"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.
This was my favorite Ice & Fire book I've read so far, and considering that I said the same thing about the most recent Wheel of Time book I read, I think I'm just developing more patience for epic fantasy. Perhaps its because, the more books I read in a particular world, the easier it comes to re-enter that world -- I waste less energy keeping characters and places straight, and thus the book feels like a lot less "work." And despite the Very Upsetting Deaths, overall this book felt less "bleak" than the last one; fewer horrible things were happening to children, for one thing, and the volume on the misogynistic voices seemed to have been turned down, too. Many of the characters enjoy more exploration here than they've had in the past, and Martin continues with his signature style of blurring the boundaries between good and evil. Characters who seem like jerks end up making choices that show integrity, and characters you perceive as the good guys display their moral failings. One, however, was a bit too much for me, and ALMOST caused me to lower this book's ratings from 4 stars to 3. A little more on that later.
A LOT happened in this book, and as with any book that follows a large cast of characters, some of the storylines are more interesting to me than others. I find myself more invested in the human/political intrigue plots than in the magic/war plots. Luckily, Martin tends to be heavy on character and light on action, although when its there he seems to delight in making it particularly gory. I always come away from these books with images I really could have done without, but that also leaves me forewarned about when I'll need to close my eyes on the TV series.
I also came to appreciate through this book why so many fans are so devoted to Tyrion. That is, until [ he killed Shae. THIS is what almost made me take a whole star rating from this book. Because, seriously, he made up for all the missed misogyny in this book with this one move. YES, I know it was a "crime of passion," YES, I know Shae "betrayed" Tyrion, and YES it is a bigger deal than when he killed Tywin, and here's why.
Tywin Lannister was a character who retained a lot of control over his own life, not to mention the lives of others, especially his grown children. He emotionally abuses Tyrion at every turn, he refused to believe the best of him when Joffrey died, and he never gives Tyrion the credit that is due to him, not to mention the inheritance. So when a man likes that suffers murder for his actions, he does so paying the price for misusing the great power he had. But when a woman, formerly a prostitute, shuffled around the Red Keep, wanted dead by the Queen regent and the Queen's father, is manipulated into betraying the man who essentially kept her locked up and hidden away for her own "safety"? That's a different thing entirely. This person HAS no power, which is precisely why she must make unsavory choices in desperate situations. Who can blame her for lying to a woman who wants her dead, then sleeping with a man who wants the same? With no power, she does the best she can to survive--and Tyrion kills her for it--DESPITE the fact that he spent most of the last two books trying to PROTECT her from being killed. WTF?
But I think that the reason this REALLY bothered me is that Martin spent ALL this time building up Tyrion as a sympathetic character, the underdog for whom we are all supposed to root, and then this murder happens so quickly and so vaguely that it's as if we're just supposed to accept it as a sympathetic action as well. My husband claims that he feels a "lot of remorse" for it later, but guess what? Remorse does not bring a dead woman back to life. This is so not okay, and I hate that we're supposed to just assume that it is, that it's somehow "justified." Thanks, Martin, for taking away one of the few characters we can actually ROOT for in this bloody saga *end rant*.