Tagged: george r r martin

Why I, a Woman, Enjoy ‘Game of Thrones’

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t watched the first four seasons of Game of Thrones, don’t read this and get mad at me.

Game of Thrones SexismIn some places online (as well as in the real world), there’s this idea that of course women can’t enjoy Game of Thrones because it’s sexist.  They say it objectifies women, there’s gratuitous nudity, it’s an all boys club meant for medieval fantasy fulfillment and that I, as a card-carrying member of Team Woman cannot possibly enjoy such a sexist show.  This annoys me for many reasons but I’m going to explain my logic below for why I enjoy the show, how it could be improved and why these critics aren’t digging deeply enough.

I, as a human being, enjoy the TV show Game of Thrones.  It has nothing to do with my gender, but rather my general love of fantasy with good plot lines.  Fantasy is one of my favourite genres and while I wouldn’t describe myself as a hardcore fan I do read more fantasy than anything else.  I originally picked up George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series because of friend of mine wouldn’t shut up about the TV show and I wanted to read and watch the first season and the first book simultaneously.  I was actually impressed with both: the TV show for how well it captured the vivid world Martin had created and the books for actually containing that vivid, well thought out world. Continue reading

A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin

A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance — beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.

Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys’s claim to Westeros forever.

Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone — a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.

From all corners, bitter conflicts reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all.

After loving the first four books, I’ll admit that I really wanted to love A Dance with Dragons.  I really, really tried.  But it was such slow-going.  It took me over a month to finish this book which should be a warning sign right there.

The problem, I think, at this point in the series is a little something called character bloat.  There are too many characters.  There are so many different houses and players entering into the war for Westeros that it’s simply become ridiculous.  I can hardly keep track of them all and I’m not bragging when I say I have a good memory when it comes to books.  Some points of view could have been cut from the book entirely.  Did Quentyn Martell really have to have his say?  Arya’s story barely went anywhere.

If it was just a slow plot I could handle it but it feels like the characters are going in totally different directions.  Daenerys is an indecisive, idealistic moron compared to the strong, sure young woman she was in previous books.  Jon Snow keeps swinging between rigidly sticking to his oath as a man of the Night’s Watch and totally violating it by siding with a king.  Tyrion…well I don’t know what to think of him anymore.  It’s okay that characters change and explore themselves.  That’s what makes a story good!  But it’s not okay that they randomly go in a whole different direction with pretty much zero explanation.

Despite all this, when I actually sat down to read A Dance with Dragons I didn’t mind it all that much.  Some parts were pretty darn good.  Although George R. R. Martin lost some of the things that made his series great in the beginning (his ability to kill off main characters ruthlessly, for one) he still has that amazing world-building.  We learn so much about Westeros and the rest of Martin’s world that it almost makes up for everything else.  The history of all Seven Kingdoms and the impact on people and other places was fascinating.  I loved learning more about the world’s history!  It added more depth to Martin’s world.

Yes, I will read The Winds of Winter when it finally does get published.  Will I be looking forward to it as much as I did this book?  Probably not.  I’m just hoping that the next book will be better and that we’ll go back to that magical spark George R. R. Martin had in A Game of Thrones.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

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A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin(Cover picture courtesy of TV Tropes.)

With A Feast for Crows, Martin delivers the long-awaited fourth volume of the landmark series that has redefined imaginative fiction and stands as a modern masterpiece in the making.

After centuries of bitter strife, the seven powers dividing the land have beaten one another into an uneasy truce. But it’s not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters of the Seven Kingdoms gather. Now, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—emerge from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges of the terrible times ahead. Nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages, are coming together to stake their fortunes…and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.

Wow, whatever I was expecting out of A Feast for Crows definitely didn’t happen.  You can say whatever you like about George R. R. Martin, but you can’t claim he’s predictable.

You know the tension between the Faith (the traditional seven gods) and the religion of the Lord of Light that was starting in the last book?  Well, it’s definitely cranked up a notch in this one and I really want to see where it goes in the next few books.  Without giving too much away, I think Cersei created a pretty disastrous situation for herself there.  This increasing tension as well as the growing tension between the factions competing for control of Westeros just shows how well Martin really does understand politics.  There are subtle plays for power, hidden alliances and outside factors that influence the politics as well.

Although I understand his reasons for doing it, I wish he would have included the points of view of Daenerys, Tyrion and Jon Snow.  I’m incredibly biased since two of the three are my favourite characters, but I’m also curious about how their stories are playing out in the scheme of things.  However, as a sort of consolation prize, getting the points of view of both Cersei and Jaime as well as new points of view from Dorne were great.  Not only does it give you a far better understanding of said characters, it also allowed for a different perspective on the current political situation.  Jaime’s disgust with Cersei, Cersei’s increasing instability and the power politics in Dorne centering around Myrcella were all fascinating.

For a book that’s nearly a thousand pages long, there weren’t that many places where the plot dragged along.  Of course I got a little bored dealing with some of my least favourite characters, but the plot never crawled to a halt as it sometimes does in fantasy novels with multiple viewpoints.  In typical George R. R. Martin fashion, there’s a heck of a cliffhanger at the end of the novel from pretty much every single viewpoint and I’m actually scared of reading A Dance with Dragons because then I’ll have to wait years for the next book.  I am not necessarily the most patient person in the world when it comes to awesome series like this, that’s for sure.

If you haven’t started A Song of Ice and Fire you need to read the series from the beginning.  Ignore the fact that there’s a TV show and enjoy the books before you decide whether or not you want to watch the show.  Ignore the hype and judge the books on their own merit.  And most of all, if you just finished reading A Storm of Swords you’ll love A Feast for Crows.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin(Cover picture courtesy of Barnes and Noble.)

Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage, as alliances are made and broken.  Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.  His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, victim of the sorceress who holds him in her thrall.  Young Robb still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun.  Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons left in the world.  And as opposing forces maneuver for the final showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost limits of civilization, accompanied by a horde of mythical Others—a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable.  As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords….

A Song of Ice and Fire series just gets better and better as I go along.  Not only was the plot full of unexpected twists this time around, but the characters took some pretty surprising turns.  Characters who were once insignificant now play much more interesting roles and betrayals are around every corner.  Plenty of the betrayals blindsided me and some of the changes in characters’ personalities made sense, but were definitely unexpected.

Part of the reason why I liked A Storm of Swords so much is that George R. R. Martin did so much more world development.  We got to see things from the perspective of wildlings, but also other peoples across the Narrow Sea as well as in the Free Cities.  Not only that, but we got to learn more about the history of Westeros and the surrounding countries in a more natural way rather than having all of the backstory dumped on us.  Martin’s world isn’t the typical fantasy world I thought it was in the first book, in part because Martin actually understands politics.  It’s not a simple good versus evil fight and the characters are completely good or completely evil; there’s ambiguity all throughout the novel.

And of course, where would this series be without its awesome characters?  Daenerys Targaryen, Sansa Stark, Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow all get pretty good page time like in A Clash of Kings, but characters like Jaime Lannister and Samwell Tarly also get their say.  I admit that I like some characters a lot more than others and sometimes the points of view of my least favourite characters were annoying, but that’s just personal preference.  Pretty much all of the points of view Martin uses are necessary to move the story along.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but when of my favourite things about George R. R. Martin is that he’s not afraid to kill off important characters.  Some authors hesitate about killing off their personal favourites or even fan favourites, but not him!  He actually makes his characters suffer to the point where you wonder if it’s too much.  Still, it makes for an excellent novel filled with all kinds of drama set against a brilliant fantasy world.  It’s a thousand pages of pure awesome, to put it bluntly.  Seriously, if you haven’t read this series yet, you should start.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin(Cover picture courtesy of Ciska’s Book Chest.)

In this thrilling sequel to A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin has created a work of unsurpassed vision, power, and imagination.  A Clash of Kings transports us to a world of revelry and revenge, wizardry and warfare, unlike any we have ever experienced.

A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky.  And from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns.  Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingsdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war.  It is a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night.  Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy, a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress, and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside.  Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel…and the coldest hearts.  For when kings clash, the whole land trembles.

Since we got over all of the character introductions in the first book, A Clash of Kings really starts to heat up.  We see Tyrion’s triumphs, Sansa’s struggles, Jon wrestling with decisions involving family and honour and so much more.  Not only do we get to see these characters, we also continue on Arya’s and Daenerys’ points of view and have the added POV of Davos, the ‘Onion Knight’.  This is all very fascinating, but I’m getting the impression that the series could suffer from extreme character bloat in the next few books.  As things heat up in all threads of the plot, I have a feeling it may be hard to keep all of the characters’ stories straight because Martin seems to be adding more and more all of the time.

However, A Clash of Kings generally manages to stay on topic and not get too sidetracked.  We see characters like Sansa finally mature and unlikely heroes like Tyrion and Daenerys triumph in their own ways.  Part of what has impressed me so much about A Song of Ice and Fire is the characters and how much time is devoted to their development.  They are so much more complicated than their archetypal descriptions would suggest and that makes A Clash of Kings a fascinating read.  Characters can make or break a story for me, so I’m thankful for Martin’s attention to detail.

For an epic fantasy novel, A Clash of Kings is quite fast-paced.  There is a bit of a slouch in the middle of the story, but compared to a lot of epic fantasy out there, the plot still moves forward.  Alliances are made and broken, murders are planned and carried out and treason is all around.  You never really know what’s going to happen next and that’s really what made this second book so exciting, even more so than the first.

The further development of the fantasy world is satisfying as well.  We start to learn about places other than Westeros, in part because of Daenerys’ travels.  We also learn more about the other powerful empires in Martin’s world as well as the fact that there are free, trade-based cities within this world of kings and tyrants.  This is not just your typical epic fantasy with kings and queens; George R. R. Martin has obviously studied history and knows that nothing is ever that simple.  In some places, there are republics and in others there are oligarchies and in still others (Westeros) there are the traditional monarchies.  The politics within all of these countries are more nuanced than I’ve come to expect, so I really do appreciate Martin’s world-building.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Spotlight: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Spotlight is my weekly feature in which I highlight a book I’m really looking forward to or really enjoyed.  This week it’s A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, a book it seems everyone is talking about.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

In A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin has created a genuine masterpiece, bringing together the best the genre has to offer.  Mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill the pages of the first volume in an epic series sure to delight fantasy fans everywhere.

In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing.  The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the North of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall.  At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to.  Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.  Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

Is A Game of Thrones the best fantasy book ever published like some claim?  No, not really.  But is it a good book?  Certainly!

I love to get lost in a good book, especially when it’s epic fantasy, so George Martin’s book was a great escape for me lately.  Being propelled into a world where dragons once existed and where winters can last for years was quite the change from the swath of realistic and historical fiction I’ve read lately.  I haven’t curled up with a good fantasy book in a while and if you haven’t either, I’d highly recommend A Game of Thrones.

The world-building is pretty good, but it’s definitely the characters that made me want to highlight this book.  The Starks are obviously the main attraction since the saga follows them, but characters like Tyrion Lannister will make you see both sides of the conflict.  Of course there are the ‘bad’ characters as well, but they’re not all they seem as well.  Cersei, the Queen of Westeros, seems to be your stereotypical Evil Queen, but it’s her background story that makes her oddly sympathetic to me.

I don’t want to give too much away, but if you like characters with actual depth and long, intertwined narratives, you’ll love A Game of Thrones.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin(Cover picture courtesy of Eat, Run, Read.)

In A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin has created a genuine masterpiece, bringing together the best the genre has to offer.  Mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill the pages of the first volume in an epic series sure to delight fantasy fans everywhere.

In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing.  The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the North of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall.  At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to.  Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.  Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

So, here we are again: I’m about to tackle another incredibly famous book.  Only this time there’s now an even more popular television series based on it.  And I’ve already watched up to the most current episode of the show while reading A Game of Thrones.  This will be interesting, won’t it?  As always, one must ask if the book is as good as its hype.

In a way it is, and in a way it isn’t.

I say that in a way A Game of Thrones doesn’t live up to its hype is because for an avid fantasy reader like me there is no way it could ever live up to such ridiculous hype.  Not even Harry Potter could live up to all of that hype.  And that’s perfectly okay.  It’s still a good book and I’ll try to look at it objectively, disregarding the fact that I’ve watched the television series as well.

George R. R. Martin jumps between quite a few points of view during the course of his epic novel, but I wouldn’t say that it got confusing at any point.  Mostly the characters don’t retell the same thing another character covered and it does move events along quite quickly for a fantasy novel.  The tales of the Starks and the Lannisters are fascinating and I love how we get to see both sides of the story, as well as the great subplot with Daenerys Targaryen, one of two remaining descendants of the last king.  Daenerys is a personal favourite, but Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark are close runners up.

The thing I love about A Game of Thrones is that we get to see what drives pretty much every character.  Not all characters are sympathetic in the traditional sense (Joffrey), but some of them like Cersei are oddly sympathetic.  It might just be me but I feel sorry for her being forced into a marriage with a man who would always love a dead girl even though she loved him in the beginning.  Robert never even gave her a chance.  Characters like Sansa who seem annoying in the beginning actually acquire depth throughout the story and even minor characters are well fleshed out.  There are the sort of girl power characters like Arya, but I like Sansa more because she’s a product of the culture she was raised in.  In short, she was raised to be the definition of a ‘lady’ and that’s who she is in the beginning.

Westeros isn’t exactly the most unique fantasy world I’ve ever encountered because it’s based on Britain yet again.  You can easily draw comparisons between Hadrian’s Wall and the Wall, the barbaric tribes, the brutal ruling classes, etc.  However, I wouldn’t say it’s completely cliché partly because the concept of ever changing seasons like summers or winters that last for years is intriguing.  The different lands in Westeros are interesting as well as the lands across the Narrow Sea.

So would I recommend A Game of Thrones?  Absolutely!  Would I call it the greatest fantasy novel I’ve ever read or ever will read?  No.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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