When I started The Book-A-Week Project (1.0) almost four years ago, I failed to give myself any leeway (i.e. more than a week) to read larger books over a longer period of time. This meant I didn’t read a single novel longer than 500 pages for an entire year, which became a huge problem because I love long novels. Or at the very least, I did then (my tastes have gotten a bit shorter in the years since).
With this second incarnation of The Book-A-Week Project, I’ve allowed myself to spread larger books over the course of a few weeks. It still forces me to read about a “book” each week (300-400 pages), but it gives me the freedom to tackle a behemoth every now and then.
Enter Week 4, and Tad Williams’ ridiculously brilliant fantasy epic The Dragonbone Chair.
In an effort to savor what is, quite possibly, my favorite novel of all time, I’ll be spreading this one out over the course of two weeks. Maybe even three (since it’s more than 800 pages long, that qualifies as a three-week book for me on the blog).
Because it’s arguably my favorite book, this one won’t be just a re-read for me. It’s a re-re-re-re-read. I’m almost certain this will be my fifth time through the novel. I’ve read it about every other year since I was 20 or so, and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I absolutely adore this book, but the funny thing that strikes me every time I read it is that … seemingly … I’m alone in this.
Now, I know I’m being hyperbolic here. The Dragonbone Chair (and it’s sequels in the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy) are considered part of the fantasy canon. Dragonbone is the book that inspired George R. R. Martin to write A Song of Ice and Fire. Williams has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. But when it comes to the pantheon of epic fantasy, it doesn’t seem like Tad is given his due. At least not to me (an admitted fanboy).
It’s probably the only book I love that I feel this way about. Like I’m the only one (again, I know I’m exaggerating) who seems to get it. When I read The Dragonbone Chair I feel like Sebastian in The Never Ending Story, where I’m completely swept into this other world. I want to read it under a blanket with a flashlight in the dark, so that it’s just me and this story and nothing else in the entire world. It soothes me, it excites me, it inspires me, and it honestly feels (if I can borrow an overused phrase) that I’m coming home to friends. There are very, very few books that do this for me (maybe five … maybe). Yet, I don’t know a single person who’s also read the book. Almost every forum or review I’ve seen is entirely positive about it, but they all stop short of putting it at-or-above Martin, Jordan, or Ericksen, et al.
And while I imaginarily fight the good fight for Tad, I also love that I’m alone in this. You see, The Dragonbone Chair is that rare novel that feels like it’s mine. It truly, genuinely feels like it’s this lost treasure that only I’ve found. A piece of art that only I see the value in. Simon and Binabik and Miriamele are my friends because no one else even knows who they are.
This used to be how I felt about A Song of Ice and Fire. But then HBO came along and Martin became a gigantic star and suddenly everyone in the world knew and loved Tyrion and Jon Snow and (to a much lesser extent) Jaime Lannister (who is so much better in the books; he’s my favorite character). Game of Thrones has made me appreciate my love of The Dragonbone Chair so much more, because it’s kind of a beautiful thing I have going right now. If Dragonbone ever became a TV show or a film (big mistake) I would of course be overjoyed–both for myself and for Tad, who deserves the recognition–but something greater would have been lost to me. My friends, in a sense.
So this week, I’m cherishing what I have: my favorite book in the world, seemingly all to myself. But at the same time, go out and read it. Please. It’s wonderful. It won’t be as much mine anymore, but you’re my friend, too. And sometimes you have to introduce friends to other friends. It’s how I met my wife. So, you never know.
Something good might come of it 😉