Part of the fun of coming to a series late is not having to wait in agonizing anticipation for the sequels to arrive. This happened with Harry Potter and now it has happened with George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. Somehow this series was totally off my radar until it gained more publicity with the HBO TV series, so it was a huge surprise to me that the first book was published in 1996. I worked at the public library then, so I'm sure it must have gone through my hands at some point!
On a whim I bought the four book eBook bundle at Christmas time and started reading when I came down with a wicked cold last month. It was a good thing too, because I could literally not stop reading. I probably would have taken a day off just to finish it. I was expecting a typical, cliched fantasy saga, so I was amazed that it is more about political intrigue, mystery and deception instead.
To be honest, I didn't think there was anything exceptional about Martin's writing style. In fact there is something flat and repetitive about it - I noticed certain word pairs used over and over again which always kinds of grates on me. His descriptions of meals are always insanely detailed. But there is still some great craft going on as he divides the saga by the view points of different characters which allows parts of the story to be revealed in a very cunning way. It lets him avoid going the route of the info dump so common in science fiction and fantasy. And the cliffhangers! Wow!
I almost feel that describing any little part of the book would give away too many spoilers. It would be hard to condense the thick tomes, but basically the peace of the Seven Kingdoms is threatened in many ways and finally comes undone as characters are executed, kidnapped or accused of crimes. In the second book, A Clash of Kings, focuses on the conflicts between the many who declare themselves king of all the realm. There were some very exciting action scenes in the sequel and now I can't wait to get started on the third one, but I really do need a break from the series! Martin is unflinching in his depictions of medieval life and after a while all the killing and maiming and destruction does become onerous. I could almost pick up a romance novel before getting around to the third one.