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Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story but convoluted structure makes for a plodding read, 20 Jun. 2011
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This review is from: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) (Mass Market Paperback)
There's no denying the story itself is a good one and most of the characters are well rounded and sustain your interest. Martin's strength lies in his ability to describe battle scenes (it was a masterstroke to report the sounds of battle, at one point, rather than the images) and successfully convey fairly complex human relationships - for the most part. His portrayal of the acid tongued, yet achingly human, Tyrion Lannister is another masterstroke, and, to be honest, he is probably the highlight of the whole story.

So the story and most of the characters are at least 4 star quality; it's the telling of the tale that lets the novel down, and why I couldn't give it more than 3 stars or recommend it to absolutely everyone.

The multiple POV chapters are a big problem structure wise; it's fine in the beginning when the introductions are still being made and we're still getting to know everyone, but by the end of the novel, the story becomes fragmented, loses momentum and begins reading like a collection of separate stories with very little overlap. There is literally an entirely separate story being told side by side the actual story (Danerys) that we know will have a connection to 'everyone else' in book 2, but I ask, why tell it in book 1 then? Why not tell it in book 2 where it'll be relevant?

The other frustration with the multiple POV chapters is that you have just invested so much emotion and interest in character A, when his chapter ends and you have to plough through the stories of characters B, C, D and E before you get back round to picking up where character A left off, by which time, you have to get your interest up again. Furthermore, this way of telling things actually puts limitations on what the author can reveal and how. There are countless times when it would have been more natural (and would have kept up the momentum) to continue on with character A's experience, but because he can't have the same POV twice in a row, he is forced to abandon character A and go on with another.

Some people, indeed, many people, obviously don't have a problem with this but that ain't my cup of tea.

There are other structural and plotting problems (including the severe underwriting of the main conspiracy and time wasted telling irrelevant stories and going into far too much detail about things that don't matter) that can't be gone into due to spoilers.

Much has been made of Martin's prose but to me, it was nothing special, merely functional, with occasional moments of beauty here and there, but all too many clangers, 'His manhood glistened wetly' is one example that had me laughing out loud. On that note, there is not as much sex as reviewers led me to believe, and none of it is particularly graphic. There's a bit of swearing - the c word is mentioned about 4 times - and quite a bit of violence though nothing too alarming.

One minor gripe is the poor editing. There are actually quite a few typos and miss-hits of the keyboard - more than I've ever come across in a novel before. He uses the word 'stupid' five times on one page. Also, the first time I read one of the characters mention the title of the book in their dialogue I thought that was a nice touch. By the fourth time I was wondering if Martin's editor fell asleep on the job.

Overall, Game of Thrones is an enjoyable read if you can turn a blind eye to all the things I mentioned above. Many people don't care about prose so long as they can understand it, or an awkward structure so long as they love the characters, which is fair enough. If you're one of those people, then you'll enjoy this novel.
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