Hey all! Yes it's been a week with not a peep from me! School, visits from parents, blah blah blah. I will try to do better, even if it means shorter entries!
To get back into things, I wanted something easy to write about. It's easiest for me to write about things I like, so today I'm going to talk about a book (and series) that any serious fantasy lover should read...
A Song of Ice and Fire
by George R. R. Martin
I would probably rate A Song of Ice and Fire as the best fantasy series of all time. It is NOT, however, in any way shape or form, light reading. It is DENSE, meaty, and full of juicy, delicious, raw realism. These characters are a far cry from the ideal white knight and evil sorceress. They behave much like real people might when thrown into extraordinary situations... and while nothing in the books could be described as "ordinary", George Martin also avoids the disgustingly over the top cliches that litter most fantasy novels. Magic, dragons, monsters, gods - these things existed (there are dragon bones in the capital city to prove it!) but they were things of the past, for the most part. Fantasy elements are much more subtle, weaving in and out of the main story in ways that are unobtrusive, natural, and truly enchanting.
The plot of A Song of Ice and Fire is a slippery, wild snake that winds through the smaller, sordid tales of the various view point characters (of which there are many). The overarching idea of the series is that of a kingdom thrown into chaos as many different factions fight over the crown. Meanwhile, in a far off land, the true heir to the throne is growing up and making her own place in the world, but one could only imagine she will return soon. And, over all this, the dread words of the Stark family, "Winter is coming" beat ominously. In the north, the dreaded undead creatures of the frozen wasteland are stirring for the first time in known history, and the ragged defenders of the mighty Wall must somehow convince the bickering factions of the kingdom to the south to join forces and deal with the greater threat.
As mentioned in the introduction, the characters are one of the many strengths of this series. Each has extreme depth, and acts in ways more real than any other novel I have read. From despicable to noble and anywhere in between, they represent all the shades of gray of humanity. George Martin effortlessly juggles dozens of viewpoint characters, keeping your interest and attention across many storylines at once, and keeping you turning the pages to see how these lines might cross.
The linchpins in this highly varied tale are the Stark family, of the northern-most part of the kingdom, and the princess-in-exile, Daenerys Targaryen. Unexpectedly, several of the enemies of the Starks become very interesting viewpoint characters as well - Tyrion Lannister is intriguing right from the beginning, but while his brother Jaime at first seems a shallow and unlikeable character, he proves to have quite a bit more depth as time goes on, and also eventually has some time in the viewpoint spotlight.
As might be expected from the gritty, realistic nature of the writing, several characters don't make it past the first book. In a land this torn by war, you never know who is going to die... or who might survive but be horribly maimed, which is not an uncommon occurrence in the series.
I'm not sure I need to say more than I did in the first paragraph - these are, in my opinion, the best fantasy novels of all time. Martin has earned his place on the shelf next to Tolkien and Lewis, and then some. As long as you are willing to set aside some time to seriously dig in and digest the dense material, you can't go wrong with A Song of Ice and Fire. Pick up a copy of the first book, A Game of Thrones, today!
For a more detailed overview of the series, check out this fine article!