A Game of Thrones (1996), A Clash of Kings (1999), A Storm of Swords (2000), A Feast for Kings (2005) and A Dance with Dragons (2011) by George R.R. Martin
“The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends”, Ser Jorah told her. “It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.” He gave a shrug. “They never are.”
In the fantasy world of Westeros, the histories and fates of three families — the Starks, the Lannisters and the Targaryens — are intertwined as they scheme, strategize and battle for control of the land; meanwhile, winter is coming.
A Game of Thrones–I never would have picked up the first book in this famously long series (I usually don’t commit to series) if I hadn’t already gotten hooked on the TV show. Even though I already knew all the surprises that were coming, the book didn’t disappoint. It is sprawling and epic, with lots of political intrigue and adventure — great escapist fare. This is a book of characters; even the chapters are organized that way, focusing on one person in turn in the sprawling cast. My favorite is still Daenarys, the dethroned dragon queen, who grows the most during the course of the novel.
This was the perfect pick for my first read on the Kindle e-reader. This book is big and much easier to cart around in electronic form. Also, if I forget who one of the many characters is, I only have to access Kindle’s X-ray feature to remind me. Handy.
Martin’s prose shades a bit too much toward purple at times, but this is epic fantasy, so I’ll let it slide. He spends an inordinate amount of time describing what people are wearing, which could be tedious but I actually enjoyed it, as all the clothes sound stupendous.
A Clash of Kings–I enjoyed the second book in the series even more than the first, I think. Scattering all of the Stark children across the country and putting them in dire situations amplified the suspense and kept the plot moving at a brisk pace. Pitting five would-be kings against one another added great political intrigue, and the final battle scene on the river was one of the most exciting I have ever read.
Some favorite characters took center stage in this installment. Tyrion in particular stole the show, demonstrating his acumen for politics and strategy, and showing his human side through his love for a prostitute and his bravery in battle. A new character, Lord Davos — a smuggler elevated to a knight who related what was going on in Stannis’s camp — was also a favorite. We saw too little of Arya and Daenerys, but I gained new respect for Sansa, of all people.
The bloodshed and explicit sex are ramped up in this novel, with many disturbing offhand rapes. The lavish descriptions of food and clothing are ramped up as well. No matter. This is escapism reading at its best, and I reveled in it.
A Storm of Swords–The third installment has more of everything that we have come to expect from this series. More gore, more bloodshed, more mayhem, more betrayals, more twists, more surprises. And more Arya (that’s a good thing). I don’t think the third installment was a tightly plotted as either of the first two books; the scale has ratcheted up, and it gets somewhat bogged down in the middle, especially with Bran’s and Catelyn’s plot lines. Then comes that one scene, the one that made me so angry I almost put down the book (I won’t spoil it, though). I’m glad I didn’t put it down, because the book gets way more exciting almost immediately, and the final quarter or so is a nonstop roller coaster ride of plot twist upon plot twist.
Although the metaphor of life in Westeros as a game being played out on a massive scale has been a part of this series from the beginning, here it really starts to show. With so much blood and guts, I had to stop thinking of these characters as people; it was just too much. With all the manipulation and maneuvering going on in this installment, I really began to see how they are players and pawns in a great game that’s been going on for generations, and the real question is not who will live or die, but which player will still have pieces on the board at the end.
As with the first two books, this one was a hugely entertaining read and, despite the high level of violence, a lot of fun.
A Feast for Crows–This has been my least favorite entry in the series so far. Where were all the characters I’d come to love? Apparently, I have to wait until A Dance with Dragons to see them again. Of course, there was some Arya and Sansa, but not nearly enough. Meanwhile, there’s all this other stuff going on that, quite frankly, feels like filler and doesn’t require so many pages to explain. There is so much focus on history and family lineage and whose knights are backing whom that my eyes kept glazing over. A few good twists at the end didn’t keep this book from feeling largely unnecessary.
A Dance With Dragons–A long, long book — even when not combined with Book 4, when in reality the two of them are just one book — and there is so much going on that I find myself becoming disconnected from the story. While I appreciate that three of my favorite characters get a lot of screen time in this novel (as opposed to none in Book 4), and are left with big question marks over their heads, is that really enough to persuade me to wade through so many pages, so many sub-plots, so many characters to keep track of, many of them going disguised and by multiple names? Any one of the complex sub-plots could have been a novel in itself, and when I used my Kindle X-ray feature to look up character names, I noticed that the book had 400+ named characters. Who can keep up with all that? I had to study the maps on the series wiki for hours just to figure out who was where as they all constantly moved around like pieces on a cyvasse board. Is this even fun anymore? I’m not sure, but I’ll probably read Book 6 anyway.
- Combined, all five books total 4,474 pages.
- By the end of the fifth novel, there are 31 point-of-view characters.
- Two more books are planned to wrap up the series, and will be 1,500 pages each.