Just when you think it’s safe to go play in the snow, this giant epic slings the reader upon another roller coaster, where a bit of intrigue and boredom takes a corner, leaving the reader (me, anyway) saying a four-letter word aloud while reading.
In dark fantasy language, it’s winter for the generally honest, good-people Starks and summer for the scheming, powerful Lannisters. Martin’s storytelling reveals the harder times that follow war; the countryside filled with outlaws and brigands creating more dead bodies as they find their way to survive by whatever means they can.
While the lowlifes struggle, the highborn seek peace through alliances and marriages. Three weddings (that I can recall from this tome) take place, and only one is not jaw dropping when all is said and done. I’ll quote the ruthless Tywin Lannister, speaking to his son, Tyrion (‘The Imp”): “Which do you think is worse, killing ten thousand on the battlefield, or a dozen people at dinner?”
The character development evolves for the “Kingslayer” hottie Jaime Lannister, as he gets his comeuppance, which seemed to be impossible to do. He finds out the hard way that when you’re rich, good-looking, and merciless that he may actually face others with worse intentions. As a man once proud to have no honor learns when all else is stripped away, there’s nothing left. But no worries, Jaime fans, he’s still cute and has great dialogue.
The other character that moves to the forefront is Tywin Lannister, the father and driver of the rich, powerful, and self-indulged family. His finger is in almost every pie that goes bad, is clever enough to keep his name out of ill deeds which he was a part, but learns more about his own progeny, who have plans of their own.
Meanwhile, the beautiful, dragon-blooded Dany travels in another part of the world, gathering followers as her dragons grow up. She grows as well when trusted followers are unmasked to reveal the traitors that they are. She’s still naïve, but potential is there for her hopefully not follow the poor example her Targaryen relatives made that led to their downfall.
My favorite character, “The Imp” remains in center stage as he takes a wife, endures humiliation, and finds much-needed aid by one he never thought of: A member of his own dysfunctional Lannister family.
But let’s not forget where the action is. The Lannisters carry the plot for the reader like they think they carry the world. Not so fast. Beyond the Ice Wall is something brewing that soon becomes “the elephant in the room” not figuratively speaking. The Stark bastard Jon Snow is on the front lines, and like Tyrion, finds help from who he expected it the least. (Is it a family member? Who knows, I can’t keep all these people straight).
Again, “A Song of Ice and Fire” is not for kids, not leisure reading, but is a masterful epic in gigantic proportions. So far, the books stand and the story is not stale. Five stars!