Every once in a while I get the urge to read a high fantasy novel instead of something more highbrow, much like people get cravings for hamburger over steak or a desire to punch themselves in the groin instead of having a nice cup of coffee. Since Tad Williams’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn often comes up in discussions of “good” fantasy series, I gave the first book, The Dragonbone Chair, a shot.
It’s almost aggressively generic, I think.
Here, let’s count the tired fantasy cliches that one finds capering through this book’s 800 pages:
- The book’s main character is a orphan boy who is really highborn
- That same peasant boy gets apprenticed to a wizard
- A ancient, faceless evil is trying to arise and take over the world
- An evil counselor (a wizard, even) corrupts the king
- The main character has prophetic dreams
- Not to mention entering the “dream world” to get more prophecies
- The heroes are aided by elves and dwarves (though they go by different labels)
- The heroes embark on a quest to collect three magic artifacts needed to save the world
- The main character falls in love with a princess
There’s more, but I think you get the point. There’s almost nothing interesting about the characters in this book or the world they inhabit. This is kind of odd, since I’d say exactly the opposite is true of the other Tad Williams books I’ve read, the Otherworld series. There Williams gave us a huge cast of rich characters that I came to care about and put them in an interesting, unique world described through overlapping storylines. There’s very little of that in The Dragonbone Chair.
See the thing is, though, that I’ve already got the other two books in the series so I may actually finish them. But not right away. I need time to cleanse my palate and read something else. Fortunately there’s a new George R. R. Martin book coming out next month, and he’s a guy who really knows how to write great stories set in the high fantasy genre.