I’m currently reading A Storm of Swords I, the first volume of the third book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Because I’m only midway through the series, this is only a partial review rather than a proper one, hence the title. For the most part, I adore this series. The world is rich and interesting, the plotting intelligent and intricate, the writing engaging, the characters multifaceted. I love how it’s told from various points of view, giving multiple and opposing characters’ thoughts on singular events. This volume has even started telling parts from the point of view of a character who until now had seemed pretty much solid evil, and it’s really thought-provoking to read his thoughts as the story continues. I still think he’s evil, but he’s also in a way sympathetic evil.
My one complaint is that as the series has progressed Martin has added more and more characters to the mix to the point where I find it hard to be interested in what’s happening, because characters often disappear from the pages for a hundred pages or more. Granted, Martin tends to leave them on a cliffhanger, and while I’m not sure it would help the story progress if he didn’t, I don’t think the cliffhangers help me remain interested, either. When the book leaves a character in a dangerous situation, not to return for more than two hours’ reading, I have to force myself to disconnect, or that character’s situation continues to occupy my thoughts, preventing me from enjoying the rest of the book. The result is that when I return to a character I am less interested than I would be if we had last visited him/her two or three chapters previously. With each chapter, then, it takes me a few pages to reconnect with the story. This is fine if I sit down for a few hours to read, but it makes it much harder for me to pick the book up to read in the first place. I experienced a similar effect in The Silmarillion. In that book, each chapter is a discrete tale, linked to the others in an overarching narrative yet separate. Thus in each chapter I found that I had to overcome the initial dullness that comes with the beginning of every story, and again this made it harder to make myself start reading.
If, like me, you’ve been living under a rock and have yet to start reading this series, I would certainly recommend it. For me it’s not one of those books that you carry around and open while you wait for the kettle to boil or the toast to pop up, but if you can set aside a chunk of time to really get into it it’s really worthwhile. It’s also pretty good bus reading, actually. One chapter is about the right length for a 15 or 20-minute bus ride, and because I know that the questions the chapter brings up won’t be answered anytime soon I’m not tempted to try and read another chapter.
© Nicola Hastings, 2011.