Last year when I had a long overseas flight coming up, my son’s friend’s father suggested that I take along a couple of these books. He is an attorney, and not a person that I would normally think reads the fantasy genre. He waxed poetic over the characterizations and complexity of the books, and confessed to many nights reading into the wee hours. They are not normally my genre either, and though I love a long book, the thought of getting sucked into that much was daunting. Still, I love a “can’t put it down” book, and off to Tokyo I went with just the first one in my Kindle…
And damn, if it wasn’t good! I whizzed through it and then nearing the end of the second book, fatigue set in. My reading hours are short, but my reading list is long. Did I really have time in my life to live in this crazy fantasy world of dragons, crows, knights, and wights? So to speed things up, I checked the TV series out from the library and decided that it would be an acceptable way to finish off the story. I didn’t count on the TV series reinvigorating my interest.
So last month, just a few weeks before season four of Game of Thrones started on HBO, I decided to catch up and hopefully speed past it. I tucked away A Storm of Swords in about a week and a half, and now am about a third into A Feast for Crows, starting to feel the fatigue again. I am sure I will need to take a genre break before I get to Dragons. But now I know I can’t substitute the TV series for the books.
What is it with these books? One must be impressed with the sheer size and breadth of Martin’s imagination. What a world! How on earth does he keep track of so many characters and histories? And even if you, like me, could give a toot ordinarily about dragons and knights and this ilk of story, Martin keeps spinning it out in a way that requires you to keep on keeping on. I think it was in the very first book when one of the main characters to that point, a likable and innocent young boy and son of a fine noble family, gets unceremoniously tossed out a window in an offhand way, that I sat up and took notice. Who the hell does this to a character you’ve been developing for many chapters? Best yet, the toss ended the chapter and the reader doesn’t learn the fate of the boy for many, many more. Martin so often maims, kills, and otherwise messes with characters that he has convinced us to like and identify with that I read holding my breath. Really, you just never know what is going to happen and the fear of “What and who next?” is the secret to the books “unputdownable” quality.
I do think that the books could use a stronger editorial hand. Sometimes I cannot keep track of Ser This and Ser That whose sigil is four turnips being devoured by a cockatrice on a field of green–or whatever. Or some of the back story of the Mad King and the obscure accomplishments of legendary knights. Maybe it is name fatigue—I got so confused and tired trying to sort out the names of all the rogues that Arya ends up with along the way and all the small towns and rivers she crossed being dragged here and there (unlike many readers, it seems, I am glad to give her story a break in Crows–poor child becoming so ruthless). This would be the prefect series for Martin to publish a “History” on and perhaps an Atlas. But readers, like myself, would undoubtedly rather he finish the next book than mess around with side projects.
If you are getting on a long overseas flight, by all means grab one of these and be entertained for many long hours. But beware, that you probably can’t stop reading them once you touch ground, even if they are not exactly your regular story fare. They are oddly addictive and completely immersive. Now back to the Crows for me….
A Storm of Swords: 4/5
I finished a Feast for Crows, but really had to slog through the end. In particular, it seems that Martin has killed off so many key characters that he has to turn them into zombies or something similar to keep the story going. And that in a story with some 2000+ characters! I feel disenchanted and even less inclined to leap into Dragons than I did when I first posted. That said, I DID keep reading until the end of 900+ pages, so I am still intrigued and wrapped up in the elaborate world that Martin has created to know that there are more days that I will spend in Westeros.
A Feast for Crows: 3/5