“I’M NOT A BOY!” said Arya Stark

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A GAME OF THRONES

–by GEORGE RR. MARTIN

Gets 5 out of 5 Lattes!

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength, and then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” –George Martin

got book 1

1. CHARACTERS [1 CUP OF COFFEE]
The development of the characters in A Game of Thrones is like a very slow snowball bounding down a hill. There is little momentum at first, and it seems that there isn’t much aim.

They are just men and women living out their lives, one trying to get a better hand at life than the other.

Somewhere along the line, we start caring about the characters, particularly Eddard Stark, also known as Ned Stark. He is the noble and honorable father of children, each of whom are lords to the castle of Winterfell.

 

But behind every nobleman is dark past that looms, and we are left to see Ned’s oldest son, Jon Snow, be shunned by Winterfell and the lady of Winterfell, Ned’s wife Catelyn, because Jon Snow is Ned’s illegitimate son — a bastard.

There are a slew of other characters who are named in Book 1 of  A Song of Ice and Fire (the actual name of the series, not A Game of Thrones, as many may believe).

One particular character is a dwarf named Tyrion Lannister who is a lord himself of house Lannister, but because of his size, he is hated, much like Jon Snow. Due to Tyrion’s height, he has chosen to use his tongue instead of his sword to fend off his enemies, and he does a jolly good job of it!

My favorite character would have to be Arya Stark, Ned’s younger daughter. She doesn’t want to be lady like her sister Sansa, and so she picks up swords and longs to be soldier like her brother Rob Stark or Jon Snow, both of whom she adores.

You won’t find any characters in this book whom you hate because of how poorly they are written (i.e. bad writing). However, you will certainly find characters whom you hate due to how well they are written — characters whom I will not name for fear of spoiling a great tale!

2. WRITING STYLE [1 CUP OF COFFEE]
The writing style of George Martin is one to emulate. It is as if his pen has disobeyed him and chosen to write the story itself, splashing ink across the papyrus and designing letters in an ancient calligraphy that Martin himself could not comprehend, even if he tried.

One of the opening lines of the book is: “Fear filled his gut like a meal he could not digest.” That image is so vivid that I cannot get it out of my mind. And this line alone is not one that unique to the story.

In fact, imagery along these lines are speckled through the story like neatly placed flowers, sprouting up like beautiful blossoms as you saunter by with your eyes.

Even in my foolish attempts, I cannot mimic Martin’s writing style. I would say that he is the Tolkien of our day, being able to take lords and ladies of the 16th century and transfer them to an audience that specializes in twitter-speak and text-talk.

3. PLOT [1 CUP OF COFFEE]
The plot is similar to watching water boil.

Though we have come to associate that phrase with something ill, actually it’s not a bad problem to have. The issues in this book seem very mild at first — a bastard son, a cunning dwarf, a spoiled prince.

With a few smacks on the wrist, it appears that the conflicts could be easily resolved. However, the more you read, the more intricate the plot becomes, and once that first boiling bubble bursts, you are in for some heated trouble!

The Starks, our heroes, are cast into scenarios that we would never have wished on our worst enemies, except the Lannisters of course, but even then, the lines between good and evil seem to dissolve like salt bubbling within the boil.

Also in this story is the fantasy element that seems to be like a distant other character, coming at you in the darkness, though you cannot see from which direction it comes. Having read through book 3, I see its direction, but in book 1, the fantasy is very minimal.

That said, the plot is so powerful that you don’t consider the fantasy that much at all. And if you’re chomping at the bit for fantasy, then you’ll get a healthy dosage of it about 75% into book 1, but you’ll need patience, because remember, George Martin always pays his debts

4. BELIEVABILITY [1 CUP OF COFFEE]
There was not one place in this book where I said, “Okay, now you and I both know that could never happen!!

The story is linked together in a very compelling cause and and effect, hand in hand kind of way. One thing leads to another, but never do you get the feeling that George Martin is playing a hand in devising what happens.

His characters seem like real people with real emotions who do real things, even at the expense of the reader’s petty little feelings. If you are looking for the typical epic fantasy, this is not the book for you. There are many others out there that would suffice; but if you want a story with a fantasy backdrop, this is it.

One thing that bothered me for an instant was how the Starks found these animals called Direwolves. The Direwolves are these rare mega wolves which happen to also be the sigil of the Stark household.

It seems out of place for this event, but the Starks just happened upon 6 Direwolf pups whose mother had died. The pups were going to die too, so the Starks each take pup — one for each of the children. Oh yeah, and don’t forget that there just happened to be an albino pup for the bastard Jon Snow.

That seemed a bit coincidental and contrived, but I easily looked past it since the rest of the book, and the book up to that point, were believable. However, strike 1, George.

5. GRAMMAR [1 CUP OF COFFEE]
This goes without saying: the grammar is great, and the dialects that come about, along with the slang, are easy to read.

====

I highly recommend reading this book. Start now while it’s summertime, because…winter is coming.

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4 thoughts on ““I’M NOT A BOY!” said Arya Stark

  1. JT

    Hmmm. We must have read two different books. Let me say, I love A Game of Thrones. Really the series should have been called that, because Martin constantly mentions a game of thrones but hardly ever talk about this “song of ice and fire”

    I think we can agree that Martin’s storytelling is wonderful. We can also agree that his subject matter is interesting enough to take the reader through the large page count. However, and this is where I get into disagreement with fellow fans, Martin is a terrible writer. You can have someone who is a great storyteller, but a terrible writer. Also, he needs an editor that will perform any sort of editing. If he had one, then a lot of my gripes wouldn’t exist.

    Martin pulls the same rookie mistakes over and over again. I am on the fifth book now, but he makes these repeated mistakes pretty consistently and they start in the first book.
    1) repeating the same term constantly over 5 pages. It could be an adjective or a noun or what have you. I get it. He likes a word and wants to show everybody this new, shiny word he learned
    2) sloppy narration. I understand that the chapters are from the perspective of the characters that they are named for, but when the narration suddenly shifts to omniscent narrator, recalling things the character could not have known or does not know, it really stands out. Sometimes It’s completely unclear who is narrating. Then, other times, it appears to be a omiscent narrator that is biased against a character in the way that the character is referred to.
    3) Unflowing, cacaphonic sentences. There are too many of these to count.
    4) lack of forethought. If there are questions raised in chapters that are never answered or missing details that make the reader scratch their head, I have concluded at this point that this is because Martin was simply trying to push out a book and couldn’t be bothered. This is probably why HBO had to create the Dothraki language, because Martin never bothered creating one. And yet, Martin is constantly compared to Tolkien. Tolkien took the time to develop his universe. Martin only thought to include things he got whilst brainstorming.
    5) bad grammar/syntax. Nobody is perfect, but Martin writes so many sentences with unclear pronouns, uses so many odd paragraph breaks, and other stylistic oddities, that anyone who has a background in classical literature or any book outside of fantasy writing will contantly be stopped to go “WTF?”

    I am a fan of Martin, but until enough people pan him for his bad writing, Martin will continue to slack. I am encouraged by the improved quality of A Feast for Crows

    Reply
    1. wstadler Post author

      JT, thanks a lot for the reply, and I’ll be the first to admit that you are right — I’m one of the fans who let the story itself smooth over the aggravating syntax.

      I don’t know how many times I read “for half a heartbeat” along with countless other phrases that stick out in my mind.

      That said, I would not attribute that to Martin as much as I would attribute it to his editor. You seem like you are a writer yourself, and when creating extended works, a lot of things that might have seemed important in the moment aren’t so critical several weeks later when you attempt to address that same issue.

      It’s really the editor’s responsibility to draw attention to redundancies, bad syntax, and missed pronouns. I’m not saying that GRRM is necessarily capable of doing these things on his own; however, what I’ve noticed about his writing is that his descriptions are accurate and his imagery is vivid. He takes a long time to say things that could be stated in a few sentences, but that draws me into the story more than a simple head nod at what a character might look like.

      So from Harper Collins’s POV, they are probably more interested in crapping out a book with typos and bad syntax and repetitions than to have to lose tens of thousands of dollars a day by disallowing a book to be released due to a few synthetic issues.

      GRRM admits that he mostly writes from the hip, and when you do this, the story will tend to suffer when an editor does not bring to the author’s attention issues that were not addressed.

      Now to be clear, this is not my defense of GRRM as much as it is a different perspective. But he has very solid metaphors and a very even pacing. Book 4 sucked because his pacing was off, and I honestly thought book 5 lagged for the same reason. Come to find out, those books were supposed to be intertwined, but he was asked to separate the two, which is why Tyrion can’t be found in 4 and why Briane (sp?) is not in 5.

      Anyway, what are your thoughts?
      (BOOK 2 was my favorite btw. Good pacing and strong storytelling).

      Reply
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