As far as fantasy goes I believe it is possible to be both derivative (at least in some sense) and still create a decent story. Take The Eye of the World, The Name of the Wind, Theft of Swords or even The Lord of the Rings. Yes The Lord of the Rings
is itself derived from the classic Norse mythologies and even the other mythologies of, say, the Celtic people. Fantasy is in many ways a genre composed of derivation - it derives its ideas and imagined civilisations from reality. Yet The Dragonbone Chair
reads as incredibly formulaic. Christopher Paolini named Tad Williams as a mentor writer and I can see where Paolini has drawn concepts from Williams yet The Dragonbone Chair lacks the youthful enthusiasm and fun of Paolini's series. In other words for me this book takes itself too seriously, aiming to be among the pantheon of epics that are must read fantasy.
The story follows Simon, a scullery boy who becomes apprentice to castle magician Doctor Morgenes. Simon is forced to flee the castle of Hayholt when he discovers a plot by the king and his counsellor. Along his journey to fight a rising sorcerer (the undead king of the Sithi - elf like people) Simon encounters a love-interest, a troll and his wolf, some giants, some Sithi and a whole lot of people who live life medieval style.
Unfortunately apart from the tone and the writing itself not too much in this novel reads as highly original or incredibly entertaining. Therefore there is not much to make it stand out from the crowd of fantasy novels that now crowd shelves in libraries and book stores. Instead we have a Tolkienesque adventure. At least the Shannara novels could find something to make them slightly different and entertaining.
I did not particularly care for Simon as a protagonist. He seemed to be incredibly dull on the whole and when I do not care for the main character little appeals in a novel. Fortunately I did care for the supporting characters a lot more. Although most of them should have been dead by the novel's end with the damage they took.
Ultimately this is a standard fantasy novel that was mildly entertaining but not excellent. It simply takes too many fantasy tropes and tries to turn it into a serious rather than fun adventure. And as a result it read a little ridiculously. If you are looking for fantasy to read there are other places you should look first. Still no doubt this may appeal to others more than it did to me.