I love the "Song of Ice and Fire" series so much that I have read the books three times and now have listened to the audio books as well. Martin is very skilled at drawing you into the story; he moves the plot(s) along at varying paces, sometimes slow, even plodding and sometimes he hits you over the head with a war hammer. At it's heart, the story is one of schemes within schemes, Machiavellian intrigues, lust, murder, greed, envy, deception, betrayal and all the other good human virtues :-). The fantastical elements within the story don't overwhelm; they merely add another flavor. Although as the plots of the first books unfold, the power of magic is growing, as supernatural events seem to be increasing in power and frequency. This will be even more apparent in the third book, "A Storm of Swords". Roy Dotrice is amazing as the reader for the audiobook. You may know him as Mozart's father in the Movie "Amadeus". Dotrice does a brilliant job of capturing the personalities of old crones, young children, gruff knights, pitiable beggars, and a host of others. Nothing beats a long drive and these audiobooks to keep you company. What am I saying, I listen to them at home as well because I don't want the story to end. I can't wait for the next audiobook, only so I can enter the world again while I wait for "A Feast for Crows" to get published. If you enjoy Tolkien, Robert Jordan, or other epic fantasy series, you will fall in love with this. It's simply the best series being written today, and deserves a place in the short list of great epic fantasy tales.
I've gotten drawn into this series well enough that I'm most of the way through Book 3, but by the end of this, Book 2, I was feeling a little like I wanted 80-something hours of my life back. I do enjoy most of the story lines, but I find the plot arch so brutal in its scope, I am not sure I can hold out for another 4 books or whatever to find out if whichever of these characters finally survive will get any kind of justice in the end.
The good characters generally have horrid lives that only get worse and worse (with occasional moments of hope that are often soon dashed!), while the bad characters rarely get any sort of just rewards. And in a normal novel, you only have to wait 10-20 hours or so to know the ending, but this saga is so vast, you will not get any such satisfaction. You will wait years to know for sure if the poor characters you've come to love will suffer anything but awful fates, and while I'd like to believe--since this is pop fiction--that the author won't let us down in the end, I am not so sure after seeing several central and beloved characters killed to serve the larger plot.
I know people are wild about this series in general, but as a non-fantasy reader I'm not sure if these are genre-transcending books. More like, they're good fantasy books that appeal to fantasy readers more than they will appeal to a general audience. I bought the books after reading so many positive reviews, and after several recommendations from friends. Speaking as a non-fantasy reader, I do really enjoy that there's not a great deal of magic or non-human characters in the stories, while there is enough to create an interesting atmosphere. The world-building is very skillfully done.
However I don't know if I have the fortitude for much more bloodshed, beheadings, and killing off of characters who never get to see any kind of justice for all their suffering.
While I have enjoyed the series immensely, I am periodically put off by Roy Dotrice's portrayals of some of the characters. He does many things so well including consistent and distinct voices for each character and keeping Tyrion and The King slayers voices different but similar (they are brothers). But often he portrays young people and women with voices that sound so unrealistic that I find it disturbing and distracting. Teenagers are often made to sound much older and most older characters sound toothless. I am about to try the fourth book in the series and hope that the narrator, who did Pillars of the Earth, is an improvement, though I suspect from the preview that some of the subtle tones of Dotrice will be sacrificed for more of a "reading" than a portrayal. Stay tuned.
George R. R. Martin continues his epic tale filled with greed, passion, intrigue, and war. If you are a veteran of A Game Of Thrones then you'll have learned to expect the unexpected; surprising plot twists and turns and a sort of literary brutality with the fates of his characters put Martin well above the fluff-writing fantasy authors infesting bookshelves today. You'll go through the full gamut of emotions before you're done and, tired and weary, you'll be left wanting more. The narration by Roy Dutrice is phenomenal--his myriad voices and accents and seasoned, gruff voice is perfect for Martin's grim, realistic writing. Now, there are many people who don't like Martin's penchant for making the "good" characters suffer for their ignorance and lack of ruthlessness. There are many people who don't like Martin's realistic take on villians and how bad people with lots of power can do really bad things. There are many people who don't like seeing the characters that they've invested their emotions in get killed or have worse happen to them (yes, worse.) If you are one of these people. then go read something else that will fill your hearts with kittens and butterflies and chocolate chip ice cream. To everyone else: Strap yourselves down because you're in for one heck of a ride.
Great story but the narration is really distracting. The narrator makes everyone sound like a dim-witted toothless old man, even the women. I listened less and less and ended up just reading the book since the audio took so much away from my enjoyment of this excellent read.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
I am writing this review based on the first four books of this series overall.
There is a LOT going for these books, good character development of many strong, interesting characters (every one with their own fortes and flaws), a superior writing style with interesting vocabulary and a lack of clich??s and many of the other faults found in most fantasy novels. The majority of the chapters are good, a few chapters (at least one per book, excepting book four) are among the best to be found in the genre. Yet I did not come away pleased. The story moves from one complication to another, one interesting character to another (some of the characters have a half-dozen or more names/personae), but there is little resolution. Some sub-plots come to an end, but there is not a resolving. The story seems to have become more a fantasy soap opera than a novel; a well written and compelling soap opera, but a soap opera never the less. The only technical flaws that annoyed me were a few minor anachronisms and some grating crows and half-wits. The narrator for the first three books had VERY strong character voices (which might be too much for many). The narrator of the forth book erred in the other direction (in a book with so many characters character vocal differences can be a good thing). Somewhere in between would be nicer. This was much more of a saga than an epic, more good writing than literature, more a series then a story. I will not be listening to any more unless I hear that they finally and successfully resolve. The first book was the best of the four, with the next two being nearly as good, the fourth was much weaker.
I hated the way the narrator used the same voice for multiple characters, fell in and out of accents and changed the tone of his voice in weird places. It was so distracting, I only suffered through it on my commute to work because I loved the book so much. Roy Dotrice was just awful!
Epic, intrigue, adventure
The author does a great job of getting you emotionally attached to the characters.
Inconsistent voices for characters. Everyone sounds like an 80 year old man.
Great book and story. The Roy Avers narration is much better.
Its a shame that you can't go to the beginnings of chapters because the track markers seem to be at random places in the middle of sentences and in middle of chapters.
Unfortunately, Roy Dotrice makes this book harder to follow than it needs to be. A great book. A horrible narrator. Audible, please get John Lee to read this book!