A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin is famous beyond measure these days, although many people would know the series by the title of the HBO series, Game of Thrones. As a proud nerd, I find it amazing that a fantasy novel (although it also reads much like a pseudo-historical novel) found such a staggering audience in its television adaptation. It is always confusing when mainstream America embraces a nerdy subject like fantasy fiction, but I suppose I should not complain.
Regardless, I have thought about reviewing A Song of Ice and Fire for a while now but always felt that it was an unnecessary pursuit. The books are so popular that there is no need for me to review them. One problem is that George R. R. Martin takes so long to write his novels that the most recent entry in the series was published as long ago as 2011, so I will probably hold off on reviews until a new book is released. Unfortunately, The Winds of Winter will not be released in 2016, so I have contented myself with ranking the five books that are currently available.
For the record, I think that even the weakest book in the series is an achievement that most authors could not replicate.
I will try to avoid spoilers, but there are bound to be a few in here.
Let me know what you think by leaving a comment!
- A Feast for Crows– I realize that it is probably not shocking to find the fourth book in the series at the bottom of the list. A Feast for Crows is the oddball of the series, and the book really only exists because of publication issues relating to the size of the manuscript. The first half of A Dance with Dragons is truly the second half of A Feast for Crows, but the tale was split for publication. As a result, fan favorites and major characters including Daenerys Targaryen, John Snow, and Tyrion Lannister are completely absent from the tale. Cersei and Jamie Lannister as well as Sansa and Arya Stark are all interesting characters, but the absence of the three most important characters in the series lands A Feast for Crows at the bottom of the list.
- A Dance with Dragons– As the thickest of the books in the series, A Dance with Dragons has a lot going for it in terms of pure mass. Even though I am ranking it in the fourth spot, A Dance with Dragons is still a fantastic book that is packed with intrigue and game-changing deaths. The narrative is strong overall but it does stall out in certain points, such as with Daenerys’ storyline as it has little to do with the rest of the plot threads. A large portion of the book also focuses on Theon Greyjoy, whose grotesque, tortured tale was never one of my favorites. The murder (or at least likely murder) of a major character at the end of the book definitely caught me off guard.
- A Clash of Kings– One of the best parts of the second book in the series is the fact that Tyrion is essentially running the show in King’s Landing. Also, the sudden death of one of the major claimants to the throne is both surprising and memorable. Once again, even though Daenerys is one of my favorite characters, her story seems to drag as she is courted by Xaro and attempts to decide on a path to reclaim her birthright. Regardless, the final battle between Stannis and the Lannister’s is truly epic in scale and ranks as one of the most exciting moments in the series. A Clash of Kings is ranked as third due more to the strength of the second and first place books rather than for any fault of its own.
- A Game of Thrones– It might be strange to rank the book that started it all as number two on the list, but the brilliance of A Game of Thrones set the stage for the resolution of several immensely satisfying plot threads later in the series. From the mesmerizing villainy of the Lannister’s to Daenerys’ epic rise to power, A Game of Thrones set the bar for the rest of the series. The infamous fate of Ned Stark is a shock from which most readers will never fully recover. A Game of Thrones is the book that changed our perception of protagonists in novels and caused us to question their invincibility.
- A Storm of Swords– The Red Wedding and the Purple Wedding both in the same book? Need I say more? Not only are these two of the most dramatic and mind-blowing scenes in the entire series, but Jaime’s maiming, Jon’s battle against the wildlings at The Wall, and Daenery’s rampage through the eastern cities all combine to create the greatest entry in A Song of Ice and Fire. In many ways, A Storm of Swords was a climax for plotlines that were in play from the very beginning of the series. These numerous unforgettable moments from A Storm of Swords establish it as the high-water mark of the series that is yet to be surpassed.