I know that what with A Dance with Dragons having just been released, and what with the new HBO series making quite the splash this year, many people have started reading or re-reading the A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R. R. Martin. So I don’t want to spoil things for the people who haven’t read and want to read this series. So this review aims to be as spoiler-free as possible, for those of you who are debating about jumping in on the craze. (As a side note, no, I didn’t start reading because of the TV show or the new book coming out. I actually had all of these books sitting on the shelf and the timing was really quite coincidental).
So… my overall impressions after reading the book is that I am not as blown away as I had hoped to be. That doesn’t mean this is a bad book. I think having read somewhere that this series is the equivalent of “literary crack” I just expected a bit much. I mean, the general consensus that this is a more realistic, gritty, shades-of-grey type fantasy world than can be found in other novels is a rather accurate depiction. And I actually do like that aspect of the book. The writing is very good, and I usually enjoy a political intrigue type of story. However, I am just not loving and obsessing over this book as much as I do with a lot of the other series I have read. I think perhaps it is because I just don’t love a lot of the characters. I mean, I appreciate the characters – they are interesting and multi-dimensional. I wouldn’t say a single character is boring. However, even the best of the bunch have their dark moments and there aren’t a ton of characters who are entirely likable. Which, I suppose, is how it is with real people in real life. Which also adds to the realistic nature of this story. And even in this first novel there is some character growth and development, which is good. And yet… there were very few people I actually really liked. I ponder if it is because I don’t feel like I can trust any of these characters, at least not fully. And even those I do trust… I worry about getting too attached because they seem to make some stupid, all be it noble, decisions that don’t really give me much encouragement for their longevity.
The other lasting impression I have of this book is that it is very much a beginning. I think this books shows a lot of plot threads that could potentially all come together in a bout of awesome at the end of the series. I think that perhaps that is the other reason I am still not obsessing over this book is that I am still waiting for the series to go somewhere. Which isn’t to say that important things didn’t happen in this book, because they most surely did. However, all of these things leave the impression of events just starting to get into motion. Even the ending of the book (which was quite satisfying, I might add) feels more like the start of things yet to come, rather than a culmination of the events of this part of the story. I think many fantasy stories start with many of the characters together, then branching out on their own adventures, and finally coming together for an epic ending. However, in this case, I feel like most of the characters have been spread apart to begin with, and will hopefully come together in the end for some sort of epic ending.
Overall, I am not super obsessively loving this book. However, I do think it was a good book and well worth reading. I am starting in on the second book because I am afraid I will forget all of the little details if I wait too long. Also, the second book picks up right where the first book left off, so I think reading the entire series (such as it is, as it is yet unfinished) as continuously as possible will probably enhance the story. Hopefully the second book will leave me loving the series a bit more… I am hoping that my lackluster reaction really is due to the slow start and not me losing interest in fantasy novels and other nerdy pursuits. I mean, I haven’t even seen the last few Harry Potter movies. Lately my sewing has been more practical than fantastic, and my bedside stack of “to read” has shifted from fat fantasy novels to technical sewing guides. I don’t know. I seem to be having less of an interest in the nerd pop culture as of late and I wonder, am I losing my nerdiness? I hope not. But I suppose time and a few more fantasy novels will tell.