When George R. R. Martin published the first three novels of his epic fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” his fans did not have much to complain about except for the seemingly endless wait for subsequent installments.
But with the release of the latest two books, I could not help but feel disappointed.
I did not start reading the series until 2010, when it came highly recommended by my roommates at the time. Once I picked up the first book, I went through the first three novels within two weeks because I couldn’t stop devouring the rich narration, realistic characters and abrupt plot twists. But once I got to “A Feast for Crows,” the momentum stopped.
The fourth book was like a cold shower and the overall story progression slowed to a crawl. Focus on the main storyline and characters were downplayed to accommodate the introduction of numerous secondary characters and their side quests.
Not that I was not in favor of more in-depth narratives of these minor characters, who all have key roles to play in affecting the ultimate ending and can provide refreshing perspectives on previously mentioned events, but their coverage did not add to the entertainment value of the series as much as the main cast’s storyline did.
Even though the events of the fourth and fifth novels were supposed to occur five minutes after the conclusion of the third, sometimes their chapters read like they were written to fill plot holes and tie up loose ends.
In the first three books, the action was always tight and what everyone was doing had immediate consequences on the main events. Unfortunately, most of the characters’ chapters in the latter two novels were disjointed. They were not directly related to the central plot and thus failed to give readers a sense of urgency.
Also, clues for future events used to be subtly hidden among the chaotic action, which made the realization of discovering their meaning later in the story a tremendous joy. In the recent books, they are just laid bare in the open for all to read and half the fun is gone.
The increasingly long wait between novels also hurt the surprise element. Many fans, like me, who could not stand the wait often partake in online discussions to exchange theories and speculate outcomes. Do this often enough, eventually all the possibilities would have been guessed and the surprises ruined.
In his own defense, Martin stated in an interview with the Atlantic in 2011 that he originally planned “A Song of Ice and Fire” as a trilogy, which would somewhat explain the five-year gap between “A Storm of Swords” and “A Feast for Crows.” He also said the fourth and fifth book were first written as a single package until the publishers decided it was too long and chopped it into two books. This caused him to make the difficult decision of rearranging chapters and rewriting narratives so that the fourth book covered storylines in the south of his world while the fifth dealt with the north.
Maybe Martin got tired of the story a long time ago and did not have the heart to tell his fans, which is understandable, given the range of characters and scale of the story. Or, maybe he just wants to stretch the series a couple more years past its prime so he can milk more money from the television show and all the peripheral products he’s selling, such as board games, cards and replica swords. In either case, if the series does not regain its epicness in the last two books, fans will lose patience and stop caring about the ending.