I’ve never been much of a fantasy reader. Sword and sorcery never really appealed to me despite stumbling into it every now and then. I have at least read Tolkien, and I know the broad strokes of the world Rowling has made. When my mind wanders into fiction it craves for the sort of fantasy that is set in galaxies far, far away or for the graphic world of capes and super villains. A while back I was ensnared by the King in the world of Roland Deschain, but I have yet to be held hostage by another world and its inhabitants since Lost.
Then I woke up yesterday.
For the past two months, I’ve lived a double life. By day, I worked at my job or rather, I jobbed at my work. I was never late despite time being measured not so much by hours, but by the months that counted down to the coming of winter. They’ve always said that reading fantasy was all about escapism, but after having read George R. R. Martin, it feels more like being finally reborn.
For two months, I felt snow crunching beneath my feet. I felt the clanging of steel as I parried sword with sword. I felt the ambient heat as the air burned in the presence of dragons. I felt it all: whether it be the solace atop the Wall, the anxiety in King’s Landing, or the mystery in the lands of the Dothraki — I felt it all. In the past I’ve read about places such as Coruscant, Mid-World, and Middle Earth. But I haven’t been to those places such as I’ve been to Westeros. This I owe to a king as masterful as George R. R. Martin, the first of his name.
The books are by no means perfect, of course.
What I consider its greatest strength — a deep-penetrating realism that runs against the instincts of the genre — is what others consider as its greatest failing. Every now and then I too tire of the treachery and plot-twists. Nonetheless, Martin has written his story in such a way that you won’t trust straightforward narration either and that magic, when it appears, is incredibly frightful.
I do love the realism. Having read a lot of historical fiction, I can easily create the world of A Song of Ice and Fire in my head. The HBO series helped immensely; without it I would have never even picked up the books. The show provided me with enough visual cues to invest myself in the world to read books two through five. And throughout the novels, shifting the point-of-view character in every chapter utilizes the narrative discipline I’ve developed as a fan of Lost. I really felt right at home.
I am doing my best to avoid discussing specifics about character and plot. We can have those discussions in person or in the appropriate fora. Suffice to say, that big death in book one really shook me to my core as I tend to stand by characters who are selfless, noble, and answer to a higher duty. But it gave me this sense that this writer is playing for keeps. How this singular event literally ignited the rest of the series is something to be respected, even when the frequency in which the writer does this can be frightening (though at times bordering on the non-sensical) as well.
We are now five books down, two more to go. A Dance with Dragons leaves us in a place that feels like the beginning of book two. I’m getting quite nervous about the complex plot Martin has left to juggle as he clinches the series, but not quite as nervous as whether he’ll actually have time to do so. I now join that increasingly large chorus of fans who wish him well.