“The Dragonbone Chair stood like a strange alter-untenanted, surrounded by bright, dancing motes of dust, flanked by statues of the Hayholt’s six High Kings..”
Last fall, my good friend and fellow A Song of Ice and Fire enthusiast, Cheryl Hall, invited me to join her in the reading of The Dragonbone Chair. I immediately said yes, for four reasons: Tad Williams was a new author for me, one I’d been curious about every since the 1998 publication of City of Golden Shadow, Book I in his Otherland series; I love the fantasy genre, and; I very much look forward to buddy read’s. But what really piqued my interest was the fact that Williams novel was a significant influence in George R.R. Martin’s writing of A Song of Ice and Fire.
Tad Williams impressed me almost instantaneously. His simplistic style lends the prose an ease of flow rarely seen in epic fantasy, without sacrificing its vivid nature, as well as other important qualities. And while the first half did drag somewhat, I found it quite compelling. The words used weren’t wasted, as Williams took the time and effort to develop Simon’s character, whom I grew to adore, alongside a select few supporting characters. However, I thought the lack of well-roundedness in some of the other characters left much to be desired. Hopefully we’ll get more backstory in the books to come.
But that isn’t all. He also provided some fascinating history of the peaceful land, Osten Ard, and especially that of the elvishlike Sithi. His world-building skills aren’t bad, either, though perhaps my expectations were too high. Unrealistic, even.
As Jarnauga intoned, there are “stories within stories,” here.
Things really began to take shape in Part Two, aptly entitled, Simon Pilgrim, and even more so in the next, Simon Snowlock. Particularly throughout the third section, the writing became more crisp, enriched with deep, meaning friendships between these characters as they journeyed forth. Tensions solidified, alliances were formed, the supernatural beautifully uplifted. Most intriguing of all, excluding the various political scheming and its ramifications (which I enjoyed almost as much,) was Williams incorporation of prophecy:
“And Shadows walk upon the road
When water blackens in the Well
Three Swords must come again..”
From Part Three onward, this California native recognized his strengths and kneaded them meticulously, until his mold became equally incredible and unexpected. And unbelievable, really. All this, and much more, wasn’t merely written for his benefit, but for his reader’s enjoyment, as well. None of it felt contrived, idealistic, or convoluted to me, either. In fact, it could have easily been more complex, and I wouldn’t have minded in the least. In addition, Williams obviously wrote it for the simple fact that there was nothing quite like it, upon publication in 1988. Essentially, he wrote something that he’d like to read.
“When Bukken from the Earth do creep
And Hunen from the heights descend
When Nightmare throttles peaceful Sleep..”
The author’s passion shines most brightly-like a sharp, gleaming sword– in the last three chapters. Nearly every element came into play (and those that didn’t, leave you gasping for more,) and soon escalated with the turn of a page. I couldn’t flip them fast enough, in all earnestness, resulting in an adrenaline-laced, on-the-edge-of-my-seat SHOCKER of an ending.
It’s almost uncanny when you think about just how good and awesome this final section is.
I am still in awe, my mind won’t stop reeling, and I desperately need the next book, Stone of Farewell. Very nicely done, Tad! Highly recommended!
“To turn the stride of treading Fate
To clear the fogging Mists of Time
If Early shall resist Too Late
Three Swords must come again.”
I miss you, Seoman, with all my heart..