Here s my long overdue review of A Game of Thrones I was looking at the current reviews Here you have a book with a ridiculously high average rating, vast sales, and the most liked reviews are three 1 s and an unrated comedy piece Do we love to hate that much Apparently we do Not only is knocking down easier than building, it s also fun to watch Well, sadly all I have to offer here is a less exciting set of praise for the genius and importance of this book.
The first bit of genius is that on paper GRRM writes in not only the opposite manner to me but in a manner I profess to dislike Wait I like how he writes on paper you know what I mean.
Things he does that should annoy me I Lengthy descriptions of everything, especially food, clothing, and architecture Normally I hate wading through that stuff to get at the story Somehow GRRM does it in a way I like.
II Large numbers of point of view characters I normally find this makes each of them rather shallow and stereotyped GRRM is magnificent with characters and brings even the throw away non point of view ones to life.
III Huge, expanding story lines I tend to like some sort of focus but every corner you turn in this series can end up leading you down a seemingly endless rabbit hole of minor noble houses, their retainers, local squabbles, history etc And this has irked me at points, especially in the later books, but it s also kind of marvellous and makes everything feel really real, and also deep rooted in a Tolkienesque way.
I maintain that not only is Game of Thrones a brilliant read, it s also an important one for the genre It s meaningful to talk about post GRRM fantasy For many people, indeed for a decent chunk of a whole generation of fantasy authors, George RR Martin s A Game of Thrones was a step change in the genre.
For me and a lot of other authors Martin s work opened our eyes to what felt like a whole different world of what fantasy writing could be, and we ve run out into those new territories eager to try to copy not the style or substance, but the quality.
In my youth when we entered a fantasy land we were expected to suspending our belief about magic and alternate worlds, but not only that We were expected to enter a sort of mythic fairy tale world where people weren t quite real They didn t feel like actual regular humans, bound by the same fears, worries, ambitions, aches and pains as you and I they felt like actors in roles, cogs in a plot engine, icons and ciphers They were too good, or too evil.
Fantasy had its conventions and we played within them, reader and author exercised a mutual understanding regarding the rules rather like ancient Greek theatre, or a musical where for no reason the cast can break from the story into a rousing song.
Of course I exaggerate And this isn t to say that authors didn t weave fascinating and compelling stories within those conventions The fantasy of the 70s and 80s kept me very happy and some of it was written by writers of surpassing genius Even so it was quite definitely apart from the books that really touched me or showed me new things about what it s all about works of literary fiction, and miles distant from what 99% of the public was reading.
The step I m talking about may be entirely artificial or demonstrable fact It may be that in the 90 s when I was reading very little fantasy the genre moved smoothly into what it is now It may be that GRRM is talked of as a step change by so many simply because his success meant that A Game of Thrones was the first book that fantasy exiles actually picked up after their absence, and thus they saw in it a sudden significant difference or it may be that he really did raise the bar in one swift move.
Either way, what he did was to present us with real people I m not talking about the gritty realism that is of late so hotly debated in some quarters of the interwebs I m just talking about the strength of his characterisation, the creation of real people with everyday weaknesses, wants, ambitions, set in a world that feels like it has a genuine past that matters to them, both on the grand and small scales.
What he did drew many people back into the genre, as readers and as writers His work was both a challenge and an invitation He showed what fantasy could be Real people who didn t carry a particular flaw around like an attribute rolled up in a role playing game, but who were complex, capable of both good and evil, victims of circumstance, heroes of the moment Heroes in gleaming mail could suffer from corns without it being a joke That s a big part of his secret EVERYONE IS HUMAN get behind their eyes and nobody is perfect, nobody is worthless.
I don t write anything like George RR Martin I don t lay claim to any significant portion of his talent But I do count myself as one of his many inheritors in this game you can inherit without requiring the other person to stop writing And what I inherited was the desire if not the ability to put it all on the page Fantasy no longer feels like an acquired taste, a club where you have to learn the conventions, the forms, what the masks mean, what the short hand is for fantasy feels real And I love it.
Join my 3 emails a year newsletter prizes Here Is The First Volume In George R R Martin S Magnificent Cycle Of Novels That Includes A Clash Of Kings And A Storm Of Swords As A Whole, This Series Comprises A Genuine Masterpiece Of Modern Fantasy, Bringing Together The Best The Genre Has To Offer Magic, Mystery, Intrigue, Romance, And Adventure Fill These Pages And Transport Us To A World Unlike Any We Have Ever Experienced Already Hailed As A Classic, George R R Martin S Stunning Series Is Destined To Stand As One Of The Great Achievements Of Imaginative FictionA Game of ThronesLong Ago, In A Time Forgotten, A Preternatural Event Threw The Seasons Out Of Balance In A Land Where Summers Can Last Decades And Winters A Lifetime, Trouble Is Brewing The Cold Is Returning, And In The Frozen Wastes To The North Of Winterfell, Sinister And Supernatural Forces Are Massing Beyond The Kingdom S Protective Wall At The Center Of The Conflict Lie The Starks Of Winterfell, A Family As Harsh And Unyielding As The Land They Were Born To Sweeping From A Land Of Brutal Cold To A Distant Summertime Kingdom Of Epicurean Plenty, Here Is A Tale Of Lords And Ladies, Soldiers And Sorcerers, Assassins And Bastards, Who Come Together In A Time Of Grim OmensHere An Enigmatic Band Of Warriors Bear Swords Of No Human Metal A Tribe Of Fierce Wildlings Carry Men Off Into Madness A Cruel Young Dragon Prince Barters His Sister To Win Back His Throne And A Determined Woman Undertakes The Most Treacherous Of Journeys Amid Plots And Counterplots, Tragedy And Betrayal, Victory And Terror, The Fate Of The Starks, Their Allies, And Their Enemies Hangs Perilously In The Balance, As Each Endeavors To Win That Deadliest Of Conflicts The Game Of Thrones Georgerrmartin yup.
nerds, now i am among you.
this is going to be a review where i just prattle on and on about meee meee meee, because let s face it there are a million reviews of this puppy out there so i don t have to worry about doing a disservice to the book you ll either read the book or you won t but you should it s got direwolves.
i wasn t going to read this after years of watching hordes of desperate sad eyed nerds coming up to me, asking any news on the george r.
r martin release like the bn computer knows , somehow, than the internet it doesn t and i would have to tell them not without some schadenfreude glee nope it has just been moved back another year it gave me a solid sense of there but for the grace like when you see a very young junkie and you congratulate yourself for dodging that particular bullet.
despite what i kept hearing about how awesome the books were, i just filed it away in the mental RA folder of stuff nerds like and figured one day i would read them, you know for research, but not before they were all out i wasn t going to get sucked into the trap of so many before me the waiting game of disappointment and having to reread the older books again and again to keep track of who was even alive at this point when you play the game of thrones, you play to become frustrated and impatient i have seen it a hundred times.
so when the teevee show came out and people were drooling over how good it was, i paid them no mind i pushed it two feet past the someday pile in my brain because i am not one of those people who watch a movie before reading the book, am i but connor wore me down he really wanted me to see it and he wanted to talk to me about it and his bearded little face was all lit from within with enthusiasm and i just couldn t say no to him.
so i did it i watched the teeveee on demand several episodes in a row, pissed off if i started to get too sleepy to make it through another episode.
so so good.
so now, i had to read it, right i owe it to the gods of fine literature and all.
so i did, and god this book is fun.
i am glad they changed a few things for the filmed version i m not sure i would have been too comfortable watching a thirteen year old actress play daenerys in the same line of thought natalie i know you have not watched the show yet, but your crush on jon snow perfectly understandable to someone watching the show he has that dark brooding thing i can see a girl going for, but if you have only read the books girl, your crush is on a fourteen year old boy i have notified the authorities, you perv.
in the end, i am glad i watched the show first, if only so that i know how to pronounce the characters names oh, you crazy high fantasy novels and your namesalfonso won t read this series because of the incest and because they never tell you where the soldiers pooped i am not kidding several people complain that the seasonal imbalance complicates the growing cycle and where is all their food coming from this point i can understand fantasy novels are supposed to care about developing a fully realized world and all, and that is kind of a major detail, but it doesn t bother me at all i am no connoisseur of fantasy i am a dilettante at best so i don t care where people are getting their food i don t care if the social hierarchy is a realistic one, given the particulars of this realm, i certainly don t care where the soldiers are pooping nor do i care in any novel where and when the characters poop i just like this book s quiet intrigues and betrayals the diplomacy, the lack of hesitation when it is time for a character to be killed off i love how there aren t any good guys or bad guys, only effective and ineffective characters every one of them does at least one thing that ll make a reader go, oh, bad move so he dropped a few details when it comes to agriculture he spent all his energies into creating characters that i love reading about.
there are facets to this thing sides of the argument rarely seen in a straight ahead rollicking plot driven novel and i m not really sure where the misogyny accusations come from is it because women can t really ascend to power except through marriage because i don t think that was invented for this book i am pretty sure that has happened, historically, in other places and if it s the looting and raping, well that happens in war, too wait, is it sansa yeah, she s kind of a wash but the girl wants what the girl wants she s at least complicated than bella, right there are plenty of good characters here that aren t weak or power mad, or just regular mad okay there are a couple but sheeeeit all the characters here are pretty bad, on the moral spectrum, right littlefinger is my very favorite, but i wouldn t want to know him in my real life i appreciate his devotion, though.
so i am super excited about clash of kings, both the book i will read and the show i will watch swords and boobies and direwolves i don t even know how i am going to make it until then.
oh, because i was talking about boobies and HBO just there, connor was telling me this story about louis ck, and i loved it, and i found this quote it is relevant hbo is nudity crazy but he took care of their lust for flesh HBO was asking us why there was no nudity on the show, and what they really meant was, Why wasn t Pamela Adlon, who played my wife, nude When I hired Pam, I didn t tell her she was going to be doing anything like that It wasn t supposed to be that kind of show So I said, You know what, I ll do it And I did that episode, and they were like, O.
, we have plenty of nudity, thank you hbo, thwarted look, dana, i read one of your books and i have just discovered betterbooktitles.
com come to my blog Reader Logic I HATE this book.
I HATE it so much I had to get a new hardback copy to read so I could underline all the parts I HATE about it so much and post them on Goodreads.
I HATE it with such a passion I also bought copies for all my friends and family, also in new hardback editions, so they could HATE it along with me.
When the TV series came on I was so fuming with rage I watched the entire season twice and bought six copies of the DVD, because I could not believe how much I could HATE something.
I had spent so much time discussing how much I HATE this, with all my friends, who HATE it too and who all bought copies, I decided to get a George RR Martin tattoo on my buttock to show how strong my HATRED for his work is There was such a collectivity at the time like everyone uniting in HATING this together that some of us formed relationships in HATE I met my wife at a George RR Martin convention and we got married as one of the characters, reciting parts of the book for our vows, and paid GRRM all our life savings to come read from his HORRIBLE book We HATE this beyond belief Maybe one day, we ll read a book we like, and the author can get rich on LOVE.
When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die There is no middle ground3 1 2 stars So in one weekend I finally finished the book I picked up and put down about ten years ago, and watched the final episode of the TV series I have loved for eight years How odd that the book ended up better than I expected, and the TV show, um didn t Warning I will be talking about the depiction of rape in this review.
I think I was ready to commit this time around I d already watched the show and become invested in the characters, so reading 900 pages about them didn t seem so unattractive I think it s quite well written, especially the dialogue, which is where Martin shines It s also just entertaining for the most part The bloody vicious backstabbing kind of entertainment that, apparently, I do like.
It s also an amazing feat of world building I was blown away by the amount of thought and detail that has gone into this and it s just the first book Martin has considered details that would never have even crossed my mind little sayings, folktales and quirks particular to the people of certain regions or certain houses but it all serves to make a very rich and complex world that is all the believable for it He has created a whole new universe from scratch, one with thousands of years of history, and many different peoples and cultures It s breathtaking, honestly.
Unfortunately, it s not all good Saying nothing of the show s finale, there are many strong and smart women in this series with fantastic story arcs, and yet the book and show cannot shake some of its misogyny Tatiana covered this well 13 year old Dany s romance with her rapist is one of the lowest points.
On this read of A Game of Thrones I found the exact moment I put it down the first time around I got further than I remembered It was that moment during Dany and Drogo s wedding when a woman is raped It wasn t the rape in itself Though of course I find rape deeply disturbing, I also know that it has been a horrible but true reality in many wars and societies Showing that it happens does not seem unrealistic What I found truly awful about this one scene, though, was the way the woman was barely described as a person We don t know what her name was, what she looked like, what her reaction was, or what her fate was This woman being raped was so throwaway, with the focus of the scene being the Dothraki who were raping her and fighting over her.
The only thing that kept me reading this time was knowing that there are so many amazing female characters in this series who are treated with empathy and for the most part respect by the author I am just hoping that Martin finishes these bloody books so we can get a better ending than the show fingers crossed Oh, and I 100% agree with the show writers decision to up the ages of major characters like Robb, Jon and Dany It seemed like a very odd decision to have 13 15 year olds leading wars and revolutions.
This would be a good series if you re a fan of gory historical fiction You know the kind with bloody battles, political upheaval, and despicable people It s like that, but with dragons Don t read this if you are sensitive to scenes of graphic violence, rape and or incest Blog Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube Okay I am SO incredibly late to this party but hey, I made itAnd the hype was realWinter is coming.
Lord Eddard Ned Stark lives with his family in a world where the seasons are thrown completely off summers last decades, and winters are equally long His five children, plus his bastard son Jon Snow are on the way back to their home, Winterfell, when they stumble upon and subsequently adopt six direwolf pups the symbol of the Starks , with the albino runt going to John When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.
Upon returning home, King Robert Baratheon, an old friend of Ned, recruits the Lord to replace the adviser to the crown.
At first, he was hesitant but upon learning that the Queen Cersei Lannister may be behind the death of the previous adviser, he decides to go in order to protect his friend.
Unfortuntately, before he goes, Bran Ned s youngest son discovers that view spoiler the Queen is having an affair with her brother hide spoiler I tried reading this a long time ago and gave up very quickly I know many love it but I think from the start I knew it wasn t for me Looooong fantasy series never have been, for some reason HOWEVER, I have to confess that the TV series is such a guilty pleasure of mine And, even though I will never return to this series, can we all just take a minute to admit that how I spent my weekend is kinda coolAnd a sneaky bonus for Torchwood fans Just so you know, all the cool people totally close their eyes during at least one photo truefact
There are plenty of fantasy authors who claim to be doing something different with the genre Ironically, they often write the most predictable books of all, as evidenced by Goodkind and Paolini Though I m not sure why they protest so much predictability is hardly a death sentence in genre fantasy.
The archetypal story of a hero, a villain, a profound love, and a world to be saved never seems to get old it s a great story when it s told well At the best, it s exciting, exotic, and builds to a fulfilling climax At the worst, it s just a bloodless rehash Unfortunately, the worst are common by far.
Perhaps it was this abundance of cliche romances that drove Martin to aim for something different Unfortunately, you can t just choose to be different, any than you can choose to be creative Sure, Moorcock s original concept for Elric was to be the anti Conan, but at some point, he had to push his limits and move beyond difference for difference s sake and he did.
In similar gesture, Martin rejects the allegorical romance of epic fantasy, which basically means tearing out the guts of the genre the wonder, the ideals, the heroism, and with them, the moral purpose Fine, so he took out the rollicking fun and the social message what did he replace them with Like the post Moore comics of the nineties, fantasy has already borne witness to a backlash against the upright, moral hero and then a backlash against the grim antihero who succeeded him Hell, if all Martin wanted was grim and gritty antiheroes in an amoral world, he didn t have to reject the staples of fantasy, he could have gone to its roots Howard, Leiber, and Anderson.
Like many authors aiming for realism, he forgets truth is stranger than fiction The real world is full of unbelievable events, coincidences, and odd characters When authors remove these elements in an attempt to make their world seem real, they make their fiction duller than reality after all, unexpected details are the heart of verisimilitude When Chekhov and Peake eschewed the easy thrill of romance, they replaced it with the odd and absurd moments strange enough to feel true In comparison, Martin s world is dull and gray Instead of innovating new, radical elements, he merely removes familiar staples and any style defined by lack is going to end up feeling thin.
Yet, despite trying inject the book with history and realism, he does not reject the melodramatic characterization of his fantasy forefathers, as evidenced by his brooding bastard antihero protagonist with pet albino wolf Apparently to him, grim realism is Draco in Leather Pants This produces a conflicted tone a soap opera cast lost in an existentialist film.
There s also lots of sex and misogyny, and wall to wall rape not that books should shy away from sex, or from any uncomfortable, unpleasant reality of life The problem is when people who are not comfortable with their own sexuality start writing about it, which seems to plague every mainstream fantasy author Their pen gets away from them, their own hangups start leaking into the scene, until it s not even about the characters any, it s just the author cybering about his favorite fetish and if I cyber with a fat, bearded stranger, I expect to be paid for it.
I know a lot of fans probably get into it than I do like night elf hunters humping away in WOW , but reading Goodkind, Jordan, and Martin it s like seeing a Playboy at your uncle s where all the pages are wrinkled That s not to say there isn t serviceable pop fantasy sex out there it s just written by women.
Though I didn t save any choice examples, I did come across this quote from a later bookshe wore faded sandsilk pants and woven grass sandals Her small breasts moved freely beneath a painted Dothraki vestImagine the process Martin sits, hands hovering over the keys, trying to get inside his character s headOkay, I m a woman How do I see and feel the world differently My cultural role is defined by childbirth I can be bought and sold in marriage by my own Oh, hey I ve got tits Man, look at those things go whooshing mammary sound effects Okay, time to write Where are the descriptions of variously sized dongs swinging within the confines of absurdly detailed clothing There are a set of manboobs which perhaps Martin has some personal experience with but not until book five Even then, it s not the dude being hyperaware of his own they re just there to gross out a dwarf Not really a balanced depiction.
If you re familiar with the show and its parodies on South Park and SNL this lack of dongs may surprise you But as Martin himself explained, when asked why there s no gay sex in his books, despite having gay characters,they re not the viewpoint charactersas if somehow, the viewpoints he chooses to depict are beyond his control Apparently, he plots as well as your average NaNoWriMo author sorry none of my characters chose to be gay, nothing I can do about it.
And balance really is the problem here if you only depict the dark, gritty stuff that you re into, that s not realism, it s just a fetish If you depict the grimness of war by having every female character threatened with rape, but the same thing never happens to a male character, despite the fact that men get raped in the military than women, then your gritty realism card definitely gets revoked.
The books are notorious for the sudden, pointless deaths, which some suggest is another sign of realism but, of course, nothing is pointless in fiction, because everything that shows up on the page is only there because the author put it there Sure, in real life, people suddenly die before finishing their life s work fantasy authors do it all the time , but there s a reason we don t tend to tell stories of people who die unexpectedly in the middle of things they are boring and pointless They build up for a while then eventually, lead nowhere.
Novelists often write in isolation, so it s easy to forget the rule to which playwrights adhere your story is always a fiction Any time you treat it as if it were real, you are working against yourself The writing that feels the most natural is never effortless, it is carefully and painstakingly constructed to seem that way.
A staple of Creative Writing 101 is to listen to how people really talk , which is terrible advice A transcript of any conversation will be so full of repetition, half thoughts, and non specific words stuff , thing as to be incomprehensible especially without the cues of tone and body language Written communication has its own rules, so making dialogue feel like speech is a trick writers play It s the same with sudden character deaths treat them like a history, and your plot will become choppy and hard to follow.
Not that the deaths are truly unpredictable Like in an action film, they are a plot convenience kill off a villain, and you don t have to wrap up his arc You don t have to defeat him psychologically the finality of his death is the great equalizer You skip the hard work of demonstrating that the hero was morally right, because he s the only option left.
Likewise, in Martin s book, death ties up loose threads namely, plot threads Often, this is the only ending we get to his plot arcs, which makes them rather predictable any time a character is about to build up enough influence to make things better, or stable, he will die Any character who poses a threat to the continuing chaos which drives the action will first be built up, and then killed off.
I found this interview to be a particularly telling example of how Martin thinks of character deathsI killed view spoiler Ned hide spoiler I really feel the necessity of a bit of personal backstory here, before I start the review Back in 1996 when this book first came out, and I was about 14 or 16 years old, I saw the hardcover on a sale table for about 5 and couldn t resist a bargain still can t, though I m cautious these days So I started reading this book with the vague idea that it was a flop, and that may not have helped, but I got through 100 pages of it before feeling so crapped off with it that I shoved it in my cupboard and tried not to think about it Page 108 to be exact More on why later.
If you ve heard of this book, or read it, you re probably aware that far from being the flop I assumed it was at the time and I didn t know anyone who was reading it , the series has gone on to be one of the big Cash Cows of the fantasy genre Computer games, role playing games there s even a board game that looks like Risk Sooner or later there ll be a movie or something, no doubt I m moderately surprised one isn t in the works already People love this book and this series So I m well aware I ll probably be lynched for this review, because even the people on Goodreads who didn t like it still had great things to say about it.
But reviews are subjective, and here s mine.
In the vein of Tolkein, Jordan, Elliott, Goodkind, Hobb, Eddings, Feist et al, A Game of Thrones is set in the classicly boring and overdone medieval England esque setting, and is essentially about a bunch of nobles fighting over a throne Great Very original Praised for its focus on political intrigue, its lack of magic and similar fantasy tropes, and its cast of believable and interesting characters, I found the book tedious The first epic fantasy series I read after Narnia was Jordan s The Wheel of Time series, and it s true that I struggled with the first book, Eye of the World But there were elements to it that I liked, characters who I felt attached to, enough to read the second book and become hooked, and so on I love 1000 page long, fat fantasy books I love huge casts of characters and have no problem keeping up with them I ve read Jennifer Fallon s Wolfblade trilogy and Second Sons Trilogy, both of which are heavy on political intrigue and very low on magic, and they re supurb A Game of Thrones is not It offers nothing new to the genre, and does nothing original with what it has.
Narrated in turns by Eddard Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell his wife Lady Catelyn his bastard son Jon Snow his very young daughters Sansa and Arya his middle son Bran Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf and brother to the Queen and young Daenerys Targaryen, last of the line of dragon kings and exiled to the land beyond the narrow sea, the book is divided into neat chapters headed by the name of one or the other, so you know exactly whose point of view you re going to get and where you are in the plot Thanks for holding my hand Martin, but I don t like this technique The chapter headings, I m referring to It encourages me to start wondering about the character before I ve even started reading CATELYN the chapter title reads is she young or old, a peasant, a farmer, a daughter, a mother, nice, mean I start imagining things and then have to correct it all as the character is revealed during the chapter There s power in names, and withholding them or putting elements of a character s personality first is often compelling, and better writing It also made it harder to get through the book, because at the end of one chapter I d see the name of the next, think oh great, him her again, their story s boring and put the book down.
Let me be perfectly straight I did not find any of the characters to be particularly interesting though Jaime Lannister had something about him, you hardly ever saw him They all pretty much felt like the same character, just in different situations The differences between them, for example the good girl Sansa and her tomboy sister Arya, felt forced, superficial and clich d Ned is all about honour and duty, but especially honour, with love a minor consideration, but honestly, could the man be stupid Eddard s a moron, and dull, and his only saving grace is that he s nice to his daughters Let s be clear about something else right here this world and its people are so sexist and misogynist it s ludicrous There are many derogatory references to women s tits, metaphors about screwing whores, descriptions of Daenerys getting her nipples pinched by her horrible brother Viserys not to mention her marriage, at twelve, to a horselord whose men rape women like there s no tomorrow incest and so on The first time I tried to read this book, I was offended and disgusted it didn t help that I d read Pillars of the Earth not long before though I did not grow up sexually repressed or prudish or anything like that, I have never found reading descriptions of rape to be all that easy, especially when they re treated so dismissively yet oddly my impressions of the characters were much favourable I read it now and I just felt contempt.
No one character stands out, though Arya has potential Catelyn is as boring as her husband, and her sister Lysa is, let s face it, mad as a hatter and a sure sign of why women are unfit to rule a clear message in this medieval esque patriarchal world Queen Cercei too Tyrion, the dwarf, seems on the verge of having charisma but fails, and Daenerys I want to like someone, but Martin doesn t give his characters any depth Sure, they re all flawed and a flawed character is a great literary device the anti hero, etc But Martin s characters are walking clich s, even the dwarf The plot is also pretty weak I don t need elves and magic and dragons in fact, I tend to avoid them, especially elves yawn but you ve gotta give me something else A bildungsroman does wonders yes, let me see the characters on a journey of life rather than a quest, quests are tired There s no quest in A Game of Thrones, and that s fine with me But what is there Jon goes to the Wall that separates the wilderness from the Seven Kingdoms why is it called the Seven Kingdoms when there s only one kingdom and is attacked by an Other, a kind of zombie creature Ned goes to the capital to take up the role of King s Hand because the King, Robert, likes to spend his time boozing, whoring and hunting Catelyn follows to tell him someone tried to kill Bran Ned tries to discover why the previous Hand died And swords with names, seriously, what s with that I m so sick of such blatant phallic symbols and their representations, and the whole creed of honour and duty and gallant knightsWhat frustrates me most is that this could have been a really interesting story, if only the author had better talent at writing characters or letting them write themselves The plot is not the problem, though it s largely uneventful, with no climactic moments because even those are written at the same pace as the rest, with no drammatic flourishes come on, we all like those, let s be honest But the characters, sigh , their motivations are simplistic, their actions extremely predictable, and while they don t blur one into another neither do any of them stand out Also, the type of setting seems mostly convenient with the focus on the nobles and their squabbling, you don t learn much about the lower classes, or what kind of food is grown here, or what kind of industry supports the economy, or anything about the cultures using the clich d medieval England setting allows Martin to ignore one of the fascinating aspects of society and leaves his world shallow, like surface water, without support using this old and worn Fantasy setting allows an author to get lazy about world building The history of the land is also riddled with clich s, and sort of thrown in here and there as if to remind the reader it is a real place, look, here s what the First Men did As for the writing, it s easy to read and calm, though very slow and rather lacking in tone or any interesting stylistic quirks flat and bland, in other words There s no atmosphere in this book There re a few bad lines, like A storm of rose petals blew across a blood streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death p.
425 his one concession to drama, it seems, though if you read it again you ll notice it doesn t actually make sense and a few awkward sentences that leave you scrambling, such as Catelyn watched her son Robb Stark mount up Olyvar Frey held his horse for him, Lord Walder s son, two years older than Robb, and ten years younger and anxious p.
696 I noticed a similar sentence later, and I guess I know what he means but really, it s terrible writing.
On the plus side, there were a few things I liked The direwolves large ferocious animals as constant companions and protectors always a winner with me the intriguing climate, where summer and winter lasts years, decades even, before changing how does that work Seriously, what do they eat Daenerys dragon eggs, and the Dothraki, the horse lords though they were pretty superficial and confined to a rigid list of adjectives I would have liked to understand their culture better In many fantasy books my problem is the whole good vs evil clich , which generally involves the plot Here, my problem is that the characters are so black and white They are described, good, that s settled, now what There s no grey No character development They never once surprised me.
I honestly don t know if I ll read the next book The Wheel of Time taught me at the same age as I first tried reading this book, 16 that the first book in a series can be the weakest, because of the amount of extrapolation and background etc that goes on I didn t find that problem here, it was very grounded in the now, which makes me think the next book will be of the same I keep coming back to the reasons why I struggled to finish this book boredom, clich d and empty characters, not enough balance as in, there s no love in this book, and if the characters are so realistic why don t they love , and predictable events You know what it reminds me of Marion Zimmer Bradley s equally famous The Mists of Avalon another book I couldn t finish If you like Arthurian fantasy, and that kind of style, then this would be a good book for you the excessively patriarchal culture, the battles, the hint of magic and something glorious lurking around the edges but never coming to the fore, it s all here, neatly packaged Obviously it works for a lot of people But to all those people who say that Martin has opened up the genre in new ways, that he is the best writer of the epic fantasy crowd and so on, I have to wonder, have they read anything else And then I wonder whether it s a matter of which author you read first and grow attached to, and so compare all the others I don t think I fell into that trap as such, because Jordan s lost the plot, literally, Goodkind s personal politics and propaganda have taken over his story, and the one epic fantasy series that I love above all others to date is Kate Elliott s Crown of Stars series, which I didn t start reading till I was in uni But I really wonder, how this story grabbed other people If it grabbed you, I d love to hear how and why, because sometimes I feel like I m too jaded or something, too snobby maybe.