I finished this child sized book earlier this week. I’ve debated on whether to post my thoughts on it or not, but given how much I love George R.R. Martin’s work I thought I would go ahead. So here goes.
The book was long, really long. With the breadth of his books, If you can say one thing about Mr. Martin, you can say he can develop his characters in such a twisted and interesting fashion few others really achieve. I don’t know if this is a golden jacket club, secretive among writers, but I do notice few others can make me care/hate the characters in their books like Martin can. This reason alone is just half of why I love his work, the other half would be the harmony between the character’s plights and the overall construction of the story. I feel the elements are perfectly harmonized and add a level of ‘something for everybody’ vibe. The kudzu fever of fan growth between word of mouth and the success of the HBO show A Game of Thrones is a testament to that.
This book is good, I want to start out and make it clear. It is better than most. However compared to his previous works, this book left me feeling empty relative to the gigantic series of ‘WTF OMG THAT IS AWESOME’ moments I had in the first three books. Much and more is happening throughout the world of Westeros and we get a front seat observation bubble through the roller coaster, I do me all of it. Sometimes the level of detail of the snippets into the POV character’s world felt unneeded and filler. Tyrion’s admiration of the dragon’s road was a little outside of character and need of the story, I felt. The addition of the one Jamie and the two Cercei chapters seemed out-of-place as well. The prologue just confused me, I have no understanding of the relevance of it at all.
The background weaving of the different POV chapters is master class. When chapters start to bleed together and actions happen that affect several important characters, we get to see the different sides of the story in such a unique and refreshing light that it never felt recycled. This is a staple in Martin’s work that really makes me a fan boy. Along with the ‘I know something bad is going to happen’ moments as things are being built up. Perhaps that is what the goal of Martin’s vision is. Get all the chess pieces in place for the next two books, where there will be many a face punches for the reader. If that is the case, then sally forth sir.
The hints and allusions are endless. Nuggets of information we want to believe or have theorized are dangled our in front of us to make us believe that Martin is going to zig, when in fact his zags. Then just when we think he is going to zig (because he just zagged), he zags again and throws us for a loop. Perhaps something is going on under the table that I, as the reader, won’t pick up on or notice until the next book. Given Martin’s knack for football tackling the reader when they aren’t looking, I wouldn’t put it past him. This is another reason I love Martin’s work, I never know what is going to happen.
The epic last chapter of Jon left me with my mouth open, and the last two chapters of Dany made me want to fist pump. Then the epilogue made me go, “Dammmn!” as a few things from the other books clicked in place. This book wasn’t without its rewards. Tyrion’s wit and humor is unchanging, but his maturity is showing. Jon’s need to be a leader first and a friend second is ripe with understanding. Evolution of the characters as their situation changes is, I feel, the name of the game with this book.
The only thing about this book that keeps me from placing it with the first three in terms of awesomeness, is the lack of revelations and HARD plot twists. There are some little ones and two big ones, but not what I would expect from having read the first three. Maybe Martin is leading us into a false sense of understanding or maybe the story has just plateaued until the cathartic release of the last books. Who knows aside from the man himself?
The book is good and the craftsmanship that Martin has achieved is rivaled by few others. If you are a fan of fantasy, realism, visceral fantasy, knights, dragons, sex, gore, and awesomeness then you should really check out this series.
Now I look forward to the next big book being released next week. Ghost Story by Jim Butcher. I am very excited!