By Laura A. Lords
A Song of Fire and Ice Series by George R.R. Martin
I find I am almost ashamed to say that I hopped aboard the Game of Thrones bandwagon a few years later than I should have. In my defense, I grabbed the first novel when it came out in 1996, and promptly stuck it on my gigantic bookshelf, where I hate to say it sat until last year. Then, in a fit of desperation to find something, anything , besides my science textbook to read, I pulled out George R.R. Martin’s masterpiece.
But can I call it that? Even now, when I’ve plowed through to the fourth novel and am not-so-patiently waiting for my copy of A Dance with Dragons to sail through the postal highways and plant itself in my mailbox? Game of Thrones, itself, is not the only masterpiece; the collection as a whole is a stunning success.
In a way, I believe I’m lucky. A Feast for Crows was released in 2005, a long five year wait for most after the third book, A Storm of Swords. Of course, that means that readers are four (or perhaps five if you are ahead of me) books into this imaginative, deep, intricate world created in the brilliant mind of Martin. It means that you have come to know, love, and possibly hate the highly developed, realistic characters. You have struggled along with them, praised aloud their victories, and mourned their losses. If you are anything like myself, you have had strong pangs of jealousy at Martin’s work of genius, and at the same time wanted nothing more than to throw his book across the room when out of the blue you find a character you’ve held such a relationship with…killed. Cut out. Slain. Destroyed. Slaughtered. Executed. Eradicated, even. If a book is to be judged on nothing more than the emotional pull it holds over you, Martin has perfected the art of plucking every possible heart-string.
A Feast for Crows will give you more of the same warm, fuzzy, hateful, heartbreaking feelings. The problem occurs when you reach the end of the book. Martin included a wonderful end chapter to explain the issues he encountered. I believe he said it best when he wrote,
“I was still writing when it dawned on me that the book had become too big to publish in a single volume…and I wasn’t close to finished yet.”
That’s right. He split the book in half. Now, it wasn’t as if I didn’t notice throughout the book that there wasn’t a single chapter titled “Daenerys” or “Tyrion”. Or that remarkable characters, such as Jon Snow, barely received a few words from the author. No, I spotted all of this. Yet still, I devoted myself to it. I plunged into the depths of Westeros and let Martin take me on a ride at least 10 plot lines thick and over 600 pages long, something that can be daunting to some readers.
You can only imagine my response when I got to Martin’s end chapter, when he explained that he had to split the book, when I read that bonus chapter from A Dance with Dragons and I received a glimpse of what had been happening with Daenerys. At least, I thought to myself, she’s alive. Which as far as Martin’s characters are concerned, is a feat of immeasurable triumph.
Martin has created a world so elaborate and complex, full of characters that are just as highly developed, that it was only a matter of time before the intense story lines began entwining and weaving together to a point that he would have to separate out the books. However, the wait for the next piece of the puzzle is always well worth it.
If you haven’t begun the series yet, hurry. You can easily get a set containing the first four books in the series. (Trust me; once you get started you will want to have the next one handy.) Martin has reshaped the fantasy genre, and has created a world one can get happily lost in. Go now, pick up your copy, and become enchanted for, as Maester Aemon said, “Starks are always right eventually: winter is coming. This one will be long, and dark things will come with it.”