Each chapter in the books is written from the vantage point of a particular character. The reader returns to these characters throughout the book, but do not be fooled into thinking any character, and I mean ANY character, is safe or central enough to the plot that s/he won't be killed off. In fact, as I was told before even diving into the series, if you like a character, that character will probably die and perhaps in a quite horrific death. Hence, I think I will now start referring to the series as "A Game of Bones."
In light of the fact there is no main character and any protagonist could and does die, the question must be asked, Why read this series? There are a number of reasons, including:
- an epic fantasy world that rivals if not surpasses Tolkien's Middle Earth in its scope and ancient lore (if not languages)
- an adult version of Harry Potter with all of the sex, gore, greed and politics one would expect of adults (I'll also add the scene descriptions do not go on forever like Tolkien nor do the descriptions of food and merriment, like Brian Jacques' Redwall series.)
- an interesting postmodern account where each person's limited perspective often only gives the reader pieces to put together of what is happening
- magic plays a periphery part; the story is more about compelling characters caught up in world-changing events. But don't be fooled: there is magic, to be sure.
All of these reasons coupled with good writing make for an entertaining treat. Listening to it on audiobook with Roy Dotrice's world record-breaking voices makes it even better, especially with all of the driving and WOOFing I've been doing lately.
That said, I'm compelled to continue and complete the series (once the final two books are finished) not simply to find out how it all ends, but because I think Martin is onto something grandeur than we readers - much less our characters - can foresee. Looking at the titles of the books so far:
- A Game of Thrones
- A Clash of Kings
- A Storm of Swords
- A Feast for Crows
- A Dance of Dragons
- The Winds of Winter (planned)
- A Dream of Spring (planned; formerly A Time for Wolves)
Now I've only read through Book Two, but looking at these titles and considering the series' overall title, A Song of Ice and Fire, I think Martin is peeling back the layers one by one. Without giving away too much, there seems to be icy threats from the north and fire-y threats from the south/west that come into larger and larger play as the course of events move on. People are focused largely on a throne in the Seven Kingdoms, but the world is a much larger place than any of them realize. Events are beyond their control. They scheme, they fight, they create, they destroy, they live, they die. They do what they will in a world that seems almost indifferent to them at times. And ultimately their purpose in life plays a much smaller and different role than they had expected. Catastrophic chance as well as cold calculation constantly collide, and some survive while others die. Nothing is for certain, not even the change in seasons. The story is ruthless, painful, threatens to undue all kinds of meaning or storytelling (at least in the traditional sense). And yet it is captivating all the same, because, arguably, it is more "real" than most fiction in how it portrays the whims and wills of life with all of its meaning and mystery.
More writers have been brought in to help finish the series. The added scenes in the television series flesh out the characters and add tantalizing revelations that our limited narrated view does not see or reveal in the books. Martin wants to write other tales within the Song of Ice and Fire universe. I'm impressed so far with his Magnum Opus. The challenge will be to continue to care about characters whose fate and fortune are so very mortal at times, even as their lives soar on the winds of the majestic and the mundane.