mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

  • Mood:
  • Music:

We Do Not Sow. (41)

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.

Send out the ravens:
our house symbol, the Spider,
the words: "Crown Me King."

I am fully a convert. Winter Is Coming. All that. I was totally & completely drawn in by this book, I am happy to report. I resisted the series for a long time. I picked up a mass market of this book in 1997 to give to someone as a gift, & somehow in my head it just fell into a category labeled "schlocky mass market fantasy." I left it there, & as the furor around the series grew, I dug in my heels. With the advent of the HBO miniseries, I started wondering if maybe I should dip my toes in the water. Peter Dinklage! Sean Bean! Still, I wasn't going to be drawn in to an unfinished series by an older author-- I learned my lesson with Robert Jordan, I told myself. Well-- these are, I think, the anti-Jordan. There is no treading water; heck, there is no standing still. The whole book is filled with relentless momentum & ruthless narrative. You like any given character? I wouldn't get too attached. There is absolutely no guarantee that George R.R. Martin will let them get out of the chapter alive. This is the sort of thing people call "gritty," & low & behold it sure is. Not the kind of gritty where we focus on fringers eking out a miserable life, or mercenaries selling their swords for a few coins. The rising action is very much focused on the noble houses, particularly the austere & honorable Starks, the wealthy & clever Lannisters & the fallen & decadent Targaryen. What is "gritty" about it is, well, the attention to detail. When the king comes to visit, his four hundred retainers & hanger-ons come along with him, eating through your budget, bankrupting your coffers. The aristocracy get muddy, get bloody; they get poisoned & executed; they get raised up & brought low. Soap opera writ large, with flashing swords. The level of supernatural intrusion is very low, other than a few prophetic dreams. Make no mistake however: there is an element of the supernatural, & by my count there are three notable instances of it in the book. Martin is no slouch when it comes to characters, either, running the gambit from the unshakably righteous Ned Stark, patriarch of his house to the sly dwarf Tyrion Lannister, unscrupulous gadabout. Martin's portrayal of women is fair; it is a misogynistic world, but he shows the female characters working within those strictures as well as breaking them. You have cunning wives on both sides of the narrative rift who drive the action, no less agents then their husbands. You have tomboys who shake off the cultural norms to engage in traditionally masculine activities. There are women who have been victimized who reclaim their lives & rise up, & there are victims who don't-- & not only women are victims here. It is a brutal world, & rape exists, but the authoritative voice is not prurient nor does it take it for granted. When makes Martin's book really come together is his ability to really sell a well rounded character, from villain to hero. You can go through one chapter quivering with rage at a despicable antagonist...& then in the next, when the viewpoint character changes, you see that character in a new light & see something almost gallant about them. It isn't a full reversal; that is GRRM's trick. The negative traits aren't gone, just accepted, de-emphasized, with more positive traits brought to light. There are no cardboard characters here, no cookie cutter plots.

Tags: books, george rr martin, haiku, song of ice & fire

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.