My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Yes, you can put this down as “one I finally got around to reading”. With all the hype generated by the recent HBO series based on this book, and the casting of one of my favorite actors as Eddard Stark, one of the book’s main characters, I felt it was my duty to dive in.
I have very little bad to say about this epic fantasy. The writing, plotting, characterization, setting and theme are masterfully done, which is what I expect from a veteran like Martin. He draws you into the world of the Seven Kingdoms, and lets you know right of the bat that he will be pulling no punches. This is NOT a fluffy YA fantasy with faeries and dragons and maidens fair. It is a gritty, realistic portrayal of medieval values, warfare, plotting, intrigue, incest, rape, torture and execution, with a little light magic thrown in for spice. The fantastic elements are very obscure in the beginning, with only obscure mentions of “the others” and almost no blatant use of magic. Only in the end do things get really fantastical.
Okay, even with five stars, I have a few quips: pacing is a little meandering at times. I felt like things could have been a little quicker earlier on, though I have no specific points where I said “This scene could be cut.” The plot is a very elaborate mosaic, and all the pieces fit together well, but Martin seems a little proud of his setting, and there are long descriptions of castles, forests, scenery and geography that could have been a little more brief. That said, I still had difficulty putting it down, though I read it in small doses just because it is sometimes overwhelming.
The only other downside is that there are four more, and I have so little time to read that such doorstops (750+ pages) are just going to have to wait.