The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Book 1)

The Dragonbone Chair - Tad Williams This is highly thought of by fantasy authors. Tamora Pierce rates it five stars on GoodReads and this was the series that inspired George RR Martin to try his hand at epic fantasy. This first volume of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn consists of 766 pages of such tiny print I feared for my eyesight. It's the kind of book with maps up front and an appendix and glossary in the back, written in omniscient point of view, populated with elves, giants, dragons and trolls, and studded with songs and poems. It took a long time to get into--for 170 pages in the paperback edition we pretty much just follow, Simon, the 14-year old orphan scullion, dodge his duties about the castle before Something Happens. He acts fourteen--a flighty, whiny annoying pain--but does grow in the book. My favorite secondary character was the Yoda-like Binobik and his wolf--once he shows up on page 252 the book was a lot less of a slog. Despite reviews calling the writing "beautiful" I didn't find the prose lovely: convoluted sentence structure, overdescriptive, overuse of italics and bold. The only other place I can ever recall seeing bold used for emphasis is bad fan fiction. Although good enough to keep me reading, I didn't find the style graceful compared to fantasy writers such as Peter S. Beagle, Tanith Lee, Ursula Le Guin, Mary Stewart or T.H. White. Moreover, the book could and should have been half the length; a great deal of the material was repetitive and unnecessary for world-building or character development. (And I would have appreciated far fewer dream sequences.) I looked on my bookshelves for my fat fantasy books: Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart is 912 pages; George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones is 835 pages; Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule is 820 pages; Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is 734 pages. Did I feel the weight with those books? No. But Dragonbone Chair definitely needs a diet. With Carey and Goodkind the length of the first books and those that followed didn't daunt me--I eagerly pounced on their next books. But I look at the equally fat Stone of Farewell and then at the conclusion To Green Angel Tower--split into two books and each still over 700 pages--and I whimper. Don't know when or if I'll get the nerve up to finish this four book "trilogy," despite Dragonbone Chair ending on a cliff-hanger.