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Literary Glance: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

July 26, 2017

Despite the stigma of being a fantasy novel/series, A Game of Thrones has been a bestseller for a long time.  Maybe stigma isn’t the right word anymore. Nowadays it can be cool to read fantasy.  You can dress up in a costume as a fantasy character and go out in public, and everybody will want to take their pictures with you.

Back when I was a kid, if you dressed up as a fantasy character and went out in public, you’d get beat up.  I almost wish that I was a kid today just so I could dress up as Jon Snow or a White Walker and go to a comic book convention and be cool, but I’ve gotten too old for all that.  At my age, I’d have to go as George R.R. Martin, with a costume of a baseball cap, goggle glasses, a fake grizzly beard, frumpy clothes, carrying a blank-paged book with a Winds of Winter cover.  That’s probably all I could get away with.

Despite its current social acceptance, there are a lot of reasons why some people hate reading fantasy.  If you’re not familiar with a world, it can be tough to visualize.  The rules of magic can be inconsistent.  Fantasy languages can be boring.  Some authors spend so much time on describing new creatures and new settings that there’s no characterization.

What makes A Game of Thrones so different from other fantasy novels?  Instead of just asking somebody who’s read it, I decided to start it myself.  I’m not ready to read the whole thing yet, but I read a couple chapters anyway.  Here is a short excerpt that demonstrates why Game of Thrones would appeal to readers who don’t normally appreciate fantasy:

Ser Waymar Royce was the youngest son of an ancient house with too many heirs.  He was a handsome youth of eighteen, grey-eyed and graceful and slender as a knife.  Mounted on his huge black destrier, the knight towered above Will and Gared on their smaller garrons.  He wore black leather boots, black woolen pants, black moleskin gloves, and a fine supple coat of gleaming black ringmail over layers of black wool and boiled leather.  Ser Waymar had been a Sworn Brother of the Night’s Watch for less than half a year, but no one could say he had not prepared for his vocation.  At least insofar as his wardrobe was concerned.

His cloak was his crowning glory; sable, thick and black and soft as sin.  “Bet he killed them all himself, he did,” Gared told the barracks over wine, “twisted their little heads off, our mighty warrior.”  They had all shared the laugh.

It is hard to take orders from a man you laughed at in your cups, Will reflected as he sat shivering atop his garron.  Gared must have felt the same.

Even though this is fantasy, the description in this excerpt wasn’t overwhelming.  Just about anybody can relate to the fashion, the all black, and the contempt others feel for a guy who is trying too hard.  The writing is grounded in enough reality to make a non-fantasy reader forget that this is a fantasy.  Even if you’re not into dragons, magic, and frozen zombies, you can get into the petty squabbling of a bunch of humans unaware of what’s about to happen to them.  It’s a cool idea for a story.

I’ve heard that later in the series, the pace slows down, and too many descriptions and minor characters bog the story down.  Even if that’s true, the writing quality supposedly doesn’t go down until the fourth book, and that means tons of people are finishing three books in a fantasy series.  That’s a heck of an accomplishment.

A lot of readers are eager for the final two novels in the series, and maybe George RR Martin will finish them sometime.  I hope he finishes the next one soon.  It would be better to walk around a comic convention with a real Winds of Winter novel than a fake one.

One Comment
  1. Like a lot of people, I am concerned that he would die before finishing the story. If that happens, it would be an ironically appropriate end for the writer whose major characters keep dying just when we think they’re about to accomplish some great things.

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