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A Song of Ice and Fire Books, In Order, With Brief Reviews

ice-and-fire-books

Song of Ice and Fire, books 1-4

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!

Josh

 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Joelle August 30, 2011, 2:51 pm

    I was late to the Game! Resisted reading the series, even though my brother had been telling me to check it out for years. I guess I was burned by my Wheel of Time experience. I read like a madwoman this summer, and only had to wait a few weeks for the latest installment. I enjoy the series overall, but I’m a bit over the Cecille B. DeMille-esque cast of thousands. It is exhausting! I don’t see the point, and it didn’t contribute to the plot movement, and was distracting to try to process it all. Even though I plan to finish the series (if he doesn’t pull a Robert Jordan on us), but I’m not happy about my investment at this point. Disappointed, even.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 30, 2011, 3:01 pm

      Joelle, I haven’t read any of Jordan’s books. Would you recommend them?

      • Joelle August 30, 2011, 3:34 pm

        Yes, I would! At first I thought it was a big Tolkein rip-off, but by the 2nd or 3rd book, I was a fan. One thing I dislike about “epic series” is that there always seems to be a tipping point, where the author’s plot seems to be more determined by the publisher and the series sales potential instead of the original plot arc. I hate that! We get hooked and invested and then they drive us crazy with their “long-awaited sequels”. I must confess that I haven’t read the last two books yet, but I will at some point. Gotta see how the story ends!

        • Josh Hanagarne August 30, 2011, 3:50 pm

          All right, I’ll give the first a try, and then one more.

  • Jim Janney August 30, 2011, 3:38 pm

    As a reader I feel very betrayed by these books. When a storyteller
    creates suspense, I assume he’s eventually going to resolve it, and
    Martin never does: he just keeps piling more and more onto the heap
    until it all collapses and I realize that I don’t care what happens
    next, even if I could remember any of it.

    If he ever finishes the last book and I’m feeling really bored, I’ll
    go back and read them all straight through, but not before. It’s a
    pity, because most of the individual parts are good.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 30, 2011, 3:50 pm

      That’s kind of how I started feeling in the third season of Lost.

  • Casey Brazeal (North and Clark) August 31, 2011, 5:11 pm

    Haven’t dove into the series yet but I loved reading Neil Gaimmon’s thoughts on this thing. http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html
    I guess like you with Wizard of Earth Sea I read the commentary first.

    • Dawn Dexter September 11, 2011, 8:59 am

      Thanks for posting that link to Neil’s post on the matter. I haven’t read the Song of Fire & Ice books and I’m not sure I will, but maybe. I love what Neil has to say about writers having lives. Life is a good, good thing. The world might be an even lovelier place if we all got to take time to stop and watch the deer in the yard.

  • Katie September 6, 2012, 1:12 pm

    D’aww I love Neil Gaiman’s response.