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Bookends: Book Three of A Song of Ice and Fire has some shocking developments November 27, 2014

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Uncategorized.
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Bookends: Book Three of A Song of Ice and Fire has some shocking developments

By Dan Davidson

May 20, 2014

– 995 words –

 

A Storm of Swords:Storm of Swords

: Book Three

George R.R. Martin

Bantam Books

1216 pages

$11.99

 

Now matter how well he may be telling the story in A Song of Fire and Ice, it cannot be denied that George R.R. Martin is one of those fantasy writers who has let his subject matter run away with him.

Tad Williams writes really long books, but manages to restrict himself to two, three or four volumes per saga. Terry Brooks’ Shannara series may go on forever, but he provides the installments in three to four novel segments, complete in themselves. Terry Goodkind’s individual novels in the Sword of Truth series are quite long, but so far the ones I’ve read seem to stand as individual stories. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books grew as the series progressed, but he had a definite end in sight, and when he died Brandon Sanderson was able to finish the story in three large volumes.

A Song of Fire and Ice was supposed to have been a trilogy. The first two books were substantial, at 720 (A Game of Thrones) and 784 (in A Clash of King) pages, but this third volume, as you can see, left them in the dust with 1216. The next two books, which I have yet to read, both top 1000 pages and, while Martin has a definite conclusion in mind (and has shared it with the folks at HBO in case they get there before he does) it’s still some way off.

Speaking of the HBO series, it’s a classic case of what happens when cable television gets a hold of a property and wants to make sure that the adult rating draws in the viewers. Martin’s books refer to lots of sex and violence and even go into detail with some of it, but nowhere near the extent that the HBO series has. In particular the gratuitous T&A quotient in this series, including lots of rape scenes in “loving” detail, leave me wondering if anyone ever stops to ask if this is necessary or if they just go, “what the hell, it’s cable.”

I’ve only watched the first season. I want to read the books first. The series is well done, in spite of these lapses, but I like having the words conjure the images for me.

Viewers were apparently shocked to pieces to view the Red Wedding mass murder scene in season three and the death of the Boy King in season four. These are both included in A Storm of Swords, along with the deaths an apparent deaths of a number of key individuals that the earlier books had suggested were in the story for the long haul. The series isn’t exactly following the books scene for scene; in fact the third season would have needed to be twice its length to deal with this book.

What one can say about potential deaths in this series, is that the viewpoint characters tend to survive while those who are going to die are mostly those who are viewed by other people? That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it seems to apply most of the time so far.

Martin’s imaginary world is not Earth, which is one of the things that distinguish it from a lot of other fantasy series. The planet must have an irregular orbit, as its seasons are measured in multiple years. Winter is coming; this phrase is often repeated. Somewhere above a great ice wall in the north near to the now ruined kingdom of Winterfell there are strange creatures waiting for winter. These Others can animate the bodies of the dead and seem bent on storming the human lands. There are people, Wildlings they are called, who live beyond the Wall, and who want to get through it to relative safety, as the Others seem to be awakening with the turning of the seasons.

Jon Snow, the bastard son of the late Eddard Stark, is a member of the Night’s Watch, the black-cloaked guardians of the Wall. His chapters are among my favorites in this volume.

Martin’s narrative device is to take us on round robin tour of his major characters. The action is not necessarily sequential and sometimes people come within a hair of encountering each other, but don’t quite.

We follow Daenarys, who has three growing dragons and hopes to reclaim the land for her family line, which was deposed in a coup when she was young. She has to learn the difference between being a conqueror and being a ruler.

We follow Jon and his sisters Arya and Sansa, each of whom have their trials to undergo. Arya is quite the tomboy and on the run from the people who killed her father. Sansa, who was such a naïve pain in the first two volumes, gains some substance in this book, especially after her marriage to Tyrion Lannister, the dwarfish member of the ruling clan. Tyrion, in spite of his moral limitations, is one of the best people in the series, intelligent and possessed of his own honour code.

Catelyn Stark continues to try to hold what she can of her family together, as long as she can. New to the point of view list in Jaime Lannister, who had been seen chiefly as a villain in the earlier books, but now turns out to have some redeeming qualities. His relationship with the ugly warrior woman Brienne is quite intriguing.

There is such a large cast in this series that it is well Martin has provided appendices with each of the books, but an even more useful tool can be found online at http://awoiaf.westeros.org. This site contains character descriptions, summaries and lots of practical information for readers getting lost in the mass of material.

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