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TITLE : The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow and Thorn #1)

AUTHOR : Tad Williams

GENRE : YA/NA Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Classic Fantasy


FR RATING : ⭐⭐⭐⭐(3.5 Stars)

DATE OF PUBLISHING :  October 1988


The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams is the first book in the epic fantasy series, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. This is a classic fantasy series and has been known to be the inspiration for many of the more popular books. The story is set in the land of Osten Ard where the High King John Prester is dying, and his son Elias will take the throne. Osten Ard was a peaceful land under the rule of John Prester and will descend into chaos under his son Elias’s reign. The world will no longer be at peace with strange things happening across the lands, and the realm will be threatened by dangers the likes of which they have never seen before. Simon, our main protagonist gets apprenticed to one of the members of a secret group of scholars. The scholars are trying their best to stop the war that could ravage the land along with several other concerning members of the realm. Despite everyone’s efforts, the dark powers arise, Simon and the group have to go on a journey to find long-lost swords that could stop the reign of the enemies of Osten Ard.

I remember seeing this title on Goodreads and adding it to my TBR. It is one of the classic fantasies that have inspired a lot of newer fantasies. So when the opportunity to read it came in the form of a buddy read, I actually jumped at the chance. I have not read any of the more popular epic/high fantasy series. I feel like they always intimidate me, and when I hear them being talked about, I get a serious case of FOMO as well. With buddy reads, I realized I will always have help if I ever needed it, and this way, we could discuss the book, its themes as we moved forward. The book is a classic and is a YA series with a coming-of-age story and lots of political maneuvering. It’s divided into 3 parts, indicative of the different stages Simon goes through throughout the story.

In this first installment of this series, we follow Simon, our protagonist, who was a kitchen boy at the royal castle with no goals or drive. He gets pulled into the rivalry between the princes and has to flee the castle. The story follows his journey from being this lazy, whiny, young teenager who has no aims in life other than to have fun, climb the towers, and explore to being responsible, finding ways to survive and think about things other than himself for the greater good of the Kingdom. The characterization of Simon as a teen was accurate in my opinion. He was constantly complaining about one thing or the other. If he wasn’t seen complaining, then he was either climbing on towers or was in the mood for exploration. He is your typical moody, grumbling, and groaning teenager. In the second part of the book, he actually has to take some responsibility and find out ways to survive and live life without the comfort of home. The more he goes on this path the more he grows as an individual. I loved the parts where he had to figure things out for himself and with the help of a few other very important side characters. He was able to learn more about the world and his place in it. He also learned new skills and found ways to survive in the harsh world. In the third part, he finds himself being part of a group that will go on an adventure/ quest to find the invaluable treasures that will change the future of the Kingdom once and for all. Almost every single one of us who read it in our buddy reads mentioned that Simon was not the best protagonist to follow, and I do agree with it to some extent. He is not the most captivating for an enthralling character to be written, for sure. For me, he was just a young carefree boy who had to face some dire situations and as a result, change his entire life. I was fascinated to see how he would navigate through all the uncertainty. His journey to me was believable because of how the characterization was done and also how well the progression happens. To me at his core, Simon is still the same annoying and whiny teenager, but at the same time, he does try to rise up to the occasion. He doesn’t change into this courageous and responsible warrior overnight. He still carries with him some of his lesser qualities and tries to be hopeful and brave for the sake of the quest.

The political maneuvering and plotting that were taking place between different groups and rulers all added to the more exciting parts of the book. We have a few characters that will come towards the end changing the fate of the major players and their roles.

There was a wide array of characters in this book. With the progression of each page, I had difficulty remembering most of them and had to go back and reference who they were and why they were important. Because the book has so many characters it became a bit hard to keep track of. So I would highly recommend actively reading it and being present by taking notes as well. All the different characters and their dynamics were really interesting. We do not know yet, what motivates most of them.

The world-building and lore in this book are immersive and expansive. I loved how there were so many familiar supernatural entities and also a mix of some unknown ones. It was fun learning the history of the world through the different characters and their perspectives. Williams does a fantastic job of bringing the world to life on these pages with his masterful storytelling. He is a genius in creating this world with its scope and expansiveness. I was so intrigued by all the lore, history, the politics of the different nations and groups. Although some things are not yet clear, I believe we have more revelations coming up in the upcoming books.

There are a lot of characters and names to keep track of as I have mentioned already. They all have a vital role to play and some of the dynamics were excellent. So I would advise you to take this book slowly and read it with care. This is not a book to speed read or casually read because there are so many details, aspects, and lore that come up. What made this even more challenging was THE difficult-to-remember names, which sometimes also had multiple versions of it. You will also need to take note of them as most of the information that was spoken lightly or said in passing will pop up as we read on as it also has importance in the grand scheme of things. Because I read it slowly savoring all the details and appreciating the slower pace by not rushing myself, I was able to enjoy it more than I anticipated. One thing is for sure, going into the book with what to expect in terms of pacing and the slow plot progression really made it easy to relax and enjoy the journey Simon was on.

This book is one of the slowest-paced books I have read in my entire life when it comes to fantasy. As I have only read a few adult and some YA fantasy, I might not be the best judge of that. Yet, from everything our fellow buddy readers have mentioned and other fans of the series have talked about, I know that I am not the only one who have felt so. The pacing is slow at first and takes its sweet time to establish the world, the setting, and the characters before even starting the plot. Then we get to the faster-paced part of the story where things do progress and significant events happen. Afterward, the book goes back to being slow while establishing the new environment and circumstances. This goes on for a while and once again the author speeds things up where quite a few events happen in succession making the book get exciting with some new mysteries to unravel.

The writing is the other favorite part of this book. Although it was challenging at times, Tad William’s prose is so descriptive and flows together so nicely, that it carries you along with it. His writing is so captivating and on point that it’s hard to not be pulled into it. The settings and aesthetics play a key role in adding a riveting atmosphere to the story.

My verdict?

Overall, this is a solid start to a series and has quite a few classic tropes in it. While things are moving at a predictable pace there were a few things that did surprise me. If you love books that focus on a character’s journey and be in their shoes the whole time, then this book is for you. I am so happy I finally managed to read this epic, masterpiece that went on to influence authors like John Gwynne, and George R. R. Martin. I read John Gwynne’s The Shadow Of The Gods first. There are a few things that have similarities to MSAT, but The Faithful and The Fallen series has so many of them in terms of themes and instances that I knew there was no way John Gwynne has not been influenced by this series. Game of Thrones also has a few things that were quite clearly influenced by MSAT. Both of these books are much more plot-driven with complex-political machinations. Well-read fantasy readers in our buddy read group and a few others on the internet have mentioned that this was truly a game-changer in the fantasy genre and shaped the path for the epic fantasy journey. I can totally see that. The books I heard in the same lines as MSAT are Wheel Of Time and Robin Hobb’s books, so I would recommend checking this one out if you love those books. Rather than going into this book and comparing it to newer fantasy epics, and the series it has inspired, I would suggest going into it to explore the epic fantasy that served as a stepping stone to a blend of classic and modern fantasy elements with a character-driven story. It’s also a journey of the main character through the different stages in their life and so the plot takes a second place to the characters. Knowing all of this will set the readers with the right expectations. While it was a slow read for me, I was still able to enjoy it and the story had my attention the whole time. I think that speaks for the mastery of Willaims in crafting a thoroughly captivating world and story. I gave the book 3.5 stars and can’t wait to see what William’s has in store for me in the upcoming books. This is definitely a book that requires a re-read to fully grasp the scope and nuances that most readers will miss the first time around. I highly recommend checking it out if you enjoy classic fantasy that is character-driven and slow-paced.

Have you read this series? If so what were your thoughts on it? I would love to hear about your favorite classic fantasies and also please don’t hesitate to leave your recommendations in the comment section.


A war fueled by the powers of dark sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard—for Prester John, the High King, lies dying. And with his death, the Storm King, the undead ruler of the elf-like Sithi, seizes the chance to regain his lost realm through a pact with the newly ascended king. Knowing the consequences of this bargain, the king’s younger brother joins with a small, scattered group of scholars, the League of the Scroll, to confront the true danger threatening Osten Ard. 

Simon, a kitchen boy from the royal castle unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League, will be sent on a quest that offers the only hope of salvation, a deadly riddle concerning long-lost swords of power. Compelled by fate and perilous magics, he must leave the only home he’s ever known and face enemies more terrifying than Osten Ard has ever seen, even as the land itself begins to die.

After the landmark Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, the epic saga of Osten Ard continues with the brand-new novel, The Heart of What Was Lost. Then don’t miss the upcoming trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard, beginning with The Witchwood Crown!

Source : Goodreads


  • Jay

    Just here to point out a few incorrect details. “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” is most definitely an adult epic fantasy series, not aimed to the young adult crowd. It was also published in late 1988, not 2005, hence why there is so many predictable tropes, as they weren’t so overdone in those years. 😀

    • Fazila KP

      Hi Jay. Thank you for stopping by and letting me know about the corrections. I really appreciate it. March 2005 is the later publication date with the newer covers, and I forgot to add the older date.? As to the series being an adult fantasy book, I personally didn’t feel the themes were necessarily only for adults. It’s definitely a book that can be enjoyed equally by all ages if you like the writing style. But I also felt like it could easily fall under the YA fantasy genre as it is appropriate for the age group.

  • Dylan

    I have to agree with Jay, this is definitely not YA. There are more adult themes as the series goes on and, while a young adult could easily read it, that doesn’t make it YA. The intent of the author was an adult epic fantasy and that’s what I believe it is.

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