Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Photo: The book's hardcover edition, from its Wikipedia page.
A gripping continuation of the saga, and--if possible--a bit more gritty and ghoulish than its predecessors. (The title refers to the incredible number of mutilated and rotting bodies laying and hanging and floating all over the land.) But it still envelops you in its web of world-building.
Martin continues to embed us in this world, and does so here by focusing more on some of the more minor characters of the other books, as well as a couple of new ones, while also furthering the paths of Cersei, Jaime, Sam, Sansa and Arya. Brienne of Tarth gets a larger stage than ever before, as does Sandor Clegane, who she killed in the show, but not yet (if at all) in the books. He reappears with a woman (maybe) under a grey cloak, who may, or may not, be a character somehow brought back from the dead. You'll have to decide, but I have my doubts--though, in truth, I don't really know what I'm doubting.
Sansa and Arya hide under assumed names--names that they take to heart a bit too much for me at first, to the extent that the chapters are entitled with their adopted names, to the amazement and confusion of all. The girls even call themselves these fake names in their thoughts, which got to be a little creepy. You get used to it, but they became just a smidge too Sybil for me. And it was a little jarring, and a tiny bit confusing, what with all the names already for the reader to deal with. But I stayed the course.
Gone from the narrative are Tyrien, Jon Snow, and Stannis. They're around, just not in the book. The same cannot be said for the Onion Knight, Stannis's Hand (or, for that matter, for Jaime's hand; sorry), who apparently gets killed off-, off-, off-stage. Just a quick quip from one of the characters--easy to miss in these 900+ pages. But characters have the tendency to not die, and not just like Beric Dondarrion, who has died, and not, six times now. But characters also tend to just re-appear, not dead, though other characters, and sometimes the reader, thought they were. So, again, I have my doubts.
Speaking of Beric Dondarrion, I had to look up his last name to finish one of the sentences above. I don't mind telling you, there's a large city of names being thrown at you by now in this series, so if you find yourself pausing for a moment after reading about a character, and thinking, "Wait. Who the hell is this again?", don't feel bad. What can you expect with literally dozens of names, and two newly fake names, and a handful of new characters, all being thrown at you at the same time? Don't stop reading because you forgot, for example, Beric's last name. Keep with it.
The reader will be rewarded at the end, if the reader, like me, was wondering how one of the characters could get away with so much for so long. Maybe the tide has turned on that. Speaking of the tides, there's a new group of people to deal with who pray to the god of the sea, a religion founded on the baptismal drowning of its believers. Sort of. Anyway, they need a new king, and they get one, kind of. This takes a long time to happen, and is a bit interesting, and a bit not, at the same time. This is perhaps my only complaint here.
But the 900+ pages whisked by--no small feat, that. The book is good enough to throw all this at you, which would be annoying from most books and book series, but is not here. It has now become addicting, to the extent that I find myself occasionally thinking and speaking like its characters. I don't look forward to seeing something now, for example. Now I yearn to set my eyes upon it. It's become such an addiction that I was dismayed to find that I do not have the fifth in the series, A Dance with Dragons. I'll have to pick it up soon, once the temps warm up enough outside so that I don't have to worry about my breathe immediately freezing and falling like dead weight upon my foot. (It's one degree out right now, with a -20 wind chill. It's so cold I'm losing a fortune in heating, but I'm so glad to be comfy and warm that I don't care.)
Perfect weather for this book, as it's often cold and wet and miserable for all its characters, internally and externally. Makes me want to drink some warm or hot wine, or maybe some dreamwine, and build a fire until the wind and cold subside. See? You get engrossed in that world. Or, maybe I've read too much and not slept enough.