Monday, April 27, 2015

Winter is coming

April A-to-Z: must-read books

A Song of Ice and Fire (1996-present)
by George R. R. Martin
(1948-) USA

“Winter is Coming” are the words of House Stark, some of the noblest and interesting, yet morally realistic characters you’ll ever meet in speculative fiction. And hopefully the series will be complete before hell freezes over…

Captivating and brilliant storytelling!

For an author to know so many characters so well; to bring them so vividly to life and especially to give them the legitimate voices to exert their genuine will and yet still somehow manage an intricate plot is a major achievement in storytelling.

The other hurdle with such a cast of hundreds, of course, is its threat to overwhelm and chase away the reader but Martin uses tricks of nomenclature and innumerable hints and reminders (plus cheat sheets at the back) and tames what at first looms a beast .

The dialogue is key to a tale that is largely court intrigue (ah, but so much more interesting than that sounds) and this dialogue is absolute dynamite; unendingly clever and multi-faceted in its uses. It keeps the story charged and well-paced, with regular nuggets of humour and subtle genius which bring scenes sparkling to life. Make no mistake: this is fantasy fiction but it is also a reminder of the beasts that we are and the beastliness we have so far overcome.

This series is a must-read for all who appreciate the human element of the fantasy genre.

A passage:

The wolf pup padded closer and nuzzled at Jon’s face, but he kept a wary eye on Tyrion Lannister, and when the dwarf reached out to pet him he drew back and bared his fangs in a silent snarl. “Shy isn’t he?” Lannister observed.
   “Sit Ghost,” Jon commanded. “That’s it. Keep still.” He looked up at the dwarf. “You can touch him now. He won’t move until I tell him to. I’ve been training him.”
   “I see,” Lannister said. He ruffled the snow-white fur between Ghost’s ears and said, “Nice wolf.”
   “If I wasn’t here he’d tear out your throat,” Jon said. It wasn’t actually true yet, but it would be.
   “In that case, you’d best stay close,” the dwarf said. He cocked his oversized head to one side and looked Jon over with his mismatched eyes. “I am Tyrion Lannister.”
   “I know,” Jon said. He rose. Standing, he was taller than the dwarf. It made him feel strange.
   “You’re Ned Stark’s bastard, aren’t you?”
   Jon felt a coldness pass right through him. He pressed his lips together and said nothing.
   “Did I offend you?” Lannister said. “Sorry. Dwarfs don’t have to be tactful. Generations of capering fools in motley have won me the right to dress badly and say any damned thing that comes into my head.” He grinned. “You are the Stark bastard though.”
   “Lord Eddard Stark is my father,” Jon admitted stiffly.
   Lannister studied his face. “Yes, I see it. You have more of the north in you than your brothers.”
   “Half brothers,” Jon corrected. He was pleased by the Dwarf’s comment, but he tried not to let it show.
   “Let me give you some counsel, bastard,” Lannister said. “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
   Jon was in no mood for anyone’s counsel. “What do you know about being a bastard?”
   “All dwarfs are bastards in their father’s eyes.”

A Game of Thrones (1996)
A Clash of Kings (1998)
A Storm of Swords (2000)
A Feast for Crows (2005)
A Dance of Dragons (2011)
The Winds of Winter (forthcoming)
A Dream of Spring (forthcoming)

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