A Song of Ice and Fire is the master works of scribe George R.R. Martin, with first publication way back in 1996. Five installments have been released of the planned seven book series. Originally planned as a trilogy, there are rumours of extending the series to an eighth book. The wildly popular television show based of the series began airing in 2011, after the release of the fifth book. Nearing the conclusion of the sixth season, the HBO show has over taken its literary inspiration. The author is slowly missing the boat on the series’ peak popularity.
The fantasy novels read more like a political thriller with elements of magic. The plot is indescribable as their seems to be to much happening, no finite goals, or clear conclusion. More of a basic premise of a world with multiple suitors for supremacy. The world of Westeros is divided by multiple kingdoms, all with their own claim to the ultimate throne. Leaving the country side over come with war… at least I think there is a war, we never get to see much of the action.
I, like most, really enjoyed the first season of Game of Thrones. Full of twists, great characters and something that had never really been attempted on television before. I proceeded to read the books, as a literary enthusiast, I was surprised I had not read them sooner. I stuck it out and read all five novels. I gave up on the show a long time ago. I am not a big fan of t.v. dramas and can count the amount I’ve watched on one hand.
Let’s break it down book by book shall we.
A Game of Thrones-
This is a good read. If there is anything Mr. Martin can do it is characters. Game of Thrones and it’s sequels are driven by characters and their interactions. Following a humble, noble family into extravagant lands. Navigating and ultimately being lost in a world manipulated by politics. The unexpected twists and turns make this a decent beginning to a series. However I felt lost as to the introduction of zombies that have nothing to do with the plot. As great as the Deanerys story line is, it also brought nothing to the book over all, feeling like it should be a separate novel entirely and was more of a distraction.
A Clash of Kings-
I had to cheat and read a summary of this book and I keep referring to it as Clash of Clans. That is how unmemorable it is. The introduction of an abundant amount of new main characters, with a mess of new kings claiming the throne. There is no clear plot to this novel, 350 000 words of moving characters around. The highlight of this book is the well plotted Battle of Blackwater. After multiple promises of action, to no avail what so ever, the battle is a great representation of war in Westeros. Again Deanerys has an irrelevant journey, introducing warlocks that have nothing to do with the overall plot. There’s still zombies somewhere, but that is a side note, to yet another king. Props to Davos the Onion Knight for having a rad name, but I did it first.
A Storm of Swords-
I think its unanimous that this is the best book in the series. Also Mr. Martins quickest to production, which may point out that he is over thinking these books. Focusing again on the main characters we met in the first installment. The massive chess game of Clash of Kings seems to have given Mr. Martin the character positions he needs. Things go down finally, the famous Red Wedding, the over due assassination of a hated king, and Deanerys is getting to that place she wanted to go two books ago. The zombies actually do something, though not much. Now the dragons are being under utilized in compensation. The point is things actually happen in this novel.
A Feast for Crows-
For some unknown reason, at this point Mr. Martin decides to divide his characters in half, creating two books of parallel timelines? Claiming his manuscript had grown too large. If that’s true, I do not understand the six year hiatus between releases. Again there is not much of a plot for this story, a lot of characters travelling around, and an introduction to yet another kingdom. The young Arya looks like her plot is about to thicken, yet she is now so far from anything relevant that it is kind of pointless. This novel left me with a plethora of new questions from where I began.
A Dance with Dragons-
The upside to this book is it features more of the series interesting characters. That’s not to say this novel is not a mess. To many characters and kingdoms have gotten involved at this point and the themes at Kings Landing are getting even sloppier. I did enjoy the events on The Wall, but c’mon, where are those zombies? Another magical source, the Greenseer, also adds nothing to the tale. And the book kind of trails off with no real climax.
That leaves my average rating for A Song of Ice and Fire at 2 out of 5, ouch. That may seem harsh, yet the disappointment of the last two books tainted my entire experience. Here is a quick synopsis on my reading experience-
Game of Thrones: Alright that is a nice introduction to this world. I wonder what happens.
Clash of Clans: So… I get the idea. I’m ready for something to happen.
Storm of Swords: This would have been a great place to leave off on the second book. I think things are going to happen soon.
Feast for Crows: … … …
Dance with Dragons: … Seriously, I just wasted so much time.
After completion, I was so frustrated with reading a massive series where nothing significant happened. 5 books, 5705 pages, 1.77 million words of unfulfilling discombobulation. In comparison, The Hobbit is under 100 thousand words and packed with 17.7 times the action. The entire Lord of the Rings saga was under half a million words. It seems to me that this series has gotten away on Mr. Martin and even he is trying to sort out this clutter. Here’s three things that would have made these books better.
1. Have those zombies that were introduced in the series prelude, do something.
2. Have those dragons everyone thinks are so cool, do something.
3. Have these numerous amount of armies… do something.
As bitter as I sound, and as negative my review may be, there are positives to the series. George R.R. Martin has a captivating writing style, that reads very smooth. Again these are character driven books. They are all unique personalities, proper characteristics based on their birth and region, and the whole series revolves around their well conceived interactions. Which all can be very enjoyable, it just drags on that way, moving characters across the board so they can interact with other characters.
One of the appeals for the audience seems to be the unexpected deaths through out the series. This is not unique to Song of Ice and Fire. The books of another fan favorite, Walking Dead, has much more damage through out. The whole theme of Ice and Fire, seems to have become how the next character shall die. That is not enough for me as a consumer, I need much more depth and story.
I tend to get frustrated when A Song of Ice and Fire is classified as an epic fantasy. There is nothing epic that happens, aside from the sheer length. And I could never mention this story in the same respect as other fantasy works like Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, Disc World, et cetera. I classify this series as a historical soap opera, or fictional political thriller, with fantasy elements. I would really appreciate the books not taking up an entire bookshelf in the fantasy section at my local bookstores.
This is normally where I would do my recommendations for specific audiences. Fact is, I do not recommend reading these books, period. There are to many good books out there to waste precious reading life on this series. The books are written with a television audience in mind. As far as the show goes, I am not a very good judge, but it may be a more valuable series for that media.
Thanks booknerds, winter is not coming. Before the controversy begins, please keep in mind these are my personal opinions, as unpopular as they may be.