Sunday, 5 January 2014

Book of the Week: A Song of Ice and Fire

"Before he had lost his sight, the maester had loved books as much as Samwell Tarly did. He understood the way that you could sometimes fall right into them, as if each page was a hole into another world."

This book of the week is actually more a series of the week. It might end up slightly larger than usual, but what better way to kick off the year than with a bumper review like this one, eh? Bit sad of me to admit it, but one of my biggest achievements of 2013 was finishing the entire published collection of A Song of Ice and Fire books by George R. R. Martin. It almost defeated me, but I'm glad I powered through, as it has definitely earned itself a place on the bookshelf of my favourite series'. I'm now comfily tucked away watching in HBO's Game of Thrones, with no immediate plans to resurface, and I thought that, as I reviewed the first of the series earlier in 2013, there was no better way to begin the new year than by rounding off the last.

There are many aspects of the series that I loved, and, although just by sheer probability in a series of this size, I should have a few issues with it, I'm struggling to think of any! There were a few characters that I wasn't so keen on, but you can't really call that a fault - it would be dull if you loved them all. If you've been living under a rock and have no idea what the series entails, go and have a quick read of my Game Of Thrones review for a very brief synopsis, but here I'm just going to delve straight into it and tell you all the things I loved about the books. Here goes.

My first love of the books, which has remained the same from the outset, is my favourite character: Tyrion Lannister. Others have held the title only fleetingly, and at the moment I'm particularly partial to Jon Snow, but I think that might have more to do with the fact that I've started watching the TV series than anything he actually does in the books. Hello Kit Harington... However, for me and, I suspect, for many others, I will always have a soft spot for good old Tyrion. It's a combination of his wit and the fact that he is seen as a monster by his family (the most ruthless, manipulative and horrid I have ever encountered on the written page) that does it. As an underdog, he's very easy to sympathise with and, rather contradictory to his Lannister roots, he has a conscience, making him rather difficult not to love. If you've read it, I'm sure you'll know exactly what I mean.

A touch that I really enjoyed as the books progressed was the introduction of chapters from new characters, some new to the story altogether, others present throughout, but to hear their viewpoints was a breath of fresh air. For example, the Lannisters were nothing more than an evil entity throughout the first books, seemingly there for the sole purpose of thwarting the 'good guys' out of spite and enjoyment. However, with the new insight into their motives, a more interesting layer was added, and I found myself less inclined to hate them. I mean, I did still hate them, I was never going to warm to Cersei, but now at least I feel a little bit bad about it. The fact that Martin had chosen to establish the chapters in this way, at first, seemed a little odd, but as the books ventured forward, this division not into numbers but into points of view was definitely a fantastic vehicle in making sure that the material never became stale. I have a feeling he was planning that the whole time, so bravo George, bravo. 

Another aspect I particularly liked was the fact that as the books grew, so did the world in which they inhabited. With each passing tome, the characters were scattered further afield, introducing us to more far off and exotic places than we had seen yet. This was particularly, and perhaps most obviously, present in the chapters of Daenerys, whose voyage back to Westeros takes her to the most unusual places. Other more surprising characters make their own journeys and often cross paths without even realising it, another thrill of excitement for me (bit sad, I know). I won't comment on who leaves Westeros and who remains, might ruin it a bit for some, but trust me, it's brilliant. Through delving into other lands, layers of intrigue are added to the story, and the different backdrops allow for a number of situations which ensure the pages of this epic tome don't lose momentum, which, let's be honest, they were in danger of doing on occasion. The amount of thought and effort put into all of the intrinsic details of the world is astounding to me. As the story unravels, it is clear just how much planning has gone into even the smallest of events. They all fit together, like pieces of a mammoth puzzle, and it takes a very dedicated, special kind of author to provide a world like that for his readers. But actually, despite the exploration of all these new and diverse places, Bravos in particular becoming a prominent and intriguing new location, my favourite setting was actually the bleakest place in the books; The Wall. Go figure!

I'm so happy that I've managed to conquer this gargantuan series, at least the portion of which that is available thus far. It seemed a bit of a task when I started out, but as I got more and more engrossed, the time positively flew by and I was drinking in the last few pages before I knew it. Granted, it did hit a bit of a lull around the fourth book, but mark my words, as soon as you find yourself losing focus, Martin smacks you with a shocking plot twist that leaves you reeling and hungry for an explanation. The final published book has left me desperate for the next instalment, The Winds of Winter, which does not yet have a publication date (wahh!!). Supposedly this will be the first of the final two instalments of the series, the latter being A Dream of Spring, and I think I'll feel rather lost when I reach it's final chapter. That being said, the books were originally meant to be a trilogy, so you never can tell!

Have you read the Song Of Ice And Fire series? Did you also struggle to tear your eyes away?! What were a few of your favourite things about it? Let me know!


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  1. I really loved reading the books (read the first one in 2010 and have been anxiously awaiting each new release), but I seriously cannot STAND the damn TV series! I think it's really badly done, cramming 1000+ pages into 10 episodes per series, and although the casting is mostly spot-on, I feel like they gave different characters way more importance and weight than they had in the books (like Rob, for example)... I defnitely would recommend the books over the series!

    I agree with you that I really enjoyed the worlds getting bigger and expanding! It's definitely a wonderful universe that George RR Martin has created, although there's better fantasy series that come to mind (The Demon Cycle series by Peter V. Brett comes to mind, as well as The Night Angel trilogy, one of my faves!), but he's definitely created one of the most expansive worlds!

    I don't know that I have a favorite character per say, but I do enjoy Jaime Lannister and Brienne, and am really intrigued where both the Bran and Catelyn Stark storylines will lead.
    I definitely agree with you, the next book can't come soon enough - congrats on finishing them all! :))

    1. Ahh, I love the TV series. It does irritate me a bit when they just gloss over things that were really prominent in the books, but I've started thinking about it as loosely based on the books and now I'm loving it! You're right though, the books are 100 times better than the show - most books are!

      I've never heard of The Demon Cycle, I'll definitely go and give it a look as I love fantasy fiction, thanks for the heads up! My favourite fictional world is always going to be Harry Potter though. Can't get enough of that one! =)

      Thanks, same to you! I feel like we deserve some kind of diploma for reading them all though haha =) xx

  2. Omg! Congrats on reading the whole thing! Those series are long! Lol I'm only the fourth book. Reading your article makes me wonder now who dies..... I know that in this world, no one is safe!

    1. I know! Haha I worried for everyone all the time!! I can't wait for the next one to be released, although that could be ages! xx