Like many I’m a big Game Of Thrones fan, and previously like many I was a big Game Of Thrones fan who had never read the books. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, because HBO shows are great on their own, but I’d always wanted to read the books to get the full picture of the series. It’s kinda weird for me because I’m totally not a big fantasy fan at all and never really pictured myself reading five massive books about swords and dragons. As the HBO show attests, though, this book is more than just fantastical knights and battles waged in the names of kings with magic and dragons lurking on the outskirts. No, it often has much more in common with political and family dramas with all its scheming and backdoor dealings that affect things even bigger than anything on a battlefield could accomplish.
A Game Of Thrones lived up to the hype and made me want to keep reading it, even though I knew how it ended since I’ve seen all of the TV show. My main fear coming into these books is that it would be a tough slog going through, because normally these types of fantasy books to me are always wordy and bogged down in minutiae of the times that make it hard for you to read, but this book had none of that. It was easy to understand everything and had a very modern tone of writing, even though it’s about a distant and fantastical time period (yes, I know these books were written in the 90s and 00s, so it makes sense they SOUND modern).
I love the device of having each chapter as a POV of a different characters as it really helps to focalize the story, separate all the characters from one another and really makes it easy for you to follow along with this sprawling story with countless characters. I’m on one hand kind of grateful I saw the show first because it made it so much easier to follow along and keep track of all these characters with being able to put a face to a name, because I don’t know if I could’ve kept everything on track and together if I didn’t have that kind of reference point for a book this dense with characters. When it all comes down to it, nothing really all that big happens in the first novel and really it’s all just about setting the pieces in place and setting the scenery for the coming novels, but Martin does it wonderfully.
A Clash Of Kings is for all intents and purposes as good as the first. The first 3/4 felt a lot like it was spinning its wheels, as it didn’t have the newness and introductory drive of the first novel. It picks up near the end with the big battle and opens things up to explore new areas as it kind of seemed like the end of the first phase.
All the storylines in A Storm Of Swords really click and make it a breeze to get through. The big set pieces like the Red Wedding and certain other big happenings that this book is known for work equally as fun as they do in shock value. But, what really makes the book work is the smaller moments between characters, like the ones between Arya/Hound, Jon/Sam and Jaime/Brienne. The book ends in a sort of lull, with not too much happening in a broad sense, whereas the second novel felt like it was swelling to what eventually happened in this novel (to great effect).
I really enjoyed A Feast For Crows, and in a lot of ways I liked it just as much as the others, but its repetitive nature and spinning of its wheels that go absolutely nowhere over the course of the book started to make it a chore more than anything. The book largely flips between Cersei, Jaime and Brienne (who are all great and interesting characters, I’m not one to be crying that Jon, Tyrion and Daenerys weren’t in the book) which is great, but that Martin never pushes them forward into much of a storyline or gives them anymore character depth that we previously weren’t already introduced to is a major detriment to what the heck the existence of this book even is in the first place. All that aside I love Martin’s writing and how he strings words together, and in that sense it was as much as a pleasure to read this as the others. Even after his ending coda of why he split these books up, I’m not entirely sure why he did it as I don’t know why he didn’t just make two normal books with all the characters like he’s been doing instead of splitting them up like this. It’s not like these books are all that self-contained where it’s really just one long story we’re reading over installments instead of multiple different stories that absolutely NEEDED to be segregated.
A Dance With Dragons I found to be about on par with A Feast For Crows, while I felt it differed in that it exceeded and fell in different parts than the previous novel. Whereas the fourth book felt like a lot of it was just spinning its wheels, A Dance With Dragons is intent on pushing the plot forth on all ends of the spectrum, which re-instills some vigour and drive in the series, but even still it all just feels like build up and build up and build up until who knows what? I also felt that this book might have been a little too broad covering so many characters and POVs that it became hard to really follow or even care about what some of the smaller people are doing, especially when it had little story repercussions at the time or after within the book. Again, I love the writing a lot and I’m looking forward to what’s next, but this is the second time I’ve been anticipating what’s to come in the next book only to get another anticipatory book that seems to have blown all its story in the first three books and is just biding time until Martin can figure out something that stands up to the level of the first novels.
All in all the A Song Of Ice And Fire was exactly what I expected it to be in the best way possible. Having seen every Game Of Thrones episode up to this point it had no effect in my enjoyment of reading the series, even though I knew of various character deaths and where it was going, if anything it helped me along. It’s such a fun world to be in that works equally as well when its spouting about the supernatural, politicking behind the scenes, waging war on a battlefield or getting philosophical. Now I get to be one of those awful people who gets to complain about George R. R. Martin not writing the The Winds Of Winter fast enough and write angry comments like “WHERE’S THE NEXT DAMN BOOK, GEORGE!!!” In actuality I don’t know why everybody is complaining about the long wait time in between books, because the past three have always been separated by at least five years, but I guess it’s because he constantly talks about writing the book, yet we’ve seen nothing from it. Anyways, I don’t really care when it comes, it’ll come eventually, I think… but as of now I’m content with the wonderful world and writing that George R. R. Martin has delivered with these five novels.