If GRRM is Ray Parker Junior, Tad Williams is Huey Lewis. The rip-off is blatant and obvious, but no one seems to care because it’s an improvement from the original.
I recently got back into A Song of Ice and Fire, and when I reached the end of the fifth book and froze on the brink of winter as all of Martin’s fans have since 2011, I went in search of another book that would scratch my greyscale flare up itch. On my quest, I discovered a series I’d never heard of, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams. So I dove into the first book, expecting a Martinesque plot of intrigue, thick with dynamic characters and poignant themes.
The Dragonbone Chair contained very little of those things. It is a cautionary tale for writers, but we’ll get to that later. What I did find were several elements that were uncomfortably familiar. Tad Williams published The Dragonbone Chair in 1989, while A Game of Thrones was released in 1993. It is clear that Martin was “inspired” by Williams. It is important to acknowledge that George openly admits that The Dragonbone Chair was the most significant influence for A Song of Ice and Fire and the reason he tried his hand at fantasy at all.
Spoilers below, so if you want to read this book, run away now.
The similarities are as follows:
1. Men came into a world ruled by magical, immortal people known as the Sithi (Children of the Forest) and defeated them with their ability to forge iron. (Old Nan says of the Others, “They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun…”)
2. The Sithi were driven back into their stronghold of tunnels and used magical trees to create a weapon that could destroy men. (Just like Children of the Forest used the Weirwoods to create the Night King. This was a show-only creation, but many fan theories connect the Children, Weirwoods, and the Others. Bran also meets the Children in a series of tunnels beneath a weirwood.)
3. There is a group of Sithi that live in a mountain stronghold far to the North known as the Norn. They are white and icy and call themselves Children of the Clouds. Every group of Sithi names themselves “Children” of something. (Children of the Forest.)
4. The inciting incident for the conflict is the death of a charismatic warrior king, Prester John, who united all of the lands and became high king in his day. The king is famous for killing a dragon, but in truth, he did not kill the dragon himself. (Robert Baratheon. Many fans have theorized that someone else was wearing Rhaegar’s armor since his body was never recovered. Thus, Robert may not have killed the “dragon” either.)
5. Simon, the book’s protagonist, is raised as a servant in the castle of King John. His mother died in childbirth. He is the secret heir to the Dynasty that came before King John. He has visions and prophetic dreams. (Jon Snow, heir to an ancient dynasty, raised as a bastard, has prophetic dreams.)
6. A red comet tears across the sky the night of the king’s death. (The red comet in A Clash of Kings)
7. Two brothers fight for the throne. The one who holds the throne has an evil red priest who uses the king as a pawn for his own gains. (Stannis, Renly, Melisandre.)
8. A princess runs away from the evil king and disguises herself as a boy wandering the wilderness. She goes by many different names, one of which is Marya. Marya and Simon fall in love. (Arya. George originally planned for Jon Snow and Arya to fall in love.)
9. The name of the series, Memory, Sorrow, Thorn, is named for the three swords of prophecy that must come together to defeat the Storm King. (This is similar to the prophecy of the three heads of the Dragon, which drove Rhaegar to leave his wife for Lyanna Stark, setting the stage for the wars to come.)
10. One of the swords, Thorn, is forged from a fallen star and is solid black. (Just like the Dayne’s sword Dawn, which is milk white. Also, Valyrian steel blades are described as a smoky grey that often looks black.)
11. Ingen Jegger is the hound master of the evil Norn, using monstrous white hounds to hunt the protagonist. He wears a helmet shaped like a hound’s head. (Sandor Clegane and his Hound’s head helmet.)
12. Binibik is a man from the far north who serves as Simon’s companion. He has a massive wolf that he rides and is smart enough to take complex orders. (Northern Wargs, dire wolves.)
13. There are witch trees throughout the land of Osten Ard that are very similar to Weirwoods.
Check out this article for my writer’s review of The Dragonbone Chair.
What do you think? Have you read The Dragonbone Chair? Are the similarities too glaring, or is ASOIAF good enough to get away with it? Let me know in the comments!