Sunday, 15 September 2013

George R. R. Martin - A Storm of Swords

Instalment number three of the A Song of Ice and Fire saga is so large that it had to split of over two volumes of 569 and 554 pages respectively.

These two are by far the best books in the series so far, not only in terms of story but also in the quality of the writing. In Steel and Snow the only thing I picked up on was that a character’s name was spelt differently on the same page at one point.

We are also introduced to a new term towards the end of the book when we meet Prince Oberyn, who incidentally is one of my favourite characters. When talking about his... lover, she is referred to as his paramour. This, in itself wasn’t a major problem for me. In fact, quite the opposite. I thought it may have been a term commonly used in Dorne... until it appeared in some narrative from Tyrion’s perspective. I deduced that one of two things had happened. Either Tyrion was so awestruck by Prince Oberyn that he wanted to sound just like him (unlikely) or the author liked the term so much that they had to use it again – otherwise, why hasn’t it appeared previously when describing similar circumstances throughout the other instalments?

Blood and Gold was my favourite of the two volumes. I read it in its entirety in less than a week, (which for me is quick!) the story flowed really well and it was very difficult to put down. The only issues I had in this book were character related and subjective and I also found the answer to my earlier question in the A Game of Thrones review.

Continuing where I left off in A Clash of Kings, Catelyn Stark is just an unbelievable dick in relation to almost everything she says or does. She continually tries to put herself in the middle of things and always makes things worse for everyone involved. She has some classic moments in this book as well.

On page 59, she argues with Robb over his kingly decisions like she has the right of it and even uses her own ‘dead’ sons as a point of argument which is absolutely disgusting. Let’s go back to the fact that these sons might still be ‘alive’ if she had done the right thing and actually gone back to Winterfell to look after the two of them.

This point is really hit home on page 61 where she reflects that being able to use an axe may have given her the ability to better protect her sons and daughters. I’m milking this point but it really is a stupid internal monologue that only serves to highlight her deluded nature.

Incidentally Catelyn’s internal thoughts are not the most irritating of character traits in the book. For that, we need to look to the younger version of Catelyn – Sansa Stark.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS: Towards the end of the book, Sansa is taken away from King’s Landing to the Eyrie. She has suffered nothing but pain and suffering during her time in King’s Landing so her first thought of arriving in the Eyrie is that she was thankful to finally be safe... no, wait, that’s what I thought it should have been. In reality, her first thought is that there is nothing to do and that she would be bored. You have got to fucking kidding me, you ungrateful little shit!

In my review of A Game of Thrones, I was confused about a sentence that read, ‘...have the with the gods gave a goose.’ After reading Blood and Gold, I now know that ‘with’ was actually meant to be ‘wits’! I have had this hammered home because the expression, ‘Have the wits the Gods gave...’ is used in more or less every chapter where Tywin Lannister has dialogue.

The only writing that stood out as a sore point was on page 342 where Jaime is narrating and I couldn’t tell whether he was talking about himself or Barristan. The fact that this is the only writing issue I identified shows how brilliantly written the book is.

If you’ve read the first two books then you should definitely read these. If you haven’t read them though, don’t bother with this one as it will not make much sense, even if you have seen the television series. They are so different that you will have no idea what is going on!

A Storm of Swords bibliography:

A Storm of Swords 1: Steel and Snow was published by Voyager in 2000. RRP £8.99 (Paperback)
A Storm of Swords 2: Blood and Gold was published by Voyager in 2000. RRP £8.99 (Paperback)

Saturday, 14 September 2013

George R. R. Martin - A Clash of Kings

So on to book two and another 873 pages of fighting, politics and... fighting and politics. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Quite the opposite in fact; it is a testament to how much a fantastic writer Martin is, as he has managed to develop so many interesting and exciting characters. And some real masters of hypocrisy as well. But I’ll get to that later.

However, my first stopping point was on page 16 when Stannis, Davos and a few others are having dinner. Two women are being discussed and Davos says ‘her.’ I had to read the paragraph several times to work out that Davos was actually talking about Stannis’s wife and not the evil witchy Melisandre. I was thinking that, in a book of over 800 pages, a few extra words to clear this confusion up wouldn’t have hurt.

On page 54, we switch from not explaining enough to stating the clearly obvious. Tyrion lying is like a fish swimming. It doesn’t need to be drawn attention to. In fact, this sort of thing should be left to the reader. Readers would get more satisfaction out of working out whether Tyrion is lying than having the author use unnecessary exposition to tell them.

The next thing is something I’ve been wanting to discuss for a while –the use of ‘a’ and ‘an’ and when it is appropriate. First off, on page 121 the sentence reads, ‘...what a honor it is...’ which is correct on a technical level, however, if spoken it should be ‘an honor’. I’m not sure if this is down to my English background (that’s my being English, not my study of the language) but the use of ‘an’ before most words being with h is encouraged but is not something I wholly agree with. There are only four words beginning with h where it is appropriate to use ‘an’ as a prefix, of which ‘honor’ is one of them. Incidentally, most words that begin with a vowel should be preceded by ‘an’ except for the word ‘eunuch’ which appears as ‘an eunuch’ on page 166.

There are a few other small typing errors, which are to be expected in book of this magnitude, however there is one more punctuation mishap that caught my attention. On page 168, Theon is talking about some inane bullshit, the way that he does, but there was no closing speech mark and then someone else started talking, but the punctuation led me to initially believe Theon was still prattling on.

All that aside it is a fantastic book and one that generated a lot of emotion in me especially towards Catelyn Stark. She made me laugh whole heartedly when she thought to herself, Is there any creature on earth as unfortunate as an ugly woman? I couldn’t help but think of her dead husband or maybe her young crippled son who would never walk again. But no, to Cateyn, Brienne is most unfortunate creature alive because she is ugly! Brienne can kill pretty much anyone in single combat but she is more unfortunate than Catelyn’s own crippled boy who can’t ride a horse unaided and will never be able to walk again.

I found it a rather poor decision that when Robb rides of off with most of the North in tow, Catelyn decides that the best place for her is by his side rather than looking after her two youngest sons who are effectively alone, without any parents, knowing their father is dead, in Winterfell. She is the equivalent of an 18 year old mother of two who leaves her children with her parents so she can go out and get pissed.

So in summary it’s an excellent book with a few minor mistakes in the early pages. Once hooked, I couldn’t put it down and charged straight on with the next one.

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin was published by Voyager in 1998. RRP £9.99 (Paperback)