At the New Year, I read a post that said 2016 had been written my George R. R. Martin. I didn’t understand what that person had meant until I read the first book in his A Song of Fire and Ice series, Game of Thrones.
Yes, yes, we’ve all heard about the HBO series. I had, and I watched the first few episodes then decided that I didn’t like it. Too much drama not enough story. Then I gave the book a try and read the first half in about a week.
Game of Thrones breaks every rule that I have ever been told about writing fantasy. Don’t use complicated names that no one can pronounce. Don’t throw in so many characters that your reader need to make a chart. Don’t use more than one or two POV characters. Don’t smash your readers with paragraphs of exposition. Martin also breaks the adverb rule, the passive tone rule, and the show/tell rule.
And yet, Game of Thrones is one of the most popular fantasy novels. It’s partly because of the HBO series, but it was read before that. Why? Because even though Martin breaks all of those “rules,” it is still a good book. It works. Sure, I’d rather have a story that moved faster, with ONE central character, but that’s my tastes. Martin makes his novel work regardless of those “rules.”
I gave Game of Throne a 3 out of 5 because while I couldn’t put the book down some nights, it felt as though I was watching a reality TV show from the medieval times. The passive tone slammed the pace to a halt. There’s a lot of telling. The multiple POVs got old and it annoyed me when two character had to discover the same thing; I, the reader, don’t need to be told about something more than once. The first half of the novel had a lot of buildup that I felt fell in the second half. All the characters feel the same. There’s no “voice.”
The whole “outwitting” game got old. I came to expect each character to outsmart the other in the next chapter. The situation just got worse and worse. Bad things became worse things.
I know this book is part of a larger series, but I don’t have any strong inclination to continue onto the next book. I’d rather read something happier and well-written. (I mean that as in the style of writing, not the story.)
The book, like its TV counterpart, has too much drama and not enough story.
Does this review seem negative? Don’t misunderstand; I did enjoy this book. I read for hours each night. I had to know what happened next. The over-arching stories crisscrossed and met and veered and then came back together. Martin knew exactly what he was doing with each character he wrote. The story was orchestrated with talent and skill. Had Game of Thrones been written with more flare, it might have gotten a 5/5.