Welcome! The web's coolest SF & fantasy book review site is interactive, and you don't have to register or anything. Sound off about books you've read and loved, or hated. Is Wagner on-target about a particular book, or off-base? Recommend books that haven't been reviewed on the site yet. It's all yours.
This thread is set up as an open discussion about the newest GRRM opus. You may also discuss anything related to A Song of Ice and Fire, including the HBO series, if you wish. Note that this is a spoilers permitted thread, so you may want to steer clear until you have finished the book yourself.
Moving this here because the writer was apparently unaware of this thread.
Finished it this morning. I thought that in general it was better than AFFC, at least in that the plots and characters were more interesting and compelling, though it still had problems. Some general comments about the ending, and the direction of the series:
The ending, as others have noted, felt clipped and rushed - for the book to feel like it had a climax, it needed to end with the battle that Selmy and Skahaz were preparing for, and for Daenerys to come riding back on her dragons and settle the score.
In general, I feel that Martin is just bogging the books down with too many sub-plots. Even before reading ADWD, I felt that the storylines about Theon and the Martells were ultimately distracting the reader (and the author) from the main thrust of the plot. Though I think that the Martells and Greyjoys are awesome characters, the events relayed in their storylines could easily be left in the background; it would be okay for the reader to learn about them only when one of the main characters learns about them. In ADWD, Martin adds in the thread about Aegon and Lord Connington, which just takes up even more time and doesn't seem to point to any change in the probable conclusion of the story - they just seem like one more enemy for the Lannisters/Tyrells to smash whilst the readers wait for Daenerys to get to Westeros. It almost seems like GRRM threw Aegon in there to "buy himself time" while he tries to resolve the main storylines.
The biggest problem is that all these sub-plots have made it so that the story about the Starks has basically been relegated to the background. The whole series began as a story about the Starks, and the Starks' story must come to a powerful and well-rounded conclusion in order for the series to be dramatically satisfying. While Tyrion and Daenerys are important figures also, the Starks remain the main characters. They have to be the main characters because their story is the most dramatic - they start in a position of power and wealth and now have been reduced to poverty and destitution. The story can only come to a satisfactory ending if the Starks come together again to regain their place of honor. If Tyrion and Daenerys also achieve their goals, that'll make the ending happier, but as they both started from essentially "dramatically neutral" positions, leading "normal" (though not always pleasant) lives, their stories must be regarded as secondary to that of the Starks.
But GRRM has let the surviving Starks become so scattered, and embroiled in such vastly different plots and scenarios, that I fear he's going to have a very hard time resolving their story to readers' satisfaction without resorting to some sort of contrivance or extreme coincidence, especially if he sticks to his current plan to finish the series in just two more books.
Also, some thoughts about the prologues. While magical events are generally restricted to the background throughout most of the plot in ASOIAF, each of the prologues deals very directly with a supernatural force:
AGOT - The wights (i.e. the zombie magic of the haunted forest)
ACOK - R'hllor's magic, whatever that actually is. (On a side note, I really want to find out whether R'hllor is actually a being or if his priests are just a cult of sorcerers).
ASOS - Others
AFFC - Many-Faced God assassin magic
ADWD - Skinchangers
Seems like all these magics will factor into the final confrontation.
Somehow I get the feeling that anyone expecting the series to end with the Starks regaining their glory will be sorely disappointed. GRRM has never been one throughout his career to care a whole lot about readers' expectations, let alone following an audience-pleasing formula in which Good eventually triumphs over Evil. Some remnant of the Starks may revive in the future, but I don't see them recovering their power and re-establishing Winterfell. Indeed, the Boltons look like they have the north pretty well sewn up, which means a new reign of terror is on the way.
I get the impression that the Starks' fate, such as it is, may well rest with Bran and whatever he becomes. Arya is settled into her new life with this curious assassin cult in Braavos, Jon may well be dead (I did say this was a spoiler-permitted thread, gang). Stannis is done, and the Lannisters are not long for power. Even Dany is not necessarily going to be Westeros' salvation, as she is beginning to make plenty of bad decisions (starting with demolishing the slave trade to begin with, which, while definitely humane, showed her failure to see the big picture in any of her actions), and her control over her dragons is tenuous at best. In other words, whatever the crowd-pleasing, fan-favorite ending to the saga might be, that isn't going to be the ending GRRM writes. What remains to be seen is if it's sufficiently better to blow us away.
What do I think will happen? Not sure, but I suspect that with Jon no longer keeping the Wall together, the Night Watch will be so wrapped up in the threat from Bolton that the evil powers north of the Wall will break through, and it's "Katy bar the door" at that point.
Could the series do with some tightening of focus in the next book? Oh, most definitely. I never got lost in this one, but things did take longer than they should to come to a head. As he won't be having to reconstruct The Winds of Winter from a novel that's already been pruned by half, I am hopeful for a tighter structure. Still, I have to say that I could go back right now, open up ADWD to any random chapter, and experience some truly fine writing. GRRM's skills with character and place remain close to peerless.
I should clarify - I don't think the Starks will necessarily reclaim Winterfell, or even survive past the end of the series. They'll regain their honor, not necessarily their power. I just think that it is imperative, for the series to be satisfying as a whole, for the Starks to play the key role in the series' final conflict. They don't have to return to power or even live for that to happen, but they do need to somehow be re-united, whether in reality or in spirit, for the series to seem complete.
Regardless of whether or not it's a happy ending for the Starks, they have to be there to do something at the end or the story won't be very coherent. Most likely Tyrion, Daenerys, and a few other characters will be involved also, but I think the Starks have to be the deciding factor(s) in whatever the climax of the story ends up being. If they're not, the extreme amount of attention GRRM lavishes on them, especially in the first few novels, will just seem like an elaborate shaggy dog story (pun not intended.)
I realize that might seem rather asinine to be worried about whether or not the Starks will be important to the climax of the story, but as I have explained I think it's dramatically necessary, and I think he will have a hard time achieving it within a span of 2 books - especially if he keeps moving at this snail's pace!
Overall I think you're right. There needs to be some sense of justice and closure for the Starks in order for their share of the overall narrative to feel satisfying. I'll be interested to see where the whole thing with Bran is going for exactly this reason.
thx, was not aware of thread.
Is Stannis necessarily done? He's in a pretty bad position, certainly, but it's not clear to me that Ramsay's letter was necessarily entirely truthful.
I'm not even sure that Ramsay actually sent that letter. I wouldn't be surprised if it had been forged by Queen Selyse or Melisandre in order to stir up trouble.
Well, there's no way Selyse would have known about Ramsey marrying Jeyne Poole (let alone that she'd been spirited away from Winterfell by Theon), or even about the dire weather conditions Stannis was marching his army through. She's also very much her husband's ally, very eager to be queen of the realm and deluding herself that he's still interested in having heirs by her. Any indication everything wasn't going great with Stannis would be met with flat denial. Selyse is simply too shallow and obvious in her desires to be so sneaky and manipulative. So I don't think she could have forged it or would have had reason to.
Melisandre may be another story. She could have known some of the things in the letter, via her sorcery. But it's still a stretch. She's up to something, and has attached herself to Stannis for a reason, so that may be the only justification for not counting Stannis out yet. But overall, I'd say Ramsey's letter sounded very much like Ramsey, and as the last we saw of Stannis's army was that it was about to get the living shit kicked out of it, the likelihood he's alive is slim.
Since several passages seem to suggest that the prophecy about Azor Azai reborn actually refers to Jon, Melisandre may have (intentionally or unintentionally) followed after Stannis merely to position herself close to Jon and help him when he needs it - though first, of course, he has to be reborn.
Just finished a few days ago and have finally let it sink in. A lot of things rubbed me the wrong way. I think some people feel the same way about SoIaF as people felt about the Sopranos. It often feels like the writer does things to purposefully anger his fans. Call me crazy, but I almost liked Feast for Crows more. Anyways, here's my two cents:
1. Jon's Ending: Okay, a pretty big shocker, but I don't get why they had to "kill" him. Why not just demand he step down? Arrest him? Lock him up? It felt too sudden. And is "dead" really dead anyways? I seriously doubt it.
2. Dany/Tyrion/Selmy/Quentin: Too much marking time. The Connington-Aegon thing seemed too convenient for me. Tyrion really didn't do anything.
3. Ramsay/Reek: I found the stories focused on the fate of the North/Wintefell far more interesting than, say, a bunch of non-characters in Dorne.
Some stray observations:
-Since when does Varys kill people? He's cunning and highly manipulative, but blatant murder just seems completely against his character. If he wanted to change the outcome of events, he could have made a few assassinations and averted this whole war YEARS ago.
-Jamie/Cersei were HIGHLY under-represented in this book. I get it. He only has limited space. But if you look at DWD and FFC as one book, these two had pretty important stories that got cut short.
-As another comment said, the Greyjoys are cool, but it's such a distraction from the main story.
-No mention Sandor Clegane at all? Or Sansa? Catelyn? SO MANY unresolved plotlines. It feels like it's turning into Lost for crying out loud.
Maybe my standards have been way too high. I LOVE this series, I truly do, but I feel like it's getting "Wheel of Time" syndrome by introducing too many characters that aren't terribly relevant to the main storyline. Is it a coincidence that things started going south for Wheel of Time right around books four and five? Martin is the superior writer with a superior story to tell, but the parallels are getting harder and harder to dismiss.
The whole thing of Varys explaining his reasons like a cheap TV villain was totally out of character as well.
Ok everybody....I am not a fantasy lover but love this series...this is not literature but you want to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! what's the hurry, we'll find out eventually...