So, the second in the lengthy (and let’s admit it, perhaps never-to-be-completed) A Song of Fire and Ice series.
Reading this one took a little longer than the first. There’s nothing in the prose that’s changed too much, but it lacked – until the later battle passages – some of the quickfire snap of the first volume. Perhaps it’s as it spreads itself a little more widely? In the first novel there was simply Westeros and the Dothraki plains, pretty much – other places were mentioned, but the reader could pretty much think “cod-England and that sandy joint” and be pretty well situated. But here there’s more happening in Daenerys’ storyline in actual cities. It’s no longer courtly life versus who-are-these-horse-dudes? hardships.
The same core point-of-view characters from the first novel (well, save the obvious dead ones) populate this one, with a couple of additions, well-wrought. I quite liked the with-caveats approach of Davos, for example. But the gold was in the expansion of detail on some of the already-introduced characters; the ‘ghost in Harrenhall’ sequences involving Arya, say, or the ‘but I’m just as good as my sister, honest’ dimwittery of Theon.
While the pacing was sometimes a bit crap, there’s enough forward motion (and popcorn moments) to keep me reading. 900 pages is a big chunk, but unlike Lucas’s claims for the Star Wars series (“I have a whole nine movies planned beyond this, honest!”) there’s a distinct feeling through the novel of continuity, and of the narrative leading somewhere.
Part of this is obviously foreshadowing brought more into the spotlight by sequences appearing in the Game of Thrones TV show, but this second volume reasserts that Martin has a decent story, and feels fine taking his time to tell it.