I like epic fantasy novels and series. I like knowing what happens next… and next… and next. The trouble with this is that authors of epic fantasy’s usually don’t crank out their books one right after another so I’m required to remember what happens in a book for long stretches of time… possibly years. Usually this is where John comes in. I screen books and give him ones I think he’ll like and he remembers everything he reads and can remind me of all the little (and sometimes gigantic) details I have forgotten. Unfortunately after he read A Game of Thrones and possibly the next one or so in this series he quit. He quit reading them because the author makes you care about his characters and then he kills them. Sadly it’s true, the chapters switch character viewpoints among a huge cast and Martin has an uncanny ability to turn you from indifferent, to actively rooting for them right before he offs them.
In any case I couldn’t count on John to remind me what happened in the last books, which was a problem, because this books timeline runs along side the book before (A Feast For Crows) so I actually was trying to remember what happened two books (A Storm of Swords) ago. I read those books in 2004 and 2006 respectively. I can’t remember a book I read last week, asking me to not only remember back to a time before children but to also recall what I read then – not happening.
For the first quarter of the book I was confused, really confused. I recognized names, some events were familiar, I had a couple of “OH YEAH he killed that king” sort of moments but it was pretty bad. By the time I reached the half way point I was mildly confused but had come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t setting this book down, re-reading the last two and coming back to it. Mild confusion and I were getting along fine. The third quarter of the book I was well enough in that most of my confusion was behind me and I was caught up in the story again. Then last quarter arrived and he started killing off all the characters I cared about, threw a few new old ones that I was supposed to remember into the mix and ended it with me wanting to know what happens next.
Would I recommend it? The series isn’t for anyone… the term epic should not be taken lightly… This was a 1,000 page tome and while lots of people died nothing got resolved and it’s the fifth book in the series. On the other hand it’s a pretty darn good story, from what I can remember… If you are brave enough to take them on start with A Game of Thrones.