So it seems I have finally closed the book on George R.R. Martin’s wondrous world of Westeros (and Essos as well, but that didn’t fit with the alliteration). What a journey it’s been these last 18 months, travelling the length and breadth of the Seven Kingdoms, and more, with the likes of Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Jon Snow. All over now.
I’ve hit that lull that happens when a series is over, and I’ve been reading it so long that it feels almost wrong to have another book in my hands. (Of course, as you would expect, all of my highest recommendations come with this series … but you’d have to be a pretty dedicated reader/fantasy fan/TV show fan to make the commitment I think; they’re not necessarily an easy read, and there’s a lot to keep track of). But I just wanted to share something of my thoughts, while finishing them feels like such a milestone.
**SPOILER FREE POST**
These books are so intense and rich it’s staggering. George R.R. Martin thrusts his reader right into the middle of his world unapologetically, and they’re instantly immersed. One of the things that I find so amazing is the depth of the world itself. It is colossal. From the Wall to King’s Landing to Dorne, and across the Narrow Sea to Qarth and Meereen and Braavos … it’s all so vast and yet so detailed. Martin’s creative abilities are unbelievable. And that’s without even mentioning his characters, who are some of the most real characters, I think it’s safe to say, I have ever come across. And the thing that makes them so, is the ambiguity within them. Let me explain.
Virtually none of the characters featured in A Song of Ice and Fire are explicitly good or bad. The line between black and white is blurred so much that they become grey characters, of all different shades. And it’s enlightening to hear the tale told from so many perspectives. There are characters that enter the narrative fray halfway through, and still we get a chapter or two from their point of view. As we see more, we learn that actually some characters aren’t as dark a shade of grey as we first thought, and each time we learn more, they grow more real.
But this saga is nothing if not complex. The sheer size of the world that provides the setting is enough to warrant no less than 4 pages worth of maps in the front. And the population of this world belong to hundreds of Houses, both great and small, that require at least 15 pages in the back to label the most important connections in the Great Houses. All that without any mention of the events themselves: a brutal, political, sexual, bloody, vulgar, thrilling string of events that will determine the fate of this land. A fate we are yet to see conclusion of – Mr Martin is chugging away on The Winds of Winter, and we hope it’s nearing completion!!
One of the things which stands out most about A Song of Ice and Fire though, for me, is how easy it is to become sucked into the story, where it even begins to surface in everyday life. There are plenty of times where I’ve caught myself using Westerosi phrases like “Seven save us” and “Gods be good” and, one of my personal favourites, “Seven hells.” Even more subtle ones, phrases that you wouldn’t necessarily know were specific to the books, like “Had the right of it” and “Tell it true.” It’s bled into my normal life, and I think that’s the biggest indicator of how captivating it is, how consuming it’s been, and how much I love it.
I couldn’t even say goodbye when I’d finished A Dance with Dragons, and I had to read Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms afterwards. In case you were wondering, I’m also recommending that one for after you’ve read the main series – it’s set almost a century before A Song of Ice and Fire and there are plenty of references to the other books if you’ve eyes sharp enough to spot them.
I have a huge respect and admiration for George R.R. Martin, and the amazing world that drew me in, like it has so many others. A Song of Ice and Fire is right up there with the big players, both in the world of fantasy fiction and in my own rankings. I can’t quite believe I’ve finally finished, and I’m gutted to let it go…