December 12, 2005


A Fantasy Realm Too Vile for Hobbits (DINITIA SMITH, 12/12/05, NY Times)

In the vast continent of Westeros, the alliance of the Seven Kingdoms is disintegrating. King Robert Baratheon has been murdered. A strange winter is descending on the countryside. Could this be another ice age?

Meanwhile, Queen Cersei is sleeping with her twin brother, Jaime, while their other brother, the cynical dwarf Tyrion Lannister, has gone into hiding. And the woman warrior, Brienne of Tarth, is searching for Sansa, who was married to Tyrion, and is a member of the House of Stark, daughter of Eddard, Lord of Winterfell.

And ... well, to keep track of it all it helps to have the 63-page list of characters at the back of George R. R. Martin's "Feast for Crows," the fourth and latest installment in his fantasy series, "A Song of Ice and Fire." [...]

Reviewing "Crows" in Time magazine, Lev Grossman called Mr. Martin "the American Tolkien," only better...[b]ut he has outdone Tolkien in at least one respect: "All three of 'The Lord of the Rings' books are the size of just one of my books."

"Crows" alone is 684 pages, not counting the appendix.

Reliable folks swear by him, but having gotten sucked into Robert Jordan's unending series, where by book four absolutely nothing was happening to advance the story, I swore never again to start a series until the author was done with it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 12, 2005 12:01 AM

Hah! After I read book 4 by Jordan, I said,
"This is exactly like the previous book; nothing has happened." After having the same conclusion after book 5, I quit the series. A friend got me to read book 6 by his acclaim, but after I read I decided he was wrong. However, I have another friend who assures me that after book 9, it gets better. It turned me off fantasy for a long time.

This series by Martin got me back in, and I am reading Feast for Crows right now. I don't think it's everyone's style, but the characters are interesting. "The Big Bad Evil" (TM) of typical fantasy hasn't show up yet - what we get is terrible civil war. It's racy too. With that and the really awful violence, it's not for kids.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at December 12, 2005 10:44 AM

I only got through three of the Robert Jordan books - and it was a hard pull to the last page of the third.

My wife is an addict. If I had a basement I would kidnap Mr. Jordan and lock him up there on bread and water rations until he finished the darned thing. The worst part is that my wife has to reread practically the whole series every couple of books to remind herself of all the Byzantine machinations that came before.

Posted by: Jason Johnson at December 12, 2005 12:18 PM

George R. R. Martin's an excellent author, and I'm sure to read "Feast for Crows", but he is CLEARLY inferior to Tolkien - which is no shame, as very few are not.

One way in which the "Ice & Fire" series is not to my taste is that it's elitist and too historically accurate.
All of the action is initiated and propagated by the hereditary elite, and the common people exist to serve, to be used, or to be killed, at the whim of their betters. Kind of hard to accept as an American, where a kid abandoned in a dumpster can grow up to be the world's richest person, or the leader of the Free World.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2005 12:43 PM

Sounds like Jordan's stuff is soap opera of fantasy publishing. Stuff happens, but nothing moves towards resolution.

It may be good marketing--always leave them wanting more, or something like that--but it isn't good story-telling.

(Disclaimer: I've never read any of Jordan's stuff, and now, I don't intend to.)

By the way, is King's "Dark Tower" series worth getting into? I've browsed it in the store, and the bits look interesting, but does it hold up as a whole?

Posted by: Roy Jacobsen at December 12, 2005 12:46 PM

Roy: That would be sword-opera. And that's a perfect description for what Jordan does.

Posted by: M. Bulger at December 12, 2005 2:04 PM


The rest are mere muggles....

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 2:11 PM


I agree that the grim realism is a bit depressing after a while. To be fair, though, there are a few commoners - the ex-smuggler whose name escapes me, or Tyrion's mercenary captain - who get well into the thick of things and in rare cases even get out of the game with a profit and their hides intact.

Posted by: Mike Earl at December 12, 2005 4:59 PM

As I've been telling you for over 6 months, "The Song of Fire & Ice" is the most compelling fantasy series, ever!
This from somebody who found Tolkien's LoTR series 1st installment in paperback in 1965 and haunted Tower Books relentlessly for several years to get the ensuing two volumes.
You recommended Kay's "Tigana" to me the last time I touted Martin's opus, I'm sorry but found that to be a literary first, fantasy second book.
Martin's first book sets up Lord Stark, who in any other fantasy series would be the hero, and then kills him 1/3 of the way through.
Most all fantasy, good or bad, consists of "the quest", Martin's superb work is, as a previous commenter negatively stated, more like a history, but to me it's a historical mystery. Where is it all going?
To my mind, the best fantasy fiction sucks you into the world being imagined, and NOTHING has done that better the Martin's "Song of Fire & Ice". My only fear, being in my 7th decade, is that I wont live to see the denounment.
I bought the first three books believing it to be a trilogy, and I greatly regret this decision as I want to know now what happens.
BTW, I started Jordan's work many years ago when the 1st volume came out, said volume was set aside unfinished and, to this day, I cannot understand why anybody reads him.
For a series to read while waiting for continuations of "Fire & Ice" I highly recommend "The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone" by Greg Keyes.
Mike Daley

Posted by: Mike Daley at December 12, 2005 10:39 PM

I have the same fear and I'm only in my 5th....

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 10:49 PM