character is Simon, a young orphan boy living in the Hayholt castle. He is a dreamer, someone unfit for the dreary castle life. When he becomes the apprentice of the fascinating Morgenes, he feels like he might finally become part of the adventures and grand life he has always fantasized abo
Monica Davis
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, series
4.5 stars, deservedly rounded up to 5 stars for the overall enjoyment of this first book in the "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn" series. A slow start and one or two sections in which I was lulled into near boredom (hence the missing half star in the rating), but beyond that a great adventure filled with interesting, well developed characters; colorfully descriptive and imaginative places and things...and plenty of action and intrigue once the story gets going. The author's careful attention to painti ...more
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Tad Williams is a California-based fantasy superstar. His genre-creating (and genre-busting) books have sold tens of millions worldwide, in twenty-five languages. His considerable output of epic fantasy and science fiction book-series, stories of all kinds, urban fantasy novels, comics, scripts, etc., have strongly influenced a generation of writers: the ‘Otherland’ epic relaunches June 2018 as an ...more

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)

Articles featuring this book

Dragons, demons, kings, queens, and the occasional farm boy (with a special destiny, of course): Fantasy literature has it all! To celebrate...
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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.” 238 likes
“A piece of writing is a trap,” he said cheerily, “and the best kind. A book, you see, is the only kind of trap that keeps its captive—which is knowledge—alive forever.” 29 likes
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