Top critical review
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An immersive experience
on 5 March 2014
Three books into the GOT series, and I realise that this is a reading experience that can’t really be equated with any other – especially since I am not an avid reader of sci fi or fantasy. I’ve read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, Robert Rankin, Tad Williams (a couple of books) etc. However, this is by no means my genre. I can appreciate that for many hardcore fantasy fans, GOT must be at the pinnacle of the genre. It’s no exaggeration to say that people could probably do a degree on the subject! It is, without a doubt, a work nearing pure genius. So, why only three stars? Well, it’s simply because I am judging it according to my level of appreciation as someone who doesn’t read widely within this genre.
I would imagine that there are many readers who know all the houses (major and minor) and revel in (and can remember) every tiny detail. However, the sheer scope of these books is also, in some ways, what detracts from the enjoyment. Unless you’re prepared to read one after the other in quick succession, you will, undoubtedly, forget things that have gone on. Many characters populate the novels and you can go for numerous chapters before you return to a favourite character’s POV. But, for those who relish the details, I acknowledge that this is part of what makes GOT so compelling.
Personally, I find the books an utterly immersive experience. They are not page-turners in the conventional sense and, particularly in this instalment, there’s much detail but not a lot actually happening. That said, this isn’t supposed to be a stand-alone book and, from what others are saying, the action picks up in the second part. Despite the slow(ish) pace, I found myself returning to the novel if not with hungry anticipation, then with a sense that there was a group of friends within the pages with whom I wanted to catch up again. While reading Martin, you are drawn utterly into his world and, yes, that world does have faults: some characters are less well developed than others; sometimes you don’t hear enough from your favourite characters; it can be slow at times; the detail is too great (I don’t necessarily care to know what the coat of arms are for each house); it always irks me when Americanisms creep into the writing (like gotten). I know, I know – Martin’s an American writer. However, the strength of GOT is that it’s sort of timeless – but, if you had to place it anywhere in your mind, it’d be Mediaeval England/Europe (probably why British actors have been used in the TV version).
Despite these faults, you can’t help be awed by the landscape and people Martin has created. My favourite characters are Daenerys (you know she’s got so much more to give as a character) and Tyrion. For me, Tyrion is the best-drawn of the characters; he’s witty, wicked, deep, kind-hearted, loyal – he might be an Lannister but he’s one of the good Lannisters (at the moment)! He just seems more fleshed out than some of the others who own POV chapters. With some, like Bran, I feel that Martin is simply narrating what happens to him – but with characters such as Tyrion and Daenerys, you feel that you’re getting into their minds more. Jamie also emerged, in this instalment, as an interesting character with a wit that’s not quite on a par with Tyrion’s but could get there.
So – to conclude. If you’re reading these reviews, you’ve probably read the first two books and I’d say it’s definitely worth continuing. Just don’t expect any great plot twists this time and probably bear in mind this is the set-up to what’s going to come next.