I finally did it. I sucked it up and bought the four-book pack of The Song of Ice and Fire series on my Kindle. I first heard about the series as a whole from one of my friends who was raving about it on Facebook. I soon made the connection that this was the same series that the new hit HBO show was based on; the show that everyone on Twitter seemed to be all abuzz about. Naturally my curiosity peaked higher. When my fellow Harry Potter lovers (who may know as much, if not more, about HP as I do) told me I had to read the series, I could resist no longer.
Let me just say: If you buy this book pack on your Kindle…prepare for mental anguish as you vainly hit next page approx 12,000 times before making ANY progress in your percentage bar at the bottom. A friend warned me about it, but I didn’t realize just how bad it would be. Although the 73 chapter warning in the Table of Contents should have given me something called a hint. Just letting you know–Beware. Take heart that you aren’t alone in your frustratingly long journey towards the end…of book 1.
I have to say that I did no research as to what the plot was, so I was a little lost at the beginning of the book. I realized we were in medieval times and there seemed to be a fantasy element to the stories, although it wasn’t very prominent after the prologue. I was engrossed. I think the chapter constructions are stupendously done. George R. R. Martin tells each chapter from a different character’s point of view. At first, it’s very confusing because there are over 20 main characters in this story, all with complex or similar names. However, it starts to get helpful when you read the chapter context and can start placing characters more definitely within their families, their roles, and their allegiances. I was worried at first when I saw that the chapter headings were names of characters because I find that it’s hard for me to stomach books that take me too close to the characters’ psyche and inner workings. This was a refreshing third person point of view with enough distance that I could separate myself from the character and enough closeness to be acutely aware of emotions and plot nuances at all times. Splendid job there, for real.
The dozens of characters were very hard to keep up with. At the end of the book, I’m still a touch confused as to who was related to whom and what so-and-so’s name is. If you purchase the physical books, it’s a simple matter of flipping to the back for referral. With a Kindle, you don’t have that luxury (and that, children, is why e-books are not the answer). So I pulled up a character guide on Wikipedia and used it whenever I could. Strongly recommend you do the same. If you don’t need to do any referring, damn I salute you. I have to say that I was absolutely captivated by the name Daenerys, one of the main characters of the book. Initially I wasn’t impressed with her character, but boy does she surprise you as the books go on. The name itself was what I found beautiful from the moment I read it. So beautiful that it deserves special mention in this post. And perhaps a reserved ‘middle name’ spot for one of my children.
The medieval setting is very well done. Martin has obviously researched customs and ways extensively and the thought that must have gone into creating the family lines is almost comparable to J.K. Rowling’s genius with her research and extensive general knowledge in the Harry Potter series. Every character that he has built has a three-dimensional personality; even the ones that don’t get as much page-time as the others. He never dictates whether a character is good or bad, it’s a journey left entirely to the readers. I loved that aspect because I found that it was rather like meeting people for the first time and then gauging their merits and demerits on future behaviour and exchanges. The characterization is, in a word, brilliant.
The plot has incredibly intricate sub-plots and yet everything ties up into one very jarring, explosive, all-encompassing storyline. It reminds me of a soap opera combined with a Shakespearean royal tragedy of sorts. I bet if the old bard were alive today, he’d make one heck of a play out of the book. I can definitely see why the series was made into a TV show. Each individual book would need seven movies to cover the ground. I was drawn to the plot at all times, even though sometimes I didn’t know why. In the wrong hands, this plot would have been a raging disaster. It has the potential to be dry, boring, slow, and tedious. Martin manages, for the most part, to avoid those pitfalls.
For all that and many more good qualities of the book, I was ready to mark it with four snitches of approval. To be certain, I was reading it all weekend long. However, I found it to be a pretty tiresome book as well. Why? Because I was reading it ALL. WEEKEND. LONG. I don’t know if the lack of Kindle progress had anything to do with it, but I found myself getting frustrated that the story was dragging on and on and on and on. I strongly feel that we could have done without at least 10-15 chapters, maybe condensing the gist into one. Yes it it helped to tremendously build on the characters, but it also made me think to myself “Ok, let’s get on with it…”. That happened so often towards the middle and until the end of the book that I feel the need to mark it just a little lower. During the last 10 chapters, I found myself questioning whether I was finishing the book because I genuinely wanted to know what would happen next or because I was just too damn frustrated and wanted to press “Next” until I finally hit the last page.
There’s no doubt that I am eager to read the rest of the series. Unfortunately, I am now on my guard for long-winded chapters and pointless interactions, circa Lord of the Rings. For those of you who know me, you know I tried desperately to read those books thrice and all three times, I did not get past page 100 of book 1. Every time I stumble with The Song of Ice and Fire, I shall remember the pain LOTR gave me and will power through. So stay tuned for my review of books 2-6.