I have to first say that I'm not a person that usually writes reviews. The fact that I'm am writing this one gives notice that this book is definitely out of the ordinary. As a casual fantasy reader, my main purpose in the past has been to seek out light, escapist urban fantasy fair. The only reason I bought this audiobook is that I happened to notice that it was being offered at only 1 credit and it was 37 hours long which fit perfectly with a planned road trip. Let me say, more often than not, I passed a tempting road stop so that I could continue listening to this book. After looking up the author I do not think that I need to rehash the superb writing and character development produced by Mr. Martin. Suffice it to say, this is a wholly satisfying tale of court intrigue, war, magic and romance. What I would like to focus upon is the extraordinary narrator that brought this story to life. Of all the audiobooks that I have listened to, Roy Dotrice's narration is as close to actual theater that I have heard. One would think that with all of the characters that are included in the book that he would run out of voices and personalities. Absolutely not. Each character is uniquely voiced and it was easy to pick up listening and almost immediately recognize which character was speaking. Between the engaging story and the great narrator, this is an audiobook you should definitely pick up.
Ok so you get the story - epic fantasy, adult full realized characters with real emotions, minimal magic etc. I like all that but...the narration. Very plumey and upper-class Brit with strange accent choices -- the Northerns lack Northern accents (which HBO added -- good move), Tyrion begins with a vaguely midlands accent and then unaccountably he becomes Welsh. Maybe non Brits wouldn't notice it but for Brits (especially if your Welsh like me) it was amazing and fairly terrible. Made it difficult to keep listening. He does a good job but the characterizations are just too wierd.
The storyline of the book is wonderful. However, it is extremely hard to listen to the book with the narrator. His portrayal of the characters made it extremely hard to get a handle on them or even listen to the book. It felt as if he was reading line by line causing the story to break instead of a seamless flow of timeless story telling. If the other books are narrated by Roy Doltrice, I will not be listening to them.
I don't know what it is about this book. It is a little hard to understand what's going on in the begining. Like all fantasy, it's a little confusing if you don't know the lay of the land or have a map handy. I thought it took through the whole first part to really get going, but once it does, you just can't stop! Sometimes the story seems to move slow, but it's really not. It's very hard to explain. At first, I thought this was going to be just a rehash of Lord of the Rings... It sort of starts out that way with the token cookie cutter characters, but they are soooo human. Everyone is not what they seem. This really is a book and a world about men and the weakness of men. The women in this book are incredibly strong people able to take care of themselves and are natural born leaders. I like that this book has sex in it. Literature is supposed to be about the human condition and sex is part of that. Something about the way men write the act that is raw yet sensual. Martin captures the mindset, the culture, the erotisism of barbarianism in a believable way. The Drogo, Dani story line is wonderful, slowly evolving. Every one is flawed, all have strengths and weaknesses, there's not good guys and no bad guys, everything seems to float somewhere in that gray murky area. All have a legitimate claim to the iron throne.
Its fair to say that the book is a good 33hour spent. Characters are interesting, and their motivations, goals and perspectives are very different from each other.
That being said, the story goes nowhere. We have time passing, but no destination to travel to. While a story does not need a 'good guy', it needs some sort of threat or villain. As it is now, everything can happen with no real impact on the story anymore. Authors' inability to generate a real threat to everyone, leads to consecutive volumes with no beginning or ending.
We can pretend that the threat will finally materialize and all characters will have to somehow interact and reunite to face it, but its 6years late already, and we aren't any closer.
In fact characters grow so apart that they become irrelevant entirely.
Don't get me wrong. If we do get ending in near future, that binds everything together, then its well worth listening to, but as it goes now, its bit like serious character chronicles without particular purpose.
The more you care about characters, the more you get frustrated by their lack of importance to the story itself. One begin to wonder if it was ever meant to have an end to it.
I read the print version years ago and thought it was brilliant and still do. With the impending premier of the Game of Thrones television series and upcoming release of A Dance With Dragons a few months later, I wanted to reacquaint myself with this story. The second time around was nearly as good as the first. I couldn't give this performance a fifth star because of a couple of annoyances. Firstly, Dotrice was inconsistent with his pronunciations (saying Jeffrey instead of Joffrey or pronouncing Varys two different ways, etc.). A minor annoyance I know but the second was much worse: repeated sentences (a spoken sentence followed by the exact spoken sentence) would pop up repeatedly throughout the 33 hours and 53 minutes. Other than that, I found Roy Dotrice to be a masterful narrator.
I read all four, am listening to Game of Thrones and am awaiting the HBO show. There is a good story here but there is also a ton of redunancy. Martin needs an editor and some self disipline. The fundemental question is: If it is not better than LOTR why is it soooo much longer?
(I do realize that by my standard Jean Auel and Robert Jordan should be put to death.
I felt the first book started very slowly, but I ended up loving it. I have read all four novels now and have been pacing for years now waiting for the next installment. Wonderful adult yarn, both literate and profane.
Take caution, this book is addicting and the author hasn't finished the series. So you will devour book after book to not have the epic completed...But even saying that the ride is so amazing who cares if you don't get the "big o" at the end.
P.S. This IS an epic novel made up of a large cast so the first book in the series is going to be world building and character introduction. If you don't like epic fantasy (very very long stories that take several books to complete) this book is not for you. If you like blood, brotherhood, magic, sex, and war you will enjoy every minute!
I've read all four books twice and am listening to the series for the second time. Excellent series...below average reader. I thought it would be better the second time. It was not. The slurry-spittal-filled quality of Mr. Dotrice's voice is difficult to listen to, especially with earbuds, and the whiney-leprechaun-esque voice he gives to the dwarf is embarrassing. Many of the characters are women and teenagers, yet they all sound like old men. His stops and starts make me wonder if he actually read the book before recording it. It's been four years between my first and second listen, and I've heard some really wonderful readers during that time. Perhaps someday it may be re-recorded. There are a lot of people in this series. It's a rather prodigious undertaking to keep track of that many character voices and, whereas Mr. Dotrice is a wonderful actor, I don't think this material suits him.