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on 23 August 2006
On my latest foray to buy some new fantasy, the till assistant suggested that I might like to try George R. R. Martin. I had seen his books before, but had never committed to reading them, but on this recommendation, I picked this book up for my summer holiday. Over 800 pages and less than 5 days later it was finished.

Although somewhat slow in starting, the storylines soon become engaging and you really do want to find out what happens next. The book also contains a large number of surprises and means that you're never really certain where each story will lead.

For me, the biggest surprise was in the unusual structure. As has been mentioned, each chapter is named after the character whose view it is written from. This is not something I have encountered before, but I enjoyed the format. It gave a nice insight into characters from all "sides" and allowed a good deal of depth to be included for them.

The book as a whole is almost three independent stories. Firstly, the "Game of Thrones" is the nickname of the power struggle between high-born families to influence or take the throne. As usual, we have the good (Starks, Tullys), the bad (Lannisters) and the undecided (Baratheon). This covers the majority of the book and has only an initial interaction to one of the other storylines,

The second storyline has minimal interaction with the first and follows a sworn brotherhood that forego all previous ties and become a new "family". They are sworn to defend the kingdom and man the vast wall that separates it from the wilds to the North.

The final storyline does not interact with the others and is only hinted at by the telling of rumours in the kingdom. It charts the progress of the barbarian race of the Dothraki and their uneasy alliance with the last of the Targaryens, the family that were all but destroyed in a battle with the current head of the kingdom.

As in most fantasy, there are apparent good and evil sides, but most of the characters have a certain ambiguity which results in them doing something that you would not normally expect. This ambiguity is a neat way to make you connect with characters from both sides in a way that you wouldn't usually do and although it may be a little uncomfortable, it also provides a better immersion for the reader.

Another surprise is that magic is scarcely involved. It is only hinted at in the first two storylines and is only fully in evidence at the end of the third; I suspect that this will become more prominent in the following books.

Non-human creatures are also in short supply, but again, I believe that they will play a larger part as the series progresses.

To close, I would like to mention that there are a couple of plot twists that left me open-mouthed, a fact that I found most satisfying (after I'd recovered:-). Also, there are a couple of particularly grisly deaths and this combined with some of the more mature language and themes, indicate that this has been targeted at an adult audience.

I have tried to avoid any plot details since the impact of the book comes from not knowing what is going to happen next. it has introduced all the storylines and got them to a point where they are all about to explode into action. If you fancy something a little more complex and with a definite adult bias, this could very well be the book for you.
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on 19 August 2012
I have just finally finished the last available book of A Song Of Ice And Fire and as this is one of the best series I have ever read, I thought I'd write a review and post it for potential future readers. Since I made the mistake of reading some of the reviews on here and unfortunately came across a massive spoiler which ruined a huge plot development for me at the end of A Dance With Dragons (book 5) pt2 I will try and make my review as succinct and spoiler-free as possible.

Book 1 - A Game Of Thrones
I would watch the television series to get yourself better acquainted with the characters. The book has been done more than justice in the TV series and at first read it's quite tedious to try and get to grips with the Houses of Westeros and all the political intricacies. A good book though, with the first of many OH MY GOD that didn't just happen moments at the end.

Book 2 - A Clash Of Kings
Read this on holiday and couldn't put it down. The "sh.. hit the fan" well and truly after book 1 and Westeros turns into a free for all. Epic writing by Martin and his disregard for characters continue. Expect the unexpected. Also, the TV series season 2 does not do the book justice in the same way as season 1. You'll want to read this book.

Book 3 - A Storm Of Swords
The first of Martin's books split into two in paperback (these are the versions I read). By far the best book of the series so far. I laughed, I cried, I threw my book on the floor of the bus cursing. Possibly one of my top 5 favourite books of all time simply because of the sheer brilliant writing and subsequent emotion it provoked.

Book 4 - A Feast For Crows
From one of the best books I've ever read to one of the worst. Be warned, this books makes for dreary reading and feels like another Book 1 in the middle of an already richly developed series. Tens of new characters and multiple new family lines get introduced and I found myself reading out loud in the manner of "blah blah blah get to the point" many times. However, these families end up playing a key role later, and there are a few gems in here as you will get the point of view of some characters which opens up a whole new dimension to the story. Stick through it, it will be worth it I promise.

Book 5 - A Dance with Dragons
Also split into two paperbacks, Martin returns to form with the 5th instalment and brings back the old characters we loved from books 1-3. Just remember not to love them too much; no one is safe under Martin's pen. No one. The book is not quite on the level of book 3, but absolutely brilliant compared to book 4 and actually a lot of the new stuff from 4 slots into the previously built storylines. The book builds up nicely towards the end where you'll have a few OH MY GOD moments yet again, but this time you will have no other book to order from Amazon to see what happens next. Not yet anyway.

On balance I would give the series 5 stars but because of book 4 I simply can't and it gets 4. Hopefully a review update after the 6th and 7th book it will all make sense and I will reconsider. That being said I realise and have made my peace with the fact that I will be much older by the time the 7th and final book is published and might not even remember how to write a review... Until such time I can only envy you, the person who is yet to embark on this journey. Enjoy!
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on 30 May 2011
As advertised, this is an incredibly good book - believe all the hype and purchase it immediately!

My one gripe is the format of the Kindle edition which is literally covered with typos e.g. 'Tf' for 'It', 'boh' for 'both' and quite frequently 'bum' or 'bumed' for 'burn' or 'burned'.

My suggestion, as this sort of poor quality production detracts from George Martin's text, is to purchase the hardcopy and forego the Kindle. You'll likely be pleased, as I imagine (in the hardcopy) that candles won't be 'buming' anything.
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on 3 July 2002
Suffice to say, from the top marks I'm awarding this book (and the whole series thus far) I found it to be an excellent read. No, that's insufficient, this is not only the best written Fantasy series (by far surpassing Tolkien in my opinion) I've read, it's almost certainly the most enjoyable book of ANY kind.
The writing style is intelligent and treats the reader accordingly, which is a refreshing change in the Fantasy genre, and the sheer bloody-mindedness of the plot subverts every preconception the reader may have while maintaining the traditional escapist elements familiar from 'lesser' works. The world of Fire and Ice is so fully realised it's hard to keep track of the history and vast array of characters but Martin guides you through it effortlessly and seems to have known from the first line exactly what is going to happen in every subsequent paragraph. His attention to detail is almost scary. The series also (incredibly) manages to improve with subsequent readings as the reader gets to grips with the innumerable plot developments and realises that the most unexpected of events was probably sign-posted ten chapters back.
One note of caution to prospective buyers however is that despite it's Fantasy trappings this is NOT a series suitable for children. Mr Martin does not shy away from explicit descriptions of horrific violence and sex and the language is frequently of the four-letter variety. Equally disturbing is the brilliant realisation of the multitude of characters in these books where the 'Heroes' prove capable of horrendous atrocities and the 'Villains' sometimes act with compassion and honour. And these characters can DIE; If a situation looks likely to be fatal, chances are it will be, which is almost unique in an on-going series and means every violent encounter is almost excrutiatingly tense.
So, not for the faint-hearted but certainly a series that sets entirely new standards for fiction, Fantasy or otherwise.
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on 9 October 2013
I love GRRM's prose style - his earlier novel 'Dying of the Light' is my favourite science fiction novel of all time and I like fantasy epics so it surprises me a little I didn't get round to reading his 'Song of Ice and Fire' saga a bit sooner. I think at some level I was worried about how his beautiful, highly dense prose would work on an epic level - and having finished this first volume I think I was right to worry. There is much to love about this book - some great characters, beautiful descriptive writing - I was drawn in right from the start, but sadly soon got bogged down and by the end I had had enough. Detailed descriptions of landscapes, interiors, appearance/character traits of even the most minor characters - it was all way way too much. The guy seriously needs to get an editor or maybe just be a bit more selective about his material!

It starts strongly with an intriguing encounter between the mysterious Others who lurk outside a great wall built of ice and the members of the Nightwatch who give their lives to guarding this wall. (What is really interesting but not explored much in this volume is that this is a world where something has happened to change the seasons and winter/summer can last for decades. When the novel opens it is summer and some of the younger characters have never known winter which it is hinted is pretty horrific) We then move on to the Stark family and the five children who each acquire a wolf pup which is hinted will play some part in their future destiny. Well we probably have enough material for a fantasy epic right there but wait there's more - much more! Seven warring families, an incestuous brother/sister union/a virtually impregnable fortress/a girl who is a descendant of a dragon owning family which once ruled the 7 kingdoms/ and countless countless minor characters and plotlines (most whom I tried to ignore in the hope they would get killed off soon). I got fed up having to trawl through page after page of dreary politics to get to the good stuff. It felt like GRRM had lifted whole chapters of 'Lives of the Kings and Queens of England' and dumped them into a fantasy setting and I quickly got bored. If I wanted to read this kind of stuff why wouldn't I read real history and actually learn something instead of reading about a bunch of made up people?

There were only a few characters I really cared about- Danys, Arya, Jon, Tyrion and Bran but sadly they got lost in a mishmash of innumerable minor characters, warring families and political intrigues. I wish he had given them a little more space to develop - Arya is particularly badly served - the novel came alive for me when it switched to her viewpoint - but I felt deeply disappointed that at the end her storyline is just left hanging in thin air. It feels like there are several very good ideas which would have made terrific novels on their own but end up buried among a mass of filler. It seems a shame to introduce unsuspecting readers to these characters and themes only for them to realise that they still have to read several huge volumes to still not find out what happens :(

For me this doesn't work as an fantasy epic GRRM needs to paint with a broader brush and not get bogged down in minor details, the various storylines feel a bit disjointed and there is no overall grand theme at least not one visible without perhaps reading the entire saga (which isn't even finished!). I have a sneaking suspicion GRRM wrote this with a view it becoming a TV series right from the start hence the need for countless storylines, action piled on action and never mind that the original appeal of the story gets lost somehow in the mix. Don't bother buying this book if you are the kind of reader who appreciates a novel with an actual structure, a theme, a beginning and an ending - you will only end up frustrated!

I can't honestly see myself reading the rest of the series - I looked up the future storylines on Wikipedia and all I can see is an author getting more and more bogged down in multiple plotlines and new characters whom I know I will not be able to care about and who will only use up page space which could be devoted into writing about the characters I have already grown to know and love. I'm sure GRRM has made a lot of money out of this series but what a waste of his talent. I would have preferred one single novel of the calibre of 'Dying of the Light' or 'Fevre Dream'.
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on 28 April 2006
I started reading these books on a recommendation from a friend. To be honest I hardly read books anymore, I never really found the time. But almost as soon as I started AGOT I was hooked and made time.

George R. R. Martin opens you up to a vast new world he has created with amazing characters that you will grow to love and hate (and even learn to love the ones you first hated). His in-depth analysis of the main characters is staggering and he takes you places other fantasy authors don't tread.

The next books in the story build upon the characters, and bring more into the fold. It's such an immense series that GRRM has needed 70 pages of appendix to mention just the major households (70 pages as of A Feast For Crows, it's a little shorter in A Game Of Thrones). It's a wonder how he keeps track of them all.

I throughly enjoyed reading this book and the others in the series so far. I would recommend them to anyone.
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on 23 March 2013
Was really looking forward to reading this, but I have to admit I stopped and started with it about 3 or 4 times... got approx. 50% of the way through and then finally called it quits. I just couldn't seem to get into the story, I think because there was just too many of them all going on at the same time, switching from here to there, one lot of characters to another - it was just too much for me to keep up with. So many long names of families and kings and quenns of here and there and children and cousins , I often couldn't remember who was who and would try skip back on my kindle to remind myself and couldnt find the page... It was an effort to read and not a very enjoyable story for me up to the point I got to anyway...

So many people have raved about how good a book it is I'm really dissapointed I got so bored with it and couldn't even read until the end... I never half reads books ever! Perhaps I'll try again sometime ..
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on 17 January 2004
Forget Jordan, give up on Goodkind. This series is absolutely amazing, everything you want from a fantasy series. The characters are so real, you laugh and cry with them. Martin isn't afraid to kill off central characters either, so you anxiously anticipate who is going to survive each plot turn, which gives an edge to the writing that Eddings, Goodkind and Jordan et al could well learn a lesson from. Bloody, sexual, uncompromising, and realistic, I've just read the first four books of the series back to back over the space of a week - I've done no housework, or shopping, my daily papers for the last week are sitting in an unread pile and the kids are unwashed and feeling neglected. Yes, it is that good. And the best thing of all about it is that the story is planned over six books, book 5 out in April, so there is an end in sight unlike some long-running series' I could mention, and I know when I've read the last book I will mourn for the end of the best fantasy world out there to date.
Buy the books, get in the Pot Noodles, take the phone off the hook and send the kids away for a week. Really.
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on 29 November 2011
I am without a doubt somewhat slow in catching the George R. R. Martin bus. However, now that I have (by reading the rather monstrously bloated 'A Game of Thrones') I find myself ruminating over what I have read and deliberating about purchasing the next book in this 'epic' series. Is it considered epic because of its quality, or merely for its length...?

I have deliberately awarded this book a middle of the road score because it both enthralled me and irritated me. I can't help but notice that the vast majority of the views on this site have been highly favourable, but I would gladly debate with and question those who have awarded it a perfect 5 stars.

Perhaps I should begin with telling you why it is good. Well, Martin writes well for starters: about this there can be no quarrel. The story is overall an interesting one, exciting in parts and most chapters leave you wanting to discover the next turn of events. He uses detail well to fuel (as well as aid) your imagination. The subject matter is of a sort that would appeal to most people (albeit likely aimed at the 50% of the population in possession of a pair of testes). Fantasy it may be, but we're not talking witches, wizards and lightning-ejaculating wands, and only relatively occasional utterances of dragons and a bit of hocus pocus towards the end.

All well and good until we address Martin's enthusiasm for breadth. There is simply far too much happening for anyone who isn't entirely, 100%, completely, utterly and undeniably engrossed in this book. I read this book over the course of about 7 weeks (leisurely, but consistent). I like to think I have a fairly good brain in my skull and I know a few people who would back me up on this point. That said, I found it incredibly difficult to fully grasp the story and relied on later discussions of earlier events to help consolidate the overall plot.

All-in-all I would probably recommend the book to a friend but would not do so with abounding enthusiasm, therefore 3/5.
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on 24 November 2013
I bought the first book on my son's recommendation, then followed up with the next two. I'm not a fantasy fan, and my comments should be read in that light.

First the good points: the multiple-viewpoint structure works excellently; the many characters are distinct, well described, and believable; the descriptions of venues are wonderful.

My problem is with the mass killings. They're on the scale of the Mongol invasion of Europe, the people slaughtered are peasants, and whole kingdoms are laid waste. In spite of which the kings and their courts continue to get gold, fancy clothes, elaborate foodstuffs. But where does that come from? If the peasants are slaughtered, who mines the gold? Who provides the fancy clothes? Who grows the food?

The question arises because this is a feudal society, and according to The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Mortimer, Ian ( 2009 ) the population in fourteenth century England was 97% peasants supporting a church class of 2% and a ruling class of 1%. The society described in these books looks similar so will likely have similar percentages. So what happens when you kill off a large percentage of peasants in such a society?

The 14th Century has the answer. Then climate change (the bad sort that reduced temperatures) led to massive crop failures and then the Plague hit. The population of England fell from about 4 million in 1301 to 2 million in 1400. That killed feudalism, because in spite of great efforts by the top 3%, peasants' wages rose to reflect their scarcity, and so began the process that led to the Bill of Rights, parliaments, the fall of kings, and the American Revolution.

So that's my problem: if the rulers described in these books have been mass-slaughtering for centuries the peasants will have become very expensive assets and hence freer.

So that's why I gave up after 3 books. But then I'm a scientist and anomalies bug me.
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