Archive for Dragonlance

So I’ve been reading George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series…

Posted in Entertainment with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2011 by Mike

and have just finished the fourth book, A Feast For Crows.

Damn.

I hadn’t heard of this series until HBO’s Game of Thrones started getting some publicity during its production. After the first episode aired I went out and bought the first book and haven’t read anything not dealing with Westeros since.  And now the fifth book in the series is out (A Dance With Dragons), so if I break down and buy this one in hardcover (all the others are paperbacks) it’ll practically guarantee I won’t be getting to anything else on my bookshelf this summer.  Not that Martin’s books are hard to read, but every one of them is a TOME.  It takes time to get through them, even though I feel like I’ve flown through them this past month.

I’ve read my share of fantasy epics.  I cut my teeth on Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series back in fifth or six grade – I remember completing a book report on The High King for Mrs. England’s class. I made a posterboard cut-out of Taran and was particularly pleased with his sword which was covered in aluminum foil.  I would later move on to the Dragonlance novels (authored by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis) – I remember being in a bookstore and seeing War of the Twins on the counter, and, being a twin myself, picked it up and ended up devouring that entire series over the next few years. Damn, there were a lot of books.

And of course there was Tolkien.  The Hobbit was required reading for seniors, as I remember, but that might have been either for “0n-level” seniors or discontinued by the time I got into senior AP English as I never read it for class.  When Peter Jackson’s movies came out I reread the trilogy and was surprised just how much Jackson was able to include (and though I understand why Tom Bombadil might not have worked for some audiences, I was really hoping the extended versions of the films would include him). I tried to read The Silmarillion but, forgive me, that thing’s nigh-unreadable.  A number of years later I started reading Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden novels but grew disenchanted with them as Salvatore never seemed to want to kill off any of his heroes. I hear that’s changed recently.

However, Martin’s series is so drastically different from these other epics that I hesitate to compare them. Martin is writing something other than fantasy – there’s no black and white/good vs. evil conflict here.  Sure, there are characters you hate (Cersei is a capital-B Bitch), but all of his characters are complex creations that have a variety of motivations (and not just sex, though that’s a popular one).  There’s no Aragorn in this series,  and there’s no Sauron. Being a rotten-to-the-core bastard in Westeros can lead to death, but it can also lead to being crowned king. On the other side of the coin, being utterly noble more often than not leads to a bad end. Martin turns tried-and-true conventions of fantasy on their head, and the result, for me, at least, is something more affecting than any of the other fantasy series I’ve read, including Tolkien’s.  In The Lord of the Rings, I knew Sauron would be defeated, that the ring would be destroyed. In “A Song of Ice and Fire”,  I want to see Cersei receive her comeuppance, but I’m not sure that’ll happen.  And that uncertainty is  really one of the chief pleasures in reading this series.

Tyrion Lannister is another. But you need to read the series to see that.