Monday, January 9, 2012

Book Series Review: A Song of Ice and Fire

[Includes: Game of Thrones, A Storm of Swords, A Clash of Kings, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons.]

The Premise:
A fictional land called Westeros is threatened by a mysterious enemy from without and its own ruling factions from within. This sprawling fantasy epic follows members of various ruling families: The Starks to the North, The Lannisters to the West, The Greyjoys of the Iron Islands, the deposed Targaryens and their usurpers, the Baratheons. Many bonds are formed and casualties had when everyone plays the Game of Thrones.

The Good:
Richly imagined by Mr. George R.R. Martin, this series does not lack for detail. Even though there are close to twenty main characters and hundreds of supplemental characters, each one seems to have their own personality and background. And many of them are worth hanging out with for hundreds of pages. The immersive world is also well thought out and the drama unfolds slowly, so when something happens it feels truly consequential.

The Bad:
I’m going to be honest: I feel another LOST coming on. I don’t think that Mr. Martin really knows where this story is going. Oh sure, he probably claims to have it all mapped out, but I have my doubts. After five books, each about 1,000 pages, the story hasn’t even begun to deliver on the premise set forth in the very first prologue. And, like LOST, he is still introducing new characters—a crutch used by authors and writers as a stalling tactic.

That all aside, one of my biggest problems with the story is Westeros itself. As this world expands and sprawls across oceans, I become less and less convinced that Westeros is a land worth fighting for. It seems to be poor in wealth; lacks technological advantages and the Lords aren’t even as powerful as their slave-owning counterparts. The characters fight for it because the author wants them to, not because they should.

And the books are sadistic. There are some genuinely horrifying elements that are described in all-too-grisly detail. An unnecessary description of a rape comes to mind, as well as the mutilation of a main character. Not things you’ll soon forget.

The Verdict:
Wait and see. Mr. Martin has said there will only be two more books and he doesn’t look to be in the greatest of health. With a six-year gap between the last two books, I would hold off on starting the series until its completion, unless you want to roll the dice and hope it all works out.