on June 18, 2007
First off, I'm a heavy duty fan of GRRM. I've read over a 100 different fantasy authors in my time (started at 12; I'm now 32). 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 at the end of 1999, I read the usual: Goodkind, Jordan, etc. and then someone told me about GRRM and man, that was the kicker!
Here are the reasons to choose GRRM. I've also listed the reasons not to choose him to make it fair b/c I know their are certain personalities who won't like this series:
WHY TO READ GRRM
(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 SYMOBLISM 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.
REASON TO NOT READ GRRM
(1) YOU LIKE YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS: GRRM does a good job of creating more likeable 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). ....
Don't read this book if you don't like authors who take over 3 years to write a book, then only release half of it claiming the other half would try to have half of it within a year. Then 2 years later still be saying that there is no end of the book within sight. Martin takes absurdly long to write a book, and this series probably won't be complete within the next 10 years.
Quick Review (TL;DR)
These books are great. Expansive well described settings and extremely complex and detailed characters. You'll find yourself loving character you hated in a previous books and feeling compassion for psychopathic torturers.
Nothing happens the way you think it'll happen and no one you want to live lives. Everyone dies except for the ones you expect to.
I would highly recommend reading this series as long as you don't mind waiting 1-2 decades as the following books are released.
--If you want to support a story you enjoy and get the entire series at the same time you should buy this. --
All my life I've been waiting for something like this story. Every time I watched a movie where the good guy had some kind of distress or trouble and the bad guy seemed ahead, I still always knew who would win. As I am sure you all did. (granted this applies more to shows/movies than to books)
Every time a fairy tale ending occurred with the action hero walking into the sunset with his girl, I got tired. Every. Single. Time.
Good guy wins, bad guy loses/gets away and everyone is happily ever after. Sure there are some exceptions, but not really. Either everyone dies at the end or some other trope occurs. But the bad guy never wins over. Not at the end. Like some horribly boring, predictable formula.
This is the show I've been waiting for. Everything you think will happen doesn't happen. Or it does and then does a complete 180. No predictability at all. I absolutely love it.
You hate the character who paralyzes kids and then you grow to like them and empathize with their flaws as they grow into their character.
Your [favourite] characters die and others live, but you never know which or how they'll do it. Your most hated character become your most loved characters and then they also die. Or maybe not. Maybe they become hated again.
This is the story after the happily ever after. The story of the brave warrior who becomes king but is unable to rule, he doesn't know how. Of course he doesn't, he's a boy who knows how to fight, why would he be equipped to rule a kingdom?
This is the story after the king marries a famous beauty.
They're not happy 20 years later, they resent each other and each grows to hate the other more and more. The king drinks and has his way with whore while the queen does the same with her brother.
They are human. They do not live happily ever after. The nice honourable man dies, children die, the scheming betrayer lives. In fact he thrives.
This is the story for those who want to know what happens after the "... and they lived happily ever after". Love, loss, anger, hatred, life and death. No linear storyline with predictable outcomes. No more of that.
If any of that sounds appealing to you then read the books, watch the show, immerse yourself in this world and watch what happens when people have to go through life with real problems and real consequences.
on July 1, 2012
If writers are Gods - and they are - then George R.R. Martin is Zeus, King of Gods. Martin flawlessly weaves a tale of epic fantasy to launch, which is arguably the best fantasy series ever ( I know The Lord of The Rings and The Malazan Empire have their fans). Game of Thorns achieves not only because of a great plot, which does not stagnate, but because of the intriguing characters, both male and female, that are brought to life through Martin's skill. Tyrion, Sandor Clegane (the Hound), Cersei, Arya, and Daenerys are particularly memorable.
This first installment is not heavily loaded with magic and the supernatural. Other than the appearance of a supernatural race in the opening pages and again briefly later on, and the emergence of other mythological creatures in the closing pages, Game of Thrones is devoid of magic and the supernatural. The conflict is among men and women, noble houses positioning themselves for the throne of a Kingdom. The book is laden with political intrigue, conspiracy, ambition, and hidden family secrets.
Still, while the great houses maneuver for control of the throne, the reader is ever aware of a long dormant evil, that may rise to threaten the populace of the seven kingdoms.
I am looking forward to getting into Clash of Kings & Storm of Swords and beyond.
on September 26, 2012
There's basically not much more I can say that others haven't before. I've been an avid fantasy reader for several years, starting with YA fantasy when I was young, and now trying to leave the beaten path of classics as an adult.
The page numbers are scary when you look at the fact that there are 5 books (projected to be 7 total) at 800-1000+ pages each. I put off starting this series because it seemed like such a huge commitment to finish it. The thing is, once you start, it's nearly impossible to put these books down. GRRM's writing is in such a way that yes, this is heavy high fantasy fare, a lot of characters, a lot of twisting storylines, metaphors, and all those things you expect to come with adult high fantasy fiction. But at the same time, it's so easy to lose yourself in Westeros, and the stories flow together so well despite each chapter being from a different perspective, that you just want to keep reading and do nothing else until it's done.
Only downside is we may have to wait another 6 years for the next book...
on October 20, 2011
Martin has created a beautiful world in A Game of Thrones. There are hidden valleys, open plains and castles built into mountains. All of the scenery is wonderfully described.
A Game of Thrones is categorized as a fantasy and it does have an underlying mysticism but there are no wizards or brilliant displays of magic. Just a feeling that there may be more out there than what we are seeing. This creates another dimention of suspense. Which only enhances this novels rich texture of story, character and plot.
The story is set in a realm know as 'The Seven Kingdoms' and follows each of the characters and their individual story lines, many of whom intersect. Each character is a clearly defined individual. Martin has done a brilliant job of keeping every plot element consistent with the established norm for each character. Nothing happens, good or bad without reasonable justification. If you are looking for an action packed, magical thrill ride this is not the book for you.
This is a brutal world but an honest one. Every character is doing what they feel they must to preserve their lives and the lives of their families. If you do not enjoy violence or sex I caution you about reading this novel. Everything is done with tact and I don't feel any of it is gratuitious. That said, each reader has their own tollerance for such things and there is plenty of both.
If you are in the mood for an intense, well written story with good character development and plenty of action and intregue then you should enjoy Game of Thrones. I was drawn into this world from the prologue and it was hard to put down. This novel is a journey and if you have the patience to follow along you will be rewarded with a rich and compelling reading experience.
The mass media tends to ignore fantasy stories, especially high fantasy stories. After all, they require actual imagination.
But one of the few stories that has wormed its way into our consciousness -- partly because of the brilliant TV adaptation -- is George R.R. Martin's fantasy epic A Song Of Ice And Fire. And the first volume, "A Game of Thrones," is a powerfully complex, gritty story, plenty of grime, blood and a tangle of convoluted plots and counterplots.
The castle of Winterfell is thrown on its ear when King Robert Baratheon of Westeros arrives to ask Eddard Stark to be his Hand. But soon after he agrees, he receives a message from his mentor's widow, informing him that Queen Cersei's family, the Lannisters, are secretly plotting against the king -- and that they are killing off anyone who might be a threat to them.
One of his younger sons is gravely wounded when he sees something shocking, and the acid-tongued dwarf Tyrion is framed for the crime. And across the Narrow Sea, exiled princess Daenerys Targaryen is wed to the barbarian lord Khal Drogo, so that her brother can invade Westeros and take back the throne. Daenerys quickly grows in strength and wisdom, but will pay a terrible price.
And Eddard's illegitimate son Jon joins the Night's Watch near the Wall -- but has little idea of the horrors that are approaching. As Stark takes to his new duties, he begins investigating the death of his predecessor, and begins to uncover a shocking secret about the queen and her children. Treachery, death and war will be brought to Westeros, and a war will begin with the blood of the good-hearted.
"A Game of Thrones" is truly an epic story -- it takes place over the length and breadth of Westeros, and stretches across to Dothraki lands across the sea. There are countless plot threads woven into one enormous, bloodsoaked tapestry, linked together even if they are technically separate. Lots of plot threads are left dangling, but in such a way that you end up wanting to know what happens next.
And Martin writes in a vivid, unromanticized style -- his world is a bleak, wild place shrouded in winter, full of cold stone walls, grimy medieval atmosphere, windswept steppes and dark seedy plots. He doesn't shy away from graphic violence or sex, but the focus here is always on the clashing families, battles and seedy plots of the queen. And despite that focus, there is still a hint of the magical in this fantasy -- talk of dragons, the White Walkers and their undead wights.
It also has a wide-ranging cast of characters, from fiery little girls to dissolute kings. The most powerful are Eddard Stark, an admirable and charismatic man who seems destined for ruin because of his search for the truth; Daenerys grows from a pale, frightened wallflower into a strong queen who loves (and loses) people close to her; and a bunch of rich characters like Tyrion, Jon, Catelyn, the evil Cersei and her brother/lover Jaime, and many others.
"A Game of Thrones" is a truly spellbinding experience, tearing away the rosier veils of high fantasy. Bloody, complicated and full of richly-developed characters, this is a modern classic.
on November 12, 2010
Martin is the most populare voice in fantasy today. He has redifined the genre. How? By taking away the "Fantastic" part of Fantasy. This may or may not work for you, but most people love A Song of Ice and Fire. I oddly take pleaure in noting what people are reading on the bus, and quite a few have been reading Martin. Its popular, and will soon be even more so with the new HBO series.
The series is inspired by the War of the Roses in the late Medieval period. Basically its waring Houses competing for the throne of one kingdom in the continent of Westeros. The series is written in POV style with numerious storylines. Most of the characters are Human, and magic is very low.
Pros- All the storylines are interesting. Martin writes battles wonderfully. Major and minor characters are compelling.
Cons- Way to long between books. Five years and counting between A Feast for Crows and a Dance with Dragons.
Martin has inspired many of Fantasy's best new writers. Steven Erikson, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, and Patrick Rothfuss. Before Martin and those he has inspired my Fantasy reading was dominated by Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind, and to be honest I like those two better.
on February 24, 2010
A Game of Thrones was given to me by a friend and it took me a long time to get around to reading it. I cracked the cover out of a feeling of obligation. Finally, at the half way point, it captured me via the dwarf Lannister character and I am now halfway through the series.
- I prefer one-hit novels (Flashforward) that conclude when I hit the last page. This does not. It's an epic series.
- I prefer a protagonist or two (Free Amazons of Darkover). This has about a half-dozen main characters to track with enough side characters that a glossary is included.
- I prefer action over atmosphere (The Dark Elf Trilogy: Colector' Edition). This book has action but the majority of the writing contains adjectives and adverbs. Paragraphs are thick with descriptions of attire, props and location interiors. It works well in making you visualize the location your current chapter is set in but if you're like me and prefer to gobble your books in five hours, this will challenge your patience.
Essentially, the same things that block me from picking up Dune and reading it are the same challenges that delayed my ability to sink into Martin's series. If you have the same trouble with epic-format fantasy then expect the exact same hurdle.
If you had no trouble with Dune or the House Of Niccolo 01 Niccolo Rising series, then you will be right at home here in George Martin's Song of Ice and Fire and have just discovered a new favourite.
If you're willing to give a slow-chew epic type of book a go, then give this a try and don't judge it until you are at the 50% point of A Game of Thrones. I found it was rewarding material.
on January 31, 2004
I'll admit that Martin's epic may not be for everyone. Certainly those fantasy readers who enjoy orphan children who are secretly heirs to a kingdom and wizards who shoot fireballs from their hands will find little to love here. But it would be a shame if you denied yourself, as a reader, the compelling read Martin offers.
I don't use the word compelling lightly either, this is an utterly enjoyable read. Its quick, complex, exciting, and it defies expectations repeatedly. In many ways it stands alone in the genre, but I wanted to highlight three virtues of this book and, by extension, the series.
First, the female characters are treated with respect and empathy. Within Martin's books are princesses forced into political marriages, sisters who inadvertently do greater harm than they intend through their bickering, and mothers who are completely devoted to their children. It's a far cry from the petulant temptresses and the masculine amazons who inhabit most other fantasy novels.
Second, the violence in the story carries a weight absent from most fantasy novels. Martin captures the casual, sudden, and unexpected nature of violence. Horrible things happen so quickly that one stops to reread sentence, almost as if, like the characters, we can hardly believe what we've just seen. There's gut-wrenching injuries and accidents. A character thrown from his horse breaks a leg and swoons with pain instead of hopping up to fight on. In Martin's imagination, just as in reality, these things, these ignominious accidents, happen.
Finally, Martin does a fantastic job portraying magic. The book's detractors will disagree with me strenuously here. Martin handles magic subtly, it happens in caves and forests, in dank places where few witness it. The use of magic is fantastic, beyond the belief of most characters in the novel. Magic doesn't happen often. Each time, however, it is completely memorable.
There are other great touches in the book. Martin takes the time to name the games children play, uses heraldry and feudal politics extensively, and devises a clever set of surnames for children born out of wedlock. There are plenty of sources for high adventure as well: sworn brotherhoods, zombies, deft swordsmen, poisons, intrigues, and dragons.
In short, this is an absolute classic.
on February 6, 2009
Deeply human characters, twisted and complex sub-plots, exotic lands and a hint of magic keep you reading this tale of kings and queens, knights and battles, politics and betrayal... I couldn't put it down, and dove right into the sequels one after the other! Be prepared for a cliffhanger of a series though, as nothing is really resolved at the end of each book - it seems it's one long, ongoing tale, and the author seems notorious for taking his time writing his sequels (though who can blame him - each book approaches 1000 pages, and his writing is of the highest quality with beautiful prose and witty dialogue). The only trouble I have with this book (and the series in general) is that the sheer number of characters can be a bit overwhelming and make the sub-plots tricky to follow... If you savour losing yourself in lengthy tales of old-world intrigue laced with characters that come to life, don't miss this series!