The Bookshelf

hobbitCuppa and I just finished a re-reading of The Hobbit. Having not had a suitable book to read aloud at bedtime, we reverted to this old standby. We have read both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy any number of times.

In days long past, The Narnia Chronicles and Hobbit/Rings sparked my interest in fantasy. Afterward, I stumbled onto Stephen Donaldson’s Covenant Chronicles and quite enjoyed them too, although I in no way appreciate the current, third and last Thomas Covenant series.

After Covenant and the very good Fionavar Tapestry series by Guy Gavriel Kay, however, I came away unimpressed with subsequent readings in the genre. I thought I would like Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, the first three volumes being quite enjoyable. By the sixth, however, with the series was going nowhere, I was more than a trifle vexed  and decided that Jordan was more or less perpetrating a hoax. It seemed to me that his goal was to see how long he might be able to keep his world spinning and his readers dangling. Apparently he could do it for a long while as someone told me that he’s now up to book 13.

That and one or two other attempts put me off: not that I wouldn’t have liked to read more fantasy, but I couldn’t find a series to suit. Unfortunately, the nature of the genre is that every fantasy has to become at least a trilogy, where almost invariably each volume is also quite lengthy The result is that I haven’t read fantasy for the past few years.

thronesRecently, however, I read in the newspaper that HBO made a fantasy book, Game of Thrones by George Martin, into a series. Reasoning that if HBO was investing so much in it, I thought I might  give it a try: not that we get HBO, but I could at least read the book.

On going to our local big bookstore, I was amazed to find shelf upon shelf upon shelf of fantasy offerings. Decades ago, after the few that I mentioned above, the pickings were mighty slim, but times have changed. My goodness.

I found the last copy of Game of Thrones in Chapters, the first book in Martin’s saga, A Song of Ice and Fire. If I understand things, Martin has just published the fifth book of the series and plans two more.

The verdict: pretty good, but like almost all fantasies it’s rather long: a rather hefty 800 pages long as a matter of fact. Length notwithstanding, I certainly enjoyed the Game of Thrones. Although there are many more volumes in the series, this ended well enough that I can be satisfied if I choose not to read any further. At least it didn’t leave me hanging to such an extent that I feel as though I must immediately rush out to our nearest Chapters store to secure the next installment.

Martin has created a detailed, Middle Ages sort of world, including a wall (think Hadrian) and hordes of coppery-skinned horsemen beyond the sea (think Genghis Khan). There is not too much magic — not in volume one, at least — and the characters seem fairly plausible, at least in terms of the times.

I’m happy that I decided to take a chance and read Game of Thrones although I was beginning to wish the plot would move just a titch faster when I was about 600 pages in — around the time when battles and atrocities were beginning to occur. At the moment, I am not totally sure whether I will press on with the rest of the series, but don’t take that to mean that I don’t recommend Game of Thrones to those who have some interest in the fantasy genre or some general curiosity about the either the genre or this particular novel.

Go to Wikipedia for a fuller summary of Game of Thrones
Wikipedia’ s review of the television series


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5 Responses to The Bookshelf

  1. Mara says:

    I’ve never really gotten into the fantasy genre. I once tried to get through the first chapter of the Lord of the Rings and have yet to finish it, so I won’t even bother trying.

    I like the books by Jasper Fforde who seems to be getting into wizards and dragons now as well, although the book I just read (The last dragonslayer) can’t be more than 300 pages! Although there will be another book in the series coming up apparently!

  2. Mary G says:

    Love Fantasy/SciFi. Thanks for the recommendation. Have you read any Elizabeth Moon? If not, start with the Paksennarion series. She takes Tolkein and runs with it.

  3. Lorna says:

    You have also, I presume, read “His Dark Materials”, by Phillip Pullman; you might try a nice dark Neil Gaiman, “Neverwhere”. We have friends who read-outloud-before-bed the whole series of Kenneth Oppels bat series, which I think starts with “Silverwing” .

    I’ve been watching the series; it’s lush, beautifully designed, a visual joy, but I find I can’t remember the story the next morning. That may be more me-centred than series-centred.

  4. Ruth says:

    I am one of the few in our family who did not get into fantasy books. I find them to be long and the stories/names/events get very confusing. Now that I read books only at the end of the day, I find myself nodding off quickly if the plot does not grab my attention. Perhaps I would enjoy these more as audiobooks.

  5. Dimple says:

    I find I am in the same place, more or less, as you are. I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings many times, and I have enjoyed the Narnia series occasionally, but the rest leave me flat. I don’t try to explain it, it just is!

    I thank you for your comment about Fairy Slipper in Color; I think it is my favorite of the last several posts, also!


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