The first book of Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy on the surface looks like a cliché, however Williams puts his own original spins on those standard elements that in The Dragonbone Chair the reader is confronted with a fantasy that is familiar yet very different. The main character is the young Simon, a scullion orphaned from birth, who becomes the assistant to the castle’s doctor as old heroic King John’s long life is coming to an end and his son, Elias, succeeds him. Then as larger events that Simon only takes note of start effecting his life in the castle, he finds an open door in the floor. From that moment Simon’s takes him from the ancient castle of his birth to the reaches of the known world, not that he really wants to and doesn’t prevent him from complaining.
Williams’ story further populated by other intriguing characters, both friends and foes of Simon. The troll Binabik who becomes Simon’s travelling companion thanks to a secret message from Simon’s mentor, Miriamele the only daughter of the corrupted new king who runs away under disguise only to join Simon, and Prince Josua who must confront and fight his older brother King Elias are but a few of the individuals that Williams makes the reader want to learn more about in future books. But Williams’ unique take on the “standard” elf was a pleasant surprise for those accustomed to the Tolkien version.
Coming to my first Tad Williams book, I had read and told various things to expect about his writing. The most frequent was that he started slow and frankly this is correct, though once the action really kicks into gear all the events previously thought as tedious at the start to be seen by a different light. Though overall not perfect, the storytelling is engaging and the worldbuilding top notch.
After finishing The Dragonbone Chair I am fully committed to seeing how story will play out over the next two (three if you have the Mass Market Paperback) books. Yes, the book does start slow but as I said above once the action starts everything read about before will take on a different light as you along with Simon traverse Osten Ard.