The book I’m reading at the moment is part of George RR Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series; currently I’m on book 4, ‘A Feast for Crows’. I’m late to this party, having dithered over the years, unsure whether to commit myself or not. But then the TV series came along and I decided to dip my toe in and see what the fuss was about … the fact that Sean Bean was in it had nothing to do with my decision ;o)
After watching Series 1 & 2, I was intrigued enough to give the books a go.
It took me awhile to get through them, but I realise now that was because I already knew what was going to happen. Having said that, by the time I was partway through the second book, ‘A Clash of Kings’, it was becoming clear that there was so much more in the books than in the TV series … obviously, being different mediums and all that. After finishing the second book, I decided I’d enjoyed reading the books more than watching the series, though there were some visual treats that were exceedingly good. Speaking of visual stuff, I’m no prude but honestly – some of the scenes in the TV series were bordering on soft porn, none of which were in the books … although the books do have ‘scenes of a sexual nature’ but nothing so blatantly obvious, which leave nothing to the imagination. And after a while, I found them tedious and just plain old distracting! Oh dear, don’t I sound like an uptight old bat *lol*
Book 3, ‘A Storm of Swords’ is split into 2 books – see why this requires some sort of commitment?! And because I didn’t know what was going to happen, I zoomed right through both of them, finishing them in about 5 days.
I seemed to have slowed down with Book 4 … Mr Martin doesn’t number his chapters, instead heading each chapter with a different character’s point of view.
I think the reason I’m not speeding through this one is, apart from 2 characters, none of the others feature as ‘my favourites’. Also, his descriptive powers seem to be a little out of control … no wonder the book is 847pgs!! Actually the story is 776pgs; the rest lists his cast of characters!!! I admit I’m skimming through parts of the story because I’m not interested in detailed descriptions of battles, places, castles, and such like. I’m also noticing a penchant for mentioning a person or place, swiftly followed by backstory … which leaves me muttering, “Get on with the story, please!”
As a storyteller, Mr Martin borders on being excellent. He really does know how to weave a thoroughly beguiling story, with a cast of (seemingly) hundreds, and he doesn’t lose sight of them. He used the War of the Roses as his inspiration, and the story has the feel of ‘history’ about it, like you’re reading about something that actually happened.
I like that each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different character, and I am amazed at his skill in giving each character a different voice. And his characters include men and women, young children, male and female, mothers, soldiers … each has a different, believable voice.
The other thing that leaves me in wonderment is his ability to conjure up names – names for people, names for places … and we’re talking LOTS of names. I struggle like mad to come up with even a handful of names.
He’s also a brave storyteller – he does not flinch from killing his characters. And the ones he has killed (so far) have left me bug-eyed and slack-jawed! He’s also not afraid of putting them through the wringer, and not just once either.
I find his style of writing easy, in that it’s easy to read and doesn’t try to be clever; I never find myself pulled out of the story. Yet there’s a beauty in the ease and simplicity of it, like in this passage where one of the characters is struggling to part with an object, and realises its value:
'“It’s only a sword,” she said … only it wasn’t. Needle was Robb and Bran and Rickon, her mother and her father, even Sansa. Needle was Winterfell’s grey walls, and the laughter of its people. Needle was the summer snows, Old Nan’s stories, the heart tree with its red leaves and scary face, the warm earthy smell of the glass gardens, the sound of the north wind rattling the shutters of her room. Needle was Jon Snow’s smile. He used to mess my hair and call me “little sister,” she remembered, and suddenly there were tears in her eyes.'
I am enjoying the books … so far … There’s still another 3 to go, with Book 5 split into 2, and I don’t think he’s finished the final one yet. I sincerely hope he DOES finish his story, as promised, in Book 7, and it doesn’t morph into one of those tedious, never-ending sagas.