Will this even be a book review? Perhaps not. Context and metatext is important to how one reads, and this book is stained by the metatext of HBO’s hit TV show. No reasonable review of this book can begin without the declaration that I have not been living under a rock for the past decade, and I did see HBO’s hit TV show. Yes, it will impact this review, though right here at the beginning I am not sure how. This is exactly the kind of review I dread writing, not because of any characteristic about the book itself, but also because at this point the discourse is so damn saturated I have no idea what to say about the book at all that hasn’t already been talked about. It’s buying a gift for the man who owns the world. My blog posts tend to follow a formula, and the next step of it would be to write a synopsis. But what really is there to say?:
Yadda yadda yadda war of the roses yadda yadda yadda soft intro into fantasy yadda yadda yadda viewpoint characters yadda yadda yadda kills off your darlings yadda yadda yadda standard intrigue.
How much of that can you actually say you’ve not heard before? So let’s forgo all that shit and talk about something else.
Metatext is really the key word to describe my reading. But this novel was a metatext to the TV show. That’s just the unfortunate order of operation here. That wasn’t any kind of problem here, just a declaration that a lot of the work of interpretation had been done for me. I heard the various actors of the TV show speak when the characters did, their tones, their cadence, their delivery. It really felt inescapable, and kind of gave a strange feeling to the reading experience, one of not being altogether my own experience. In a respect it wasn’t.
I had an uncle who used to complain that Victor Hugo was paid by the word. It was for him a slight dig at that author. My and said uncle are of two very different generations, and to his witticism my generation would reply “THAT’S NOT A BUG, IT’S A FEATURE.” I really didn’t mind the length. During the course of my reading this over 2021 I was largely very busy, and I chipped away with this chapter a day until there was nothing left. The viewpoint style made this pretty easy to do without it being jarring. I, for the most part enjoyed how overly detailed this was. Some chapters were more of a slog than others, but I came here for these details. I watched the TV and at some point said ‘what’s the deal with those little green fuckers in the woods? Am I going to get a backstory?’ There wasn’t and now I have come to these books to hunt down answers my damn self.
The viewpoint style may be a bit of a cheat. With a story this damned long, it is pretty easy to forget the minor details, and forgoing omniscience allows for a person to write off where the seams of the story don’t evenly meet. “Is X saying something differently from how it happened 20 chapters and 400 pages ago? Well, that’s just their subjective experience of it!” It’s a dodge, but it is an artful dodge. It feels nice.
If fantasy is a drug, this is the gateway. I really am thinking about harder drugs now. What I cannot answer is whether this should be credited to the author or to HBO’s ensemble. I’ll actually kick a bit of money for an actual dead tree book of one of the coming sequels, so Martin should be happy enough. I wanted to continue with this and that is success enough when it comes to books, right? I might even try to read Mistborn again, or some shit.