Monday, July 16, 2012

george rr martin is brilliant

Does the title say it all? I finally finished the five books that Martin's released so far in A Song of Ice and Fire and I couldn't be more thrilled. The hype? Entirely called for, in my opinion. And for those of you who've seen the TV show but not read the books yet, well, all I can say is that the books are even better.

I'm going to try and stay away from discussing specific plot points and mentioning who lives and who dies, so I don't spoil things for those who haven't read them yet. Because you need to read these books.

The first thing that blew me away, particularly in the first three books, was the pacing. I was really impressed with how A Game of Thrones was paced as the first book in the series. It didn't feel like a prelude or a setup to the rest, it felt like a great story in and of itself. It moved, and flowed, and when one chapter finished I couldn't wait to get to the next part of the storyline. It just kept getting better. A Storm of Swords, which was third in the series blew my mind. The action and plotlines just kept getting better, and somehow book three was better than the first two books combined (which was a pretty hard feat, let`s be honest).

Another thing that I adored was how well written and well developed the characters were. Especially the female characters. The women and girls in these books are diverse - from the meek and ladylike Sansa to her wild sister Arya (who, just maybe, is my personal favourite) to Cersei with her sly, manipulative ways to Daenaerys Targaryen who starts the series as a scared little mouse being given away in marriage and moves forward to become this amazing, ass kicking, powerful, regal force. (Remember how I said Arya was my favourite? I take that back.) Too often, in my mind, when men are writing the female characters are stereotypes, or undeveloped, or they do one great woman but can't write any other female personalities.

I also enjoyed the fact that as the books go on Martin continues to introduce new characters. New, interesting, complex characters; it's hard to introduce a new character to a series and have them be just as engaging and intriguing as the characters we start the series with. Every book brings new characters, or moves secondary characters into a spotlight.

At first the books were a little overwhelming, with so many characters and so many different, divurgent plotlines but as the books went on one of the most exciting bits was watching how the plots were woven together and how things that were happening on one side of the world were having rippling, trickling affects on the other side. The backstory Martin works with is rich and leads well into the "current" state of affairs, and he feeds the audience tidbits of backstory throughout the books as things go on and on.

I couldn't put these books down, which is saying something. I read these five in rapid-fire progression, and more than once I stayed up to the wee hours of the morning to continue reading. The only thing that made me put these books down? When I was so tired that my eyes wouldn't focus and I literally could not read another word if I tried.

I did have two complaints, though they're relatively minor. I enjoy the fact that Martin's not afraid to kill off main characters (particularly his protagonists), because it added depth and reality to the story. Where I got annoyed, though, was with how often he would do fake outs. He'd end a chapter with something that seemed like it must be a character death and then come back half a book later ... with the character alive. It got to be unrealistic. I mean, really, you expect me to believe that after an axe comes crashing down on an unprotected skull that the character is going to be still alive? No, I don't buy it. Several characters have fake deaths, and it became overdone. Had it happened once or twice, it might have been a great plot device, but it happened too often. Now, that's not to say that the supernatural returns to life were unappreciated. Just the fake outs. I'd like him to stop with those, really.

The other thing, and I hate to admit it, is that I found A Feast for Crows (book 4) to be weak, compared to all the others. I think a few things went into that judgment. Because the books had been getting stronger up to that point, I was looking for that trend to continue. Book three blew my mind, and I didn't feel like book four lived up to it. It slowed and stagnated and just didn't interest me as much. The other "issue" (if you can call it that, because it was intentional) was that I just didn't find the characters the book focused on engaging. Book four focused on what was going on in King's Landing and the mainland of Westeros, leaving out the characters that are in more remote places. I didn't find the characters book four revolved around to be interesting and their storylines and personalities just didn't resonate with me and interest me as much as a lot of the others.

Book five? Loved it and can't wait for the next one. What I don't like is it ended with what appears to be (appears to be) the death of another character. It's going to piss me off more than a little if s/he is dead, and it's going to piss me off if he isn't, because he's been there, done that. So we'll see.

I can't wait for the next book to come out.

So, since I've finished these, I'm on to something new. I've got Philippa Gregory's The River Queen in my purse, and another Christopher Moore waiting for me to crack it open. After that? I'm hoping to get my hands on the Joy Luck Club.

Your turn! What are you reading right now? What do you like (love?) about it, and what's falling flat?

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