As I often do after finishing a series of books, I felt an acute sense of loss after finishing the fifth and last book in the George R. R. Martin series “A Song of Ice and Fire.” The difference is; the series isn’t over yet, there are at least two more books planned. As with television shows, I’d rather just read a series when they have concluded so I can read it all continuously without pause. Looking at the publishing history, I’m in for a long wait before The Winds of Winter is published. The publishing schedule for the first five books was as followed; August 1996, February 1999, November 2000, November 2005 and July 2011, so I might be in for a little wait. Even the sample chapter GRRM posted on his website wasn’t enough to sink my teeth into.
Though the quality of the story waxes and wanes quite a bit, overall I really enjoyed reading the books. The fourth book was a bit of a struggle, mostly due to the climax of the third book where a lot of loose ends seemed to be wrapped up. It felt like we entered a second phase of the overall story which was somewhat detached from the first three books, which made it feel like GRRM might not have had a good view of what the end-game of the overall story was going to be. Luckily, about halfway through the book, things started to pick up again.
The Red Wedding was a really tough pill to swallow because GRRM set everything up to root for the Starks. After that it became hard to get emotionally invested in anyone. It’s one thing to let the protagonists struggle, have setbacks and fail, it’s another to have no protagonists at all. Sure, it was easy to switch my cheers to Daenerys and it’s easy to be fond of Tyrion, but the former wasn’t going to get involved in the Game of Thrones in Westeros any time soon, and the other one wasn’t even a part of things, it seemed. I ended up being mostly attracted to Jon Snow as Lord Commander, Jaime’s redemption and Cersei’s decline, but non of that seemed to have any particular bearing on the Game of Thrones in Westeros, with the possible exception of Cersei’s decline.
The theory of Jon Snow being the child of Rhaegar and Lyanna was really what renewed me interest. That and Prince Doran Martell of Dorn’s scheming.
It’s hard to say what it is about this series that draws me in as much as it does. It’s not particularly well-written, nor is the story particularly complex, but it’s a solid story and it’s huge. The tapestry that GRRM weaves is intricate, simple, engrossing and compelling. The writing isn’t overly descriptive (except when describing the food that’s being eaten, for some reason), so it doesn’t suffer from the Tolkien drudgery, but is solid and has a nice pace. And still, hard to say what it is that makes it stand out. One thing that does stand out, and in that sense I’m going to contradict what I said earlier about sometimes getting the feeling that GRRM doesn’t always know what the end game will be, is that GRRM manages to set things up and is very patient in letting things unfold. He talks about the Children of the Forest in book one, mentions them here and there, but only really introduces one in book five. Well played, sir.
Anyway, even thinking about the wait that I have ahead of me makes me grumpy. I hope the television series will tide me until the release of The Winds of Winter.