I’m tearing through A Song of Fire and Ice so fast (I started A Feast for Crows on Sunday) that I figured I might as well dive all the way. I’ll be blogging about the series every day this week, and hopefully I’ll be done with my first read of the books by the end of it (though I’m going to do another read-through afterwards). There will be major, major spoilers for those of you who haven’t read the novels, so I’ll keep the body of all the entries after the jump. But those of you who have (and thank you, thank you for the recommendations), I’ll be curious to hear what you think. Shall we get started?
In my initial post asking about the HBO adaptation of A Game of Thrones, Chad told me that the books are “a fairy tale from hell where things just get worse and worse.” He’s absolutely right about that. The series is one of the most creatively intense long-term plot developments I’ve ever experienced, and it’s impressive. Making things get much, much worse is one ways that George R.R. Martin expands his universe. And joy, particularly romantic or sexual joy, generally heralds doom for characters. Do your favorite thing in the world? You’ll overhear something you shouldn’t and get thrown off a damn roof. Get down with minor nobility in a moment of grief? No future wedding will be safe for you. Marry the guy of your dreams? Get too jealous of him and he’s liable to throw you off a cliff.
The intensity of it all is incredible, and as a reader experience, these tragedies are a useful test of how much you learn to love the characters. When I found myself mourning for Sansa Stark, one of my least favorite point-of-view characters in the series, when yet another misfortune befell her, I knew that I’d come to care about her in spite of my dislike for her naivete.
But in a cast this large, I’m not sure this constant tragedy, this sense of living on borrowed time, is viable. The Starks and the Lannisters have awful luck or destiny, or whatever. But that they’d pass through this much time without any enduring happiness doesn’t seem quite realistic. Wartime tends to produce both fleeting and enduring romances, and ennobling tests of character, both in real life and in fiction. Things were a hell of a lot worse in Star Wars, for example. Can you imagine Melisandre with a Star Destroyer at her disposal? A Death Star? This particular war spanning worlds rather than continents? But Han and Leia find each other in the midst of it all. They have enough good luck and talent for Leia to save his life. The Starks and Lannisters are no less talented than the Skywalkers and the Solos, but nothing goes well for them. It may be that I just think readers deserve a respite. But having some bittersweetness in there would both leaven the bitterness, and would add some variety to the plot.
Maybe we’ll get there. I have such hopes for Bran north of the Wall, for Arya sailing to Braavos, for Jon as Lord Commander. I know the series isn’t over. But even in times of terrible trouble, people seek out joy. And sometimes, they get it and get to keep it.