It took me a while to get over the vertigo of the reversed gender roles in this book. Once I did, I enjoyed the story and the inside-out perspective t...moreIt took me a while to get over the vertigo of the reversed gender roles in this book. Once I did, I enjoyed the story and the inside-out perspective that it gave me.(less)
I didn't much care for this book. It didn't feel like it really got going until almost 3/4 of the way in. I only finished it out of sheer stubbornness...moreI didn't much care for this book. It didn't feel like it really got going until almost 3/4 of the way in. I only finished it out of sheer stubbornness. Before the 3/4 point, it felt like the story kept jerking between characters and locales completely capriciously. New characters and places were introduced and I had a hard time understanding what relevance they had to the overall plot until much later. The book and concept weren't bad but I didn't really enjoy the read.(less)
As you may be aware (he said dryly), this is the first book of George R.R. Martin’s wildly successful fantasy series, “Game of Thrones”. I really like this book. I know it’s true because I managed to reread it and there are very, very few books that I can stand to reread.
This book meets most of my criteria for being both entertaining and engaging. It has a grand scope. It’s true that the novel sprawls over more than 800 pages but Martin makes good use of that length, through detailed world building.
Most of the story takes place in the land of Westeros, among the Seven Kingdoms. It’s a world where magic used to exist but most people believe that the magic has faded out of the world. The last of the dragons is dead and the other magical creatures exist only in fairy tales told to children. It’s a world where the seasons last for years instead of months. Summer has been long, more than 14 years, and many people don’t remember the harshness of Winter.
The history of Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms is embedded deeply into the story, making the world feel large and expansive. The story revolves around the seven Great Houses and focuses primarily on 3: the Starks, The Lannisters, the Targaryens. Each has their own peculiar history, traits, tendencies, and retainers. The characters in each House are fairly detailed. Everyone has their own unique personality and acts according to their own motivations and those of their House. The richness, depth, and complexity of these characters is a big part of what draws me into this world.
The details of the world are another element that really draws me in. For instance, many of the Lords, being quite imperfect people, father bastards. A bastard isn’t entitled to his (or her) father’s name but needs a name nonetheless. So, each region of Westeros has its own surname for bastards.
Stone was a bastard’s name in the Vale, as Snow was in the north, and Flowers in Highgarden; in each of the Seven Kingdoms, custom had fashioned a surname for children born with no names of their own.
Mix all of this together and you get quite a stew of motivations: greed, revenge, lust for power, duty, fear, loyalty all leading to a constant maneuvering for power in the Game of Thrones. As the Lannisters, Stars, and Baratheons jockey for power no one will move through the story unscathed.
On to the spoilers. Since I’m reading through the series, in anticipation of the release of the fifth book, I decided to keep notes of what happens to each of the major characters in each book.
Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark—Robb Stark inherited the Lordship of the North when Eddard Stark was executed for treason. He’s currently at Riverrun, having just won a surprise victory over the Lannister forces and his bannermen have just proclaimed him King in the North, to avoid pledging fealty to either Renly Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, or Joffrey Baratheon/Lannister.
Arya Stark—Has escaped King’s Landing is headed North with Yoren, of the Night’s Watch.
Sansa Stark—Is currently being held as a hostage of the Lannisters, in King’s Landing.
Tyrion Lannister—Is with his father’s forces, on the Trident, but is about to head to King’s Landing to try to knock some sense into his nephew’s (King Joffrey’s) head.
Jamie Lannister—Is a prisoner of Robb Stark’s forces, having been captured during the battle for Riverrun.
Daenerys Targaryen—On the Dothraki sea. Khal Jogo has just died and her dragons have just hatched. Her pitifully small group is deciding where to go next.
John Snow—On the Wall, with the Night’s Watch. He’s preparing to go North of the Wall, to find out what happened to his uncle Benjen Stark and to investigate the suddenly reawakened threat of the wights and the other creatures of the cold. He’ll be accompnying the Lord Commander of the Watch, Lord Mormont.
Bran Stark—A cripple, confined to Winterfell, longing to act a man, as his brother Robb does.
Fans had to wait five years after the publication of Storm of Swords (November, 2000) before they got their hands on A Feast for Crows (November, 2005). In my review of Storm, I mentioned that “the book was a non-stop parade of events, swirling ever more madly as the body count rose ever higher.” That pace couldn’t last and it didn’t.
Feast opens with a new locale—Oldtown—and new characters. It jumps from Oldtown to Dorn, another location that’s new to readers. It was, in some ways, a restart to the story. Once again, events pick up right where the previous book left off. This time the story focuses on the events and characters in and around King’s Landing. Cersei is awakened to learn about the murder of Lord Tywin Lannister. She fancies herself as the second coming of Lord Tywin and immediately assumes full power as the Queen Regent. She’s determined to make her mark on the Kingdom.
The War of the Five Kings is mostly over. King Renly Baratheon, King Robb Start, and King Balon Greyjoy are all dead. King Tommen Baratheon rules in King’s Landing and King Stannis Baratheon is mostly out of the picture, ruling in the North at the Wall. Queen Cersei sets about remaking King’s Landing and the king’s court in her own image.
An early quote in the book, from Lord Rodrik, establishes the theme and sets the course for the rest of the book.
“Crows will fight over a dead man’s flesh and kill each other for his eyes. We had one king, then five. Now all I see are crows, squabbling over the corpse of Westeros.”
It’s apropos as most of the book involves various characters maneuvering for influence, believing that the worst is over and all that’s left is to consolidate power and feast on the pickings. It’s a vital part of the story (it feels true to life) but it makes for a much slower read.
Many of the familiar characters are missing from this book. Martin originally intended to write one book but, as it grew and grew, that wasn’t possible. He told the stories of half of the characters in Feast for Crows. He saved the stories of the other half of the characters for Dance With Dragons. Many favorite characters are missing from this book; including Bran Stark, Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and Tyrion Lannister. With so much of the action happening King’s Landing, several other characters get short thrift: Samwell Tarly among them. That accounts for about half of the reason I gave this book 3 stars instead of 4.
I also struggled to follow the flow of time in this book. I couldn’t quite tell whether events were happening over a relatively short period of time (a matter of weeks or a very few months) or a longer period of time (half a year to a year or more). There seemed to be enough happening to justify a period of a year or so.
On the other hand, we heard almost nothing from the missing characters: no news from the Wall, no further rumors of Daenerys, and nothing at all from Tyrion. That seemed a little unrealistic given how much attention was paid to these characters in earlier books. It almost seemed like Martin was trying to avoid spoilers for events in Dance With Dragons.
Because I spent so much time wondering about the flow of time and wondering whether it was really possible for nothing newsworthy to be happening elsewhere, I lost a little bit of the suspension of disbelief. That’s the other half of the reason why I feel this book only deserves 3 stars instead of the 4 stars that I’ve given to the other books in the series.
I’m used to reading a series and watching the quality drop off, bit by bit, with each book in the series. That’s not the case with A Song of Ice and Fire. So far, each book maintains overall quality of the series and manages to ratchet the frenetic pace of events just a little bit higher. I really enjoyed reading A Storm of Swords and I’m already looking forward to tackling A Feast for Crows.
The action picked up right where A Clash of Kings left off. Actually, it backtracked a bit first, to cover what was happening in the rest of Westeros, during the final events of A Clash of Kings. The book was a non-stop parade of events, swirling ever more madly as the body count rose ever higher. In Martin’s world, no one is safe from death, betrayal—or redemption. It all combines for a very entertaining read and one that’s devilishly hard to put down.
I found this book through Jerry Pournelle’s site, Chaos Manor. David Friedman had written in to say that he’d had his agent publish it as “a Kindle”, just to see what would happen. After checking out the first two chapters (and seeing that it was priced at just $2.99), I decided to give it a shot.
I’m glad I did, as I really enjoyed the book. Friedman has constructed a magical system in which magic can be studied, experimented with, and controlled much as physics can be studied, experimented with, and controlled in our own world.
Magic spells and phrases are built up of smaller pieces, each with its own effect. By combining the sounds and words of the magical language, mages can create new spells with the desired effects. Although a mage may not be talented in one area, he can often achieve the desired result through a clever usage of an area of magic that he is talented in. It’s a very ingenious system and offers many possibilities for creativity—and for reflection about how science works in our own world.
The story centers around Magister Coeler and his efforts to create a new magical spell: the Cascade. He’s initially naïve, believing the spell will be used only for good. Eventually, through subsequent events and the arguments of his student Ellen, he realizes the terrible destructive power of his own spell. Together they struggle to protect their world from the spell and the power hungry mages who would seek to use the spell for evil. It’s true that a genie can’t be stuffed back into a bottle. But maybe he doesn’t need to be either.
I found the book to be entertaining, humorous, and thought provoking. Friedman uses the story to communicate the importance of thinking over brute force and to celebrate the triumph of those who are clever, realizing that victory doesn’t always have to go to the strongest. There are many clever uses of “small” magics and it’s fun to see the creative ways that a determined person can go to in order to resist coercion.
I thought this was a very good sequel to The Game of Thrones. It picked up where the last book left off and immediately went to work advancing the plot. If Game of Thrones had one fault, it was that there was too little action and too much world building. All of that world building begins to pay off in this book, however.
In the last book, some scenes were presented multiple times, from a different character’s viewpoint each time. There was little of that in this book, as the main characters are scattered all over Westeros.
There are four main Lords claiming the kingship: Robb Stark, in the North; Renly Baratheon in the South; Stannis Baratheon at Storm’s End; and Joffrey Baratheon in King’s Landing. In addition, Danys Targareon is still raising her three young dragons, Baylon Greyjoy is planning a new rebellion in the Iron Isalnds, and the men of the Night’s Watch are hearing rumors of a massive gathering of Wildlings, north of the Wall.
I was entertained by the continued growth of each of the main characters. It was also very obvious that the story was being driven by the personalities of each of the main characters. Game of Thrones revealed what those personalities were. A Clash of Kings showed the actions that those personalities demanded and the inevitable results of those actions. That personality driven story telling made this book a success.
This book was a ton of fun to read. It’s a heist mystery, that’s almost steam punk, set in the Mistborn universe. If you’re a Brandon Sanderson fan that’s pretty much all you need to know. If you’re not a Brandon Sanderson fan, well, you’re in for a real treat. I’ve been waiting for this book since mid-summer and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t at all disappointed.
The best part of the Mistborn universe is the magical system that Sanderson created for these stories: allomancy, feruchemy. Allomancers can “burn” various metals (which they’ve swallowed in trace amounts), to get various powers: increased strength, speed, ability to influence emotions, the ability to Push or Pull on steel, etc. Feruchemists can store various attributes (speed, weight, knowledge) in metal and then retrieve it as needed.
The stories are very character driven and resemble super hero stories, in the way that the characters creatively use their allomantic or feruchemic powers. This particular book is filled with a few great puns, interesting characters, mysterious heists, detective work, and some incredible fight scenes.
This book wasn’t perfect. I felt like the main villain took a bit too much inspiration from Batman Begins and Renard (the Bond villain). This is still a very good book, if that’s the only weakness (and I thought it was).
How does this book fit into the rest of the Mistborn universe? I’ll let Sanderson explain.
I pitched my editor a series where the first trilogy is an epic fantasy series, and then years later an urban fantasy series, and then years after that a science fiction series, all set in the same world. And the magic exists all through, and it is treated differently in each of these time periods. And that’s what Alloy of Law is: looking at the Mistborn world, hundreds of years later, where society has been rebuilt following the events of the third book.
… This is actually a sort of side story I decided to start telling. … With this one I decided to do something a little more action/adventure and a little more self-contained. So Alloy of Law is not the start of a trilogy, though I may do a little more with the characters, but in general the story I wanted to tell is told.
I feel like I should like this book more because, well, it's written by Neil Gaiman. But, honestly, I had to force myself to finish it. A lot of the s...moreI feel like I should like this book more because, well, it's written by Neil Gaiman. But, honestly, I had to force myself to finish it. A lot of the short stories just didn't hold my interest. It does have some incredibly good stories ("Snow, Glass, Apples", "Murder Mysteries", and "We Can Get Them For You Wholesale" really stood out) but I didn't think it sizzled, as an overall volume.(less)