Author: George RR Martin
Is it possible for a single series to be both the best, and the most frustrating fantasy ever written? If so, George RR Martin may have accomplished the impossible (though in all likelihood, the final books of the series will render one or the other of those outcomes irrelevant, assuming the books ever see the light of day!).
I first encountered A Song of Ice and Fire (ASIAF) shortly after book two, A Clash of Kings had been published (1999). I was absolutely blown away, and hunkered down to wait for book three, A Storm of Swords, which promptly arrived in 2000. In this humble reviewer’s opinion, books 1-3 of ASIAF represent the very best fantasy published in, well, ever. This is a truly audacious series; Martin takes incredible risks, subverts common fantasy tropes, and seems determined to grow the story beyond what even a seven book series could bear. It is little surprise to hear that HBO is considering four additional ASIAF story lines as spin-offs; Martin’s books absolutely brim with stories begging to be told.
Now for the bad news: as everyone on the internet knows by now, Martin’s pace on the subsequent books has slowed significantly (two books published since 2005). The most recent two novels (A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons) have also been less impressive than their predecessors, leaving legitimate questions about what the series’ final legacy will be.
There’s a sense in which this series should really be rated as “Recommend with Reservations.” After all, it’s dark as hell, and may never be truly finished. But for GRRM, I’ll make a special exception. This is… Mandatory Reading!
Rating: 5- Mandatory Reading