A Song of Ice and Fire

I finished them! I’m FREE!
Oh, the sigh of relief and victory when I realised I was finally done.

It’s probably a bit too soon for me to really write something conclusive about this series – I run the risk of having an overly visceral reaction, and not enough distance to really think about things. Given that I started the first book, Game of Thrones way back in December, and it’s now April? I think I’ve had time to process most of it.

My ultimate verdict? It’s not worth it. I don’t think George R. R. Martin’s writing justifies the length of the books. His style lacks grace and he is awfully repetitive. He’s come up with some amazing characters and created a wonderful world to play around in, but just gets too carried away with himself. He’s good at building worlds, but is struggling to tell their stories.

Let me emphasize – the series does have its strengths. Most of them lie in the creativity of the plot and the world it takes place in, but the best part of the novels has to be the characters. Across the board, Martin has managed to fill 5 immense books with some very interesting personalities. Even if I do not like them personally, I have a tendency to want to read about them, just to see what will happen to them and how they react to it.

I’ve read long books and loved them (David Copperfield and The Count of Monte Cristo, to name two), but because I felt that the words on the page were always worth reading. I was being immersed in a world and in the mind of a character, and the author was spilling their ink to get me right in the thick of it. They didn’t have to spell everything out for me and bludgeon me over the head with it, but could ease me into the tale, and let me wonder at it.

A good writer doesn’t tell the reader everything! Someone can ask them questions about the most minor of characters, and they’ll know the answer because they created them. However, for the sake of the story, they don’t fit, so it gets left out, and the reader has to fill in the gaps on their own.

Martin seems incapable of doing this. He has to tell you everything that is happening. His choice to write each chapter from the point of view of different characters increases this effect, especially as the books go on and he continues to add more and more different points of view. It gets very confusing, and I’m not convinced we always need to know what he’s telling us.

Book four of ASOIF is the perfect example of this. It’s comprised entirely of the actions of minor characters, with a few major players sprinkled in once in a while. It’s just too much back-story, and too many characters, when there are already far too many things to keep track of. When I got to the end of it, I read his post-script explaining that he originally planned to write volumes four and five in one book, but did not feel that it would do justice to the story. Honestly? I think it would have been better to stick to one book. I liked (most of) the characters I was reading about, but have forgotten them by now.

Let’s talk about liking characters, shall we? As I said before, Martin has come up with some brilliant characters, and he does have a gift for writing people who are simultaneously despicable and appealing.  In the beginning, you become attached to characters and mourn their (many, many) deaths. By the end? A major character dies in the last 100 pages of book five, and I didn’t even bat an eye. I saw no point in becoming attached to a character who is likely to end up dead.

One last thing that annoyed me – I have no idea how much time has passed since the narrative started! I don’t know how old any of these characters are! It’s not like I can judge by the passing of a season, and his tendency to write outside of chronological order certainly doesn’t help … I’d appreciate if he would take the time to have a breakdown of: “This is who is alive and who is dead, this is who is in charge of these parts of these places, and this is how much time has passed since everyone started killing each other.” HONESTLY.

Ultimately – the plot is intriguing and fun, but the writing is too blunt and Martin is too in love with his own creation. I also can’t get over how stupid everyone is.

Maybe it was too soon to write this – I’m feeling quite vitriolic about the whole experience and it wasn’t even that bad…. I think I’m just tired and annoyed that I haven’t read anything that I was really crazy about in so long, and I’m blaming these damn books.

I think I’ll stick to watching the TV show from here on out – not something I think I’ve ever said before.

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