So in the end I might have spent more time reading over the Christmas holiday then I did with my family, but happily my family loves to read, too, and so didn’t mind (or at least claimed not to mind) when I retreated to my room for several hours to get caught up in the world of George RR Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series. “Caught up” might be something of an understatement, as I found myself reading until 2, 3, 4am with eyes propped open rather than quitting the seductive, mysterious and utterly ruthless world of the Seven Kingdoms (and beyond).
I admit that the first six or seven chapters were something of a struggle as I tried to keep track of the scores of characters that get introduced at something of a whirlwind rate. I’d suggest for new readers to bookmark the appendix that lists the relationship of all characters, or failing that, to make their own list. I’m sure this is my own failing and not that of the text, but I do think there’s something to be said for slowing the introductory pace just a little so as to allow readers the chance to become somewhat more familiar with characters before they are jerked into another sequence.
That said, one cheery consequence of a rapid introduction is that the reader isn’t offered the chance to fall completely smitten with one character or another, and so loyalties are early divided in a text that does not follow the usual trajectory of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys,’ but rather suggests that loyalties (and characters!) will shift depending on characters’ actions and evolving relationships.
The usual cadre of knights, princesses, dragons, swords and sworn allegiances make for an intoxicating plot and atmosphere. But it isn’t the well paced plot that makes Game of Thrones totally irresistible (to me) it is the characters who make catastrophic errors, who act without honour, who deceive themselves and others – in other words characters who are human rather than fantastical archetypes.
I’m promising to alternate a book from Fire and Ice with another book recommended so that I don’t find myself lost in the Seven Kingdoms until March, but it won’t be easy.