Home » Reviews » Thoughts on A Song Of Ice and Fire Series (thus far)

Thoughts on A Song Of Ice and Fire Series (thus far)

As you know, dear readers, this past August I started reading George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. I did this for three reasons:

  1. It kept getting recommended to me by fellow book lovers.
  2. I wanted to get some insight into how HBO was handling the series’ adaptation from book to film.
  3. I wanted to know what was going to happen in the show.

Well, dear readers, I finished the series a few weeks ago, and I have many, many thoughts that I’d like to share with you, hopefully without spoiling anything too important.

First and foremost, I must confess that I am not well read in the fantasy genre. My experience with this genre is limited primarily to things I read as a child and teenager, like Philip Pullman’s series His Dark Materials, Brian Jacques’ Redwall, and (of course) Harry Potter. This was my first venture into fantasy as an adult, and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into; all I knew was that I was a fan of the show, and that there were a *lot* of pages in these books.

Alright, now that that confession of initial ignorance is done, down to business.

I can honestly say that overall I enjoyed the books, and found it a very fun series to read. It gave me more insight into the characters without detracting too much from the plot, which, as you can well imagine, lends well to a better overall understanding of an *extremely* complicated world. As those of you who’ve watched the show know, it can be more than a little bit overwhelming to remember who is who when the cast of important characters numbers in the dozens as opposed to just a handful. I know I at least often got confused while watching the show, so much so that when Season 3’s infamous Red Wedding happened I couldn’t remember who Catelyn was talking to (spoiler: Roose Bolton) right before everything went down.

Yes, these are just the ones in the show. More get added in later books.

Reading the scenes also helped me better understand why they do the things that they do. Having chapters told from multiple characters’ points of view gives readers tremendous insight into these characters’ motivations, because it allows us to see into their heads in a way that the TV show doesn’t. As a viewer, I knew maybe half of the things that made the main characters tick, and that meant that there were times in the show where the characters would do something that confused me. This wasn’t a problem when reading the books.

While the first two books were very good, the best book for me was by far the third book, A Storm of Swords. This is where Martin seemed to really hit his stride with the series, and while it did take a little while to pick up steam (a problem that is the case in all of the books; it takes a good 300+ pages before the action starts really going) the payoff was definitely worth it. Hands down, this book has one of the most exciting and intense endings I have *ever* read, and I’ve read a lot of books! I 100% understand why they split this book in half when adapting it for HBO; so much happens in the last 300-400 pages, I’m honestly surprised they didn’t split it into three seasons!

Different fandom, but apt description of my reaction to the end of A Storm of Swords

After that, however, the series did take a turn for the worst. I’m sure those of you who have friends who’ve read the series have already told you this, but the fourth and fifth books, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, are just not up to par with the standards set by A Storm of Swords. The reason this is the case is because A Feast for Crows and the first ~800 pages of A Dance with Dragons were initially supposed to be one book; George R. R. Martin was forced to split them into two because there was too much material. This means that all the action we’re used to seeing crammed into one book is now spread out over two…each of which is between 900 and 1050 pages long. Predictably, the books suffered for this; in my opinion, he would’ve been better served getting a more cut-friendly editor, but that’s irrelevant at this point.

A Feast for Crows was an actual chore for me to get through, and took far longer to read than A Storm of Swords did, even though it’s a couple hundred pages shorter. This was because, and I am not exaggerating here, *nothing happens.* At all. Okay, that’s not entirely fair; a few things happen here and there that are kind of interesting. But compared to its predecessor, absolutely nothing happens. A bit more happens in A Dance with Dragons, but again, compared to the things that happen in the first three books, the payoff is a bit of a letdown.

Wish I’d actually listened when people warned me about this

On top of this, each of these books only deal with half of the series’ cast of characters. A Feast For Crows only has chapters from characters in or near King’s Landing, which means that characters that we’ve come to love like Daenerys, John Snow, and Tyrion (who leaves King’s Landing at the end of the third book) are not featured in this book. Instead, we get many (too many, in my opinion) chapters told from the perspective of Cersei Lannister, who up until this point hasn’t had any chapters of her own. This is just my opinion, of course, but I think there was a reason for this: Cersei Lannister is a boring character.
She comes across as being a cunning medieval femme fatale in the other books, but once you get inside her head you realize her motivations are drab and, more importantly, that there’s nothing interesting about her at all. She is a prime example of a two-dimensional “flat” character (as opposed to a developed “round” character) whose only interest is power and isn’t actually all that smart, which made her chapters decidedly unpleasant for me to read. I can only assume that the reason Martin decided to include her perspective in the series was to show that we the readers had been fooled into thinking that she’s something she’s not…but that could have been easily accomplished in a few short chapters, not a third of the book.

Sorry, Cersei

A Dance with Dragons was better than A Feast for Crows (not that that would’ve been particularly hard to accomplish), but it was still lacking a certain urgency that I’d liked about the first three books, especially A Storm of Swords. Character favorites that’d been missing from its predecessor are back, but again, we miss other characters’ perspectives until the last couple hundred pages; you only get two chapters about Arya, for instance, and Sansa, whose plot was one of the few highlights of A Feast for Crows, is missing entirely. The book does end on a higher note than A Feast for Crows and is more in line with the ending of A Storm of Swords than A Feast for Crows, but it still didn’t quite meet my expectations (which, I’ll admit, were higher than they probably should’ve been, considering how hard it must be to follow up an ending like the one in A Storm of Swords).

Like I said, all in all I enjoyed the series; if nothing else, I’d recommend it just on the basis of how good A Storm of Swords was. And while the last two books were a letdown for me, I am hopefully that book six, forthcoming The Winds of Winter, will be able to overcome these issues simply because Martin can now continue moving the plot forward linearly instead of jumping back and forth between geographical regions.

In the meantime, I can honestly say that I am very, very excited about the HBO show to start up again this spring. Don’t panic, dear readers, I will not spoil what happens anymore than I already have. You will just have to go and read the books for yourselves if you really want to know. I will only say one thing: Season Four is going to be *intense.* Oh, alright, I have no self control with these sorts of things so I’ll say one more thing: the Red Wedding was just the beginning. That could be a good or a bad thing, you’ll just have to wait and see (or read) for yourself.

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21 thoughts on “Thoughts on A Song Of Ice and Fire Series (thus far)

  1. Hey, thanks for the follow. I read the first three books a couple of years ago. I was on a week-long sailing tour and just marathon read them. I never ended up finishing the series though…

    • You’re most welcome! Thank YOU for the follow 🙂 You ended on a high note then; like I said, the last two books really aren’t anything to write home about. I’d wait until the 6th and maybe even the 7th came out before even considering starting up the series. Unrelated: A week-long sailing tour sounds amazingly awesome! I’m quite jealous.

  2. I got maybe 200 pages into the 3rd book in that series, just not my style of story! love the writing style tho. wish martin would not kill ALL his characters…

    • They’re definitely not for everyone, and one of the things that I touched on briefly (and probably should’ve written more about, in hindsight) is that the beginnings of all the books are VERY slow. Like, painfully slow, even for someone like me who does like these sorts of stories. And Martin doesn’t kill ALL his characters…just…a lot of them…especially the ones named Stark…:(

  3. I love those books. They inspired me to really start writing. I do agree with you that the fourth book was a chore, and the fifth book just wasn’t the same without Sansa, Arya, and Jaime. I was satisfied in most aspects though, accept I really with there had been more chapters with Bran. His story is the only one directly dealing with The Others and where it was left for him was only half what I was hoping for. The last 250 pages made up for a lot because things finally started coming back together and as you said, had that Storm if Swords feeling to it.
    Thanks for following my blog The Plagued, hope I don’t disappoint.

    • You’re most welcome! I look forward to the upcoming posts. Also, thanks for the follow back! 🙂

      Yeah, Dance with Dragons was MUCH better than A Feast for Crows, especially those last 200-300 pages once he’d gotten over the plot stagnation (i.e., the parts that were supposed to be coupled with A Feast for Crows) and was finally moving the entire series forward again. It’s why I have high hopes for The Winds of Winter. I agree on the Bran front, that was a big let down for me too. I’m crossing my fingers that he’ll be the primary character in The Winds of Winter, the way Cersei was the primary character for A Feast for Crows; after all, like you said, he’s the one dealing directly with The Others, and The Others are going to arguably be a more prominent feature now that winter has come.

      • Yeah I really hope so. There are so many things I never get to talk to anyone about because no one I know has read the books. I don’t want to spoil anything for your readers either, but the Greyjoy family has come from left field and I look forward to any chapters featuring any of them. This next book will have so many characters twisting in and out of it that I have no idea how he’s going to tie it all together to end it in the seventh. Guess we will just have to wait 3-5 more years to find out.

      • Ditto! I’m not too worried about spoiling things for my readers in the comments section, but just in case, readers who haven’t finished the books: maybe look away now?

        Both the Greyjoy clan and the Dorne clan are going to be verrry fun to watch, they’re placed very strategically. I’m wondering if one of the Sand Snakes is already in King’s Landing as one of the septas when Cersei does her little walk of shame. I couldn’t quite tell how much time had passed between those two sections.

        Also, and I’m going to be intentionally cryptic here just in case a reader is peaking when he/she shouldn’t be, I’m holding out hope that the Jon Snow thing isn’t all that it seems. Mostly because I don’t like it. But also given certain similar cases in the past, namely in A Storm of Swords, that would suggest that there’s a possibility that it shouldn’t be taken at face value.

      • True, but her predictions didn’t say the outcome, per say. I know it’s unlikely, but I’m still crossing my fingers that it isn’t as it seems. Call it wishful thinking 😀

        Oh man, both of those plots are going to be intense, especially the Griffin. I don’t want to be one of those obnoxious fans who yells at Martin to hurry up and put out the book–I know writing anything takes time, and his books are beasts, so he needs a *lot* of time–but…I really wish the sixth book were coming out tomorrow :3

      • Waiting for them is terrible. I don’t think the thing with Jon is what it seems either. Her predictions haven’t all played out yet is what I meant. Also I feel really bad for the Quentin Martell. That part was crazy

      • I’m definitely not looking forward to the wait. Fingers crossed he sticks with his 2014 prediction…tho I’d be shocked if he did. If the book were actually coming out next year I think we would’ve heard about it, considering how long the publication and publicity processes are. Eehh…yes, Quentin Martell was sad…but…he was also kind of the textbook definition of dumbass…I don’t know. I personally didn’t really care when that happened, not in the same way I’ve cared about similar events. The point of attachment just wasn’t there for me.

      • 2014 for Winds of Winter, I’m guessing 2016 for whatever the final book will be called. I have a theory for the dragons based solely off their colors as to who will be their riders, but at this point it’s become pretty obvious and I feel confident that I am right. I hope he touches back on Seaworth in the next book too, because that was left open ended and is annoying the crap out of me. The one thing I’m really excited for in the show, even though it probably won’t be until next year until we even see it, is Bravvos, Volantis, and Valayria getting to see how they do those locations. But they won’t even be in this next season so I guess I’m getting too far ahead of myself. Oh yeah, and Dorne too.

      • Fingers crossed he sticks with those dates (though I’m betting he won’t). Ugh yeah! Okay good I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who was super not okay with the Davos bit. That was irksome. I’m excited to see the new places too…but I’m more excited for the second half of A Storm of Swords being on the silver screen. It’s going to be so much fun to watch…and just as much fun to watch the non-readers watch 😀 😀

      • Finally the Dornish are going to get some screen time too. I’m excited to see who they cast as the Viper. This season is going to be mostly about the wall and kings landing, so I hope they play things right. I was disappointed by the absence of Deadhands in the last season, and the talking door weirwood door that got cut as well. I don’t know what they are going to show for Bran this upcoming season because they were already caught up to the fifth book at the end of season 3 for him.
        Thank you for being the person I finally get to talk to about the future of GoT. This is really awesome

      • Wait…no? They’re nowhere near the fifth book at the end of season 3, they just had Jojen and his sister show up and watched the fight between Jon Snow and Ygritte when the whole Hodor thing happened. They’re still in book 3 with Bran, it’s Theon whose plot is being pulled from book 5. Or am I completely misremembering things, because I was definitely suffering from post-Red Wedding PTSD when I watched that finale.

        Also, the Google machine says they’ve cast a Chilean actor named Pedro Pascal to play the Red Viper 🙂 http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0050959/

        I found this too. I only checked out Pedro Pascal on IMDB though, so I don’t know if it’s legit or not http://www.wetpaint.com/game-of-thrones/gallery/2013-07-30-season-4-cast-meet-faces#1

      • Also, you’re very welcome. The only people I know who’ve read the books haven’t read them recently enough to remember the details and/or want to talk about them haha, even though they were the ones who recommended I read them in the first place!

      • At the end of the season they had Bran and the others cross under the wall after running into Sam. They skipped a lot there. I love the parts with Theon because everything that has happened to him in the show is based of like two paragraphs of writing in the first chapter with him from the fifth book.

      • Ohh I thought they just ran into Sam, not that they’d actually gone under the wall. My bad! Well, then I bet they’ll just run into Deadhands on their own right away and drag out the journey through the north. They won’t be able to do much else without deviating a lot from the book, which they’ll have to do anyway to a certain degree. Bran’s story is seriously underdeveloped in the books after book 3; HBO will have to fill in the gaps in order to keep it interesting for television. And yeah I thought they did a great job with Theon. I like how the entire dick in the box ending all stemmed from *one* reference in the book to Ramsey taking “that other thing.” Related note: Am I the only one who thinks that Martin has a serious castration anxiety problem? Because there are literally tens of thousands of eunuchs in these books, and I’m not just talking about the Unsullied. It couldn’t have been *that* common in the Middle Ages.

      • Yeah there are definitely a lot of eunuchs. I think the show will spend a lot of time going into Wolf Dreams this season with Bran, and hopefully they might touch on one with Arya or Jon since they both have them as well. This will be a sad season for Theon, but things will progress as necessary. I know the ridiculous budget of the show only goes so far, but it would be nice to see more magic. In my opinion they are easing into it too slowly. This season will be the last for a lot of characters, and the wait to see how they pull it off is killing me.

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