GRRM is one of the top ten most highly paid authors in the world. The New York Times has described his writing as “supernatural.” You will start this first tome of A Song of Ice and Fire with backstories of the Royal Houses, complex genealogies, sigils and mottos, and maps. That said, I’ve got two caveats. First, GRRM has a habit of killing off characters before they’ve had a chance to do much. In the very first chapter, we meet Gared in the midst of a dire situation. He’s vividly and sympathetically described: his physical appearance, his backstory, his hopes and fears, his contentious relationship with the knight he serves. Cut to Chapter 2, and Gared is being beheaded. And that’s the end of Gared. I found it jarring. I read a review of Book 3, and, thousands of pages into the series, the reader had the same complaint. So it’s not just me. Second, GRRM has a habit of loving or hating each of his characters regardless of how they serve the plot. That may sound odd, but I can’t think of another author who does this quite like GRRM. The golden-haired princess Sansa, for instance, has a Terrible Thing happen and she’s affected. Then, in her next POV chapter, she thinks and acts as if the Terrible Thing never happened. I was reading, thinking, “But what about the Terrible Thing?” Then GRRM casually mentions it toward the end of her chapter. I didn’t think, “I hate this character,” I thought, “GRRM hates this character so much, he won’t even let her speak for herself.” I found this jarring, too. So there you have it. If you love curling up with kings and queens and court intrigue, you can’t do much better than this.

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