My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This review is very complicated for me. To be completely honest, my personal enjoyment of this book was a 3 out of 5 stars. I usually consider myself a Tolkien kind of reader, I love the details in novels and become very geeky about it, but somehow this book didn’t make me feel this way. I was very surprised about that, especially considering how popular this book is amongst “high fantasy” readers.
I have to give a 5 out of 5 starts for the world and character building within this book. The world is so rich with detail and you really feel like this is a real place with real pleasures and dangers. It’s obvious that the author has an in-depth knowledge of who each and every character in the book is, what their past is, what their motivations are, and what drives their purpose. It was also interesting to me to see how the author continually challenged the characters and how each character would find themselves in a continuously degrading situation.
Besides the world and character “building”, the plot twists and turns were the most interesting part for me. It was fun trying to figure out who was really rooting for who and where people’s loyalties lied. The problem was, the arch of the story was so subtle that the story turned into a bloody soap opera for me. Each subplot moved slowly because there is so much information and were so many POV characters and intertwining stories that there just wasn’t enough time to go through a full story arc. I think this 835 page book (31 hours of listening time) was more of an Act 1 than anything else.
Of the 8 point-of-view characters, I found that only 2 of them actually “changed” from the beginning to the end of the book: Daenerys Targaryen (she goes from being a meek girl who does what she’s told into a self-assured young woman who is ready to take back her inheritance and be queen) and Bran Stark (had a very small change from being a strong, willful boy to being weak and lost – which I’m sure will change again in another book.). One other character that I felt changed from beginning to end was Robb Stark, who never really had a POV but you saw enough of him that you can see him changing from a boy into a man.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of bad things happen to the characters in this book and you see how they deal with each situation that’s thrown at them. Does it count as change if a character is perceived as not conflicted and then conflicted? But the point of being conflicted was the inciting incident, so I don’t think that really counts as “change” over the course of a story. But a character acts in the same way to every situation and I didn’t really see any “growth” in their character. For example, Eddard Stark had his same fierce clutch on honor and goodness at the end that he did at the beginning (even though it was made to look like he compromised his “honor” to save his daughter at the end, he really didn’t).
I believe this talk about character change, simply reinforces the fact that this book is really an Act 1 and not a full Act 1-3 story.
Some subplots were more interesting than others and I’m excited to follow some into the next book, but I’m not sure if everyone really held my interest enough to continue.
There was tones of action, sex, and complicated intrigue to keep the reader entertained, so I totally understand why HBO make it into a TV series. The problem for me, while I was listening to it is that even with the action and intrigue I got bored and when I was 3/4 of the way through the audio thought to myself, “It’s not over yet?” I was exhausted. A friend of mine told me that she had to stop listening to the audio and “speed read” the rest of the book. [sigh] I wish I could do that, but unfortunately for me the audio reads faster than I do.
I actually picked this book up for the first time in 2006, when I was part of a science fiction/fantasy book group at my local library. I have to admit that the beginning was so painfully slow for me to read through, even though the world being painted was rich with color and life and the characters were complicated, real people, I stopped reading after the 5th or 6th chapter. I just couldn’t handle it. I read very slowly and I usually give a book at least 50 pages before I put it down for a more interesting read.
I feel like I have to justify myself because the book is really as good as the fans claim. I personally, found aspects of the book amazing myself such as the world and character building. I think the execution of the story just wasn’t for me.