The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams (Memory Sorrow and Thorn: Book 1)

The Dragonbone Chair chronicles the coming of age of Simon of Hayholt; from scullion boy, to sorcerer's apprentice and beyond.  The book is broken into three story arch's: Simon Mooncalf, Simon Pilgrim and Simon Snowlock.  The story encompasses the peoples of Ostren Ard and the return of one of the elf-like Sithi, the Storm King, one time Prince over the land, driven to madness by the destruction and greed of humans.

A quote from the Qanuc people of Ostren Ard regarding assumptions, "Welcome stranger. The paths are treacherous today". Make no assumptions and I will lead to new understanding.

The path from boyhood to manhood is a perilous time for all young men, but never more so than for the kitchen boy Simon.  Orphaned, Simon is watched over by Rachel 'the Dragon', Mistress of the Chambermaids.  Rachel knows Simon would rather be mooning about the castle, avoiding work and dreaming of adventure, and heroic deeds.  Unable to contend with the imaginings of a young boy, Simon is apprenticed to Morgenes, the castle Sorcerer and member of a secret group, the League of the Scroll.  The League are keepers of long forgotten secrets and possibility the destiny of the land it self.  When the old King John Presbyter dies, his first son Elias is crowned King, setting of a chain of events that will force a King to forge dark deeds with beings of hate and malice.  The ramifications of which see a good man die for his friends, Prince Josua the second son of the dead King flee into the night, and a boy to crawl from darkness and madness to wander through the wilderness, the keeper of a Kings secret.

Alone, cold and hungry Simon journeys by foot towards Prince Jousa and his stronghold at Naglimund.  A ragged and starved Simon becomes the reluctant hero, coming to the aid of a trapped Sithi Prince.  Gifted with a White Arrow as repayment, Simon is also befriended by a traveling Troll named Binabik and his wolf mount Qantaq.  Binabik explains to Simon that the arrow represents a debt that is now owed to Simon.

Pursued by the Kings hunters, Simon and Binabik come to the aid of two travelers, Malachias & Leleth. Harboring secrets of there own and stalked by the new King, the group flee deep into the forest.  Cornered and without hope, help arrives in the guise of Geloe the Witch, a member of League. Secrets are revealed and new relationship are formed until together the group wounded and depleted find sanctuary with Prince Josua at Naglimund.

Recovering for there harrying journey Simon and Binabik with the aid of the last remaining members of the League of the Scroll disclose to Prince Josua the secret of the Swords of Power and there importance in the up coming battle with the Storm King and King Elias. With battle lines drawn, a desperate plan is but into motion and a resolute band of explorers set out in search of a Sword of Power.  Hunted once more, the group are attacked and only narrowed escape due to the help from an unexpected ally.  Together allies old and new set out against winters cold bite in search of the resting place of the Sword of Power.

Dragons will arise, friends will fall and all will be marked, no more than Simon, "You have been marked Soeman… for better or worse you have been marked.".

The Story will continue in the Stone of Farewell…
Fergus McCartan, 8.5/10


The Dragonbone Chair follows Simon as he becomes embroiled in an epic adventure. The book is the first part of the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy and was first published in 1988.

This is epic fantasy, nearly 800 pages of it and it lasts the pace well. The Dragonbone Chair brings together all the elements that are found in many a fantasy book and re-produces them in a beautiful and endearing way.

Simon, our hero, is an orphan boy and his story is told in a way that reminded me somewhat of Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy. I say this because we often listen to Simon's inner thoughts throughout the tale and this is a very comforting narrative that really involves you in the tale.

The characters are strong and well-formed and Tad Williams takes time early on in the book to fully round them out and put some flesh onto the bones. After we are fully introduced to the players and have become comfortable in the world then the pace of the book really picks up and the strands of the tale spread out until there are multiple storylines on the go at the same time.

This is a very worthwhile read, if you find it a struggle initially, stick with it as these early chapters are important and leave you perfectly placed to enjoy the gripping story that is to follow.

Epic, traditional fantasy of a high standard.
Floresiensis, 8.5/10

9/10 Epic, traditional fantasy of a high standard.

Reviews by and Floresiensis

7 positive reader review(s) for The Dragonbone Chair

12 positive reader review(s) in total for the Memory Sorrow and Thorn series

The Dragonbone Chair reader reviews

from Scotland

Simply amazing. Loved every page, can't wait to start the second book! The details are immaculate...
10/10 ()

from Canada

An amazing book, each detail is of the utmost importance. The minutiae, the detail, and the way Tad Williams brings everything together by the last book is amazing. Tad Williams is one of the few people I would call a Genius. The character development is outstanding, and the way each and every storyline connects is breathtaking. I would put this series on the same tier as the greatest fantasy novels of all time. The ending, while unorthodox, is perfectly symbolic of the history that permeates the series.
10/10 ()

from America

The book is sooooooo AMAZING. Couldn't drop until the end. Can't wait to read the others.
10/10 ()

from Canada

I enjoyed it the series. First Book = Amazing. Secound Book = Good. Third Book = Ok. Third Book - Part 2 = ..what? I have to say I was recommended this book by sites relating it to books such as, Kingkiller Chronicles or the Mistborn series. Definitely not in their realm as it has little to no magic other than "the Art", which really isn't much of anything. Has amazing characters and a great plot (quest) but really lacks in the final book. Its mind-boggling how bad the ending is. It wasn't that it was poorly written or I didn't agree with the events. It just was built up and up and right when its about to get interesting... goes nowhere and then oh, here's a long epilogue. There basically was no conclusion. Id say its worth a read but try not to be disappointed with the ending.
7/10 ()

from Austria

This is traditional epic fantasy and has the strengths and weaknesses that you often find with this sub-genre. Regular fantasy readers will find much that is familiar but most will find comfort in this. The path of the story, from orphaned keep boy to adventures that lead to mighty battles and conversations with the great and powerful, is well trodden. As is the journeying from point to point, interspersed with events of importance. Williams writes a pleasant narrative and if you enjoy books such as Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, Belgariad and Shannara books, and are looking for a similar style of fantasy, then The Dragonbone Chair should be on your to-read list.
8/10 ()

from USA

I really enjoyed this book from beginning to end. I can see why George R. R. Martin was influenced by this series when he wrote A Song of Ice and Fire. There are many similarities. I love the characters in this book. They feel very real. This book made me want to be Doctor Morgenes' apprentice, instead of Simon. I wanted to climb to the top of Green Angel Tower. I wanted to visit the ruins of the ancient Sithi cities. This book awakened in me a feeling of loss for a people I had never known, and for a time I have never seen. Tad Williams breathed life into this world, and I loved every page of this novel.
10/10 ()

from Chester

Think Lord of the Rings is the greatest fantasy series of all time? Think again. Once you begin these books, it is impossible to put them down... seriously! Tad Williams makes you feel for the characters, like they're real and you want to reach the end to find out what's happening, but don't want the book to end. The twists in the plot and the way he ties them together at the end is amazing... If you want fantasy then READ THIS NOW!
10/10 ()

9.2/10 from 8 reviews

All Tad Williams Reviews