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A Song Of Ice And Fire back to reviews
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The Jury is still out
This is an impressive and compelling series, very readable and approachable, despite its length.

Characters: This is where the series really shines. Martin has created perhaps the largest collection of detailed and three-dimensional characters that I have ever encountered. What is more the characters are believable and their actions make sense to their characters and they grow and develop in believable ways. In the 5th book, however, a number of major characters seem(to me at least) to start 'spinning their wheels' about some thought they have and fail to progress, or grow, or learn from mistakes like they previously had.

The World: Martin has created a fascinating world which seems both foreign to our own and yet very similar and understandable. In particular he incorporates 'Fantasy' elements very seamlessly into the world. The first three books give tantalizing hints and slowly parcels out information to build on. The 4th and 5th he seems to be focusing more effort on world building and has fleshed a good deal more out.

The Plot: This is where things get tricky. Originally this was supposed to be a trilogy and especially in the first book one can see a lot of buildup for the threat from the North. However, the bulk of books 2-4, and a large chunk of 5, are dedicated to the political intrigues of Westeros and another character trying to learn how to be a good ruler, mixed in with the occasional hint of the greater danger which threatens the entire world. As far as I can personally tell, the problem is that the characters have taken over the story(Martin has indicated something similar) and though the 5th book seems to have the divergent plot threads coming together at last, 5 books in with 2 more to go and I have absolutely no idea what the point of the story is any longer, nor do I have any clue where it is headed. Twists and mystery are one thing, but I am so completely clueless I have some personal doubts that Martin himself truly knows where this story is going.

I do love the series, especially books 1-3, and I sincerely hope I am wrong but at the moment the Jury is still very much out on whether this will end up as a Fantasy Masterpiece, ala Lord of the Rings, or simply a very well written and fascinating character study that failed in its initial promise to be something more.
I disagree. I loved this series.
comment #13623 psycher7 3rd Apr 12 (edited by: FlyingGuillotine)
Well, it is naturally all a matter of personal opinion, but I like the subtle Fantasy Elements. Don't get me wrong, I love 'high' Fantasy as well, but I like the way he weaves those elements so that, to me at least, they seem like seamless aspects of it. I will agree, however, that the world does seem a little bit more flat, and rather less creative, as Martin describes it more in books 4 and 5. Previously, when he kept things vague it was better.

I have to thoroughly disagree with you on the matter of characters. I love his characters on the whole, yes some of them are terrible and grotesque but virtually all of the mare believable. Just like in real life there are few completely bad people and even fewer completely good people. The characters in this series are people that do things, some good and some bad, to further their own ends in ways that fit with their personalities, just like real people do. In particular, the P.O.V. style allows one to see other characters based on how the P.O.V. character sees them, and then when that character gets a P.O.V. we find out new information about them and often that they are more sympathetic.

As for the plot going nowhere very very slowly. . .yeah, pretty much. The first 3 books the action and the characters made up for it, but it became a lot more noticeable in 4 and 5.
comment #13632 doorofnight 4th Apr 12
@doorofnight: I tend to scoff whenever I read the backs of the books and see "The American Tolkien" proudly printed on the back. But the one thing Martin does better than any author I've ever read is subtly tying in the magical elements while maintaining a mostly realistic world. Magic is treated as extremely rare and alien, and there's just enough of it to make one wonder whether or not some things are magical in nature or not (like Beric Dondarrion's outlaw days before we meet him again. Rumors are flying around that he's been killed here and there constantly, but in the chaos of war it's easy to brush those rumors off. Then we meet him and it turns out that he has been dying all the time but he keeps coming back!).

It's the little surprises, and the big battles, that make me want to stick with the series to the end. Even if I don't think it's as great as some people do.
comment #15888 Trickdice 22nd Aug 12
@Trickdice, I wouldn't personally call Martin 'the American Tolkien', but I personally thought the first three books had a tremendous amount of potential to them. I like the subtle magic to the series as well and the realism of it all. What I think is holding the series back now is that Martin has now spent WAY too long dangling this mysterious threat in front of the readers and hasn't fleshed out nearly enough about it. Its high time for at least some glimpse behind the curtain and an explanation of just what is going on.

Who knows how the books will end, series evolve all the time, but at the moment I see the potential and brilliance I find in the first three books the series to be a masterpiece of fantasy literature as being largely wasted by a whole lot of pointless meandering about in the 4th and 5th books, in which Martin seems to be spending far more time fleshing out a world he probably should have done a bit more with in the beginning anyway.

It is one of the cardinal sins of any continuing series(regardless of medium), which has an overarching plot that is in anyway important to that series, for the writer not to have planned the story out in advance. While even series that do plan things out ahead of time aren't perfect, series that don't plan things out in advance are prone to some or all of: plot holes, contradiction, meandering around, excess baggage/story, general lack of consistency, and the length Martin is taking in writing has got to exacerbate these issues.
comment #17091 doorofnight 6th Dec 12
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