Coolmomsrule's Reviews > A Song of Ice and Fire #1-4: A Game of Thrones/A Clash of Kings/A Storm of Swords/A Feast for Crows

A Song of Ice and Fire #1-4 by George R.R. Martin
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Sep 07, 11

Read in June, 2011

As a woman, the first several chapters of ASOFAI were very disturbing to me; the lack of a strong female character and the violence against women made me nearly put the books down.

I'm glad I didn't.

Martin invests himself in every character he writes, and it shows. The men and women in the series show strength, resourcefulness and really grow as characters, and to give up early is to miss the process of maturation the characters themselves go through, especially Danaerys. Dani begins the series as a young, sheltered girl, both protected and abused by her older brother in his quest to restore their family to the throne.

But Dani quickly adapts to her surroundings, and learns much from listening and respecting the different cultures. She bends without breaking, something her stubborn brother cannot find it in himself to do. It is Dani, not her brother, who is truly descended from "the blood of the dragon". She is a complex character trying to do the right thing in a world that George R. R. Martin has deliberately made the opposite of good vs evil. In that world, pragmatists and strategists live while the naive and trusting die.

And this is where I talk about that world of the series, because it is really significant to note that, while a fantasy world, it is modeled on Europe during the Wars of the Roses and the families fighting for the throne at the time. The patriarchal society, arranged marriages, plotting and treason exist because the historical background upon which the fictional work is based included all those elements and they are necessary for the factions to make sense. Yet Martin still has women play pivotal roles.

Martin delights in turning expectations upside-down. He takes typical fantasy tropes and distorts them until the reader does not know what to expect. One of the reasons I like these books so much is their unpredictability. This is also a feature that has earned Martin his sharpest criticism, however; readers find that even their favorite characters are not guaranteed success, or a life without suffering, or even life at all.

Everyone suffers in these books, and I don't see a lot of moral posturing from Martin. Perhaps his overall philosophy could be summed up in one line from the books (and the HBO series based upon them), "In the game of thrones, you win or you die."

Tyrion, one of my favorite Martin characters, is not immune to the sling and arrows of outrageous fortune Martin has thrown at his characters, but he usually lands on his feet, because, as in chess, he sees the whole board and thinks several moves ahead. He learned, very young, the most important lesson of survival: naivete and innocence lead to suffering in this harsh world. Trust no one and never let your guard down.

I highly recommend these books (and the fifth, A Dance with Dragons) to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy, with the caveat that if like happy endings you might want to steer clear--I don't know yet what the series holds, but letting yourself get emotionally invested in any of Martin's characters is a dangerous undertaking and one that should only be undertaken by those who understand how fraught with peril Martin's "fantasy" world is.
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