I always feel a little bit ridiculous recommending George
R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series
to anyone. Why?
They're fantastic books - but the size ...
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I have an unfortunate weakness for long novels, and the first four in the series have approximately
four thousand pages combined. With book
five, "A Dance with Dragons" (which was released last Tuesday), the total comes
to 5200 pages. So I do understand the
looks of horror that I receive when I suggest that friends might give the
series a try - but it's really that good.
Imagine a fantasy world that's nothing like Lord of the
Rings. No epic quests to destroy (or to
find) some rare magical artifact, no knowledgeable wizard and bumbling farm boy
hero. Picture instead a country
reminiscent of Europe in the mid-fifteenth century. Rather than the Yorks and the Lancasters
fighting the War of the Roses, "A Song of Ice and Fire" revolves around the
Starks' and the Lannisters' battle for dominance in the Seven Kingdoms.
The series effectively begins when Ned Stark (played by Sean
Bean in the acclaimed HBO series which is based on the first book in the "A
Song of Ice and Fire" series, "A Game of Thrones") leaves his home of Winterfell,
in the far north of the Seven Kingdoms, to become the king's advisor. He is
extremely reluctant until his wife Catelyn (played by Michelle Fairley)
receives a letter from her sister that convinces her that Jon Arryn, the king's
previous advisor and Catelyn's brother-in-law, was murdered by the Queen's
family, the Lannisters. Ned Stark feels
he must become the king's advisor, both to investigate Jon Arryn's death, but
also to protect the king from Lannister treachery.
Sean Bean (Center) as Ned Stark in HBO's "Game of Thrones." Copyright Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved
While the Starks and the Lannisters vie for position in
power, malign forces stir elsewhere.
Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd) and his sister Daenerys (Emilia Clarke),
the only surviving heirs of the previous ruling family, seek to regain their
rightful throne in the Seven Kingdoms.
Viserys weds his sister to the leader of the Dothraki, a race of nomad
warriors, in exchange for their promise of a golden crown, with which he can
purchase ships and soldiers to invade the Seven Kingdoms.
In the north, in the vast land beyond a 700 foot tall wall
of ice, the Wildlings, a barbarian race of "free folk" who refuse to honor a
king, are also rising up. The Others, a
race of necromancers who were thought long extinct, are reanimating corpses
into Wights -essentially super strong zombies hell-bent on killing as many of
the living as possible. The Wildlings
plan to invade the Seven Kingdoms - less intent on conquering, and more focused
on avoiding The Others.
"A Song of Ice and Fire" is unique in its focus on
politicking and war - Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), the reigning Queen of the
Seven Kingdoms describes it to Ned Stark this way: "When you play the game of
thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground." And when the situation warrants it, Martin
never hesitates to kill the characters that you've grown attached to.
Lena Headey as Queen Cersei Lannister in HBO's "Game ofThrones." Copyright Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved
In Harry Potter,
regardless of the danger that Harry faces, the reader is always confident that
Harry will triumph, and Voldemort will ultimately be defeated. Sirius and Dumbledore might die along the
way, but ultimately, Good will win out.
"A Song of Ice and Fire," first of all, doesn't have any characters as
clear-cut "good" and "bad" as Harry and Voldemort, but secondly - Martin can
and will kill "Harry."
All this said, I have a few caveats: First, the cast of characters. In the back of each book, there is a series
of appendices that guide the reader through the various major houses and
characters that you encounter. As of the
end of book four, there were seventeen "point of view" characters (each chapter
features, and is named after, the point of view character - some characters
have many chapters, some have only one chapter.) There are, I'd guess, a couple hundred minor,
non-viewpoint characters. In the past, I've had
a hard time with casts this large, but maybe because all the names aren't "elfish"
sounding, I didn't have a real issue keeping the Who's Who straight.
Perhaps more of an
issue, the series isn't finished yet. "A
Dance with Dragons," book five of what is most likely seven novels, was
released last week. More importantly, "A Feast For Crows," book four, was released in November 2005. Will there be six years between each of the
remaining novels? I certainly hope not -
but realistically, besides Harry Potter, I can't think of another series that
I've read that I'd be willing to wait six years between books with any
reasonable degree of patience (and if you can think of any, in any genre,
please let me know - I'm always up for more great reading).
With that, I'm off - "A Dance with Dragons" is sitting on
the Kindle App on my Ipad, and I've been waiting six years for it.
Re: books worth waiting for...
I recommend the Kingkiller Trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss. The first book, "The Name of the Wind" was a revelation. The second book, "The Wise Man's Fear" was just released and is wonderful as well. It may be a few years before the next one comes out, but it is definitely worth the wait.
Game of Thrones is right at the top of the best series I've ever watched. I'm already drooling for next season.
It's great to know it comes from such an amazing, abundant sourcework.
Hopefully there's MUCH, MUCH more to come!
I'm astounded to see these books recommended on a website dedicated to most things Disney. I'm reading a Dance with Dragons now, as well, and I've never read a more depressing series of books in my life. Evil and death roam freely in the land and let's face it, there's a rape every second page. Whores, whores, and more whores, brutal and sadistic mutilations, infanticide, incest, and all those things you never read in Lord of the Rings. Disney wouldn't touch these books with Pinocchio's nose Even the house biographies should be rated 18 or over. Adult books by any definition, so keep out of reach of your literate children.