donderdag 31 juli 2014

George R. R. Martin: A Game of Thrones


Well, I finally gave in to peer pressure; I read A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.
My fiancé owns the whole A Song of Ice and Fire series and he’s a big fan.
The book won the Locus Award and it was nominated for the World Fantasy Award.
This copy has 780 pages.

“Kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men. All will play the Game of Thrones.
Summers span decades.Winter can last a lifetime.And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.It will stretch from the south where heat breeds plot,lusts and intrigues to the vast frozen north,where a 700-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond. The Game of Thrones. You win,or you die.”

Well, I can’t say I loved it.
It’s not bad, but I think a reader who’s not used to reading fantasy will love it more than someone who is.

First and foremost, I have a problem with Martin’s characters. They are underdeveloped, they only have about three emotions or character traits (they do differ in every character luckily) and most of them are one-dimensional, only focusing on one thing at the time (eg. Catelyn goes from staying with Bran day and night for days to abandoning him to go to Ned and then she doesn’t go back to her youngest children).
Every character reads the same; Bran sounds the same as Ned, John, Catelyn or Tyrion, they don’t sound their age and they certainly don’t act their age. That’s especially a problem in the minor characters like Tommen and Old Nan who don’t have a defining trait. The mayor characters are mostly distinguishable by their clichéd, simplistic and forced traits and characteristics. The characters are extremely black-and-white: tomboy Arya, stupid but beautiful Sansa, honorable but stupid Ned, the drunkard and whoring king, the loving but unforgiving and hard Catelyn, the blonde and cunning adulteress Cersei, the stupid, handsome and strong Jaime. I really didn’t care for them and if I don’t care for a character, I certainly don’t care for the novel. I can love unlikable characters but I have to care for them to be able to enjoy a story.

The story is great though. Told from multiple points of view, and a focus on politics and the dynamics in the kingdom, it certainly is entertaining. It’s not new and unique, it has been done before, but it is very good. The plot arcs change and evolve and the characters need to adapt to them and that could be interesting as it creates tension.

It’s just not well executed. It feels as though Martin has no passion for language, for imagery or for the art of writing a good book. I could find no joy in the reading itself because there’s no passion and love for language or fiction in it.The writing is flat and bland.
The multiple points of view are a good idea, but again, not well executed. The time leaps are too big. We go from Ned in his cell, to Arya viewing his execution, from Daenerys hating Khal Drogo to her being deliriously in love with him.
I would have liked to read more about the world itself. I mean, it’s such an amazing world and it has so much potential. But there’s virtually no world-building here. You read about seasons lasting for years but you never get explained how that can be. We know nothing about life outside the castles (what about the lower classes?), about the different cultures in the different parts of the kingdom (there’s seven of them, they can’t all be the same) or about what’s beyond The Wall (anything would have been nice, but I would like to know more than; “it’s there for a reason”). I think it’s too shallow. Martin doesn’t even try to create this world.

It’s a good story, made rather plain and dull by a writer who cannot captivate depth and emotion. I’ll probably try the next one in the series, but it won’t be anytime soon.

How did you like this novel?

Happy reading.

Relaxing after my fabulous bachelorette party!