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on 26 August 2010
Having spent many years avoiding fantasy fiction, believing it started with Tolkien and ended with Stephen Donaldson, I was tempted into buying this on the strength of HBO making it into a mini-series (with Sean Bean, so it should be good, I thought). I got to page 81 and realised that as I had fewer years left to live than I started with, I wasn't going to spend any of them trying to understand the goings-on in another made-up world, with characters with made-up names doing things I didn't much care for. Sorry. It's ok for people who like this stuff but, quite honestly, it's all the same. The cover notes tell me its ambition is to 'construct the Twelve Caesars of fantasy fiction', so why not just read about the twelve Caesars? - much more interesting and at least they were real. Still love Tolkien, though.
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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 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 7 November 2009
I loved this book when it came out and re-read it several times waiting for the next. Gradually the time period between each book coming out has become longer and longer: I can't even remember what happened in the last one, although I do vaguely remember being a bit dissatisfied with it as compared to the others and it lacked the same 'must read on' gripping quality. I've now completely lost interest: the guy hasn't even got the courtesy to his fans to update his progress report on his own website (last update Jan 1 2008) and doesn't even bother to change the excerpts any more. He seems to be so busy sucking up all the fandom thing that I suspect he hasn't got the time to sit down and apply himself to actually writing the stuff that brought him so many fans in the first place. How ironic. If the fifth book ever comes out it'll be a miracle but I for one won't be rushing to queue up for it. Take my advice - go read Robyn Hobb instead - brilliant stuff and SHE MEETS HER DEADLINES!!!!!!
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on 21 June 2011
I've never read a book that is so bogged down in mentioning names of characters, that plot seems secondary to this obsession.

"Serwyn of the Mirror Shield. Ser Ryam Redwyne. Prince Aeomon the Dragonknight. The twins Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk, who had died on one another's swords..."

The book is filled with nonsensical characters, references to countless places and past characters that inhabit this fantasy world. To me, it was so bloated and obsessed with reams of name referencing, that with each chapter I attempted to read, I struggled the call to toss the book in the bin.

I give it 1 star because it is a pompous and vastly overrated book that gave me absolutely no enjoyment in reading.
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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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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 October 2016
I am reviewing the 20th Anniversary Illustrated Edition only.

I am not sure how long it will be before Amazon merges all the reviews together, so i wanted to show you a few pages of the inside of the book.

You all know the story, i dont need to bore you to tears.

The book is a whopper, thick hardback book, with too many illustations to count. There are both colour and black and white ones. The pages are very good quality, and it has been bound in a way that the book lies flat when open, which is amazing as it's really heavy and you can't hold it, so this is a sit down at the table reading kind of book.

My book came just loose inside a box which i wasn't happy with, but luckily it wasn't damaged.

It was also a 1st edition which i was thrilled with, i had preordered this in July, and on occasions I've ordered other limited edition books they have been 3rd printings so this was a huge bonus.

The book is breathtaking, worth every single penny i paid for it, I'm so impressed I'm going to buy both of my brothers a copy for Christmas.

Buy it now before it goes out of print.
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on 22 October 2013
I suppose that the short version of this review is that the book is like a badly written version of 'The Lord of the Rings', but with none of the delicacy and competence that Tolkien brought to the genre. Middlearth may have been fantasy, but it was a fantasy that was coherent and believable. I really cannot say the same about this book, and I struggled through only about ten per cent of it before giving up completely. The only good thing I can really say about it is that the author can write. The problem is that what he's writing just seems to me to be complete nonsense, a story that doesn't make sense and characters about whom I couldn't care less. What is really surprising is how popular the book is, because I personally simply do not see the appeal of any of it.
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on 12 September 2010
Usually my interest in fantasy extends as far as reading The Hobbit and The Lord if the Rings trilogy. I read this book because the HBO series is currently being filmed in Belfast near to where I live and it's possible I might get to work as an extra on the set. I wanted to know the story to make it more exciting if the opportunity arose. I was also excited to read it because of the reviews and I love it when a story is sustained throughout several books.

As a 26 year old woman I have to say, albeit predicably, that my biggest gripe with this novel is the inveterate misogynist tone that runs throughout. I tired pretty quickly of the constant references to 'whores' and the genral disrespect of women. It seemed to me that the male figures reflected a breadth of interesting character types (Bran, Tyrion, Jon) whilst the women were constructed in a typical binary fashion loosely based on a Madonna/whore diachotomy - being either noble - arguably such as Catelyn, Daenerys, Arya or being servants and whores - nameless, worthless maids or abominations such as Cersei and Lysa. No doubt it was Martin's intention to create a bleak society but at times I found myself becoming truly dejected. People were disposable, infidelity and illegimate children were rife, emotions and love were made into a mockery. Now this may be the way it is with fantasy fiction, perhaps fans of the genre are hardened to and even enjoy reading about these desolate situations. But for me the violence was prolific to the point of gratuitousness and rape was treated in a facetiously blasé fashion. I thought the character of Daenerys particularly was included primarily as a voyeurs dream. Her body was marked out as fodder for sexual gratification from the beginning - lest we forget she is thirteen years old????

I made a point of finishing the book, partly because it did capture my imagination enough that I wanted to see the outcome (I enjoyed reading about the wolves in particular and Tyrion was my favourite character) and partly because I wanted the authority to critique the novel which only comes with having read it in its entirity.
I think I'm going to have to read about ten P.G Woodhouses and all six of the Harry Potter series in an attempt to begin combating the dark images that A Game of Thrones has so vividly imprinted on my mind. It is for this reason that I won't be reading any of the remaining books of A Song of Ice and Fire.
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on 14 July 2011
I have just finished this fourth book in the series, and will be reading no further. I am getting bored out of my skull, with what started out as a fabulously-engrossing story in Game of Thrones, but has now deteriorated into an endless series of 'cliffhanger' chapter endings and an endless parade of characters, created apparently only to be killed off or passed around, ad infinitum. I no longer give a rip who becomes 'king' or IF anybody ever becomes king, who survives, who doesn't, or who-marries-whom. Ho-bloody-hum.

Is there any resolution to this saga in sight? Well, no, apparently not yet. I understand this author has written, what, 5 books, 6 books, and STILL his 'story' isn't anywhere near being finished? I do think Mr Martin is having us on here. As long as people keep buying these books, he'll keep on churning them out. Why kill the Golden Goose?

What a waste of such a strong writing talent!

A GOOD story -- any kind of story, short OR long, including 'fantasy' sagas -- must have focus, a beginning, middle and end. The ending need not be happy, but all loose threads need to be tied together in some satisfactory and believable way at the conclusion. And there really DOES need to be a conclusion -- hopefully one the author had in mind from the very start. Mr Martin should take a gander at Joe Abercrombie's First Law fantasy trilogy, to see how a multi-viewpoint, lengthy and complicated 'gritty' story SHOULD be constructed.

Soap operas differ from stories. Soaps just diddle on and on and on from day to day, until somebody finally pulls the plug on them. Exciting events come and go, original characters have their dramas, leave the show, new characters appear, hang around, have THEIR dramas, then THEY leave ...etc, etc... Sound familiar?

A Song of Ice and Fire isn't a story any more -- if it ever was; it's a long-running paperback soap opera.

There are obviously folks out there who enjoy this kind of never-ending saga, but I'm not one of them. I'm away. If somebody ever comes to me and says 'Hey -- did you know George RR Martin FINALLY finished his Song of Ice and Fire saga?', I might pick it up again and read on. But until that day dawns, I'm through. Sorry.
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