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thenedstark

Critics of ASOIAF

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Here are my 2 cents:

From reading these and other reviews, I gather that the main problem of the series is its lack of closure and stagnant pacing.

The 1st 3 books deal with the Game of Thrones, while setting up the next conflicts (the Others and Dany), and they are structured well:

aGoT: Introduces the world and the characters and sets up the Wot5K

aCoK: The Wot5K is in full swing, with all its claimants introduced

aSoS: The Wot5K ends

Thus, the first trilogy ends and ends well. Here is when Dany must enter the stage, followed by the Others, right? Well, it doesn't happen and the series suffers from it.

Here's the thing: aFfC and aDwD have no discernible structure, no building towards anything solid. Maybe GRRM has the goal in mind, but he's done a poor job conveying it in the books. I have no idea where the story is going from a structural point of view, it's just messy, everyone is isolated in their own storylines, there's no cohesion, no unifying theme like the Wot5K. There's hints of a second Dance of the Dragons, but it's setting up has been way too clumsy, mainly because Dany is still too far away from the action and no one cares about Aegon, therefore the stakes are not exactly high.

People complain about lots of plots and povs, but that's not a problem if a writer knows how to tie them up. The first 3 books have lots of storylines and plots, but they're all related and connected to the unifying plot of the Wot5K (even Dany and the Night's Watch storylines are tenously connected to the main story). In Feast and Dance, there's no unifying theme, so we only see isolated cameos with no discernible connection in most cases.

I agree. :agree:

The first three books had DIRECTION. It was taking some time sure, but you could see things were going somewhere. Then GRRM was faced with the unpleasant fact that 1) time wasn't passing nearly so fast as he'd hoped. His younger characters needed to 'age up' and events were getting compressed into too short a time frame. and 2) his idea of a 'five year gap' wasn't panning out, and it needed a workaround. This is confirmed in his latest interview.

Most readers, as far as I can tell, think that ASoS was the best book, followed by AGot, ACoK, AFfC and ADwD, with some variation. I personally liked "A Feast for Crows" a lot better on re-reads, putting it second behind "Storm." But seldom do you see anyone who doesn't put ADwD dead last. The reasons cited are usually: 1)Too much stalling in the Dany arc - 'stuck in Mereen doing nothing.' 2)Too much 'travelogue' with the Tyrion/Griff party and the Quentyn party and 3)No damned resolution. "A book without an ending isn't a book."

This whole lack of closure is bitterly resented by some because GRRM himself seems to the public to have made the completion of the series a low priority. I know, I know, "He's not your bitch." But does he have to take on quite so many other projects and attend EVERY 'con' vention that happens everywhere in the world?

I'll tell you one thing. If you think I'm being too critical, 90% of my criticisms go away like magic if and when he actually completes the series. Hell, half of them vanish if he just completes "The Winds of Winter."

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I think one thing to note is that AFFC/ADWD aren't completed. I'm pretty sure the first ~300 pages of Winds is what Martin ideally wanted in ADWD which could actually end Act II of the story but he fluffed up too much of the other stuff and ran out of pages.

If we had either resolved Meereen or the North or the Riverlands it would be more of a complete book. Since he cut it short it was just a whole lot of fluff which ended abruptly. Really though, I'm not sure what the point of Quentyns POV was anyway. He is introduced and killed in the same book - it probably wouldn't have been too bad if we just randomly got introduced to Q in Dany VII or whatever and maybe we had just the one Quentyn stealing the dragons chapter later (similar to the lone Mel chapter earlier). I get that world building is cool and all, but when Martin time and time again tells us that the story is about Westeros and so we don't need Essosi POV's -- why do we need half a book to explore Essos and its wonders?

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I think one thing to note is that AFFC/ADWD aren't completed. I'm pretty sure the first ~300 pages of Winds is what Martin ideally wanted in ADWD which could actually end Act II of the story but he fluffed up too much of the other stuff and ran out of pages.

If we had either resolved Meereen or the North or the Riverlands it would be more of a complete book. Since he cut it short it was just a whole lot of fluff which ended abruptly. Really though, I'm not sure what the point of Quentyns POV was anyway. He is introduced and killed in the same book - it probably wouldn't have been too bad if we just randomly got introduced to Q in Dany VII or whatever and maybe we had just the one Quentyn stealing the dragons chapter later (similar to the lone Mel chapter earlier). I get that world building is cool and all, but when Martin time and time again tells us that the story is about Westeros and so we don't need Essosi POV's -- why do we need half a book to explore Essos and its wonders?

It seems Quentyn's POV is a very elaborate way to release the dragons. Then again, he needed to be killed off.

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And could the author be any more of a LOTR and Tolkien fanboy? He mentions them over and over again even though ASOIF and LOTR have almost nothing in common.

Except they're both multi-volume, sweeping epics about upheaval on a diverse, alien-but-familiar landscape (plus Dragons and Magic).

I'm surprised there are so many people bored with LOTR. It's the gold standard for fantasy epics and a hell of a story.

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Why is it necessary for The Game to have more meaning than it actually has? Even if it is irrelevant to The Others and Dany's invasion: so what? Does it have to be?

I mean, of course that it's going to be relevant, if for nothing else, than for characters, who've been through hell and back right in front of our eyes. And of course it depicted the deconstruction of a society, that can't help but be of paramount importance for the invasions from North and East. But, in the extreme (and completely unrealistic) case the dynastic war is never again mentioned in the remaining books, and the dynastic war remains as it is at the moment, was it really unrewarding as some seem to think?

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You must have really hated reading this 4000 page story.

Can't really reach that conclusion based on what he has said. GoT not being relevant to IaF doesn't mean he has or hasn't enjoyed the story. I can tell you a really good story about ants working in a colony until suddenly some collosal giant turns up and squashes the entire colony.

Turns out the story was really about how this guy had a colony of ants as a "pet" until someone took the colony out of a jar and stepping on them, killing them all. The story then proceeds to talk about the pet owner as the protagonist and the ant killer as the big bad villain.

The story about the ants and its colony was GREAT, and relevant in that it really made us care about them and so feel bad for the pet owner when they all died. But was the 2 million words I spent talking about the ants really necessary in the bigger conflict of the pet owner and the ant killer? Probably not... Was it still fun to read about? Sure.

Why is it necessary for The Game to have more meaning than it actually has? Even if it is irrelevant to The Others and Dany's invasion: so what? Does it have to be?

I mean, of course that it's going to be relevant, if for nothing else, than for characters, who've been through hell and back right in front of our eyes. And of course it depicted the deconstruction of a society, that can't help but be of paramount importance for the invasions from North and East. But, in the extreme (and completely unrealistic) case the dynastic war is never again mentioned in the remaining books, and the dynastic war remains as it is at the moment, was it really unrewarding as some seem to think?

This. Completely completely agree.

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Except they're both multi-volume, sweeping epics about upheaval on a diverse, alien-but-familiar landscape (plus Dragons and Magic).

I'm surprised there are so many people bored with LOTR. It's the gold standard for fantasy epics and a hell of a story.

All due respect for LOTR, but the gold standard for fantasy epic would be "Iliad" and "Odyssey". LOTR helped revive the fantasy epics, in an era that appeared to be uninterested in those, and Tolkien deserves all the respect for that, but Homer's epics were and are standards for all kinds of storytelling, fantasy and epics included.

What's more, I'm glad ASOIAF is a rather different read than LOTR. In my eyes, ASOIAF is more comparable to Homer's than to Tolkien's work. And critics like the one OP brought up, or that Keely guy from Goodreads, don't seem able to think outside of the box when judging Martin. Their right to view it as they want, of course, but they'd probably benefit from going outside of genre boundaries in assessing ASOIAF.

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We'll see. I just fail to see how any of this game of thrones stuff is relevant to the end game and the ice apocalypse.

The 'game' is the reason why Dany is banished. The 'game' is what drives pretty much everyone and their actions. The 'game' is the reason why characters are dying.

And without the 'game', what do you have? A story about the impending doom of the ultimate evil. Yeah... why have the game when you have such an original idea like that?

The fact that you can't see where this is going is probably a good thing.

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I'll tell you one thing. If you think I'm being too critical, 90% of my criticisms go away like magic if and when he actually completes the series. Hell, half of them vanish if he just completes "The Winds of Winter."

Yes, I agree with this as well. I think it's good to bear in mind that GRRM moved chapters from aDWD to tWoW due to size constraints or other arcane reasons, so considering this, I am optimistic that tWoW has the full potential to redeem nicely most cliffhangers of the last decade...

Hell, If 50% of the hypothetical Great Northern Conspiracy actually happen, most closure issues will be redeemed. :)

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Why is it necessary for The Game to have more meaning than it actually has? Even if it is irrelevant to The Others and Dany's invasion: so what? Does it have to be?

I mean, of course that it's going to be relevant, if for nothing else, than for characters, who've been through hell and back right in front of our eyes. And of course it depicted the deconstruction of a society, that can't help but be of paramount importance for the invasions from North and East. But, in the extreme (and completely unrealistic) case the dynastic war is never again mentioned in the remaining books, and the dynastic war remains as it is at the moment, was it really unrewarding as some seem to think?

I agree. I guess some people just aren't interested in this fancy literature-stuff like, you know, "themes" and "character development". Why does plot relevance have to assume such paramount importance? Something I've often read here is that ASOIAF can't be considered great literature because it is too plot-driven, yet people here seem to dismiss everything that doesn't lead to enough direct and foreseeable impact on said plot. Compared to some "great literature" from, say, the romantic era AFFC and ADWD look like pure rollercoaster rampage in terms of pacing.

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If you analyze the contents of affc and adwd there isn't actually THAT much GoT intrigue in them.

We have: dorne, iron born,tyrion and the sellsword companies lining up to interact with and influence dany

:the north, bran and stannis manoeuvering to be the key players for Jon at the wall

:a few hundred pages at KL and a few chapters keeping us updated on jaime,brienne and arya

Stannis and Neuron might be aiming for the throne, but for me their only real relevance is how they impact on Jon and dany

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I agree. I guess some people just aren't interested in this fancy literature-stuff like, you know, "themes" and "character development". Why does plot relevance have to assume such paramount importance? And since we are talking about literary criticism: Something I've often read here is that ASOIAF can't be considered great literature because it is too plot-driven, yet people here seem to dismiss everything that doesn't lead to enough direct and foreseeable impact on said plot. Compared to some "great literature" from the romantic era (for example) AFFC and ADWD look like pure rollercoaster rampage in terms of pacing.

Themes, character development and plot progression are not mutually exclusive. You actually can have them all, and it is in fact, the way in which all those elements work together that constitutes "great literature".

The first 3 books had it all, and while I appreciate "themes" and character development in Feast and Dance, it does not erase the fact that the plot progression in those books was poor compared to the 1st three.

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Feast and Dance are just setting up Winds IMO.

2,000 pages, half a million words and 11 years. 'Just' setting up? Really?

My objection to the last 2 novels is not so much that they haven't really taken the narrative anywhere but that by adding all these new points of view and plot lines they've made the story much HARDER to finish.

It could well be that GRRM's 'gardening' approach to writing has served him well in the past, but a monumental megastructure needs some architecture behind it. I'm sure that even the hanging gardens of Babylon were built primarily by architects before they hauled in the soil and and the people in straw hats to plant and weed.

He should at the very least have done what J.K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter series - write the ending first, and put it in a brown manila envelope. That way TWoW and ADoS could work toward a known endpoint. He seems to be writing what programmers call 'spaghetti code.' That works with small programs but becomes impossible to debug or maintain on any larger project. (In writing, it shouldn't even be tried with anything longer than a novella.)

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Why is it a bad thing that ASOIAF drops the Armageddon threat early on in its narrative? The way I see it, that's the best artistic decision GRRM ever made. The game of thrones drama largely ends up being a depiction of very smart, very wealthy people from privileged backgrounds getting together to tear each other to pieces while the real threat (a climate-based threat, hint hint) gathers strength. This isn't just high fantasy, it's a very astute allegory for what modern life in the 21st century is (it's this point that makes Keely's review garbage IMO...he/she says that GRRM forgot that "truth is stranger than fiction," but that's just hideously wrong). I don't know if GRRM intends it to be, but his earlier work suggests an interest in the subject ("Dying of the Light" is about people living in a rapidly dying civilization...ASoIaF is simply a retelling of that story with a wider scope).

Moreover, opting to deal with this all too human tendency lends the series a strength that something like LOTR can't have, because LOTR basically whitewashes its world of anything that would resemble the actual human experience at any point in history. There's no poverty, hunger, disease, or class struggle in Middle Earth, no indication that anyone has ever heard of or contemplated this thing called "sex," the patriarchy goes unquestioned and unexamined, the economy isn't dealt with at all, the nobility is fit to rule and does their best unless tricked, etc. The heroes get together, weed out the few bad apples amongst them like Saruman and Wormtongue, and win in a fairly standard way before reversing most of the damage done and going home with, at worst, a regrettable case of PTSD. The OP mentions Tolkien's world building, but how hard is it to create a world that is more or less structurally perfect from start to finish?

ASOIAF reads extremely well as an attempt to trace all the elements of a civilization's total implosion. A lot of GRRM's artistic decisions are justified via this reading. It's obviously not perfect, but it's more sophisticated than it's been given credit for by some of these critics. Some of these criticisms read like they expected a straightforward "defeat the Others and go home to Winterfell" story, but that story's been done before and it's not very interesting.

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2,000 pages, half a million words and 11 years. 'Just' setting up? Really?

My objection to the last 2 novels is not so much that they haven't really taken the narrative anywhere but that by adding all these new points of view and plot lines they've made the story much HARDER to finish.

It could well be that GRRM's 'gardening' approach to writing has served him well in the past, but a monumental megastructure needs some architecture behind it. I'm sure that even the hanging gardens of Babylon were built primarily by architects before they hauled in the soil and and the people in straw hats to plant and weed.

He should at the very least have done what J.K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter series - write the ending first, and put it in a brown manila envelope. That way TWoW and ADoS could work toward a known endpoint. He seems to be writing what programmers call 'spaghetti code.' That works with small programs but becomes impossible to debug or maintain on any larger project. (In writing, it shouldn't even be tried with anything longer than a novella.)

I agree with this so much. It really gets in my nerves when people justify the mediocrity of Feast and Dance saying that they're only setting up the table for the delicious main plate that Winds is going to be. Even if they are part of a series they should work as books on their own. A book cannot be measured by the next volume of the series, it either is a good book or it isn't.

I honestly laugh when people say we can't judge Feast and Dance until the series is done and we see how much they set up to the story. Really? Why do I have to wait god knows how many years to say those books were not on par with the first three? And even if Winds ends up being awesome, Feast and Dance are still mediocre.

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Martin could have finished the whole thing in one book, if it was just Westeros vs a malign supernatural entity. But, I think most of us would have found the story much less interesting if that was the case/

I agree, and I don't really even understand why others have major issues here. I love the story just the way it is and I find all of this "filler" really contains very interesting tidbits that I enjoy going over and having the forum for discussing all of it. I would even go as far to say that to me it seems as not a word was wasted, if you truly pay attention all of it has hidden gems, hints, clues, meanings, symbolism, foreshadowing, not to mention, themes, character development, a rich history, world building, what have you and I love it all! If we could prolong Martin's life (my as well I suppose) and he would keep writing about Westeros I would be thrilled! What will we do when the story is finished? It will not be the same. :frown5:

I love the Wheel of Time series as well but I feel the filler comparison to ASoIaF is rather significant. I love Robin Hobb too but the Rain Wild Chronicles is straight filler in comparison. For me everything in ASoIaF has some meat to it and it always has some purpose. It really seems to be an "easy read" when you first start but Martin has put a tremendous amount of work into his story that when you move past a superficial reading and really pay attention it's mind boggling how talented he is!

In response to Quentyn; I loved reading Quentyn's story and I wanted to see Volantis, an inside look of any Dornishman, an insider view of the sellswords, more about the Tattered Prince, the damage and aftermath from Daeny liberating Astapor, the different perspective on Daeny, the reaction of the Ghiscari, Daeny's reaction to any Westerosi offering support, how it would effect Daeny's relationship with Dorne, and thank the gods old and new someone freed those poor dragons but it also confirms just how dangerous and neglected they are. We still have yet to see all of the aftermath and ramifications from Quentyn's journey and visit.

We'll see. I just fail to see how any of this game of thrones stuff is relevant to the end game and the ice apocalypse.

I'm surprised you just don't spend your time with quick and to the point reads instead of these epic stories like ASoIaF. I know you have been reading WoT as well from your threads in the lit section. I try to read books that cater to my style, to what I truly enjoy, so I avoid frustration. :dunno:

What do you guys think of Keely's review?

http://www.goodreads...ew/show/1459299

:shocked:

I thought it was so ridiculous that I could not bear to finish reading it. But I did want to comment on this next bit...

Though I didn't save any choice examples from this book, I did come across an article which mentioned this quote, from a later book in the series:

"When she went to the stables, she wore faded sandsilk pants and woven grass sandals. Her small breasts moved freely beneath a painted Dothraki vest . . ."

I can imagine the process, as Martin sits, hands hovering over the keyboard, trying to get inside his character's head:

"Okay, I'm a woman. How do I see and feel the world differently? My cultural role is defined by childbirth. In the process of marriage, I can be bought and sold by my own--Oh, hey! Look at that, I've got tits! Man, look at those things go. *whooshing mammary sound effects* Okay, time to write."

Yet we don't get any descriptions of variously-sized dongs swinging within the confines of absurdly-detailed clothing. We do get a set of giant manboobs--which, as an overweight, elderly man, I assume Martin has some personal experience with--but not until book five, and even then, it's not the dude being hyperaware of his own, secretly moving under his clothes--they're just there to gross out a dwarf. Not really a balanced depiction.

... there was actually a thread on "Her small breasts moving freely..." and needless to say the critics and the fans do not agree.

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I agree with this so much. It really gets in my nerves when people justify the mediocrity of Feast and Dance saying that they're only setting up the table for the delicious main plate that Winds is going to be. Even if they are part of a series they should work as books on their own. A book cannot be measured by the next volume of the series, it either is a good book or it isn't.

I honestly laugh when people say we can't judge Feast and Dance until the series is done and we see how much they set up to the story. Really? Why do I have to wait god knows how many years to say those books were not on par with the first three? And even if Winds ends up being awesome, Feast and Dance are still mediocre.

"Even if they are part of a series they should work as books on their own."

Who says they don't and who says they have to?

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My objection to the last 2 novels is not so much that they haven't really taken the narrative anywhere but that by adding all these new points of view and plot lines they've made the story much HARDER to finish.

Isn't this line somewhat self-contradicting? If new plot-lines were added and the story is harder to finish because of them, then the narrative definitely progressed. Don't get me wrong, I realize you didn't strictly said that narrative didn't progress, but it is a complaint that can be heard quite often, and the first part of your sentence does seem somewhat in agreement with that notion.

Your main complaint, however, is among the precious few I find legit. Yes, AFFC and ADWD do introduce a legion of new plot-lines and POVs. I happen to like that, but I do understand why some readers don't. That complaint is, therefore, in the legit department. But, complaints that there wasn't enough plot progression in AFFC and ADWD I really can't take seriously, because those complainers actually think of just one plot-line. A reader doesn't have to like plot progression in AFFC and ADWD, of course, but denying it's existence is something else entirely.

He should at the very least have done what J.K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter series - write the ending first, and put it in a brown manila envelope. That way TWoW and ADoS could work toward a known endpoint. He seems to be writing what programmers call 'spaghetti code.' That works with small programs but becomes impossible to debug or maintain on any larger project. (In writing, it shouldn't even be tried with anything longer than a novella.)

Hope you nor anyone else won't mind me saying, but I'm really glad that nothing in GRRM's work resembles anything from Rowling's. The world wasn't in some desperate need for fantasy books for kids and young adults when GRRM started his saga, but it did lack a high-literature work of art that isn't afraid to inspire human imagination with supernatural elements.

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