I finished the third book in the “Game of Thrones” series last week

The actual book series is called A Song Of Ice And Fire (written by George R.R. Martin), as we readers know. If you haven’t been exposed to the books or the show, it’s a fantasy series of kings and knights and dragons and magic which follows several families who rule different kingdoms under a central monarchy. That monarchy is thrown into worsening disarray by a series of events throughout the books. Each season of the TV show roughly corresponds to a book in the series.

The first book is A Game of Thrones. I read it last year before and during the first season of the show. It started out very exciting, then slowed near the halfway point and then massively accelerated. The reason for that acceleration is clear: a shockingly dramatic scene which comes near the end of the first television series actually happens midway through the first book. That incident amps up all the ill will that’s been festering throughout the kingdoms. While reading the last third of the book, I could hardly put it down and was staying up til 2 or 3 in the morning reading. I loved that the story was propelled (at least initially) by two mysteries: the death of John Arryn and the attempts on Bran Stark’s life. It gave a reader unfamiliar with the fantasy genre an inroad to it.

I bought book 2, A Clash of Kings, after the second season of the show. I was immediately happy I did. I loved the interpersonal drama of the second season and the novel amplified that. There were more characters and more deceit. But I had the same experience in reading the book: a quick start, a slow middle and an exciting final third. The novel ends right in the middle of things. So much so that I immediately downloaded the third book on my kindle and began reading.

There were several times in the first two novels where I was quite confused, not by the numerous characters, but by the writing itself. Sometimes Martin seemed to want to reveal scenes in a cinematic fashion with a whirl of confusion and a dramatic resolution. His writing everywhere else was so deft and clear that I was puzzled on those few occasions. That said, I found nothing like that in the third novel in the series.

I whipped through A Storm of Swords, the third book, in less than a month. It picks up so seamlessly from book 2 that’s it’s easy to think of them as one story. And where I might have nitpicked style or plot in the other books, I found A Storm of Swords completely engrossing and satisfying. Martin does a tremendous job of concluding the drama of the second novel and the mysteries of the first while delivering many surprises.

Somewhere as I neared the end of the book, I read that Martin had planned them as a trilogy. That little fact actually enticed me so much more. I saw the three books as a whole idea and it made a lot of pieces fit. Never one to paint himself into a corner, Martin left plenty of threads that he could easily pick up in subsequent books.

I was quite surprised at how much I’ve engaged with the story. I don’t have a great deal of fantasy reading to compare to but I’ve enjoyed Martin’s writing more than Tolkien’s. That may be heresy but I’d read The Hobbit only a few months ago and was quite often bored with it. I’ve been so into the world of A Song of Ice and Fire that I haven’t known what to do with myself for the past few days since I finished book 3. Obviously I’ll start the fourth book but I wanted to take the time to write down these thoughts about the first three before I disappear into an incommunicative cave of little sleep and constant reading.

And now that I’ve put these thoughts down, I’m going to download book 4 and go away for a while.