The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams

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The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Hannah Crookes
Reviewed by Hannah Crookes
Summary: A classic fantasy adventure. Excellent characters and interesting plot, though far too long, with an uninspiring beginning.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 944 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841498393

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To Simon, an orphaned servant at the Hayholt, home of an aged king, it seems that his life will forever be dull and mundane. The King's youthful glory days were long ago and Simon, who dreams of adventure, sees his peaceful but quiet life as a tragedy. When the old King dies his son Elias is crowned, but begins to act strangely. Strange weather strikes the realm, terrifying beasts are attacking from the North, and the King, far from helping his people from these problems, is adding his own heavy taxes. Simon is caught up on a journey that is as full of danger and intrigue as he ever dreamed of, but finds it less than he hoped for. An ancient enemy is stirring, the High King Elias is aiding this enemy and it seems the only hope for the kingdom lies in the knowledge of the mysterious League of the Scroll and the finding of three ancient swords of power.

The Dragonbone Chair is a strange mix of excellent plotting and classic fantasy at its best and clumsy descriptions. I'd heard great things about Tad Williams and this series and honestly I can see why. The book does have the makings of a great fantasy saga reminiscent of Lord of the Rings in some ways. There's a kitchen boy who's special in some hidden way, a Princess, a dragon, a quest, a wolf-riding troll and three powerful magical objects. In some ways it seemed a bit too clichéd and predictable but Tad Williams wrote The Dragonbone Chair some time ago, what I'm reading is a reprinted edition. I get the impression that The Dragonbone Chair was the original source for at least some of these clichés.

The characters were interesting, especially Binabik the troll and his faithful wolf Qantaqa. The narrative would often jump from the main characters to minor ones for a short scene. This allowed the reader to understand what was happening all over Osten Ard and also how the main characters' actions affected those of lesser characters hundreds of miles away. Simply speaking, it made the country as a whole much more believable and developed.

However, I did have problems with the book – namely the first few hundred pages. These were filled with unnecessary description and scene setting. I appreciate that there was a lot of history and back-story for the book but could the author not have incorporated it along the way? I think it would have merited from a far more ruthless edit. The Dragonbone Chair weighs in at 912 pages and honestly, several hundred pages could be safely cut from this book without any plot being lost. The beginning was not captivating, not interesting and a chore to read. If I hadn't been reviewing the book I wouldn't have carried on with it. But it improved! It got better and better throughout the book as things actually started happening. The other main problem is that the narrative voice sometimes seemed a little too dry and pompous.

The quote on this edition – an epic fantasy you can get lost in for days, is definitely accurate. Don't start this unless you have time on your hands because it will take a long time to read (and leaves off on a complete cliffhanger so I'm guessing you'll have to keep going until the end of the fourth book to reach a satisfying conclusion). I also felt completely and utterly lost at times in a sea of too many words. But, and it's a big but, the second half of the book actually leaves me wanting to continue the saga. It had plot, it had characters, it had clever connections between the characters and once you've waded through enough words it actually had action and lots of it! I have high hopes for the next book.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then we think that you might also enjoy A Feast for Crows by George R R Martin.

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