Ok, I know, it’s been two fiction books and now I totally owe you a non-fiction one. And I’m halfway through a biography of Winston Churchill and everything, except that…well…fantasy novels are like crack to me. No jokes. I start one, and then until I’m finished it (usually 900 pages later) I can’t think about anything else. This is why I don’t read them, because I can’t seem to convince myself that anything else actually needs to get done because I left the characters in peril and I need to see how they get out of it.
So I think I’m being objective when I say this book is well-written, but who knows? All this skirling of the wind and riding out of armies tends to mess with you. Maybe I’ve been magicked. H’anyways, the story is amazing. It takes a bit of getting into, since (as always) there’s about eight thousand characters, half of them suitably main, and they all have names like Renly Baratheon and Daenerys Targaryens and if two people aren’t related by blood then they’re related by marriage, and that’s always of utmost importance. Fortunately, Martin supplies an appendix listing everyone’s house and progeny and so forth for when you get stuck.
This is the first book in a series (who’s surprised?) so there’s about eight plot lines going on, only two or three of which are (quasi)resolved by the end. I’m putting off summarizing the plot, because what am I going to say? Um….welcome to the Seven Kingdoms, where trouble is a-brewin’? Erm…Lord Eddard Stark rides off to serve as the Hand of the King, the former Hand having mysteriously died/been murdered by the queen/the queen’s brother/his own squire? Meanwhile, Stark’s bastard son heads north to serve at the Wall as part of the Night Watch, the only thing keeping The Others from invading the Seven Kingdoms (the Thin Black Line, if you will). And in a far-off land, the children of the former King whom the current King slayed are amassing an army of sweaty horse-people to take back their kingdom. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, treachery and double-dealing abound! The king’s heir is a nancy-boy! His wife and brother-in-law are lovers! There are wolves!
Martin, while feeding me everything I need from a fantasy novel, doesn’t rely so heavily on tired old tropes that I feel like I’m re-reading everything on my fantasy shelf all at once. Each chapter is given over to one character at a a time, which helps keep them sorted and is also terribly exciting, because when you see ‘Bran’ as the chapter heading, you’re thinking, ‘Oooh! When we last left Bran, he knew something he shouldn’t know, and had been pushed from a roof for it! Does he die? Does he live? Does he spill the beans?’ There are, as always, the noble stalwarts and the through-and-through bad’uns, but there are a fair number of characters whose loyalties I can’t even now figure out. And I’m not sure I ever will, even in the next 2000-odd pages or so.
Whew. I know I’m forgetting something important, but I’m exhausted. This book has eaten up all my spare minutes for the past week, and I’m not even going to look at books 2 and 3 (apparently book 4 is on its way) until I have a clear week ahead of me (i.e. this summer). I’m praying this doesn’t become a 12-book series, because I’m not sure I can handle it. I don’t eat. I don’t sleep. I don’t get my homework done. I don’t even think about showering.
Ok, so if fantasy isn’t your thing, probably steer clear of this one for the usual reasons (it’s long, it’s complicated, you’ll snigger at the things I love and think less of me). But if you love you some warriors and maidens and clashes of honor and fates hanging perilously in the balance, then why have you not read this already?