Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A Song of Ice and Fire - Four books in and so a review so far...

Having been extremely encouraged by Book 1: A Game of Thrones, I have embarked on a mini-mission of getting as much of this series read as possible. Consequently I am now on Book 4 : A Feast Of Crows. The others I was able to read here and there while basking in the sun on holiday. Weighty tomes they were too, each running over 600 pages or so.

Book one dragged me in and (I hate this phrase) it was a real 'page-turner'.Though I still have reservations about the ages of some of the characters, especially the female ones (e.g.Daenerys), I can perhaps see that Martin was aiming at something more medieval in tone. Young girls being married off for political and economic expediency and life expectancy being shorter. Even so, I'm not always convinced that he is able to authentically portray the mind of a 'child' - though, to be fair, Arya is convincing in parts, but grows up extermely quickly.
Nevertheless, all have been very readable, which is the important point. I felt that the hugely complex interrelationships between the various different families (or Houses), their squabbles, alliances and betrayals were handled confidently and fluently. It is a big ask to remember all of the connections and I'm not sure if I can accurately tell you who likes/hates who all of the time. The narrative therefore does 'pause' at times to remind the reader of previous events (some with better memories have argued that it's tant amount to repetition). Given that the chapters themselves are relatively short, this does mean that some information can feel a little redundant. This was true for me at times , I have to say, but this may have also been because I was reading all novels in a row and quite quickly.
Overall, I like the narrative structure, with each chapter being seen through the eyes of a different character - and (no spoiler) don't think that just because a character has their own chapter, that they can't come to a very grizzly end! Martin is more than capable of throwing a deathly 'curve ball'.
The descriptions are clear and  the narrative pace well structured and at times completetly engrossing. I enjoyed the journey through all books and the devastation wrought by the characters on each other. The other plus about a series of POV chapters is that you can see the impact of the events of the novel from a variety of perspectves. With a long novel series such as this, it helps.
I think the final thing to say is that according to the Amazon reviewers, the installment I am reading now and the next one (A Dance With Dragons) are less narratively engaging and lead the story in different directions, while bypassing some of the central characters somewhat. That remains to be seen. What I do think is that an undertaking of writing about a world as complex and involved as this is going to have to take different paths as it moves along. I do get that this means it sems to lack a sense of moving towards a definite conclusion. But here I am going to wait and be patient - and write more later...


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