"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
Am I becoming desensitized to these books, or was this one really not as brutal as the ones that came before it? At any rate, I found this one to be less "hard" to read because of the sheer harshness of Martin's world. Although many of the standard characters did not make an appearance -- most notably Daenarys and Tyrion (didn't miss him) -- I did not find the book to be lacking because of it. I had been looking forward to this book since the beginning because I knew it was the first to have "Cersei" chapters, and while I can't say I particularly LIKE her without seeming like a bad person, I DO like reading about her. There were plenty of other characters in this one that I liked reading about, too -- in fact, between Cersei's chapters, Asha's, and Brienne's, I thought of this volume as "A Song of Ice and Fire: The Strong Women Edition." (Not to mention the short subplot about putting Myrcella on the throne and the undead return of Lady Catelyn. )
Despite the strong woman thread, though, there are times while reading this series that it is just so obviously written with a male worldview. Like the way that Martin must describe every woman's nipples who bares her breast, although we never learn what the dudes' nipples look like, or the particular variances between one cock and another. And the fact that he always addresses desire from a male lens -- we never get a deep look into a female or gay male experience of desire. And there are some things that just don't ring true to me as a female reader, such as that Cersei would "eat" Robert's semen to "kill" his sperm/potential offspring. Newsflash: no woman who finds a man as sexually repulsive as Cersei found Robert is going to willingly ingest his semen, especially when his sperm are going to be just as dead soaking into the bedsheets. Sorry, Martin, I'm sure those scenes were fun for you to write, but no. (Reading this alongside of Lord of Chaos reminded me that I REALLY need to sample some epic fantasy written by women, like Kushiel's Dart. But then I'll have THREE epic fantasy series on the go, argh!)
Martin's writing does remain solid, of course, although there were a few verbal "tics" that bothered me in this volume. Like, why are we now naming chapters/characters by descriptors rather than by the characters' ACTUAL names? (i.e.: The Soiled Knight, The Queenmaker, etc.) And why is everyone suddenly using the phrases "much and more" and "little and less"? I swear those phrases were not spattered all over the previous three books, and at first I thought it was just a regional saying, but suddenly all the characters were using it, regardless of where they were from. And it was annoying, redundant, and pretentious. Kind of, "Oooh, look at me, I can make my writing sound all archaic!"
It was also a little strange to have characters in this volume that only got a single chapter. It's easy to just forget their storylines ever existed, although I assume they will be important later on?
Still, I think this series grows on me more with each installment, and I love that it is so character-driven and totally immersive -- the fact that George RR Martin is most likely a dirty old man and that the audio versions are totally obnoxious notwithstanding.