A Song of Ice and Fire – by George R. R. Martin

Game_of_thrones

A Song of Ice and Fire contains five of a promised seven volumes of a magnificent world created by George R. R. Martin. The first book was originally published in 1996 and many people became familiar with it from the highly acclaimed HBO series (Game of Thrones).

I had heard about the series awhile back and was interested, but just never got around to reading the books or watching the series. It became a goal of mine to read the books in 2015 so that is what I set out to do. I also plan on watching the series, probably through Netflix.

  1. A Game of Thrones [835 pages]
  2. A Clash of Kings [778 pages]
  3. A Storm of Swords [1,177 pages]
  4. A Feast for Crows [1,060 pages]
  5. A Dance with Dragons [1125 pages]

Five books, almost five-thousand pages! [4,975]

I started the first volume in mid January and finished it on a plane to Las Vegas. I finished volume five on March 8th.

From the first chapter, almost the first page, I was hooked.

I won’t give this a full detailed review as I would hate to give away spoilers and it is next to impossible to discuss specific characters without doing so. So I’ll generalize it and then eventually how to append a list of books to read after finishing the series (well, not finish, but for awaiting book #6).

Good stories oft have good plots or can be driven by well-liked (or disliked) characters or can even be driven by place and time, their setting. Fantasy worlds are especially beholden to a great setting because it is a world unknown to the reader but one in which we want to be a part of.

George R.R. Martin is a master of all three: plot, character and setting.

The plot consists of numerous story lines that would be interesting on their own but intercross and twist together to form a continuous flow of interest. These story lines largely work because the characters and characterization is so vivid. Just when one character is facing a pivotal moment, we are whisked away into another character’s trials and tribulations. You are sometimes left wondering if you like or dislike a character, even ones almost spelled out as villains, which makes the characters that much more real. Flatness comes when a character has arbitrary traits that makes them feel like cardboard cutouts. There are a few characters that are somewhat generic, but that goes with the territory of having so many characters, and most of those are lesser ones at that.

But overall, the characters the story lines follow closely feel human enough for the reader to be unable to write off as perfectly good or perfectly bad. We are able to get in the heads of many different characters from all over the land, from old exiled knights to young children facing their own forms of exile.

The setting plays a huge part of the story because it not only makes the reader part of the land (and part of the story) but gives background information on why some people act the way they do. The richness of the history is what has molded characters to be honorable and loyal or distrustful and deceitful.

Some may not enjoy the style of following so many different characters, and it can become confusing at times. But this style works so well to convey such a diverse set of people who cross paths and gives us the rare ability to see situations from a variety of points of view. More stories would be enhanced by this technique and Mr. Martin mastered it magnificently.

One last bit of note. Not everyone is a fan of fantasy and there are some definite “fantastical” moments in A Song of Ice and Fire. But fantasy-shy readers should not be turned away from this series because the characters and plot twists and turns easily overcome any overtly fantasy elements. Yes, there are scary, mythical beasts lurking in the pages, but that just makes it more enjoyable.

Now to wait for the sixth book . . .

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