Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
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did not like it
bookshelves: fantasy, 2008, not-worth-it

I really feel the necessity of a bit of personal backstory here, before I start the review. Back in 1996 when this book first came out, and I was about 14 or 16 years old, I saw the hardcover on a sale table for about $5 and couldn't resist a bargain (still can't, though I'm more cautious these days). So I started reading this book with the vague idea that it was a flop, and that may not have helped, but I got through 100 pages of it before feeling so crapped off with it that I shoved it in my cupboard and tried not to think about it. Page 108 to be exact. More on why later.

If you've heard of this book, or read it, you're probably aware that far from being the flop I assumed it was at the time (and I didn't know anyone who was reading it), the series has gone on to be one of the big Cash Cows of the fantasy genre. Computer games, role-playing games - there's even a board game that looks like Risk. Sooner or later there'll be a movie or something, no doubt (I'm moderately surprised one isn't in the works already). People love this book and this series. So I'm well aware I'll probably be lynched for this review, because even the people on Goodreads who didn't like it still had great things to say about it.

But reviews are subjective, and here's mine.

In the vein of Tolkein, Jordan, Elliott, Goodkind, Hobb, Eddings, Feist et al, A Game of Thrones is set in the classicly boring-and-overdone medieval-England-esque setting, and is essentially about a bunch of nobles fighting over a throne. Great. Very original. Praised for its focus on political intrigue, its lack of magic and similar fantasy tropes, and its cast of believable and interesting characters, I found the book tedious. The first "epic fantasy" series I read (after Narnia) was Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, and it's true that I struggled with the first book, Eye of the World. But there were elements to it that I liked, characters who I felt attached to, enough to read the second book and become hooked, and so on. I love 1000-page long, fat fantasy books. I love huge casts of characters and have no problem keeping up with them. I've read Jennifer Fallon's Wolfblade trilogy and Second Sons Trilogy, both of which are heavy on political intrigue and very low on magic, and they're supurb. A Game of Thrones is not. It offers nothing new to the genre, and does nothing original with what it has.

Narrated in turns by Eddard (Ned) Stark, Lord of Winterfell; his wife Lady Catelyn; his bastard son Jon Snow; his very young daughters Sansa and Arya; his middle son Bran; Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf and brother to the Queen; and young Daenerys Targaryen, last of the line of dragon kings and exiled to the land beyond the narrow sea, the book is divided into neat chapters headed by the name of one or the other, so you know exactly whose point-of-view you're going to get and where you are in the plot. Thanks for holding my hand Martin, but I don't like this technique. The chapter headings, I'm referring to. It encourages me to start wondering about the character before I've even started reading. "CATELYN" the chapter title reads: is she young or old, a peasant, a farmer, a daughter, a mother, nice, mean... I start imagining things and then have to correct it all as the character is revealed during the chapter. There's power in names, and withholding them or putting elements of a character's personality first is often more compelling, and better writing. It also made it harder to get through the book, because at the end of one chapter I'd see the name of the next, think "oh great, him/her again, their story's boring" and put the book down.

Let me be perfectly straight: I did not find any of the characters to be particularly interesting; though Jaime Lannister had something about him, you hardly ever saw him. They all pretty much felt like the same character, just in different situations. The differences between them, for example the good-girl Sansa and her tomboy sister Arya, felt forced, superficial and clichéd. Ned is all about honour and duty, but especially honour, with love a more minor consideration, but honestly, could the man be more stupid? Eddard's a moron, and dull, and his only saving grace is that he's nice to his daughters. Let's be clear about something else right here: this world and its people are so sexist and misogynist it's ludicrous. There are many derogatory references to women's tits, metaphors about screwing whores, descriptions of Daenerys getting her nipples pinched by her horrible brother Viserys - not to mention her marriage, at twelve, to a horselord whose men rape women like there's no tomorrow; incest and so on. The first time I tried to read this book, I was offended and disgusted (it didn't help that I'd read Pillars of the Earth not long before; though I did not grow up sexually repressed or prudish or anything like that, I have never found reading descriptions of rape to be all that easy, especially when they're treated so dismissively) - yet oddly my impressions of the characters were much more favourable. I read it now and I just felt contempt.

No one character stands out, though Arya has potential. Catelyn is as boring as her husband, and her sister Lysa is, let's face it, mad as a hatter and a sure sign of why women are unfit to rule (a clear message in this medieval-esque patriarchal world). Queen Cercei too. Tyrion, the dwarf, seems on the verge of having charisma but fails, and Daenerys... I want to like someone, but Martin doesn't give his characters any depth. Sure, they're all flawed and a flawed character is a great literary device - the anti-hero, etc. But Martin's characters are walking clichés, even the dwarf.

The plot is also pretty weak. I don't need elves and magic and dragons - in fact, I tend to avoid them, especially elves *yawn* - but you've gotta give me something else. A bildungsroman does wonders - yes, let me see the characters on a journey of life rather than a quest, quests are tired. There's no quest in A Game of Thrones, and that's fine with me. But what is there? Jon goes to the Wall that separates the wilderness from the Seven Kingdoms (why is it called the Seven Kingdoms when there's only one kingdom?) and is attacked by an Other, a kind of zombie creature; Ned goes to the capital to take up the role of King's Hand because the King, Robert, likes to spend his time boozing, whoring and hunting; Catelyn follows to tell him someone tried to kill Bran; Ned tries to discover why the previous Hand died... And swords with names, seriously, what's with that? I'm so sick of such blatant phallic symbols and their representations, and the whole creed of honour and duty and gallant knights...

What frustrates me most is that this could have been a really interesting story, if only the author had better talent at writing characters - or letting them write themselves. The plot is not the problem, though it's largely uneventful, with no climactic moments because even those are written at the same pace as the rest, with no drammatic flourishes (come on, we all like those, let's be honest). But the characters, *sigh*, their motivations are simplistic, their actions extremely predictable, and while they don't blur one into another neither do any of them stand out. Also, the type of setting seems mostly convenient: with the focus on the nobles and their squabbling, you don't learn much about the lower classes, or what kind of food is grown here, or what kind of industry supports the economy, or anything about the cultures - using the clichéd medieval England setting allows Martin to ignore one of the more fascinating aspects of society and leaves his world shallow, like surface water, without support (using this old and worn Fantasy setting allows an author to get lazy about world-building). The history of the land is also riddled with clichés, and sort of thrown in here and there as if to remind the reader "it is a real place, look, here's what the First Men did!"

As for the writing, it's easy to read and calm, though very slow and rather lacking in tone or any interesting stylistic quirks: flat and bland, in other words. There's no atmosphere in this book. There're a few bad lines, like "A storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death" (p.425) - his one concession to drama, it seems, though if you read it again you'll notice it doesn't actually make sense; and a few awkward sentences that leave you scrambling, such as "Catelyn watched her son [Robb Stark] mount up. Olyvar Frey held his horse for him, Lord Walder's son, two years older than Robb, and ten years younger and more anxious." (p.696) I noticed a similar sentence later, and I guess I know what he means but really, it's terrible writing.

On the plus side, there were a few things I liked. The direwolves - large ferocious animals as constant companions and protectors: always a winner with me; the intriguing climate, where summer and winter lasts years, decades even, before changing (how does that work? Seriously, what do they eat?); Daenerys' dragon eggs, and the Dothraki, the horse lords - though they were pretty superficial and confined to a rigid list of adjectives - I would have liked to understand their culture better. In many fantasy books my problem is the whole good vs. evil cliché, which generally involves the plot. Here, my problem is that the characters are so black-and-white. They are described, good, that's settled, now what? There's no grey. No character development. They never once surprised me.

I honestly don't know if I'll read the next book. The Wheel of Time taught me (at the same age as I first tried reading this book, 16) that the first book in a series can be the weakest, because of the amount of extrapolation and background etc. that goes on. I didn't find that problem here, it was very grounded in the now, which makes me think the next book will be more of the same. I keep coming back to the reasons why I struggled to finish this book: boredom, clichéd and empty characters, not enough balance (as in, there's no love in this book, and if the characters are so realistic why don't they love?), and predictable events. You know what it reminds me of? Marion Zimmer Bradley's equally famous The Mists of Avalon - another book I couldn't finish. If you like Arthurian fantasy, and that kind of style, then this would be a good book for you: the excessively patriarchal culture, the battles, the hint of magic and something glorious lurking around the edges but never coming to the fore, it's all here, neatly packaged. Obviously it works for a lot of people.

But to all those people who say that Martin has opened up the genre in new ways, that he is the best writer of the epic fantasy crowd and so on, I have to wonder, have they read anything else? And then I wonder whether it's a matter of which author you read first and grow attached to, and so compare all the others. I don't think I fell into that trap as such, because Jordan's lost the plot, literally, Goodkind's personal politics and propaganda have taken over his story, and the one epic fantasy series that I love above all others - to date - is Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars series, which I didn't start reading till I was in uni. But I really wonder, how this story grabbed other people. If it grabbed you, I'd love to hear how and why, because sometimes I feel like I'm too jaded or something, too snobby maybe ....
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Reading Progress

September 27, 2007 – Shelved
October 27, 2007 – Shelved as: fantasy
Started Reading
May 25, 2008 – Shelved as: 2008
May 25, 2008 – Finished Reading
July 30, 2008 – Shelved as: not-worth-it

Comments Showing 1-50 of 290 (290 new)


message 1: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Okay, I'm getting this book on my lunchbreak today. It's been recommended to me over and over but I never seem to get around to it. Probably Martin is on the bottom shelf at the store, so that it never catches my eye and reminds me, Hey, remember me? Woo-hoo, down here! That's me, out of sight, out of mind.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) I started reading it back when it was first released in 1996 and got turned off by certain things. Now I'm giving it another go. I know, everyone seems to love this series! Almost makes me want to hate it just to spite them all!! He's pretty popular, so I doubt he's lurking on some obscure shelf :)


message 3: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn I know what you mean. It took me two tries to get into The Blue Sword, and when I was finally able to get past the part I couldn't finish, I actually enjoyed it very much. It's one of those things I read in jr. high that I have very fond memories of, but wouldn't have thought much of if I'd read it as an adult.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) I think I'm going to get lynched when I finally finish this and write a review. I can feel it coming, but I'm not going to back down!! Even if I'm the single dissenting voice! Ok, so I still have half the damn thing to go...


Sandi I agree with your entire review, Shannon. I know that I'm not going to go on to read the rest of the books.


message 6: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Well, I'm glad I spent the fifteen dollars on that Narnia omnibus then, instead of this! I can handle weak unoriginal plots, but the characters have to make up for it. Well, they have to be good in any case, what's an original plot without at least one character you can like and identify with?


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Suzann - glad I could entertain! :)

Sandi - it's good to find other people who didn't like this book, I definitely felt in the minority.

Kathryn - absolutely. I'll excuse pretty much anything if I love the characters!


message 8: by Lia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia i totally understand your review, that was how i felt before i read the second one as well. but the reason this book seems boring and superficial is because it's just setting up what's all about to happen. the characters become VERY not black-and-white (trust me), there is no easy good and evil, anywhere.

the political intrigue is the other thing - it seems simple. but one line from this book will suddenly show up at some crucial moment in the 3rd book... and you'll realize he intended it the whole time and understand everything...

but they are definitely a series to read together, this isn't a good stand-alone book.

oh, and they ARE making an hbo series of it, it's in the works right now ;)


Sandi Shannon, I have to admit that I gave the book 4 stars. Despite its flaws, all of which you pointed out so eloquently, I shamefully got sucked up into it. I would have liked to see some of the plot lines made into their own books, especially the Dany's story and Arya's story. Maybe the biggest problem with this book/series is that it's trying to tell to many stories at the same time.

For the record, I won't be reading the rest of the series.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Aw, I would've loved to have been sucked up into it! :) Seriously, I know I can be critical at times but I can also gloss over/forgive any flaw if I love a book and other stuff make up for it.

I did read somewhere that Dany's story had been put together into a novella on its own and it won an award.

Why don't you want to read the others?


Sandi I can't stand being jerked around with these huge series that never end. I prefer stand-alone books. There are so many books to read and too little time to read them. I don't want to get tied up with a long series.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) I know what you mean. I don't mind long series but it's better to wait for it to be finished before you start. I started The Wheel of Time when book 7 came out, and I read the first seven in just a few weeks, then had to wait two years for the next book.

By the time it came out I'd forgotten a lot of details, and each successive book it just got worse and worse till I almost had no idea what was going on or who anyone was anymore! and like I'm going to re-read the entire series every time a new book comes out??!! (There's always a couple of die-hard fans who do that but for the rest of us...? not a chance!)

Can I recommend Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars though? all of those books are out!!


Sandi I just finished "King's Dragon". I'm more of a science fiction than fantasy fan though.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Sandi, try her Jaran series instead then. It's technically sci-fi.


message 15: by Zack (new)

Zack This story is a drag to me. Nothing ever seems to happen, and when is does its not overly thrilling. If i could get into the characters more it would be one thing, but he never puts enough into them, and when you start to like a character he changes to another the next chapter. never to be heard from until mid book or later. I'm half way through book three and I'm bored, but my brother tells me to hang on.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Zack, I had exactly the same problem. I saw it through but it was a struggle. And I really disagree with people who say that Martin is a master storyteller.


message 17: by Zack (new)

Zack Yeah, this dragging it out problem seems to be a fad for fantasy writers of late. The first couple of books are great then they putter out to shitty 900 page nothings. Ex Wheel of time, Sword of Truth, yes even Harry Potter i am so upset with JK i don't think ill ever read another one of her books. Is it to much to ask for some quality.


message 18: by Cody (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cody Hmmm, interseting take on the book. I humbly dissagree with you on how original the plot, and characters are. My take differs from yours on this.

Martin goes with several themes in this series of books and sticks with them. The characters definitely aren't static and you grow to like most of the characters. I will admit too you sometimes I would skip a chapter of a character I hadn't heard of or thought was boring, however in subsequent rereads I did read them. There is a drop off in quality in the fourth book but I think everything before that is nothing short of spectacular. I humbly suggest that maybe your opinion of the book is founded in two things, first your initial inclination that the book was no good, and now an independants rebellion against the populace. I picked this book up... probably in 98 not knowing anything about it and loved it to death, then with the age of the internet I found out to my pleasant suprise that other people like it as well. So no hard feelings, some elements are degrading to women, and this book may not be as good as everyone says it is, but what I won't concede is its originality.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Fair enough Cody, and you're definitely not alone in that opinion. To be fair to myself, despite my misgivings, I did start to re-read it with the hope of loving it, or at the very least liking it. But I've read a lot of fantasy, of different kinds, and I really didn't find this one to be particularly original. I wouldn't have minded that either, if I could only have invested in the characters.

I didn't skip anything, because there are a lot of details crammed in there (and I don't like skipping bits), but when you step back and look at it as a book divided by chapters, not a whole lot actually happens.

It's true I sometimes resist thing because they're too popular, but I also like to give things a try and keep an open mind. Having discussed this book with numerous people who have varying opinions, I like it less and less. If this is what people consider masterful storytelling ... I can only weep.


message 20: by Jon (new) - rated it 1 star

Jon Completely agree with you Shannon. Just because something is popular, does not mean it's great.

This story, and all it's subplots, except for two of them - Jon and Ayra's stories - completely turned me off. Even though it would be interesting to see what happens to those two characters, I'm not going to subject myself to the rest of the sludge. I suppose I could check out the other books and only read the chapters entitled "Jon" or "Ayra."

Jon


Shannon (Giraffe Days) *laughs* that'd be a very slim book! But you probably wouldn't miss much (ouch snark!)

I liked Arya, I thought she had potential to grow into an interesting character - or not, knowing Martin as I don't - but I found Jon rather boring. He's a very popular character with people but I found him tiring.


Terence Shannon,

I'm in substantial agreement with you (though I was a bit more generous in my assessment, 3 stars sted 2). They're good "popcorn" reading. And, despite the clunkers you note in your review, the prose is decent. I wish he would get things moving, however, and focus on the characters who are really central to whatever the denouement of the series is going to be (also, like you, I'd hope it would be Arya). Are they paying him by the word?

I think Martin's strength is in his short stories (A Song for Lya, Sandkings, Tuf Voyaging). If you want to "risk" reading anything else by him, you might try there.

As to your comments about his treatment of women/misogyny. I don't remember anything too outre there (he's being quite faithful to Medieval society in that respect) but then I wasn't looking for it, and (worse) perhaps I've become desensitized to that sort of thing. (Though if you want really brutal misogyny, Janine Cross' Dragon Temple Saga series leaves Martin in the dust; some of the episodes in the novel are tough to get through -- maybe I'm not as insensitive as I fear.)

Martin's next volume is on my "wish list" and I'll definitely read it with closer attention.

(In an aside: This is one of the (many) things I like about GoodReads: This kind of interaction helps me focus on why I like what I like and why I don't what I don't.)


Shannon (Giraffe Days) You're right Terence - it's not half as bad as Pillars of the Earth, but because this isn't actually set in our world, nor is it subject to the restrictions of our history, I feel tired of all these fantasy books that simply "go along" with such things. There's some similar stuff in Terry Goodkind but it never bothered me there, perhaps because of the way it was written or handled?

I think the detachment that comes across in this book makes it hard for me to feel for the characters at all. I don't think the men were handled all that well either - they come across as stupid or narrow-minded or stubborn etc. Not a single character did I find inspiring or even interesting.

I haven't heard of the Dragon Temple series.

I absolutely agree, this really helps me too :) Usually when I disagree with people about a book I still actually agree with their points, but not with this book.


message 24: by Adam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adam Skinner When Martin compares blue eyes to death, he's talking about the wights / Others. If you recall, their eyes are a vibrant blue.

There is a fair amount of foreshadowing in the book. In the beginning, for example, you see people grow very uneasy when they find that a stag has killed a dire wolf. The reader, of course, has no clue what that means or why it should be meaningful, until he has read further along. The second time, the scene makes sense.


message 25: by Lia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia *agrees with adam*

grrm has crafted every single line to mean something, to foreshadow or remember something important. lyanna's death in the bed of roses... danys vision in the house of the undying, the stag killing the direwolf, as adam says... the ghost of holy hill... even tywins demise is plotted intricately from the first chapter of the first book. i got bored too, the first time, and would also skip chapters, but as i realized how full and rich the text was, i went back and re-read and then i was like OH MY GOD, how did i miss that?! these books are awesome!

and i love how the characters are not black and white, always gray... ned the noble, cheated on his wife? jamie the kingslayer is actually noble and good? you cant really hate anyone (except joffrey) because he writes them so 3 dimensionally there is no right or wrong. its just forces.

yes there was a drop off in the 4th book, sadly :( my hope is that WHEN then next book comes out - a dance with dragons (that should have some good dany action!) he's back in his stride!



message 26: by Adam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adam Skinner I don't believe Ned actually cheated on his wife. It is a sign of his nobility that he actually claimed Jon Snow as his own, while bearing the weight of public shame (and the consequences of the perceptions of his children and wife). "Promise me Ned..."


message 27: by Lia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia well, yeah, i know ;) obviously jon's parentage is much more epic than that... but its just an example of a character that grrm paints one way and then gives you a whole other side of. i guess ned isnt a good example because he actually was purely good... though you know, his rigid, unbending morality may have been a major contributing factor to the war... and in that way, we still ask, does morailty always equal good, or greater good?

but yeah, ned is pretty much good. jaime and tyrion and varys are better examples.

i hate littlefinger but im sure grrm will end up making me like him too by the end. argh!


Shannon (Giraffe Days) You two should have joined in the discussion over at the science fiction and fantasy group last month - though you still can if you like :)

Well, I thought the stag killing the direwolf was pretty obvious as soon as you learn the house mascots, and it looks probably that Jon is the child of Ned's sister and the Targaryen (I'm starting to forget names sorry).

I don't know, I've read a lot of fantasy of all different kinds and I just found Martin's to be unoriginal and dull. I'm glad you got a lot out of it but I found it uninspiring. I think this kind of epic saga finds its best audience amongst teenagers just getting into fantasy, and older mature-age men. It's the Wheel of Time for the newest batch of fantasy fans.


message 29: by Andre (last edited Aug 09, 2008 12:37AM) (new)

Andre Shannon...you goddess you! Spot on!

After I read the book...I bought it, I'll damn well read it...I wanted to return it and get my money back. I was slow to warm up to it, but it almost had me. As soon as they described the stones as "egg-like" and warm to Daenerys’ touch, however, I knew what was coming :-P and it nagged me for the rest of the book and sure enough Martin wasn’t one to disappoint :-T.

Despite the cool factor of the nomad Dothraki, when Daenerys Targaryen emerged from the conflagration with not one, not two, but three infant dragons suckling from her breast and lounging under mamma’s chin (give me a freakin' break), I was done. I completely lost all interest in continuing with the story. What was supposed to be a momentous OMG-I-can-hardly-wait-to-read-the-next-one ending felt like the biggest literary bait-and-switch I’ve ever been suckered into, made all the worse for my earlier suspicions. Waiting until the last page of the novel, indeed! Still pisses me off just thinking about it, and I read it almost two years ago now! Reminds me of reading The Sword of Shannara.

I haven’t even been tempted to read the rest of the series, not in the slightest. Can anyone tell an original fantasy story anymore...or even an oft-told fantasy story…uniquely and without resorting to such stereotypical plot-devices? If I were even remotely inclined to include this “gem” on my Goodread’s bookshelves, I’d give it a single star and feel that that was too much.

Like the man said, there’s one, “…born every minute.” Hi, Mr. Barnum; got any bridges to sell?



Shannon (Giraffe Days) *laughs*

Oh yes, the outcome of the eggs was pretty obvious as soon as they entered the story, hey? This book has so many YAWN moments I can't even begin to list them.

It sounds like your standards are just as high as mine, if not higher - I'm hesitant to recommend anything but I recently read The Name of the Wind and it blew me away. And if you like the Dothraki idea then you could try Kate Elliott's Jaran series, a blend of sci-fi and fantasy and very interesting and original.

I can't even bring myself to read any Shannara books; I have a strong feeling it's going to feel awfully familiar.


Stuart Sorry you didn't care for this book. It's one of my favorites, mainly because there is so much going on, much of it between the lines and just off stage, where the narrators sometimes hear the whispers but never enough to know who is really pulling the strings in the Game.

But, like it or not, your hardback copy is worth quite a bit. I picked GoT originally in paperback in 1996 and missed the hardback. When I started looking for a hardback copy when the third book came out, I discovered they were going for $200! Luckily, I met Martin at a signing and he still had a box full of first editions in his basement and he sold me one for $30.

So, take care of your book. :)


message 32: by Jon (new) - rated it 1 star

Jon Well, it was a loaner from a friend (and looked like a book club edition). I also checked a different hardcover out from the library.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) You're going to hate me Stuart, but I gave it to a friend of mine. Don't even know if she read it or not! At the time I just wanted to get rid of it - and it's the last book I've ever given away or got rid of. I always keep them now. Though I could do with a bit of cash ;)


Stuart Awww... too bad. You could have funded your next few months of reading with the sale on eBay. :)


Fatbaldguy60 I have read several thousand SF/F books in my time. I could not get through this one, for many of the same reasons you write about. None of the characters ever grabbed me, none of the situations ever intrigued me. I have tried twice to get through it; never made it past 250 pages.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) I'm actually greatly relieved to meet so many people who had the same or similar problems with this book as I did - I'm just surprised there aren't more of us!

(But then, why are Danielle Steele and Patricia Cornwall books so damn popular? What's going to be a hit is never predictable!)


Shannon (Giraffe Days) And then somehow it just clicked, and this is now my favorite fantasy series of them all.

That's so nice, I had hoped for something similar with this one myself, since so many years had gone by.

I'm glad to hear that "nearly every badass man has met his end" - I remember feeling very satisfied when, ugh, what's his name, the exiled heir to the throne, was killed - I even liked the brutality of his death, since he was such a little shit.

I know how I feel when friends don't like my favourite books, and I want them to realise the magic, but I don't think it's going to happen with this one. No one is more disappointed than I am! A long, fat fantasy series? Love 'em. Was hopeful I could get into this one too.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Well I actually liked that you picked this book up despite having read my review!

Hm, nipples don't bother me. When I first read this I wasn't much older than the girl in that scene and the idea of an older man doing that made me angry and disgusted. It seemed very violating. I didn't think to have a similar reaction so many years later but it still seems lecherous to me. Yes, lecherous. That's the word.


Randy I disagreed with your review, but that isn't surprising. Martin's Song Of Ice And Fire series is a tough read, owing largely to his unflinching brutality and slow pacing. He hews to the Medieval, and the sexism and misogyny you cite as ludicrous seems only appropriate in context. As has already been pointed out, some of the female characters outlive the chauvinistic tough guys through what Martin obviously considers "true" strength - the kind between the ears. He is not the most surprising writer (as evidenced by the dragon eggs), excepting his willingness to kill off major characters as he feels necessary. His character development is slow but steady, and his use of circumstance to drive their progression might grate, but he obviously believes in heroes who are ordinary people in extraordinary times.

The nitpicking seems lazy; many of the complaints are answered, if you have the patience for it. For instance, the "Seven Kingdoms" being one kingdom is explained. The seasons lasting years is hardly a test of suspension of disbelief. And characterizing the story as "essentially about a bunch of nobles fighting over a throne" is inexcusably lazy. Other than that, I simply disagree.

What really rankles is the listing of Martin's "peers", like JRR Tolkien, Robin Hobb, David Eddings, and ESPECIALLY Terry Goodkind.
Tolkien (nearly every fantasy reader's Sacred Cow) was great at combining elements of folklore into his particular synthesis, but was an abominable writer. I have never said this before, but the movies were actually better than the books.
There's nothing inherently bad about Robin Hobb's work; it just doesn't compare to Martin's. The two have written entirely different stories, using distinct styles, plots, characters, perspectives, and objectives. Why bother comparing them? Other than a vague grouping in the fantasy section, they have nothing in common.
Eddings is just plain bad, and is almost as derivative as Goodkind. His cut-and-paste characters thrown into carbon-copy situations, and progress to their logical, predestined fates. Yawn.
And Goodkind? If you don't like sexism and misogyny, I wonder that you read any of Goodkind's awful, derivative, he-man-hatefests. I'd have to go back to the days of pulp to find a writer so obviously contemptuous, hateful, and condescending to women. His reverence for rape is horrifying, and his female characters are cartoons. Every one of them that isn't a crone or a girl is strong, intelligent, beautiful, ethereal - and every one of them turns into a weak-kneed, slutty, simpering twit in the presence of the "hero". Every one of them that isn't a crone or a girl is subjected to sexual submission. Goodkind's message is clear: Even you so-called "strong" women are just vapid little whores when a REAL man comes around. It's disgusting. Martin's male characters may treat women like crap, but Goodkind himself takes a special interest in savaging his female characters. Other than that, he just sucks.

Martin may not be the God Of All Literature his adoring fans make him out to be, but he's a cut above the sorry lot of fantasy writers we've been saddled with for decades.


message 40: by Mate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mate You should read the whole book before rating or commenting it. Everything else is stupidity.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Randy, is it so bad that I didn't like this book? I have many reasons for disliking it, not least that it's boring. Eddings was boring. Tolkien was boring. Goodkind was okay for a while but I agree with your complaints there too. They're boring mostly because they're all writing the same kind of fantasy with very few twists. You can nit-pick on the definitions of sub-genres if you like, but they're considered "high fantasy" and do little to add anything original to the genre. Martin wasn't as bad as Eddings, but at least Eddings tried to put a bit of humour into the earlier books.

I don't expect or want you to agree with me, but at the very least you can graciously and politely acknowledge that I don't have to like this book, that I've tried my best to articulate why, and that it's all purely subjective so there aren't any "right" or "wrong" reader responses.

There are better fantasy writers out there than Martin, but it hardly matters - what matters is the story, and if you liked it so much, that's great. I found it lacking. You didn't. What's so wrong about having two opposing responses?

Mate, I don't know who you're talking to there. Me? Do you mean I should read the entire series first? If so, I disagree. I read and responded to this book, and that's entirely acceptable. Anything else is "stupidity".


Kimmay Shannon, I agree we are entitled to our opinion.

Personally, I loved this book, and you hated it. I hated the Kite Runner and most people loved it. So it's all good in the end, it all evens out. Lol

Perhaps "Mate" thinks you never made it past page 108, your review refers to you being upset with the book at that point.

I do agree that there is no right or wrong, just opinion. Some genres or authors just don't appeal me either. I love Martin, but Goodkind i will NOT ever read again, i have read two of his books and that is CLEARLY enough for me. Some issues going on there with that author. I had to throw that in there because I KNOW there are Goodkind fans out there that rave about his books, but I think they are just shiz. And I did give him a second try. Goodkind/Mediocre... Mediocre and just plain fetish riddled. Not my thing. (Please no throwing things at me GK fans.) :O)

Henry James says Be kind, Be kind, Be kind . Lol

I would like to say that I have started books and hated them only to give them another try later on and been more receptive to some and actualy liking many. I think state of mind at the time, factors in to liking or disliking a book sometimes. So perhaps maybe someday you might give Martin another chance.





Randy Nowhere in my reply can you find the word "wrong", Shannon. Also, nowhere did I say you had to like the book, or even intimated that your erred in not liking it. I even gave concessions in the first paragraph, agreeing that Martin is not without his problems. As you said, what's so wrong about having two opposing responses?

Any criticism I had of your review was in it's method, not it's conclusion.


message 44: by Shannon (Giraffe Days) (last edited Mar 04, 2009 03:11PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Shannon (Giraffe Days) I'm confused Randy. I didn't have my "conclusion" in a vacuum. It comes from many things, the accumulation of many problems I had with this book. I don't just dislike a book, I dislike a book because.

You said I was "inexcusably lazy" because you disagreed with the way I summed up the plot - but that is my honest response and highlights how little I got out of it. By criticising me for this you do seem to be saying I'm wrong to think so. That's where I got the impression from, that and several other comments. It's not easy to decipher tone of voice or even, sometimes, audience (as in, are you speaking generally or specifically?), over the net, so I apologise if I misinterpreted your comments. I like discussing books with people who had different reactions, as you can see, but I have two reviews here that seem to attract people who wish to attack me, rather than discuss my review, and yours came at a bad time. (I didn't, however, think you were attacking me, but I don't see what else I can say in response to your comments except what I said.)

That said, I stand by my review. It was a disappointing book, and a disappointing fantasy novel, and I really don't see the attraction, not with this one.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Kimmay, you're spot on about Goodkind having many issues that come out in his books - he's very right-wing conservative American, to put it simply. I quite enjoyed the earlier books but after a while the author's personal politics really got in the way. I haven't finished the series yet; I will, but I've lost my motivation to.

I think you're right about Mate: I don't think he read past the first couple of lines. Doesn't he look silly.


Randy Ah. Well, I thought some of your arguments against the book had merit, and some did not. Of course it's still possible to not like the book for some of the reasons you've mentioned. That Martin treads all-too-familiar ground, for instance. When an author moves into eye-rolling, dead-horse subject matter, she/he had better bring the goods. Obviously, you believe he did not, and I have no problem with not liking the book on that basis.

As for Goodkind (responding to message 49), he is an objectivist, and they are without a doubt some of the worst, most self-absorbed and uncaring people on Earth. Unfortunately, his "Me, Me, ME-DIDDLY ME, DAMMIT!" philosophy appeals to far too many, which shouldn't get in the way of enjoying his work if it wasn't for the fact that it's pretty much already someone else's work, and/or that there's practically nothing to enjoy.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) True, there are plenty of fantasy books that I enjoy even though they don't do anything particularly original. For me, for any book, it usually comes down to the characters and character development - especially when a book has problems with awkward prose, weak plotting etc.

There are books I absolutely love despite poor writing etc., because I loved the characters and believed in them and became emotionally involved with their stories so much.

I wanted to connect with Martin's characters but I couldn't; everything else could have been forgiven otherwise.


message 48: by David (new)

David The chapter headings, I'm referring to. It encourages me to start wondering about the character before I've even started reading. "CATELYN" the chapter title reads: is she young or old, a peasant, a farmer, a daughter, a mother, nice, mean... I start imagining things and then have to correct it all as the character is revealed during the chapter. There's power in names, and withholding them or putting elements of a character's personality first is often more compelling, and better writing.

I had to stop reading this review after this point because quite honestly it was one of the strangest criticisms of a novel I have ever heard or read. I immediately flashed to all of the novels where the author even deigns to put the name of the main character on the very cover of the book (oh, Heavens!), less a mere chapter heading: "Oliver Twist," "David Copperfield," "Jane Eyre," "Emma," "Huckleberry Finn," "Tom Sawyer," etc., etc., etc. Does this theory of yours hold true for these novels as well? Are the authors of these books giving away too much by telling the reader the name of the main character in the title of the book?

What about writers who put the name of the narrator in the first line of the first chapter? Is that somehow different? "Call me Ishmael." I believe that one has some fans.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Don't be ridiculous.

My reasons for being annoyed in this particular book are clearly enough stated. It's not a theory, David. It's me being extremely irritated with many niggly things in this book. I don't think the chapter headings worked at all in this book.


message 50: by Nan (new)

Nan I like your review quite a bit. I read the novel some years ago when it was new in paperback. It was vaguely disturbing to me, and I kinda liked that. However, I was also reading Robert Jordan at that time, and I had been reading his books for years. When the next book in this series didn't come out all that quickly, I rapidly lost interest in it. Part of me would like to know how it all turns out. However, when book two did come out in paperback, I realized that I would need to reread book one because I'd forgotten so much . . . and I realized that I had no desire to slog through this book a second time. Once I came to that realization, I took the book to a used bookstore.

Reading your review helps me to remember so much of what I didn't like about the book. As I said, I was intrigued enough to wonder what would happen next. That said, I wasn't into reading about incest, breast feeding at the age of ten (rough estimate, it's been a few years since I read this dreck), and breast feeding dragons. Seriously. Breast feeding dragons? They're not mammals, Mr. Martin. You have them hatched in eggs, and that's not a mammalian behavior, hence no breast feeding . . .

UG.


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