Sunday, February 22, 2009
This is probably one of my favorite fantasy works of all time. Martin masterfully handles multiple story lines and points-of-view. This story is an epic fantasy, yet the magical elements very much take a backseat to the characters and the plot. In fact, Martin's style gives it the feel of historical fiction rather than fantasy. Many of the stories and characters seem to be plucked directly from Medieval Europe.
We begin the story in the Northlands with the Stark family. They are the main protagonists of our tale and are known as honest and honorable. Lady and Lord Stark have four children ranging from 3 to 13, two boys and two girls. There is also Ned's bastard son, Jon, who is the same age as their oldest son, Robb. Jon has been brought up with his half-siblings, and been well loved for the most part, despite the Lady's resentment of his presence.
Ned's best friend is King Robert, who pays Ned a visit to offer him the position of The Hand of the King. This is basically the position of running the country while the king enjoys feasting, hunting, and wenching. King Robert is married to a Lannister, a family known for their cunning and greed. When Bran, one of the Stark children, witnesses an encounter between the Queen and a man that is not the King, she insists the man dispose of him by throwing him out the window. This event leads to many further complications later in the story.
Shortly before the King and Queen come to visit, the children find a litter of direwolf pups. These wolves are larger than normal wolves, and they usually stay above the Wall. The Wall is a very long wall that protects all of the Seven Kingdoms from the Wilds of the North, where horrible creatures reside. The Night Watch, which patrol the Wall, and the Starks are concerned because "Winter is coming". In the world of Martin's Fire and Ice, winter and summer both last for years on end. This summer has in fact been unusually long, in fact none of the children have seen winter.
If you are new to fantasy, and prefer historical fiction, this would be a great novel to begin exploring the genre with. Martin's work is not predictable, nor are his characters stereotypical of the fantasy genre.
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