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Guy Gavriel Kay
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2012 Reads > TIG: Who's better, Guy Gavriel Kay or George R.R. Martin?

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message 1: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6252 comments They seem kind of similar, with complex plots and characters, and a historical based setting, and just a pinch of fantasy. So who's better? Let the religious wars begin!


message 2: by Vance (last edited Jun 06, 2012 08:31AM) (new)

Vance | 362 comments Oh, tough call for me. I would say it depends on the mood I am in. Kay is better with language, and his prose is just a pleasure to read, flowing beautifully off the page. Both write dialogue well and create compelling characters, and build interesting worlds. But Martin's pacing and action are crisper and more forceful.

Here is a weird imagery: Martin seems to write in HD, where Kay uses a soft filter at times. Both perfect for different moods.


message 3: by Dave (new)

Dave Tigana is my first Kay book so I can't make a good comparison, but I think Vance makes a great point about Kay's use of language and prose. I like Martin in that area but if the small sample size i have of Kay is reflective of his overall body of work he probably stands above Martin in that sense.


message 4: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments Dave, read The Lions of al-Rassan next!


message 5: by Kris (new)

Kris (kvolk) Or The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay it is one of my all time faves...not much of a Martin fan so no contest in my mind.


message 6: by Amanda (new)

Amanda (lyrrael) | 2 comments It's a hard comparison for me to make, since they're -- to me, anyway -- very different kinds of authors who work with different kinds of story lines.

Kay is outstanding at creating an in-depth, intricate world, and his writing is beautiful and compelling. The stories are complex, politically driven and far-flung, and I enjoy that, but Kay has nothing against staying in a place and meditating on it. I think he creates better, more diverse cultures, but the action isn't as in-your-face. I sometimes think that the only reason a lot of his stuff is considered fantasy at all is because no one has any idea where else to put it, since it's a fictional world working with fictional plots, but none of the sorcery and mythology you tend to expect from fantasy.

Martin's grisly, and good at creating the grime and grit of his plots. He can get a little hung up on his plot and consequently can be given over to excessive wordiness, but his action is incomparable.

I'd like to throw a third author into the mix, one that isn't as well known but who creates plots and worlds who have aspects of both authors: Michelle Sagara West, who wrote the Sun Sword series. Any thoughts?


message 7: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments What you've all said regarding Kay and Martin is similar to my opinion. I prefer Martin for fantasy that involves battle and strategy, though. I know that Tigana has a different theme to it, which is of memory, as Kay has pointed out. Still, when I read a fantasy with epic battles, I prefer a lot of strategy and intrigues. You feel strongly that war is in the air, and all the creatures and their mothers are in on it. And the battle scene, whoo! If I can envision the terrific battle, I love it.


message 8: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments Geesh, I came up here to see whether I have Bach in my Goodreads reading list and I ended up popping in here. Gotta stop my meanderings....


message 9: by P. Aaron (new)

P. Aaron Potter (paaronpotter) | 585 comments Kay finishes what he starts...


message 10: by Javier (new)

Javier Quintana (javier_quintana) | 43 comments And who would win in a fight?

Both questions are kind of silly. I don't think you can compare writers in absolute terms like that.

I'm betting on Martin, by the way.


message 11: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments Martin doesn't finish so that he can make money until people are tired of the series. It continues with the next book....


message 12: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6252 comments So Martin has better foreplay but Kay has better climaxes?


message 13: by Kris (new)

Kris (kvolk) ftw


message 14: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments No, Kay has flowers, romance, and cuddly afterwards. Martin's is a lot of fun games, plenty of climaxes, and another one, and another one....


message 15: by Paul (new)

Paul Harmon (thesaint08d) | 639 comments Tamahome wrote: "So Martin has better foreplay but Kay has better climaxes?"

D'oh


message 16: by Dave (new)

Dave Vance wrote: "Dave, read The Lions of al-Rassan next!"

Thanks Vance, That is actually the next GGK book i have on my to read list. From all i've heard about it i think i have a good chance of enjoying it.


message 17: by Chris (new)

Chris Palmer | 61 comments I would say that in one way Martin has made Kay better: because of Martin's infamous capacity for killing off characters unpredictably, I no longer trust other authors not to do so as well. In the case of Tigana, there were several scenes where characters faced death that if I hadn't read Martin's Song of Ice and Fire books, I would have said, "Yeah, but they can't die here." Instead, I was thinking, "Wow. It sucks that they're going to die. I liked them, too."


message 18: by Molly (last edited Jun 06, 2012 07:25PM) (new)

Molly (mollyrichmer) | 129 comments Tigana is the only Kay book I've read, but based on that, my vote would be for Martin. I fell in love with ASOIAF. There wasn't that 'spark' with Tigana.


message 19: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 919 comments That is a close call. Martin is 63, but raised as a poor scrappy lad, son of a longshoreman, so he would probably know how to fight dirty. Kay is an intellectual, was a philosophy major and a lawyer. Martin could beat him physically, but Kay can sue the heck out of him.

The reason why Martin kills off beloved characters is that his pet turtles kept on dying off when he was a lad. That's my theory, anyway.

I'm surprised that Kay is only 57. He sounds like an old man, or do all Canadians sound like that?


message 20: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments I couldn't place his accent at all.


message 21: by Stuart (last edited Jun 07, 2012 05:53AM) (new)

Stuart (stuartellis) | 47 comments Chris wrote: "I would say that in one way Martin has made Kay better: because of Martin's infamous capacity for killing off characters unpredictably, I no longer trust other authors not to do so as well."

To give him his due, Kay can be pretty hardcore - he will kill off or damage major characters, but he does more old-fashioned tragedy than grim and gritty violence.

The Fionavar Tapestry that Kris linked to has some of the most powerful scenes that I've read in any book (fantasy or otherwise). I actually hesitate to recommend to people because there's some hard emotional gut punches in it. In particular, there's a scene at the end of the first book that is the single most harrowing thing that I've ever read.


message 22: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new)

Tassie Dave | 3532 comments Mod
I agree he'll never finish, not because he doesn't want to but, because he won't live long enough at the rate he is writing them.

Based on the limited number of books I've read of either author, my answer to the topic question is George R.R. Martin by a considerable margin.

I liked Tigana but it was no ASoIAF.


message 23: by David Sven (new)

David Sven (gorro) | 1582 comments Martin is steak. Kay is ice-cream. I love my ice cream - but its a poor meal that doesn't serve up steak.

Both have affected me emotionally. Kay can leave me groaning silently. Martin can leave me shouting "STOP KILLING EVERYBODY!!!"


message 24: by Scott (new)

Scott Having read the entire ASOIAF that is out so far, as well as all of Kay's fiction novels, I have to say that I think Kay is the better story teller over all. I loved reading the books by both authors, but I keep re-reading Kay's books over and over again, and never have the desire to do that for ASOIAF.


message 25: by Ashley (new)

Ashley (ashtheviking) | 5 comments Martin without a doubt. I haven't read Tigana and I won't because I've read the three books in the Fionavar Tapestry series, Ysabel, and Sailing to Sarantium and while I loved the concepts of each novel I absolutely hated each reading experience. I don't think I've given any other author as many chances to win me over and Kay has consistently failed.


message 26: by Vance (new)

Vance | 362 comments Ashley wrote: "Martin without a doubt. I haven't read Tigana and I won't because I've read the three books in the Fionavar Tapestry series, Ysabel, and Sailing to Sarantium and while I loved the concepts of each ..."

Ah, Ashley, you read my LEAST favorite of his books! His best are Tigana, Lions of Al-Rassan and A Song for Arbonne (IMHO), I have not yet read Under Heaven.


message 27: by Joseph (new)

Joseph | 2267 comments Um, I think my answer would be, "Yes"?


message 28: by Bryek (new)

Bryek | 273 comments I have lemmed both authors but Kay is the only one I plan to one day finish. Martin, I didn't find much at all to like about his books.
I lemmed Kay for the abrupt change of characters in part two. The change didn't sit well with me, it felt more like a slap in the face and a complete break in the storytelling. But I will probably do what I usually do in these instances: read about the one group until they meet or the book ends and then go back and read about the other group.
I lemmed Martin because his characters were atrocious and plainly unlikeable (with the acception of Ned, Arya, and Jon) and I just couldn't give a crap about any of them. But if it remained with the 8 characters in this book I probably would have stayed with him but we all know his character count is ever rising and he just can't make me care about them. I lemmed it a few chapters before the end. Just couldn't care to find out what happens to them all.

Overall, I would like Kay better because I actually cared about the Tigana characters and their struggles whereas Martin... I just can't bring myself to care.


message 29: by Arroyo0 (new)

Arroyo0 | 51 comments Tigana was lovely but I it's not in the same league as ASoIaF


message 30: by Marina (new)

Marina Ermakova (marie_erving) Stuart wrote: I actually hesitate to recommend to people because there's some hard emotional gut punches in it.

I've never read a Kay book without those emotional gut punches. It's the first thing that comes to mind when I think of his name.

I refuse to choose between two of my favorite authors, but honestly, it's kind of weird for me to think of comparing them in the first place. They're really different.

I've read ASOIAF and four Kay stand alones (two of which were Lions of al-Rassan and Tigana, which are possibly amongst the best books I've ever read). How am I supposed to compare Kay's stand alones to Martin's series?

Kay writes tightly woven stories with a strong theme to them, whereas Martin works on more of an epic scale, always branching out and encompassing more with every book. Kay leads up to a point about human history or nature, where Martin gives us a gritty adventure story. I can't really compare that, and it might just come down to a matter of taste for many people.


message 31: by Devin (new)

Devin (daihmon) | 19 comments I will likely change my opinion the further I get into Tigana, but for the time being I prefer Martin as an author in all ways except in his use & adaptation of language.

Kay is able to use language to evoke emotions & imagery that I had never imagined using or conceiving of before on the page.

Their plots & characters are both excellent, but I think the depth & scope of Martin's plots as well as the layers of inter connectivity of the characters will with me over each time.


message 32: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4142 comments So far I prefer Martin. His imagery is without compare and I immediately find myself immersed in his world.

Kay uses too much flowery language without saying anything extra. So far, he hasn't sucked me in like GRRM does.


message 33: by Chris (new)

Chris  (haughtc) I like Marie's message #32. Well said.


message 34: by Sam (new)

Sam Erwin | 26 comments Marie wrote: "I've never read a Kay book without those emotional gut punches."
That is why I'd say that, despite not having read much GRRM (currently about 50 pages into AGoT, have watched the HBO series completely so far), I prefer Kay. He draws out more raw emotion than I think anyone I've ever read has. (spoilers for The Summer Tree)(view spoiler)

Of course, I also think it's likely a false comparison. As you say, Kay tells tightly wound stories that focus on a core group while GRRM is telling a sprawling epic. If I were to make a very inexact video game analogy, Kay is more like a Final Fantasy game and GRRM is more like a game of Crusader Kings (which may be part of what inspired some fans to make a total conversion mod to put the ASOIAF world into CK2).


message 35: by W.R. (new)

W.R. Edmunds (wredmunds) | 28 comments In terms of how much I enjoy reading their material, Martin is the one for me. For those who don't want to dive into ASOIAF, I highly recommend you check out Martin's lighter sci-fi venture Tuf Voyaging.

I lemmed The Summer Tree and the often tangential bits of exposition that Kay uses in Tigana tend to disconnect me from the story. It is far from bad, but I certainly don't get the emotional "gut punches" that people have been referring to from Kay's material.


message 36: by Bryek (new)

Bryek | 273 comments I have yet to undersand people's fascination with Martin. He would really would only have a cult following right now if it wasn't for HBO. I understand the enjoyment of a sprawling epic but the story still has to actually progress and the way he is going he is going to get so many characters that he won't be able to move the story forward at a satisfying rate without butchering 1/2 to 3/4 of his characters.

I have issues with Martin if no one has noticed yet heh.


message 37: by Chris (new)

Chris  (haughtc) Cult following? Yeah, that New York Times Bestseller status is nothing more than a cult following.


message 38: by Bryek (last edited Jun 14, 2012 07:11PM) (new)

Bryek | 273 comments Chris wrote: "Cult following? Yeah, that New York Times Bestseller status is nothing more than a cult following."

I still say his name wouldn't be as known without HBO. I would even wager a paycheque that this topic would never have been posted without the HBO show.

Patrick Rothfuss and Brent Weeks kicks Martin's arse any day lol.


message 39: by Caedy (new)

Caedy  Eries (karida) | 21 comments This is my first Kay book, but I am liking it so far. I am also a fan of Martin. However, I am more a fan of Patrick Rothfuss than Martin.

I'm also inclined to agree with Kp, however I've read Martin even before GoT was turned into an HBO series. Just like I've read the Sookie Stackhouse novels before True Blood was even created.


message 40: by Kam (new)

Kam (kam_martinez) | 59 comments Hm, that's tough, especially since I tend to put Martin in one category of fantasy and Kay in a very different one. Kay's prose is slower, more lyrical and poetic, and while his stories can be happy at times there's a thread of poignancy running through it all. His work reminds me a lot of Peter S. Beagle's work: lyrical, oftentimes sad, but also hopeful.

Martin is another beast entirely. He's fast where Kay is slow; gritty where Kay is lyrical; despairing where Kay is poignant. I have a hard time coming up with an author to compare him to, because for the most part he's the inspiration for a lot of the grittier, edgier fantasy that's come up in recent times.

To give a filmic comparison: Kay is rather like Zeffirelli's version of Romeo and Juliet - beautifully shot and elegantly told. Martin is more like Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet - rough and tumble but still well-told. Neither author is better than the other, though, and I love them both for different reasons.


message 41: by Chaz (new)

Chaz | 32 comments If Martin ever finishes ASoFaI then he is better and it's not even close.

I ended up really enjoying Tigana but the worst bit about it was the prose. The characters, plot and intrigue were all interesting but he is prone to use clumsy and overly complicated sentences that are a hindrance to his communication.


message 42: by Kevin (last edited Jun 16, 2012 06:15AM) (new)

Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 1081 comments Chris wrote: "Cult following? Yeah, that New York Times Bestseller status is nothing more than a cult following."

Yeah, but without the show the first four books would not even been on the list, and the fifth book would have fallen out of the list by the fall at the latest, more likely by labor day.


message 43: by Michal (new)

Michal (michaltheassistantpigkeeper) | 294 comments A Song of Ice and Fire was on the New York Times Bestseller list (I believe for A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows) before the show ever aired. It wouldn't have become a show if it wasn't already popular.

Kay is undoubtedly the better writer, to me, at least on a sentence level. However, I don't think Tigana is the best book to judge him by, especially not on a prose level.


message 44: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6252 comments Which is?


message 45: by Mike (new)

Mike | 21 comments Chaz wrote: "If Martin ever finishes ASoFaI then he is better and it's not even close.

I ended up really enjoying Tigana but the worst bit about it was the prose. The characters, plot and intrigue were all int..."


I felt the same about Tigana, and I really enjoy reading Martin's books. Some are saying that Tigana isn't the best book to judge him by. I may try a different book at a later date.


message 46: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 1081 comments Michal wrote: "A Song of Ice and Fire was on the New York Times Bestseller list (I believe for A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows) before the show ever aired. It wouldn't have become a show if it wasn't alr..."

I think A Clash of Kings was also on the New York Times bestseller.


message 47: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 1081 comments Michal wrote: "A Song of Ice and Fire was on the New York Times Bestseller list (I believe for A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows) before the show ever aired. It wouldn't have become a show if it wasn't alr..."

Yeah, but only for people who read EPIC fantasy, the show bought it to a larger audience.


message 48: by Bryek (new)

Bryek | 273 comments Clash of Kings only reached 13.


message 49: by Michal (new)

Michal (michaltheassistantpigkeeper) | 294 comments Tamahome wrote: "Which is?"

The Last Light of the Sun, Ysabel, Sailing to Sarantium, Lord of Emperors and (to a lesser extent) The Lions of al-Rassan. I've said elsewhere that I personally think Tigana is Kay's worst novel.


message 50: by Erick (new)

Erick Taggart | 71 comments This is my first Kay book too, but I see them as being very different, despite some similarities, particularly the political nature of the books. I felt that Kay's writing has a much more emotional impact, and even though there was a lot of focus on the effects of sadness and despair, it was overall very hopeful and positive. Martin tends to be a bit more detached, with most of the emotional impact coming from the events of the story as they happen to the characters rather than from the point of view of the characters themselves. I feel for Jon Snow when he has to fight off people that he once lived and fought with, but it doesn't resonate the same way that it does with Dianora. And ASOIAF is, so far, very bleak and far less hopeful. So I guess it depends on my mood; also, like some people said, since Martin isn't finished yet, it also depends on how he pulls off the last two books (but I have faith!).


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