Back to Reviews

Reviews Comments: Enjoyable for many, but I've given up. A Song Of Ice And Fire whole series review by Darth Gangsta

After A Game of Thrones, I was expecting the greatest fantasy series I had ever read. After A Feast for Crows I wanted to write GRRM a strongly worded letter. That'd teach him.

For a while I had agreed with the hype that this was an incredible and realistic series that defied convention and cliche. In truth it has the plodding pace and shallow melodrama of a soap opera set in a fantasy version of medieval Europe. Kings rise and fall, people get stabbed, ladies are courted, people get set on fire, allegiances change, people get shot, castles are taken, people get decapitated, and the plot advances with the speed of quadriplegic turtle.

That may be fine for many, but I wanted a resolution one book, eight hundred lemon cakes, twelve slashed velvet doublets, and thirty-seven nipples ago. I couldn't even bring myself to read A Dance With Dragons. I'd rather not spend another 10 million pages being jerked around, especially since that one focuses on my least favorite characters.

The critics, on the other hand, find it hard to shut up about this series. The most ridiculous praise I have seen for it is "'Reminiscent of T.H. White's The Once And Future King'." I suspect the goon who penned that absurd comment had only read a summary of the Arthurian classic, remembering that it dealt with kings and knights. In no way does Martin's blood-soaked, cynical cash-cow of a series resemble the humanist anti-war story that has been called (justifiably) the greatest fantasy novel of all time.

I apologize for my vitriol, as I have nothing against fans of the series, but I cannot abide opinions that are completely fucking ridiculous, especially when they come from someone who is paid to review books. I mean, Jesus shit! How do these kinds of individuals even get a job like that? It probably involves rim-jobs, since that's basically what they do for GRRM as critics.

That reminds me: the sex scenes are just pure unmitigated horribleness, especially with Daenerys. She's like fourteen. I'm sure even fans can acknowledge that that is fucking nasty.

I'd better calm down. The series is certainly appealing to many people, but it isn't my cup of tea. By all means enjoy the books— after all, I'm just some curmudgeon on the interwebs going through a case of Hype Backlash. I've simply decided that the series is not for me and moved on now.


  • nanshe
  • 29th Jun 12
That quote.. never made much sense to me, either. It might make more sense in context, though the only site that has the full review wants me to pay some outrageous money for it.
  • DarthGangsta
  • 3rd Jul 12
Glad to finally find someone who agrees with me on that one. Some people today just don't get the fantasy classics. To me it seems as if the deepest questions modern fantasy novels raise are "Who dies next?", "Who's boning who?", and "When's the sequel coming out?"

A So IAF is at the forefront of a now vapid genre, and GRRM is the most acclaimed author to contribute to it. "American Tolkien"? When will critics stop insulting my intelligence? This is like comparing Christopher Nolan to Francis Ford Coppola. Batman might look like he's being philosophical as he beats the shit out of a clown, but he's still just a man dressed as a bat beating the shit out of a clown. That isn't great cinema, and A So IAF is not great fantasy.

Having an expanded universe and a fandom big enough to populate it isn't the slightest indication of quality or depth.

Ah. Deep breath. Sorry for ranting. I have so much more to say than the 400 word review limit allows. My nerd-rage begs to be unleashed upon unsuspecting commentators, and for that I apologize.
  • Hylarn
  • 3rd Jul 12
...I disagree somewhat with the reasoning, but I will say that I agree to finding the series quite boring and generally unpleasant to read
  • TreasonWall
  • 7th Jul 12
"Some people today just don't get the fantasy classics. To me it seems as if the deepest questions modern fantasy novels raise are "Who dies next?", "Who's boning who?", and "When's the sequel coming out?" I don't relate to that at all. The GRRM fans I know both on the internet and in real life have A LOT more to say about it than that.

"That reminds me: the sex scenes are just pure unmitigated horribleness, especially with Daenerys. She's like fourteen. I'm sure even fans can acknowledge that that is fucking nasty." She's like, in a world based on the Middle Ages and stuff. If you approach this with a 21th century western standard, of course it won't make sense.

Alright, I have to pre-emptively apologise for this because I'm probably going to infuriate you even more. As much as I love Tolkien's work, and i do, since I own paperback copies of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and The Children of H¨rin, most of which I've read several times over...

..I believe A Song of Ice and Fire is the superior work. You know, for such accomplishment as acknowledging that sex is a thing that exists, thinking up the political aspect beyond "the new king is a good guy so everything is settled"(COME ON! I love LOTR but I can't forgive that. it's absurd.), having character psychologies much closER to real life human beings in comparison, and depicting so many contradicting perspectives within the same story.

I do agree with you, though, that the journalistic quotes on backs of the books and such are just plain ridiculous. Then again, I never expected much better from them to begin with.
  • morninglight
  • 7th Jul 12
I like this series but I hate the fact that is now so bogged down in Food Porn, Costume Porn and many, many extraneous bland characters. Looking back at first book I noticed how quick the pages go by, because the chapters are shorter, exciting and related to one another. It helped that all the character arcs came to a good conclusion - not a fecking cliffhanger. I honestly believe the last 2 books should have been 1. The sex scenes have always been horrible but one learns to glaze over them.
  • DarthGangsta
  • 8th Jul 12
@Treason Wall Of course I don't mind that the characters in-universe treat Daenerys' sexual activity as normal. What I have a problem with is that her scenes read like GRRM was typing with one hand. And while sex should not be off limits in fantasy, it should contribute to the plot. Spontaneous lesbian hanky-panky with dusky servant girls does not. It is fanservice, which in my view is a hallmark of uninspired potboilers and trashy airport fiction. Oh, wait, I just remembered what series we were discussing.

As for Tolkien, well, I'm a little iffy on him (much like Coppola—I love Apocalypse Now but dislike the Godfather). I believe he's on a much higher level than Martin, but not the definitive great fantasy author. That would be White.

I don't want to beat the T.H. White horse to death with my fanboyishness, but I think his work is a good thing to compare Martin's to in order to support my belief that modern fantasy just doesn't stack up. White left politics, battles and action generally in the background, with the focus on his beautifully written characters. Also the story had a real examination of morality in it, rather than Brave-but-Retarded-Idealists against Impossibly-Evil-Sociopathic-Turbo-Rapists, and interchangeable characters with no personalities filling the space in between.

Everyone has their own likes and dislikes in novels, of course. My dislikes happen to include 900 page travelogues full of cartoonish violence, lengthy descriptions of meals, and embarrassing 9th grade pseudo-archaic dialogue. Jon and Daenerys also wrecked it for me. They're borderline Canon Sues and I hate reading about their hackneyed, cliched lives.

I'm not surprised that you like it, though. Despite these issues it still holds quite an appeal. The political intrigue sucks you right in, and there are some well written characters. A Game of Thrones is actually a good book, just not part of a good series. I haven't kept up with the show, but I'd like to give it a chance. The TV format might make it more enjoyable than the books.

Anyway, thanks for responding in a more mature way than I wrote the review, and for putting up with my pissy bullshit. I've enjoyed the discussion thus far.
  • TreasonWall
  • 11th Jul 12
"Jon and Daenerys also wrecked it for me. They're borderline Canon Sues and I hate reading about their hackneyed, cliched lives." I'm not gonna go into spoilers, but you might be surprised at how hard a time these two and Tyrion have in the latest book. They screw up. A lot.

Yeah, the villains in these books act unbelievably offensive, and Ramsay Snow's return at the forefront of things did anything but diminish that aspect(if you've been that grossed out by books 3 and 4, giving up was probably wise...). Though I must say, I dig the emotional violence that those kind of stories inflict upon their audiences. The way I sea it, if you can chat with your neighbor and eat potato chips while watching a movie, then said movie is doing something wrong.

As for the show giving off a better experience... hum, not really I'd say, but if you've never watched it I can't go into details.

The name T.H. White is completely unknown in my country. Your review is the first mention of it i've witnessed in my entire life. This sounds more and more intriguing.

And yeah, your writing style is... temper-ish, but hey whatever.
  • JobanGrayskull
  • 11th Jul 12
I'm still slogging through A Feast for Crows myself. I still consider myself a fan of the series, but truthfully it's beginning to make me look back on the series with...well, whatever the opposite of rose colored glasses would be.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first three books, as long as they were (though the first was hands down the best one). I don't understand how they could descend to the level of sheer boringness that's present in the fourth. It's kind of a battle for me not to throw out this book and rage the same way you are, OP.

If what I'm told is correct (by friends who have similar tastes to mine) the fifth installment is much, much better. I guess I'll find out once I finish the trek through the swamp of words that was passed off as part four of this series.

As for the sex scenes...well, I find that sex in books is very hard to get right. It has to fit and flow organically in order for me not to feel that it's just tossed in there because the author is horny. Danaerys is definitely bordering on creepy author fetish writing, that's for sure.

Anyway, good review, even if I don't agree on the series as a whole.
  • DarthGangsta
  • 11th Jul 12
@Joban Grayskull Thank you! Since you didn't make a "Myrish swamp" joke with that wetlands metaphor I take it you didn't get there yet. Good luck with finishing that monster!

@Treason Wall It's not that I was grossed out (the Hannibal Lecter books are one of my favorites series), I just find such over-the-top depictions of violence immature; they're flat-out ridiculous for one thing, and for another they're an extremely unsubtle way of establishing a character as villainous. Whatever happened to villains with motives beyond greed and sadism?

I recommend checking out The Once and Future King by T.H. White. Technically it's a compilation of four novels, but it only comes to about 500-some pages. If you didn't know, it is an adaptation of the King Arthur mythology, specifically Sir Thomas Mallory's Morte d'Arthur. It's light on the action and the humping, but I've never read a book that I love that deeply.

  • darrenw1
  • 2nd Oct 12
I liked the first 4 books, despite Crows cutting the story in half and effectively halting the pacing. I liked Dance as well, at least the chapters that took place in Westeros.

The problem is that too many chapters take place overseas, particularly in Meereen, and in that I believe that Martin bites off far more than he can chew for a single series. The first four books were about Westeros almost exclusively, with only the occasional look at Dany and what she was doing. Book 5 almost sweeps Westeros under the rug as it says "hey, look at this culture that has nothing to do with the culture I just built from the ground up for you during the last 4000 pages you read." I just can't get engaged with the Shavepates, the Unsullied, the Fighting Pits, the Pyramids and the slavers. I don't care about any of it. I just want to know how Houses Lannister, Stark, Baratheon, Targaryen (and now Tyrell and Martell) resolve their conflict.

That said, I enjoyed the Jon Connington storyline, although it could have come into play much, MUCH sooner than book 5.
  • ATC
  • 23rd Nov 12
I completely agree with this review. It's good to see that I'm not alone in my opinions on The Once And Future King (so, so, so great. So very human, and wonderful, and that rant about "knowledge of the world" brings me to tears every time), and someone agrees with me how bad this series is at points.

I respect the opinions of the fans, but I don't share them, and I find it very refreshing to see a polite, reasonable discussion here.

Thank you. This has been a breath of fresh air.
  • Saphruikan
  • 3rd Dec 12
Sound review, except for the "Danaerys is a fourteen-year-old" thing. I hate more than anything the people who can't seem to wrap their heads around the fact that THIS IS A MEDIEVAL SETTING, where this is normal. Going "ewie, nasty," makes your other arguments look stupid.

Other than that, I would read A Dance With Dragons. Some serious shit goes down.
  • kay4today
  • 3rd Dec 12
It doesn't matter when it plays, we simply do not need to read a sex scene about a fourteen year old. That's it.
  • doctrainAUM
  • 3rd Dec 12
Exactly how common was it in medieval Europe for 14-year olds to have sex? I know they married at that time, but that's very different. Of course, given that the jus primae noctis is a thing that exists in this world, it may be very different from medieval Europe.
  • maninahat
  • 3rd Dec 12
"Sound review, except for the "Danaerys is a fourteen-year-old" thing. I hate more than anything the people who can't seem to wrap their heads around the fact that THIS IS A MEDIEVAL SETTING, where this is normal. Going "ewie, nasty," makes your other arguments look stupid."

Yes, they probably had 14 year old brides in the medieval ages. They probably had lots of incest in the aristocracy too. But Bear in mind that this "medieval setting" also features dragons and 700 foot high magic walls. If the writer is capable of throwing in unrealistic aspects into a fantasy (which, by definition, is supposed to deviate from the real life), then I don't see why it was necessary to retain a child sex aspect for the sake of historical authenticity. All it does is distance the reader due to Moral Dissonance, or appeal to some unhealthy lurid appetites. Neither effects are good.
  • luomo
  • 3rd Dec 12
Well if there is one thing that GRRM has demonstrated via ASOIAF, it is that he has some unhealthy appetites. Would you like some lactation with your dwarf penis?
  • Crowqueen
  • 31st Dec 12
then I don't see why it was necessary to retain a child sex aspect for the sake of historical authenticity.

Moral arguments aside for one moment, plenty of people of the age of 14 have sex. The British age of consent right up until the 19th century was 12. It's only very recently that it's become entirely taboo - and we still find people pregnant below the age of 16 (the age of consent in Britain).

I actually like the realism of the setting. While he sometimes does get carried away, it's much more believable than some other fantasy stuff which dumps 21st century values in 15th century cultures with no explanation of how they got there. It has a lot more internal consistency than most settings I've read in ordinary potboilers (e.g. those of Karen Miller) and the authors I've enjoyed (Raymond Feist, Suzanne Collins) have made dystopian societies with teenagers treated as near-adults doing or having to do horrific things to each other. You can portray it without condoning it or getting off on it. I'm doing this mainly for research but this and The Hunger Games is the only series of fiction books that has held my rapt and greedy attention for a decade or so. I love the soap opera feel to it and I love the detail Martin puts into Westeros and Essos.

The world is not as sanitised as some people want to make it. Yes, enjoying it too much is a problem. But for several books, from the death of Khal Drogo up until at least the end of Book 3, Daenerys also does something else too.
  • kay4today
  • 2nd Jan 13
To be fair, as sickening and stupid as the sex scenes may be... they are also absolutely hilarious. xD
  • Scardoll
  • 2nd Jan 13
(much like CoppolaŚI love Apocalypse Now but dislike the Godfather).

Heh, I'm the opposite. I think Apocalypse Now is too bloated and doesn't really capture the spirit of the source material. Just goes to show how opinions differ.

In order to post comments, you need to

Get Known