Thursday, August 04, 2011

So, Where Are We Going Here, George?

YES, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS HERE.

:: So I've finished this now, and it feels less like a rushed half of a story than A Feast for Crows did, but I still feel like surprisingly little happened in 959 pages of narrative. I can feel a vague goal that GRRM is working towards, but he just keeps throwing in more distractions and red herrings and sudden new plot threads for the sake of keeping the drama going, and everything feels like the longest tease. Ever since A Storm of Swords, these books have each felt like prologues for another book that never manages to materialize.

:: Which is not to say that I didn't like the book. I like the characters and I like the world, but it feels like GRRM is just losing his narrative inside of it. This novel combined with FFC comprise one book together, and it feels like over 1600 pages of "Meanwhile..." After I finished FFC, I remember joking with Becca that a more fitting title would've been Meanwhile, in Dorne... This book could easily be called Meanwhile, in the Free Cities...

:: It becomes painfully obvious in the Daenerys chapters that GRRM got stuck and didn't know where to go. I know this for a fact because he's been talking about getting stuck in Meereen for the last six years, but unfortunately the novel also reads that way. The first Dany chapter is striking and pulls you in. The next six or nine feel awkwardly like they written by someone just marking time trying to decide which direction to go in. We do get a lot more of Ser Barristan Selmy, a character I like being inside the head of, but Daenerys just gets lost, which sucks because she used to be my favorite character.

:: Thank Christ we finally find out what happened to Varys. Sure, it's in the last three or four pages, but at least we know...

:: The more time goes on, the less I care about Jon Snow. Every time we went back to that damned Wall, I got fitful and bored. He's got the same problems as Ned Stark--making stupid decisions because he feels bound by honor--without being as dynamic or three-dimensional as Ned.

:: In Ramsay Bolton, GRRM has created a truly memorable, disgusting personification of evil. I hate to say it feels like GRRM has gotten a little sick of his characters, but when it comes to some of the newer leads who have been less focused on, he's still capable of creating great, compelling characters. The Bastard of Bolton is a formidable villain and truly scary.

:: We're going somewhere with all of the Bran stuff, right?

:: After everything he goes through, I think Theon Greyjoy has successfully redeemed himself. After A Clash of Kings, I hated him and wanted him to die. After what we see in this book, I just want someone to kiss him on the forehead and put him into a warm bed.

:: We barely see King's Landing in this book, but when we do, I get excited. I'd really like it if the whole world of the novels just narrowed its focus again. I'd like to get out of the Free Cities, get Dany and her court, and Tyrion, and Arya Stark, back across the Narrow Sea to Westeros and get back to the original plot, which is political intrigue in King's Landing. I appreciate the widened scope and the history we've been given, but it still feels to me like GRRM has lost sight of the narrative. I know that, as a reader, that's incredibly presumptuous of me to say, and maybe even a little ungrateful, but A Song of Ice and Fire is something I've been very excited by, and the whole FFC/DWD combo just feels like endless delaying. It's muddied the story, and now with winter descending and the characters where they are, and the Griffin back in Westeros, it seems like it's time to get back to the Seven Kingdoms and really start to move.

DWD didn't necessarily rekindle my enthusiasm for the series--not as much as the HBO series did--but I'm definitely in this for the long haul. I just hope it's less of a slog from here on out.

1 comment:

Megan said...

Good points.

I made much the same comments to the offspring after I finished it and he reminded me that originally, Martin planned the fourth book to start five years after SOS but couldn't get it to work. So these last two books have, in a way, been filling in the time he wanted to skip over.

But boy, those Mereen chapters got to me, to the point that I completely gave up trying to keep the names straight. I hope we don't have to spend much more time there.