A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.The old gods have no power in the...

Title:A Game of Thrones
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0553588486
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages:835 pages

A Game of Thrones Reviews

  • J.G. Keely
    May 26, 2007

    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

    and

    . 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

    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

    and

    . 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 more 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 more 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

    .

    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

    . This produces a conflicted tone: a soap opera cast lost in an existentialist film.

    There's also lots of sex and misogyny, and

    --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 anymore, 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 more 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

    .

    Though I didn't save any choice examples, I did

    this quote from a later book:

    Imagine the process: Martin sits, hands hovering over the keys, trying to get inside his character's head:

    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,

    --as if somehow, the viewpoints he chooses to depict are beyond his control. Apparently, he plots as well as your average NaNoWriMo author:

    .

    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

    , 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

    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 more 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

    to be a particularly telling example of how Martin thinks of character deaths:

    He's not talking about the characters' motivations, or the ideas they represent, or their role in the story--he isn't laying out a well-structured plot, he's just killing them off for pure shock value.

    Yet the only reason we think these characters are important in the first place is because Martin treats them as central heroes, spending time and energy building them. Then it all ends up being a red herring, a cheap twist, the equivalent of a horror movie jump scare. It's like mystery novels in the 70's, after all the good plots had been done, so authors added ghosts or secret twins in the last chapter--it's only surprising because the author has obliterated the story structure.

    All plots are made up of arcs that grow and change, building tension and purpose. Normally, when an arc ends, the author must use all his skill to deal with themes and answer questions, providing a satisfying conclusion to a promising idea that his readers watched grow. Or just kill off a character central to the conflict and bury the plot arc with him. Then you don't have to worry about closure, you can just hook your readers by focusing on the mess caused by the previous arc falling apart. Make the reader believe that things might get better, get them to believe in a character, then wave your arms in distraction, point and yell

    , and hope they become so caught up in worrying about the new problem that they forget the old one was never resolved.

    Chaining false endings together creates perpetual tension that never requires solution--like in most soap operas--plus, the author never has to do the hard work of finishing what they started. If an author is lucky, they die before reaching the Final Conclusion the readership is clamoring for, and never have to meet the collective expectation which long years of deferral have built up. It's easy to idolize Kurt Cobain, because you never had to see him bald and old and crazy like David Lee Roth.

    Unlucky authors live to write the Final Book, breaking the spell of unending tension that kept their readers enthralled. Since the plot isn't resolving into a tight, intertwined conclusion (in fact, it's probably spiraling out of control, with ever more characters and scenes), the author must wrap things up conveniently and suddenly, leaving fans confused and upset. Having thrown out the grand romance of fantasy, Martin cannot even end on the dazzling trick of the

    on which the great majority of fantasy books rely for a handy tacked-on climax (actually, he'll probably do it anyways, with dragons--the longer the series goes on, the more it starts to resemble the cliche monomyth that Martin was praised for eschewing in the first place).

    The drawback is that even if a conclusion gets stuck on at the end, the story fundamentally leads nowhere--it winds back and forth without resolving psychological or tonal arcs. But then, doesn't that sound more like real life? Martin tore out the moralistic heart and magic of fantasy, and in doing so, rejected the notion of grandly realized conclusions. Perhaps we shouldn't compare him to works of romance, but to histories.

    He asks us to believe in his intrigue, his grimness, and his amoral world of war, power, and death--not the false Europe of Arthur, Robin Hood, and Orlando, but the real Europe of plagues, political struggles, religious wars, witch hunts, and roving companies of soldiery forever ravaging the countryside. Unfortunately, he doesn't compare very well to them, either. His intrigue is not as interesting as Cicero's, Machiavelli's, Enguerrand de Coucy's--or even Sallust's, who was practically writing fiction, anyways. Some might suggest it unfair to compare a piece of fiction to a true history, but these are the same histories that lent Howard, Leiber, and Moorcock their touches of verisimilitude. Martin might have taken a lesson from them and drawn inspiration from further afield: even Tolkien had his Eddas. Despite being fictionalized and dramatized, Martin's take on The War of the Roses is far duller than the original.

    More than anything, this book felt like a serial melodrama: the hardships of an ensemble cast who we are meant to watch over and sympathize with, being drawn in by emotional appeals (the hope that things will 'get better' in this dark place, 'tragic' deaths), even if these appeals conflict with the supposed realism, and in the end, there is no grander story to unify the whole. This 'grittiness' is just Martin replacing the standard fantasy theme of 'glory' with one of 'hardship', and despite flipping this switch, it's still just an emotional appeal. 'Heroes always win' is just as blandly predictable as 'heroes always lose'.

    It's been suggested that I didn't read enough of Martin to judge him, but if the first four hundred pages aren't good, I don't expect the next thousand will be different. If you combine the three Del Rey collections of Conan The Barbarian stories, you get 1,263 pages (including introductions, end notes, and variant scripts). If you take Martin's first two books in this series, you get 1,504 pages. Already, less than a third of the way into the series, he's written more than Howard's entire Conan output, and all I can do is ask myself: why does he need that extra length?

    A few authors use it to their advantage, but for most, it's just sprawling, undifferentiated bloat. Melodrama can be a great way to mint money, as evidenced by the endless 'variations on a theme' of soap operas, pro wrestling, and superhero comics. People get into it, but it's neither revolutionary nor realistic. You also hear the same things from the fans: that it's all carefully planned, all interconnected, all going somewhere. Apparently they didn't learn their lesson from the anticlimactic fizzling out of Twin Peaks, X-Files, Lost, and Battlestar. Then again, you wouldn't keep watching if you didn't think it was going somewhere.

    Some say

    , but saying he's better than dreck is really not very high praise. Others have intimated that I must not like fantasy at all, pointing to my low-star reviews of Martin,

    ,

    , and

    , but it is precisely because I am passionate about fantasy that I fall heavily on these authors.

    A lover of fine wines winces the more at a corked bottle of vinegar, a ballet enthusiast's love of dance would not leave him breathless at a high school competition--and likewise, having learned to appreciate epics, histories, knightly ballads, fairy tales, and their modern offspring in fantasy, I find Martin woefully lacking. There's plenty of grim fantasy and intrigue out there, from its roots to the dozens of fantasy authors, both old and modern, whom I list in the link at the end of this review

    There seems to be a sense that Martin's work is somehow revolutionary, that it represents a 'new direction' for fantasy, but all I see is a reversion. Sure, he's different than Jordan, Goodkind, and their ilk, who simply took the pseudo-medieval high-magic world from Tolkien and the blood-and-guts heroism from Howard. Martin, on the other hand, has more closely followed Tolkien's lead than any other modern high fantasy author--and I don't just mean in terms of

    .

    Tolkien wanted to make his story real--not 'realistic', using the dramatic techniques of literature--but actually real, by trying to create all the detail of a pretend world behind the story. Over the span of the first twenty years, he released The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, and other works, while in the twenty years after that, he became so obsessed with worldbuilding for its own sake that instead of writing stories, he

    (which his son has been trying to make a complete book from ever since).

    It's the same thing Martin's trying to do: cover a bland story with a litany of details that don't contribute meaningfully to his characters, plot, or tone. So, if Martin is good because he is different, then it stands to reason that he's not very good, because he's not that different. He may seem different if all someone has read is Tolkien and the authors who ape his style, but that's just one small corner of a very expansive genre. Anyone who thinks Tolkien is the 'father of fantasy' doesn't know enough about the genre to judge what 'originality' means.

    So, if Martin neither an homage nor an original, I'm not sure what's left. In his attempt to set himself apart, he tore out the joyful heart of fantasy, but failed replace it with anything. There is no revolutionary voice here, and there is nothing in Martin's book that has not been done better by other authors.

    However, there is one thing Martin has done that no other author has been able to do: kill the longrunning High Fantasy series. According to some friends of mine in publishing (and some on-the-nose remarks by Caleb Carr in an NPR interview on his own foray into fantasy), Martin's inability to deliver a book on time, combined with his strained relationship with his publisher means that literary agents are no longer accepting manuscripts for high fantasy series--even from recognized authors. Apparently, Martin is so bad at plot structure that he actually

    . Perhaps it is true what they say about silver linings . . .

    Though I declined to finish this book, I'll leave you with a caution compiled from various respectable friends of mine who did continue on:

  • Shannon (Giraffe Days)
    Sep 27, 2007

    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 more 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 c

    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 more 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

    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,

    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,

    . 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.

    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 more 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 clichéd. Ned is all about honour and duty, but especially honour, with love a more minor consideration, but honestly, could the man be more 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

    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 more 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

    to like

    , 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 clichés, 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

    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

    , 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 knights...

    What 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 clichéd medieval England setting allows Martin to ignore one of the more 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 clichés, 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

    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 more 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

    work? Seriously, what do they

    ?); 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 cliché, 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.

    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 more of the same. I keep coming back to the reasons why I struggled to finish this book: boredom, clichéd 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

    - 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 ....

  • Kogiopsis
    Feb 04, 2009

    WARNING: If you enjoyed this book, even a little bit, you may not want to read this review. It will probably make you angry. Heaven knows that the book made

    furious, and I intend to turn every bit of that wrath back on it.

    Instead, I suggest you read

    ,

    ,

    , or any other of the gushing four and five-star reviews h

    WARNING: If you enjoyed this book, even a little bit, you may not want to read this review. It will probably make you angry. Heaven knows that the book made

    furious, and I intend to turn every bit of that wrath back on it.

    Instead, I suggest you read

    ,

    ,

    , or any other of the gushing four and five-star reviews here. If video reviews are more your style, I suggest

    about this book.

    Realistically, I know a lot of you are not going to listen, which is why the edit is here. At least it will slow you down a little.

    EDIT: adding one more thing because, despite the warning and the redirect links I kindly provided, I have indeed gotten the kind of sexist bullshit comments I anticipated. Before you launch into the usual defense, therefore, I give you this:

    .

    Here's the scoop on this review. For a book that I hate, I usually write a lot. After suffering for several hundred pages, I have pleeeenty of things to say. I've never hated a book that was quite as long as this one quite as much as I do, so I've had to alter my review so that I can say everything I want to without going over the character limit.

    The first part is an unorganized rant. I marked pages with particularly annoying quotes on them; for these rants, I broke the book into segments of 100 pages and wrote up quotes and responses for each segment into separate blog posts. These are all linked below.

    The second part will be a more organized rant masquerading as a review. MAKE NO MISTAKE: THIS IS A 'HATER' REVIEW. IF ANYTHING WAS GOING TO CAUSE ME TO SPONTANEOUSLY DEVELOP THE ABILITY TO BREATHE FIRE, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN THIS BOOK.

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    There are

    There are

    And then...

    there's this book, which did its level best to drive me to drinking.

    and I don't even

    alcohol.

    I wanted to like this. I wanted it to be as excellent as so many people insist it is. There are some books that I went into expecting them to be horrible, but this isn't one of them. Oh, my hopes were high here - it was recommended by a plethora of great authors, including the guys of

    , who I absolutely love. Reviewers who I greatly respect rated it four and five stars and wrote at length about how awesome it was. Other people praised the book as "the greatest achievement of the fantasy genre so far" and Martin as "the greatest fantasy writer of all time".

    It's those last two that are most important, I think, because I

    the fantasy genre - always have, and hopefully always will. Fantasy is what got me into reading (well, Harry Potter, specifically) and it's been one of my mainstays for as long as I can remember. I bought this book in large part because it was so often touted as, if not always the greatest achievement of the genre, one of the major works of fantasy published in our time. Having recently read several works by Brandon Sanderson, all of which were innovative, highly readable, and deeply philosophical, I was excited to see what Martin (by all reports an even better writer than Sanderson) could do. I expected my mind to be blown, repeatedly, and to be faced with the challenge of writing a review for a book so staggeringly brilliant that I could hardly think straight after finishing it.

    That is far, far, far from what I got.

    First of all, this book is definitely not what I think of when I hear the word 'fantasy'. It's certainly far from my definition of 'high fantasy'. Now, I realize that my definition of 'high fantasy', which includes pervasive magic, unusual creatures, and a setting that is vividly far from the real world, is not the definition you'll find if you look the term up online.

    Seeing as the critical definition appears to characterize high fantasy solely by the fact that it doesn't take place on our Earth, and as this definition is written as if high fantasy and sword-and-sorcery are mutually exclusive, I'm inclined to conclude that whoever wrote said definition is pretty damn stupid and carry on with my own outlines of what makes fantasy high, low, urban, epic, or any other subcategory or combination thereof.

    That said - this book? High fantasy? Not as far as I'm concerned. It is, to say the least, distinctly lacking in the requisite elements of the fantastic.

    Is it possible that Martin is going for a 'the magic comes back' subplot over the course of the series? Definitely. Do I give two shits about the rest of the series? NOPE.

    This book comes off as a pathetic attempt at fantasy by someone who doesn't really care about the genre, or doesn't know much about it. It mostly struck me more as an alternate universe War of the Roses fanfiction, with some hints of magic thrown in in a halfassed attempt to give it a place on the genre fiction shelves of bookstores. You can explain to me over and over how Martin intended to make his world 'gritty' and 'realistic' and I will tell you over and over that

    : that it is possible to have a fantasy which is gritty, realistic, and also utterly fantastical. It's even possible to do it without losing the particular areas where Martin seemed to be trying for gritty realism: since he chose to make all of his characters of the nobility anyhow, he wouldn't have had to worry about overglorifying the lives of the peasantry, as one might with a more economically diverse cast.

    Now, I'm willing to give Martin the benefit of the doubt a little bit on the possibility of the 'magic comes back' thing, because there did seem to be elements here that could become fantastical if fully explained later. The problem, of course, is that they're tossed out without background, let alone proper explanation, and so feel jarring and out of place - not a coherent part of the world, but bits tossed in to be linked together later. Right now... all they managed to do was trip me up, throw me ass-over-teakettle out of the story, and leave me blinking at the page in confusion and not a little bit of frustration.

    (And yeah, maybe part of why I'm so sore about this is that, like I said, I started this book not long after reading some Sanderson, and Sanderson is basically the king of seamless, fantastical, elegant worldbuilding, so pretty much anyone looks bad in comparison, but still.)

    If I had to assign this book to a genre, I'd call it 'low fantasy', because as far as I'm concerned it was running too low on the qualities that make fantasy what it is. It's about as much fantasy as fanfiction that translates characters to the modern day is - namely, basically mundane with a miniscule twist.

    The characters of this book also stand out... and not in a good way.

    There are a lot of them - eight POVs and plenty more on the side - and

    . They all had the potential to be, which makes it worse. Bran, the Stark boy who learns too much and is crippled as a result, could have an interesting arc if it weren't so slow and drawn-out. The hints of genuine pathos-inducing story are definitely there. They're also present in the chapters focused on Catelyn, who is the closest Martin gets to a truly nuanced character. Ned Stark, Catelyn's husband, is supposed to be the noble one - too bad his 'nobility' comes off as stupidity instead. Jon Snow, Ned's bastard child, is a truly stereotypical fantasy character: the super special 'outcast' who is nonetheless generally loved except by those the narration makes a point to show as bigoted and cruel, who never really has to work either for physical skills or personal growth, and who gets gifted by the narrative with an absurd number of SUPER UNIQUE TRAPPINGS, including an albino wolf (

    , Martin, REALLY? Are you secretly a fourteen year-old girl writing horrendous anime fanfic or something? Answer: no, and the comparison is insulting to fourteen year-old girls.) and a bastard sword that was a family heirloom of a noble house not his own. Arya is by far the most entertaining of the Starks, but only because she fulfills all sorts of rebellious-noble-girl-learns-to-fight tropes that I'm quite fond of.

    's chapters made me set the book down for days on end; she is beyond a shadow of a doubt the most insipid, annoying, airheaded character I have ever read and she has not a single whisper of a redeeming quality. Tyrion Lannister is what Jon Snow could have become without the heapings of Gary Stu in his youth: a bitter middle-aged man with father issues who turns to sex and crudity as his only defense; somewhat akin to Catelyn, he had the potential to be interesting and nuanced if his behavior hadn't been played dead straight.

    And there's one more: Daenerys Targaryen. Oh, Dany, Dany, Dany. I could write a

    on Dany and everything that went wrong with her story - but I don't have that kind of time.

    For those of you not familiar with this most epic of George R.R. Martin's characterization and plot failures, here is a summary:

    (oh and spoilers, but I honestly can't be bothered to tag it.)

    When we first meet her, Dany is thirteen years ond and about to be sold (effectively) into marriage with Khal Drogo, a warlord of the Dothraki people, by her abusive and not-a-little-bit-crazy brother, Viserys. Viserys has convinced himself that Drogo will help him take back 'his' kingdom - this being the Seven Kingdoms where the rest of the book takes place - hence the whole 'selling his sister to be

    married to someone he obviously sees as a barbarian' thing. The marriage occurs, and then the wedding night in truly squicky half-detail. There then follows a long journey across the plains to a Dothraki city, during which Dany is raped (and no, I will not call it anything else) by Drogo. By her fourteenth birthday she is pregnant. When they arrive in the Dothraki city, Viserys makes such an ass of himself that Drogo kills him by pouring molten gold over his head in the middle of a feasting hall. Robert, the current king of the Seven Kingdoms who the Targaryens see as a usurper, sends assassins to kill Dany - naturally, they fail - and Drogo gets so angry at this that he decides to commit all his people to attacking the Seven Kingdoms in retribution. They leave the Dothraki city (at this point Dany is heavily pregnant) and go out to wreak havoc across the countryside on their way to conquest. In one such battle Drogo is wounded; because he refuses to care for the wound properly, it gets infected. When it is clear that he is going to die, Dany appeals to an old woman to perform forbidden magic to save him; the rest of Drogo's people do not approve and try to cast Dany out. End result: Dany loses her child to create a Drogo-zombie, which she then smothers. When his body is placed on the traditional pyre, she adds in three supposedly dead dragon eggs (given to her as wedding gifts and which any fool could see hundreds of pages off were bound to hatch) and, surprise surprise, they hatch.

    To which my primary objections are:

    1. The blinding obviousness of the ending

    2. The fact that this single plotline - this single POV among eight - is so far distant from and so barely related to the others

    The first two are self-explanatory; the third, of course, is the big thorny problem. Now, I can sort of understand the perspective which argues that Dany is taking control of her sexuality - she comes to enjoy sex and even to initiate and control it at times. However, SHE IS AT NO POINT OLDER THAN FOURTEEN. There's a reason that such a concept as an 'age of consent' exists - there is an age at which teenagers are genuinely immature and probably shouldn't be making life-changing decisions like, say, things that could get them pregnant. Now, I understand that in the medieval times like those that this book is based on, girls were getting married and having children a lot earlier, and that people in general were more mature at an early age. However, Dany shows none of that maturity until after she's been with Drogo for weeks - if not months. When she's married to him, she is if anything unusually innocent for her age. It's a little hard for me to accept the idea that she's taking control of her sexuality when she's so young and clueless that her first sexual experience is a choice only inasmuch as she chooses not to fight back. Not fighting back, by the way, doesn't mean it's not rape, particularly in the situation that Dany is in (vastly younger than Drogo, vastly weaker, browbeaten by her abusive brother and told over and over that her obligation is to do whatever her husband wants). Nor are her later sexual experiences ones of choice; in fact, it is explicitly stated that even when she had horrible saddle sores and could barely walk, she was expected to be available for sex and treated as such. If anything, her eventual enjoyment of it seems more like a psychological block put up as a survival tactic than genuine pleasure in the act or love for Drogo.

    Yet, despite the fact that this situation is obviously, beyond a shadow of a doubt, rape, it's never addressed in-text. If anything, it's portrayed as a positive experience for Dany, one that makes her stronger and enables her to stand up for herself.

    Stupid me; I thought that the cancerous expansion of rape-as-love was limited to abusive jackass love interests in YA paranormal romances; clearly, I was wrong. It's everywhere, people. We are all completely fucking doomed.

    Which brings me to one of the other major frustrations I had with this book: the sex.

    Ummm... what to say? I thought reading some of the V'lane bits of

    while sitting next to my mother on the plane was uncomfortable; to my utter shock, that was nothing compared to reading the sex scenes of this book

    . No worry about someone looking over my shoulder and reading about MacKayla Lane getting hot and bothered - and yet even more awkward. Why? Well, as one reviewer put it (and I wish I could remember who to give them credit), they're written kind of as if they're these tremendous mythic events. I cringe at the very thought of quoting them, but to give you a little idea of what they're like... (worst romance sex scenes you've ever read) - (bizarre flowerly euphemisms) + (gratuitous use of the word 'manhood')*(general strange reverence for penises above and beyond the norm) + (incidences of incest) = Game of Thrones sex scene.

    In general: AWKWARD.

    (Just to be sure you feel my pain.)

    This book felt male-oriented in a way that is so painfully forced that it made me distinctly uncomfortable. I don't mean that women can't enjoy it - obviously, as all the reviews I linked back at the top demonstrate, they can and they do. I mean that the book itself felt as if it were written for the most stereotypical male audience imaginable. As

    described it, it reads like a soap opera for men. Because MEN want lots of violence, sex, swearing by female genitalia, and paper-thin motivations, right? Which is exactly what Martin dishes up.

    and so is the book he's produced.

    I thought at around the halfway point that I'd finish the book and be able to watch the HBO show to get the rest of the series without suffering through more awkwardly described sex scenes (not to mention the rest of it). By the time I finished, though, I had developed such a virulent hatred for this book, its author, and everything related to either of the above that I start grinding my teeth just reading praise for it. Watching the show would be vastly to my detriment - mostly because neither my hand nor my bank account would do well after I put my fist through the screen of my laptop.

    In conclusion/summary:

    Oh, and to the diehard defenders of this series, like those who were plaguing

    , who like to tell people who disagree with them that GRRM is the greatest writer of ALL TIME and that the female characters presented herein are feminist (or, to use an exact quote, that "GRRM has written some of the most independent, self-reliant heroines ever to grace the fantasy genre. It's more than half the reason he's so beloved. His female characters disdain male attention, are always smarter, faster, deadlier, and braver than any of their male counterparts. Kinda like feminists with swords" which is complete and utter bullshit), I have only one thing to say:

  • Mark Lawrence
    Nov 07, 2010

    I rated this in 2010. In 2017 it's time I actually use my words.

    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 more fun to watch.

    Well, sadly all I have to offer here is a less exciting set of praise for

    I rated this in 2010. In 2017 it's time I actually use my words.

    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 more 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 more 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.

    ..

  • karen
    Jul 29, 2011

    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

    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 more, 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

    , 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

    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 names...

    alfonso 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 more 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

    . but sheeeeit -

    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

    , 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, thwarted!

    look, dana, i read one of your books!!

    and i have just discovered betterbooktitles.com!

  • StoryTellerShannon
    Nov 17, 2011

    First off, I'm a heavy duty fan of GRRM. I've read over a 100 different fantasy authors in my time. Took about 5 years off from the genre b/c I felt it was all getting too formulaic and cliched. So, when I came back to fantasy I read the usual: Goodkind, Jordan, etc. and then someone told me about GRRM and man, that was the kicker!

    First off, I'm a heavy duty fan of GRRM. I've read over a 100 different fantasy authors in my time. Took about 5 years off from the genre b/c I felt it was all getting too formulaic and cliched. So, when I came back to fantasy I read the usual: Goodkind, Jordan, etc. and then someone told me about GRRM and man, that was the kicker!

    (1) YOU ARE TIRED OF FORMULAIC FANTASY: good lad beats the dark lord against impossible odds; boy is the epitome of good; he and all his friends never die even though they go through great dangers . . . the good and noble king; the beautiful princess who falls in love with the commoner boy even though their stations are drastically different . . . you get the idea. After reading this over and over, it gets old.

    (2) YOU ARE TIRED OF ALL THE HEROES STAYING ALIVE EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE UNDER CONSTANT DANGER: this gets even worse where the author kills a main hero off but that person comes back later in the story. Or, a hero does die but magic brings him back.

    This sometimes carries to minor characters where even they may not die, but most fantasy authors like to kill them off to show that some risked the adventure and perished.

    (3) YOU ARE A MEDIEVAL HISTORY BUFF: this story was influenced by the WARS OF THE ROSES and THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR.

    (4) YOU LOVE SERIOUS INTRIGUE WITHOUT STUPID OPPONENTS: lots of layering; lots of intrigue; lots of clever players in the game of thrones. Unlike other fantasy novels, one side, usually the villain, is stupid or not too bright.

    (5) YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BIASED OPINIONS AND DIFFERENT TRUTHS: GRRM has set this up where each chapter has the title of one character and the whole chapter is through their viewpoint. Interesting tidbit is that you get their perception of events or truths. But, if you pay attention, someone else will mention a different angle of truth in the story that we rarely see in other novels. Lastly and most importantly, GRRM doesn't try to tell us which person is right in their perception. He purposelly leaves it vague so that we are kept guessing.

    (6) LEGENDS: some of the most interesting characters are those who are long gone or dead. We never get the entire story but only bits and pieces; something that other fantasy authors could learn from to heighten suspense. Additionally, b/c the points of views are not congruent, we sometimes get different opinions.

    (7) WORDPLAY: if you're big on metaphors and description, GRRM is your guy. Almost flawless flow.

    (8) LOTS OF CONFLICT: all types, too; not just fighting but between characters through threats and intrigue.

    (9) MULTILAYERED PLOTTING; SUB PLOTS GALORE: each character has their own separate storyline; especially as the story continues and everyone gets scattered. This is one of the reasons why each novel is between 700-900 pages.

    (10) SUPERLATIVE VARIED CHARACTERS: not the typical archetypes that we are used to in most fantasy; some are gritty; few are totally evil or good; GRRM does a great job of changing our opinions of characters as the series progress. This is especially true of Jaime in book three.

    (11) REALISTIC MEDIEVAL DIALOGUE: not to the point that we can't understand it but well done.

    (12) HEAPS OF SYMBOLISM AND PROPHECY: if you're big on that.

    (13) EXCELLENT MYSTERIES: very hard to figure out the culprits; GRRM must have read a lot of mystery novels.

    (14) RICHLY TEXTURED FEMALE CHARACTERS: best male author on female characters I have read; realistic on how women think, too.

    (15) LOW MAGIC WORLD: magic is low key; not over the top so heroes can't get out of jams with it.

    (1) YOU LIKE YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS: GRRM does a good job of creating more likable characters after a few die. But, if that isn't your style, you shouldn't be reading it. He kills off several, not just one, so be warned.

    (2) DO NOT CARE FOR GRITTY GRAY CHARACTERS: if you like more white and gray characters, this may unsettle you. I suggest Feist or Goodkind or Dragonlance if you want a more straight forward story with strong archetypes.

    (3) MULTIPLE POINTS OF VIEWS TURN YOU OFF: if you prefer that the POVS only go to a few characters, this might be confusing for you.

    (4) SWEARING, SEX: there's a lot of it in this book just as there is in real life.

    (5) YOU DEMAND CLOSURE AT THE END OF EVERY BOOK: this isn't the case for all stories in the series. Some are still going on; some have been resolved; others have been created and are moving on.

    (6) IF YOU WANT A TARGET OR SOMEONE TO BLAME: this can be done to some extent but not as much. This is b/c he doesn't try to make anyone necessarily good or evil.

    (7) ARCHETYPES: some readers like archetypal characters because it's comfortable; we like the good young hero (sort of like Pug in Feist's THE RIFTWAR SAGA); it's familiar and we sometimes like to pretend we're this upcoming, great hero. You wont' get much of this in GRRM with the exception of one or two characters.

    (8) LENGTH: you don't want to get into a long fantasy epic series. In that case, look for shorters works as this is biiig.

    (9) PATRIARCHY: men are most of the main characters with lots of power (one female exception).

  • Emily May
    Sep 08, 2012

    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.

    , 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 cool...

    And a sneaky bonus for

    fans!

    Just so you know, all the cool people totally close

    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.

    , 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 cool...

    And a sneaky bonus for

    fans!

    Just so you know, all the cool people totally close their eyes during at least one photo

  • MJ Nicholls
    Sep 01, 2013

    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 somet

    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.


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