I should start by first stating my absolute respect for George RR Martin, he’s an extremely talented author, and anything else I say here must be weighed against that.
When I started reading A Game of Thrones– the first book in the series- I was initially pleasantly surprised by Martin’s descriptive writing style. He focuses on the individual actions of each character, and describes objects in the context of how they relate to other objects. Example: Page 337 A Feast for Crows- “In the end she chose a simple velvet ribbon in autumn gold. When Gretchel fetched her Lysa’s silvered looking glass, the colour seemed just perfect with Alayne’s mass of dark brown hair.” This may seem ordinary, but not all books that I’ve read have displayed the same technique. It gives the writing a fluid style.
I have nothing but admiration for how Martin used the Wars of the Roses as initial inspiration, and then used the characters to branch out into all the different corners of the world he created.
The medieval struggle between the royal branches of York and Lancaster show stark similarities to Martin’s storyline. As I described in a previous posting, Eddard Stark is based on Richard of York. He came south from his northern home, to bear the administrative burden of the realm. He fell to the machinations of Margaret of Anjou, who acted out of concern for the prospects of her son. In this case, Cersei Lannister. The Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, the last of the dragon kings, is based on Henry VI, whose madness and incompetence undid the great work of his father, Henry V. Just as Aerys undid the work of his ancestor, and the founder of his dynasty, Aegon the Conqueror. The idea of an exiled family, the last survivors of an ancient and glorious empire (Old Valyria) uniting a fractured realm with the use of dragons is brilliant. Robert Baratheon, who won his throne with a distant claim but more importantly with his war-hammer, shows similarities to King Edward IV, who deposed his cousin Henry VI.
Of course, this admiration can never truly disappear, even when you’re so furious with the author you want to rip out the pages. Martin has collected a series of irritating habits, regarding the strucutre of his works, that drive readers up the wall, myself as well. These include: His relentless pursuit of storylines which don’t hold any interest to you, and his insistance on writing cheap, corny names for POV chapters. Examples: The Princess in the Tower, The King’s Prize, The Soiled Knight. I suspect that Martin grew to regret his naming each chapter after the character which tells it, and so tried to think of some bad-ass names which also described characters. The story of Brienne during A Feast for Crows was boring and seemingly pointless. In fact, those two words could be used to describe the whole book. A Feast for Crows was my least favourite of the whole series, not least because it covered characters which held no interest for me. I personally felt betrayed when Martin abandoned characters who’d we had seen since the very first book.
During the latter stages of a Dance with Dragons, I felt frustrated that the last survivors of House Targaryen couldn’t co-ordinate their efforts. Obviously there were difficulties of communication, but never the less, Tyrion could have taken it on himself to use the Second Sons for Aegon‘s cause. Daenerys made me angry in that book. She has three dragons, and she spent her whole time pandering to her enemies. The blood of the dragon does not pander.
On another note, Jon Snow took the hard decisions that had to be made, but he should have seen it coming. He was clearly favouring the Wildlings, and he shouldn’t have sent the ships to Hardhome. Allowing Tormund Giantsbane through the Wall was necassary and prudent, but the Night’s Watch had no need of four thousand useless mouths. Discontention was spreading through the upper echelons, it was’t as if there wasn’t warning. When they can murder one Lord Commander, they can murder another. Never the less, I refuse to believe that he’s dead. He’s far too central to the storyline, and Martin has a habit of bringing people back to life. Which is another of his annoying habits, did I mention?
Furthermore, I believe that Rhaegar Targaryen in Jon Snow’s father, and Lyanna Stark his mother. I never knew this, until I read a spoiler online. I assmued that Jon would find his Targaryen heritage in time for a Dance with Dragons, and that the final book would be conflict between him and Daenerys. The phrase ‘Dance with Dragons’ means a Targaryen civil war, after all. But it was never proved, and was merely speculation. Never the less, I think that it adds up. Eddard Stark was far too honourable to father a bastard, and we know that Lyanna made him ‘promise’ something. I think that him, Aegon and Daenerys are the three heads of the dragon. And Jon Snow is Azor Ahai reborn, as he is currently fighting the war against the Others, not Daenerys. He is half Stark and half Targaryen, half ice and half fire. His is the song of ice and fire.