Note: I’ve tried to make this a spoiler-free review, and as you’ll soon read, I’m only in the second book, so if you are so led to comment on this post, please try to leave it spoiler-free for all future readers and viewers! Thanks
There’s no question that anyone who writes is influenced by the entertainment they consume. Sometimes it’s more obvious than at other times, but all of us want to write in genres we love and we can’t help but be influenced by what we’ve read and saw and listened to. In that spirit, I thought I’d post on what I’m currently reading. It’s a nice break from talking about my own work for a while.
Right now I’m working my way through George R.R. Martin’s iconic “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, better known to most of the world by the HBO show based off the series, Game of Thrones. I realize I’m more than a little late to the party, but for several years now I’ve been working my way down the NPR top 100 sci-fi and fantasy list, where the series is listed at number five. Despite the popularity of the series, I elected not to read them until I got down to number five in the list. Needless to say, it’s been a while.
I’m currently nearing the end of the second book, Clash of Kings, and I haven’t seen any of the television series, but I will say, the first book is an incredible achievement.
I’ll start off with what I like. What I love most about the book is its structure. I love the multiple viewpoints throughout the story and I love how well they are balanced and how each keeps the story moving and the pages turning. It’s a structure I like in many books, but rarely is it done as well as it is in Game of Thrones.
I also liked how the fantastic elements of the story are more subdued. This is a land where magic has largely passed down into legend, and I’d argue that most of the book barely qualifies as fantasy. Outside of a few events through the book, it could almost be medieval fiction. But when the fantastic elements are introduced, you are so invested you accept them without question.
Finally, I loved how the story avoided common story lines in fantasy. I’ve actually read a bit about this, and it’s certainly intentional. I want to avoid spoilers, but in his series heroes don’t always come out on top, and evil people aren’t always defeated. You really don’t know what will happen to the characters, and that makes the suspense much more real.
There is little I don’t love about the book, but I do have some worries. As is sometimes the case, I worry some of the strengths of the first book may morph into weaknesses. First is structure. While I loved the structure of the first book, I worry that as the cast of characters becomes larger and larger that the structure will become unmanageable. Second is the unpredictability of the story. Again, I don’t want to say too much, and I will have to read much more before I come to a decision, but I wonder how the protagonists of the story (the Starks) will come out of everything. Only time will tell.
I’ll keep people updated on my thoughts as I continue to work through the series. Until then, keep reading!