The plan to read through all – well, the currently published – George R. R. Martin’s series in a row continues. Though I must admit I found this volume a little heavier going than the previous two. I can’t say why, exactly – it’s just more of the same; the writing is no more or less difficult than ever it was. But I found myself dragging my eyes’ heels (there’s a terrible image) through it.
It could have something to do with the length: locally, this is split into two books. On the Kindle it really didn’t matter, but surely to God there’s something in 1300 pages which could’ve been excised.
It’s certainly nowhere near as snappy as the first book in the series, but Martin’s background in television really does shine in places. Almost every chapter is left with an ad-break moment at its end, so the mind of the reader continues to look forward to what happens next, rather than spend too much time contemplating what’s just been – particularly if it’s a house-and-progeny-heavy episode.
Despite sagging in the middle, I found the pace really picked up from a particular wedding onwards. Yes, it helps that I’ve seen the TV show up to its latest (as at time of writing, anyway) iteration, so I kind of knew what was coming – but there is a bit of a thundering feeling towards the end. The battle scenes often take time to play out, though I think there’s an element there meant to convey the grim grind of enlisted life.
While it obviously differs from the TV show (for the better, mostly, though I must admit Brienne of Tarth seemed more arse-kicking on TV, as cool as she is here) I liked this book’s handling of service camaraderie and the ramifications of oaths. It’s not just Jon Snow’s oaths under examination here – all the major characters have made and broken vows, whether to gods, family or themselves. Whether by choice or duress, the book’s really about the way people live with what they do – the dragons, the battles and the religious strife is merely framework to house that key concern.
I might be a sucker, but even at the end of 1300 pages, I must admit that epilogue was enough to force me on to the next one. He’s a crafty one, ole beard-oh.