The Dragonbone Chair Critical Essays

Tad Williams


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Dragonbone Chair is the first part of the trilogy Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Stone of Farewell (1990) and To Green Angel Tower (1993) continue the search for the three swords and describe the eventual downfall of Elias, Pyrates, and the Storm King.

The Dragonbone Chair is very much in the tradition of heroic fantasy, akin to J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-1955) and the epic quest fantasies that followed. The Dragonbone Chair is quite dif-ferent from Tad Williams’ first book, Tailchaser’s Song (1986), a one-volume animal fantasy novel about the cat kingdom.

The Dragonbone Chair contains all the hallmarks of fantasy quest literature: a young boy of uncertain parentage who matures into his powers as well as his manhood, a resourceful princess whom the hero feels inadequate to love, wizards and prophecies to help the hero on his quest, a small band of companions struggling against a larger evil force, a betrayer from within who almost ruins their plans, and a land that is sickening and dying because of an ever-growing evil presence. What raises The Dragonbone Chair above the level of many such epic quests is the depth of characterization. Simon, Binabik, Josua, Elias, Pyrates, and the many others involved in the plot are fully realized people commanding pity, admiration, or horror. Simon is an especially riveting hero as he grows from a...

(The entire section is 478 words.)