A Song of Fire and Ice: A Series Review

I’m not sure which was worse, not having read the Song of Fire and Ice series (Game of Thrones), or now having read it, and knowing that it could be the rest of forever before I get closure in the form of a book.

George R.R. Martin writes a sweeping saga full of love, lust, violence, intrigue, betrayal and so much more, each book adding layer upon layer to the story.

In short, it’s the story of a country fracturing after the death of the king. In this unstable time, many and more people rise up to play the game of thrones– a game in which you either win, or you die. And when you play the game of thrones, you’d better expect a lot of collateral damage.

Throughout the series, we watch several of the main characters grow from children into men and women who are faced with impossible tasks and impossible decisions, and yet they decide, anyway. Decide to seek revenge, to become a new person, to save lives through unpopular alliances, and to turn a city’s social norms upside down.

One thing I appreciate is how not every good guy is a hero, and not every bad guy is a villain. While many of the main characters are fairly black and white, in terms of where they stand morally, there are quite a few characters who come in shades of grey, and we see from their perspectives as well. I will grant Martin that it can’t be easy to write such a long series from so many different view points, and draw it together into a cohesive narrative. It certainly takes time. (But does it take 8 years? Does it really? I feel bad for everyone who started this series 21 years ago and is still waiting for closure.)

While we’re all due to get some closure with the final season of the show (at some point), I wonder how much the latest season of the show has divulged from Martin’s plans for the book. Already I noticed quite a few things different (from what I can remember), and naturally quite a bit abridged from the page to the screen. When I finished A Dance With Dragons, I was a little shocked to find that my characters weren’t quite where I expected them to be, after having seen the show. And it’s a little disappointing to know that some twists in the final promised book have no doubt been, and will be, ruined because the show gets there first.

But overall, I enjoyed the books. While I know some people find them hard to get into, and certainly some characters’ chapters are more fun to read than others, I slipped into the world of Fire and Ice with ease. Everyone dies, and that’s OK with me. Some of the sex is over the top and gratuitous (and Martin writes those scenes like a stereotypical male author, which makes me roll my eyes more than anything), but not nearly so much as the tv show.

Part of me wishes I’d read the series before watching the show, so I could more fully enjoy the depth of the intrigue. But another part of me wishes I hadn’t read the books until the show was done and the final book at least had a release date. But I suppose that’s the nature of the Game of Thrones. If you’ve lost everything to win, did you really win?

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