Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Mad Historian's Athenaeum, Vol. 1, No. 15

Martin, George R.R. A Storm of Swords. New York: Bantam Spectra, 2000. 973 ppg.

            You have to hand it to George R.R. Martin. He can write extremely well. Almost no one will read a book that is over 900 pages long unless it has a lot of pictures and here Martin has none. Yet, the reader is not only chugging through those pages, they’ve already read the first two books in the series, are now reading this one, and are reaching for the fourth and fifth books next. The only complaint here is that this could easily have been two books in order to cut down on the extremely long writing time in between tomes. Tomes is the correct word to use here for books bordering on a thousand pages.
            How does Martin get people to read these huge tomes? There are no dwarves or elves here, no wizards flinging spells about, or magical beasts abounding. Instead there are humans, next to no magic if any and even then rarely involved and seemingly either an accident, luck, or a remnant from a former age. The dragons in the novel are interesting, but play a minor role at the moment. Instead, it is the conflict between humans that drips from each page as they jockey for power, lust, revenge, and survival in a world where failure is met with death. This is a grisly world where there are no real heroes, just scared men and women struggling to survive.

            One of the best parts of this novel is Martin’s willingness to kill off any character. Beloved figures mean nothing to Martin. Their inky blood can be found anywhere in the book. Death lurks behind each page waiting to be turned. Readers can be scared to read a point of view section from their favorite characters because they sometimes end with the death of that character. Yet, they still turn the page and wince as their hero breathes his or her last. A happy ending for a character in these novels is dying in their sleep before someone cuts their throat.

            The plot in this novel, third in the series is interesting. Having watched every episode of the Game of Thrones HBO series, I had no illusions as to what was going to take place in the book. With that prior knowledge, I still eagerly devoured each page as if I did not know what was to take place. In no way was I disappointed. The Red Wedding still occurred, Jamie Lannister was still maimed, and Tywin Lannister still failed to support his youngest son. I was still spellbound by the book and enjoyed it immensely.

            In fact, I’m debating whether to wait for the next season of GoT before reading A Feast for Crows. You have to love the way Martin moves from point of view to point of view in the books. That helps keep the action fresh and prevents long winding chapters from bogging down the reading. He is aided in that a great deal by his script writing ability. Instead of letting minor points compose a long chapter, he tends to break things up in short viewpoints almost like scenes from a television show do. With conflict dominating the tempo of the book the reader ends up burning their fingertips turning pages to see what will happen next. Few authors are able to pull this off, but Martin has built an audience that enjoys the style.

            All in all, the Game of Thrones world is an exciting action setting that never lacks for excitement. Martin’s world is captured in fine detail in a way that the reader finds enjoyable and entertaining. Again, the only problem with these books in the interminable delay between their releases. Even the Potter books didn’t have these huge time gaps in them. But, if something is worth waiting for, it is that much more enjoyable. Martin does not disappoint his fans.

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