Editorial: A Song of Ice and Fire


Today I finished reading the fifth and latest book in A Song of Ice and Fire series: A Dance with Dragons.

If you have listened to the podcast, whether the regular or the special we put out on A Game of Thrones, you know full well how I feel about this series. If you haven’t read these books, I believe wholeheartedly that you should. What you are missing here is something that you can’t get from most TV shows or movies these days; a serious attention to detail and a story that never fails to deliver on its promises. That, of course, is my opinion. If you disagree, take it with a grain of salt.

Let me start off, for the 3 people that may not know this, by saying how I came to this series. Last year, HBO put out the television series and Troy was climbing up the walls about it. He was genuinely excited about the prospect of seeing this story put to camera, and he’d heard a lot of chatter about how right they were making this one. I nodded and there was some interest at first, which the more I thought on it dwindled to barely anything. I like fantasy stuff, but I’m not the biggest fan you’ll find of it. Most people seem to regurgitate the same stuff over and over again. It’s Lord of the Rings and D&D knock-offs (before we start, I know D&D spun out from fans of Lord of the Rings wanting to play in a similar universe, so don’t start on that!) The point of what I’m getting at is that for all the imitators out there, A Song of Ice and Fire is an entire different animal. The problem I found in my head with that animal is that I didn’t want to deal with all the political crap. Whenever it was talked about, the political variances of the Lannisters vs. the Starks got put to the forefront. I don’t much deal in politics. Most politicians move their mouths and I call liar most every time. So a series bogged down in that mire wasn’t my idea of a good time.

As goes with things the man enjoys, Troy would not back down on this one. He sat me down and told me to watch the first episode, so I did. With most things like this, I was fairly certain enjoying it was out the window. Bad pun, for those who know the series. I was pretty much set in mind that this was West Wing with swords. Instead what I got was Sean Bean, Mark Addy & Lena Headey in roles I had never seen them in before. Peter Dinklage was an inspired actor playing an even more interesting character. He’s the guy you know you shouldn’t like, but do because you can’t help it. If you don’t know the names, IMdb will help.

Lena Heady – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0372176/
Sean Bean – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000293/
Mark Addy – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004692/
Peter Dinklage – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0227759/

These aren’t all the great characters you’ll find in the show, and certainly not all the well-known actors. Still, I think you should prowl around a bit of Game of Thrones and see who all else is there. Maybe even watch the show. Regardless, take it under advisement: THIS IS NOT FOR CHILDREN! It’s on HBO for a reason. I’ve said this before, and I’ll continue to say it, because people tend not to listen for some reason. That’s a topic for another editorial or show.

In any case, I plowed through the 10 episodes and knew what Troy had been talking about. It was a pretty great TV series, but as with all things I wanted to see how it differed from the book. I got a real taste of that on the Mists of Avalon. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s tome and the movie on TNT varied a great deal. So, I had obvious apprehension. Especially considering the weightiness of the books that George R.R. Martin put forth. I shouldn’t have feared about a thing. The book and the series was followed with some changes, but it was so close that it matched dialogue for dialogue. Within a month of buying the book, I was back in the store buying A Clash of Kings, a month after that I had a A Storm of Swords. It went like that up to this last book, which took far longer to read than a month. Knowing full well that The Winds of Winter might be some time in the offing, I took this one slowly. Some people said I was likely to devour it after the slight disappointment of A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the series. Such wasn’t the case, because Crows was actually my favorite of the series. Also, by measure of the fact that I didn’t have to wait the many years to get A Dance with Dragons, I didn’t have so long in-between characters I hadn’t gotten in the former book. As it was put to me, Crows and Dragons was written as one book and split into two. Dragons had a great deal more that needed to be finished for it, so it took a while. Not to mention GRRM was sick at one point and other projects kept him busy. Nonetheless, the idea that Crows and Dragons was one book made two let me digest it a lot easier. That, and the fact I was reading through all 5 at once vs. what I’m doing now; waiting for the next one.

A Dance with Dragons fills in every character that A Feast for Crows didn’t. While Crows showed us where one story was starting to wind down, it also ramped up something new. Big things were on the horizon and a lot of important people had their eyes towards the same location. No spoilers as to what or where. In Dragons, the book starts out where Crows began, filling out what happened with the major characters since we had last seen them. As big a book as this is, and as massive as the series overall has been, I was wondering how he could continue without floundering around. I started to wonder if some characters would have a point in being there at all. I slap myself in the head for thinking otherwise. Even though there are times where chapters don’t have as big a revelation on something than others, there’s devils in those details that play big into oncoming things. The 959 page hard back was filled with so much details, it made me wonder where it was going to end and how much it would leave for the next to answer. It gave me plenty of excitement to wait for, but it also gave me what I’ve been waiting four books to see. Read or listen to it, and you’ll understand. As per the usual, when you think you’ve had enough of the politics, it’s anticipated and a fight breaks out. Many characters have things to answer for and they get to in sometimes the most brutal of fashions. As ever, the seasons play a heavy toll on these people. You are never let to forget that it’s not just the people that kill, but the very land and weather itself.

I want to give an in-depth review of this right now, but I feel it would ruin it for so many others. There’s so much to mention, but some people are just getting started on the series and I want to give them a chance to catch up. Troy and I are planning to do a podcast for each book, and that should help to give all of you the chance to hear the full glory of it. I recommend having read it first, but if you want to know what you’re getting into then listen in! Today, I write this out of love inspired by what I’ve read to encourage others to read and join in listening (even responding!) to our podcast reviews on them. I don’t beat the drum hard enough on some shows or books. Some of my co-workers may disagree. This one, no matter who believes what, I put on that pedestal of greats.

As I put on my personal Facebook page: I patiently await the next book. I am so excited about it, I can’t tell you. I plowed through the last 140 pages because I couldn’t help it any longer. GRRM need not hasten his pace, because I fear writing something overly fast would only serve to make ruin to this story. He’s found his rhythm on it, and that’s fine for me. I’d rather wait the length and have him pleased then to rush him. Fans should do that for worthwhile creators.

This story came to me last year in the midst of so much bad. I needed the escapism and it served its purpose far better than I could have ever thought a series could. I hadn’t read anything this voraciously since Tarzan. Even at that, these were far larger books than what I got there. Mind you, there are a lot Tarzan books I have yet to read. Still, even the ape man himself couldn’t have inspired me to read this as quickly as I have now. Jon Snow, Dany and her dragons, Ned Stark, Tyrion Lannister… the list goes on of great characters. They drew me back to Westeros as often as I could spare the time to get there. Thank you, Mr. Martin. Thank you, and much love to the lot of wonderful characters until we find ourselves back in King’s Landing or the host of other exotic and wondrous locations.