I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to get around to reading George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books. Now that I’ve started, I’ve burned through the first 3.5 very quickly, and am already sad that by the time I wrap up #5, A Dance With Dragons, I’ll be in for another long wait.
Regardless, these books are up at the very top of my best fantasy novels list at this point.
Today this post is for any of you interested in reading the Ice and Fire books, in order, but don’t know where to start.
Reviews of these books are not easy to write. The cast of characters is way too big to mention in a brief review, because of the many plot elements and storylines that they create.
And these are books that are wonderfully surprising, so it’s hard to go into much detail without spoiling things. So I simply give hints about each book, and talk about my own experience with each.
Okay, on to the list:
A Game of Thrones, Book 1
The first book introduces many of the characters of the series. To give you the broad strokes, there’s a land called Westeros. As is the case whenever you get too many people wanting to be king, treachery, greed, and violence raise up and turmoil ensues. And sex.
I had heard that the books were a more “realistic” fantasy than many other series. That wasn’t that important to me, but I did enjoy that the plot sucked me in without introducing a bunch of dragons, elves, magic, etc. It was just a bunch of powerful, sneaky people doing nasty things to gain more power and keep their families alive. Of course, then all the dragons and magic things show up later, invalidating just about everything I said.
A Clash of Kings, Book 2
As much as I loved Game of Thrones, Clash of Kings was better for me. Way better. Any book that starts with a bloody comet in the sky and a delicious woman with red eyes has a good chance with me.
So much of book one simply feels like getting characters into certain locations and alliances in preparation for all hell to break loose.
It starts breaking loose in a big way in part 2. The developments with Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys, The Hound, Jon Snow, and Arya Stark were among my favorites.
Not everyone is alive by the end, no surprise there. But I was surprised again at how much enjoyment Martin seems to get out of sacrificing characters that I expect to last for the entire series.
A Storm of Swords, Book 3
To just pick a number, I would estimate that Storm of Swords is 103 times better than the wonderful Clash of Kings.
Hell has officially broken loose. The Swords from the title are on full display, and this book contains one of the most shocking scenes of chaos and surprise that I have ever read.
I read the last 200 pages with my heart pounding, and that’s just, just barely an exaggeration. More than that, I’m not going to say. If you have read the first and seconds books, I am begging you to read part 3, even if you are on the fence.
This was also the book where The Hound became my favorite character. I think.
A Feast For Crows, Book 4
I’m only halfway through Crows, so I’m not going to weigh in much, even in the vague fashion I’ve used for the other books.
I will echo what most negative reviews have fussed about:
Book 3 ends with about a zillion cliffhangers. Part 4 addresses exactly zero of them. Instead, you get a cast of new characters–many have been mentioned in previous books, but now they’re actually the focus–that you know very little about at this point. So maybe you don’t care about them that much.
Maybe you’d prefer to know just what happened with…see, and this is the problem, but it’s a problem worth having. I can’t even tell you which storylines I wish had been advanced in Crows, because then you’d know those characters were still alive.
Martin said that the manuscript was simply getting too long, so book 4 was split into two parts, the second part being A Dance With Dragons, which I haven’t read yet.
Storm For Crows, in that light, is part 1 of a book. So if it feels unfinished, it’s because it is.
I still like it. A lot. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to know just what’s going on with everyone from the first three books.
A Dance With Dragons, Book 5
To be continued soon.
Have any of you Wildlings read these? Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?
Winter is coming!