I have been so ridiculously busy. So busy, in fact, that I’ve had to cancel numerous engagements. One of which was the bookclub’s April discussion this past Sunday. My husband’s family has taken over my life! We’ve also had a ton of home repairs done since our two year warranty expired in April, gone to see Les Mis, attended obligatory birthday/engagement celebrations, and many other events. And I don’t see the madness ending any time soon. In between the non-stop busy, I’ve found time to cram in the entire series of Lost (this means I don’t sleep). Unfortunately, reading has taken a back seat.
I did finish A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin a couple of weeks ago. By now, I assume everyone has read the book, seen the HBO series, or knows enough about the story to skip introductions and proper reviews. Instead, I’d rather just keep to the high and low points. Let’s discuss, shall we?
Martin’s first installment in his A Song of Fire and Ice saga is epically long. I have the large hardback edition and it has almost 700 pages of story. That kind of length can be daunting to even the best of readers. Then to imagine the multiple follow-up books in the series that are just as long, if not longer, is terrifying. And not all of those pages are entirely worthwhile or exciting. The first 400 pages or so were a bit slow – drowning in the tedium of world-building and creating a sufficient back story for the myriad characters. But once the world was fleshed out, the pacing really picked up and I could not put the sucker down.
As for the world-building, while it might make things tedious momentarily, it is totally worth it in the end. Westeros absolutely comes alive. You can see the castles, the terrain, and the people in such detail without even trying. Martin has made imagining his creation effortless and stunning. I felt the cold of the north and fear beyond the wall. A map of the land was included on the front pages and end pages of my edition, but I found it wasn’t necessary. That takes vision and talent.
Two things really pleased me within GoT. First, I became obsessed with the questions of moral ambiguity. Nowhere does Martin leave his characters or readers with a simple choice. Nothing is black and white – the characters who refuse to adapt, evolve, or alter their thinking/actions never have happy endings. Sometimes even the honorable decision ends up not so honorable. The characters are just as richly complex. Barring a couple of exceptions, the evil people all have reasons for being that way or some level of good buried deep inside and vice versa. To be honest, one of the characters I liked least was Eddard Stark and he’s the most upstanding, noble guy in the book. He frustrated me to no end.
The second aspect of GoT that I relished was how deeply rooted in a humanistic world this high fantasy novel is grounded. There are mystical creatures, magical happenings, and eventually, DRAGONS, but those things (at least in Book 1) take a back seat to the human stories that Martin is telling. At the heart of GoT is a mystery – a whodunit. All the fantastical elements have a place and purpose – never ending up feeling indulgent or gratuitous. That’s why the fan base is so huge and diverse.
I could rave on and on. I loved how important the young characters come to be, how no one is safe, and Jon Snow (my favorite character!). I’m just amazed at how much I’ve come to care for these fictional people and their lives. After finishing GoT, I immediately bought A Clash of Kings and have made my way through 200 pages (then got sidetracked by Lost). I also inhaled the HBO series which I thought was brilliantly done. With all that said and done, I highly recommend GoT, especially if you think you don’t like high fantasy. This book will change your mind!!