Carol. 's Reviews > The Dragonbone Chair

The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams
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's review
Aug 30, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: classic, fantasy, not-on-blog, yawn
Read from August 15 to 30, 2011

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 castle/kingdom political novel, I felt like the book would have benefited more from focusing on one or the other. As it was, the politics were mostly the side story, and I largely skimmed over those sections of the book without any real decrease in enjoyment of Simon's story. It's classic high fantasy, with full landscapes and world building, starting from the castle to underground tunnels to a deep forest, to a deserted Sithi (read elven) city, a highlands castle and a mountain. When the book ends with Simon and other adventurers sent on a journey for a missing sword, it's almost shocking that it's not a ring.

I like that Williams' world contains non-human races. There is the most interesting take on trolls that I've read yet--Binobik and his wolf quickly became my favorite characters. The white hounds and the Bakken bring nicely frightening elements to the story.

One frustration is that Simon's development seemed very uneven and unlikely to me, that parts of his political and intellectual consciousness seemed so limited even when being taught by the doctor. He does indeed behave like a fourteen year old boy at the beginning of the story, and credit to Williams for capturing that well enough to be annoying. Every time you turn around, he's complaining about reading, and his refrain lasts for some time even into his forest journey. However, (view spoiler). We very much get the "boy buffeted about by the winds of fortune" storyline, but he remains clueless every step of the way. Then suddenly he develops a sense of honor towards his kidnappers--that almost results in repeated injury by the Bakken. This was the Simon who had no honor towards shirking workloads in the castle, and who discovered a monk had fleeced him--twice--and has resolved to guard himself more closely? It's that kind of uneven characterization that makes him frustrating to root for as a lead, being so malleable and of almost no strong principles. I did like that he was open-minded enough to befriend a small person.

I didn't find the writing particularly impressive or beautiful, and it is odd to have bold and italicized words. The song lyrics are often distracting, but occasionally add some richness to the story. It feels like it was trying hard to be capital "E" epic, and the cliffhanger ending is an annoyance. I'll grab the next one from the library.
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03/25/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) Good Review, that's about how I see it. William's best writing in Otherworld. I enjoyed this, but I was still, less than captivated by it. I agree with you 100% (I think Tad William's best writing is in the first book of "Otherworld."

Carol. Thank you! I'll have to add Otherworld to my TBR list. Thanks for the suggestion--I'm new to Williams.

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) I'm not sure what I liked about the Artestry stays with the Otherworld series after the first book, but there's some really good stuff in the first one.

message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 05, 2013 11:50AM) (new)

"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."

I feel you. You're 100% right about that.
I'm enjoying it, though, but it is not an "umputdownable" book.
Were you confused about the different names, ranks and hierarchies?
I wasted SO much time going back and re-reading to find the character they were talking about. Character-wise, it's all over the place and very confusing!

Carol. Genesis--sometimes, if it's not integral to the story, I don't bother keeping ranks and hierarchies straight. You are right, there was certainly a large cast of characters.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I just started the second part of the third book. So much happens! I admit being very frustrated with it at first (not to mention how many times I wanted to punch Simon), but now I'm sad that it's almost over.
Carol, you think you might want to read the sequels in the future?

Carol. I won't rule it out, Genesis, but I'm more interested in novel interpretations of the epic fantasy like Martha Wells' Raksura. This felt like retreading the same old mythos.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

You interested me in Martha Wells' books. Unfortunately I can't find them anywhere (the first one seems to be out of print and not even Better World Books carry it). My local library doesn't have it either. :<
I loved your review of The Cloud Roads.

"This felt like retreading the same old mythos."
Can't argue with that. Even though I believe Tad Williams found his voice amid the multiple inspirations and combined them into something creative, I agree that at times I felt like I was reading several other authors.
Also, I'm still not sold on his Aedonite religious system, being it a fanfic of Christianity (IMO) as Usires is of Jesus.

Cinnamon I think I would have been better off if I'd read this series before ShadowMarch because, well, ShadowMarch is so much fuller and better and none of the characters are as irritating as Simon.

I think Simon's growth (such as it is) seems pretty accurate for a teenage boy, but teenage boys are irritating.

To be a little positive, though, having read Otherworld and Shadowmarch, I feel familiar with the slow first book leading into an exiting series, so I have high hopes for the remaining 3 books.

I do hope you'll give Shadowmarch a try if you haven't already read it. It's all very familiar but I couldn't put out down the way I can put this down.

message 10: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 01, 2013 06:41AM) (new)

@Cinnamon, I'm sure your comment was directed to Carol, so I hope you don't mind my jumping in since your praise for Shadowmarch interests me greatly. I own the series, got them while I was reading Memory, Sorrow and Thorn because I was loving Williams' style. I know I will read them this year so it's good news to hear they're page-turners.
I finished this series like a month ago and I still miss the world and the characters.

Carol. Good to know, Cinnamon. I haven't been much in the mood for much high fantasy these days, but I'll keep it in mind. There's a reason Williams is popular.

message 12: by Evan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Evan Peterson Hmm I have seen this ambivalence towards the opening of this series and don't understand it.
I immediately was sucked in to the story of a teenage ADD boy roaming the castle, distracted by insects crawling on the wall as much as the mysterious architecture of the castle. Those of us who explored old abandoned houses, grandpas attic, and storm sewers as teenagers knew exactly what was going on.. The political intrigue just sneaks in there on the sides to develop later.

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