The Song So Far

Courtesy HBO
Sean Bean as Ned Stark. Do Want.

I totally forgot to write up a formal review of A Game of Thrones when I finished it. Olympic-league slacking on my part. I’m now two books into George R.R. Martin’s excellent doorstopper series A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m frothing at the mouth for the third. Let me tell you why.

Lots and Lots of Great, Deep Characters

From every corner of this well-constructed well-researched world come characters of all shapes and sizes. From kings to servants, knights to whores, advisors to savages, GRRM brings them all to life. Even characters mentioned merely in passing are given enough weight to feel real to the reader. When a character with a particular name or carrying a certain banner appears, we have a basic idea on who this person is, who they represent and how they go about their business. For the most part, that is…

Clever PoV Shifts

GRRM not only gives us a diverse and nuanced cast, but shifts the point of view with every chapter. Every shift brings not only a fresh perspective on events unfolding in the narrative, but insight into the characters. It’s particularly interesting when the shift comes from an established protagonist to someone considered to be a minor character or even an antagonist. The more time we spend with a character, the more we observe changes happening both around them and within them. Characters we liked can turn sour, characters we loathe earn our respect and loyalty, and the occasional “jump-cut” change in perspective can leave us howling for more.

Subtle Magic and Sublime Majesty

The world of A Song of Ice and Fire is not devoid of magic. However, it’s not a prevalent thing. A bit like the magic in Middle-Earth, you won’t see lightning bolts flying around or dragons clogging the skies. Even moreso than Tolkien’s world, the magic is subtle, and there’s not even a magical evil kingdom to speak of. The difference between Mordor and the lands north of the Wall are night and day. Everybody in Middle-Earth knows that Mordor is place drenched in black magic. Most people don’t know what exactly waits beyond the Wall. There are stories, nothing more.

Written For Adults

Creating fiction for ‘mature’ audiences means, to some, lots of cursing, sex and violence. While GRRM doesn’t shy away from profanity, he reserves a great deal of his more vulgar language for precise moments. His sex scenes are, for the most part, presented with the correct atmosphere – intimate love scenes feel intimate, more jarring scenes come out of nowhere, etc. And the violence, while visceral and detailed, never feels like a spectacle. The characters involved in the fighting, by virtue of being so deeply and completely drawn, are people we care about and we want to see them prevail, or at least survive. On the other hand there are characters we can’t wait to see split open like ripe melons by someone’s over-eager sword.

So, yes. Bring on A Storm of Swords. And the HBO series preimering in April.

2 Comments

  1. Winter is coming, and I can’t wait for it to get started.

  2. Oh man!! I am on book 4 and it is AMAZING!!! One of my favorite fantasy series. I love his character depth and gritty tone. It’s so well done and shocking at many points. The chapters are all mini cliff hanging page turners and the world is uber rich in history and detail. I am so excited for this series! Winter is coming!!

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