“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.” – Tad Williams’ (important) intro to The Dragonbone Chair. Take heed.
I’ve put off reviewing The Dragonbone Chair for about a decade now. I mean, how is a person supposed to review their favourite novel of all time? A book they found at exactly the right time, in exactly the right place? It goes without saying that it’s going to mean more to me than it (probably) will to you, so is there even a point of me writing this?
I asked myself these questions after each of my five+ readings of Dragonbone. But as I sat down to (finally) write this piece of verbal fellatio, it dawned on me: OF COURSE THERE’S A POINT BECAUSE FUCK IT THIS IS THE BEST GOD DAMN SERIES OF ALL TIME.
To my mind, this is about as perfect as a fantasy series can be.
- It has the size and scope of The Lord of the Rings, but feels more fresh.
- It’s every bit as engrossing as A Song of Ice and Fire, but is ultimately more uplifting and follows through on the promises it makes.
- It’s large and powerful like The Wheel of Time, but stays focused on its goal and drives the reader through the narrative.
- It aspires to greatness, like The Malazen Book of the Fallen, but remains incredibly accessible.
It’s full of heart. It has characters you’ll laugh and gasp and fist pump and cry with. You’ll grow alongside young Simon as he transforms from a doddering, callow youth to a determined, empowered man. You’ll love the Sithi, the elvishlike race who put a wonderful spin on a tired, old concept. You’ll hate the villains, invest in the heroes, and find surprises around every turn.
When I talk about The Dragonbone Chair I feel like the grandfather describing The Princess Bride. The book feels like that to me. The whole series does. It’s absolute magic. Williams’ writing is stunning, but it’s never at the cost of plot or propulsive movement. It’s beautifully lavish writing, at times, but you’re also turning the pages.
I’m 100% biased, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. All I ask is that you give the book 17 chapters (300 pages or so). Once you’re there, I’m willing to bet you won’t stop. Once Simon meets a mysterious Sithi captive and the Inuit halfing Binabik (Williams’ resident Yoda figure) you’ll be hooked.
If not, friends off 😉
Williams was the American Tolkien before Martin was crowned the America Tolkien. This book is the reason A Song of Ice and Fire exists. Literally. If you’re a fan of Martin, or Tolkien, or epic fantasy in general, do yourself a favour and spend a few weeks with the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy.
“Piercing My Hearte there is A Golden Dagger; That is God
Piercing God’s Hearte there is a Golden Needle; That is me”