George R R Martin - Shastrix Books

George R R Martin

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A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

George R R Martin

7th September 2017

This collection features the three novellas also known as the 'Tales of Dunc and Egg' - 'The Hedge Knight', 'The Sworn Sword' and 'The Mystery Knight', all previously published in various anthologies, but in this edition illustrated throughout.

Thy are a good and very readable collection. It's nice to dip my toe into a good story or three based in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. The setting is some 200 years prior to the main series, which means there's nothing here to spoil the main storyline, and so they can be read at any point. In fact, this collection would serve as an excellent place to start and see if you would enjoy reading the vastly longer novels.

While the illustrations are in themselves impressive and give a good view of the characters and the action, I found that quite often what was depicted didn't quite match the action described in the prose, which was a bit disappointing - for example in one place Dunc is shown with sword drawn while in the text he explicitly doesn't draw it.

Overall though a really enjoyable set of tales and I'd love to read more adventures of this pairing if any more appear in the future.

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Dangerous Women part three

Dangerous Women part three

George R R Martin & Gardner Dozois

6th July 2016

The third and final volume of this collection of short stories contains some stories by familiar names and some by authors new to me. Specifically:

Joe Abercrombie - dull and overly wordy. Found myself bored of the language choices quite quickly.

Diana Rowland - quite interesting. On reflection, should have seen things coming.

Sherrilynn Kenyon - would probably make a good longer story, but the length made it hard to feel a connection with the characters.

Melinda Snodgrass - Interesting first chapter to a book I'd be quite tempted to read (except there is no more).

Pat Cadigan - engaging story that felt a bit out of place in its everyday realism.

Cecelia Holland - Good piece of historical fiction that felt it could have been from A Song of Ice and Fire. Bit unclear how much is based on reality. Tempted to look up more details, but didn't.

Jim Butcher - didn't read. Seriously, who puts spoilers in the author's biography for the guy's main series that I'm barely a third of the way through. Martin and Dozois, that's who. Infuriating!

I've been putting off reading this last part of the collection for some time. Looking back I liked the majority of the stories, yet at the time it never inspired me to pick it up and keep reading. Maybe I'm just not one for shorts that aren't part of an established series.

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Dangerous Women part two

Dangerous Women part two

George R R Martin & Gardner Dozois

29th December 2015

The second paperback collection of short stories - another subset of those that appeared in the original hardback collection - features a range of tales about women. It starts with Megan Lindholm's tale of an elderly lady whose interpretation of really differs from her children.

Overall none of the stories in this volume really stood out to me or led me to feel that I should pick up more by any of the authors, which was actually quite disappointing as I thought the first volume was an impressive collection's

This time I found it tough to get into any of the individual stories and it almost felt like a chore to get through them - I found myself finding any excuse not to read, including finding other things to do on the train to and from work which is usually reserved reading time.

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Dangerous Women part one

Dangerous Women part one

George R R Martin & Gardner Dozois

25th May 2015

This collection of shortish stories is the first part of the longer collection that was published in hardback having been separated into three paperback volumes (and apparently completely re-ordered).

It kicks off with George R R Martin's own 35,000 word mini-epic telling part of the history of Westeros, the land featured in his 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series. The cover quote describes it as being like an outline for the prequel that never was - and that's true. Sadly in being outline-like it misses out on all the best bits of Martin's writing - the rich and complex characters and the entertaining dialogue. Instead. it just reads like a dry list of events from a history textbook.

Things then pick up with Carrie Vaughn's tale of a Russian fighter pilot from the Second World War, which is an interesting historical insight into something I've never thought of before - and only a tiny bit Bigglesy.

Nancy Kress contributes a story from a post-apocalyptic America where humans have formed packs and subjected women. I'm not really sure how I felt about this story - it was very readable and yet I found it an uncomfortable world to spend time imagining.

Story number four, by Lawrence Block, I found slightly annoying in how it twisted and turned. Initially it feels like a Lee Child story. but then morphs into something that again left an uncomfortable taste.

The theme of discomfort continues with Megan Abbott's story about a missing child, which feels like it bears a tad too much similarity to real life events that have been much covered in the news.

One of the most interesting stories, which on reflection felt like the deepest of the collection, is Joe R Lansdale's story about an old wrestler and his obsessions. It showed the affect that memories can have on our day to day lives and the hold they can have without us realising.

The book is rounded off by Brandon Sanderson's story, which follows a bounty hunter in a world populated by deadly shades. While the concept of the world reminded me of Peter V Brett's Demon Cycle, the writing is unmistakably Sanderson and fantastically absorbing, and I found myself wanting more from this world.

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A Dance with Dragons (2: After the Feast)

A Dance with Dragons (2: After the Feast)

George R R Martin

21st December 2014

The second half of the fifth book of A Song of Ice and Fire really does work as it's own book. Each chapter of the whole series really comes across as its own episode and they could easily be strung together in one long story or split between almost any one. Martin splits his novels at particularly shocking places though, and this follows that trend.

A reminder - this is the increasingly diverse story of a group of factions each trying to invade or defend a land mass from invasion, insurrection or supernatural attack. The characters who have survived this far are almost all ones that I enjoy spending time with, although because of the structure of the narrative at this point, there are some who go completely without mention.

One thing I did find with this volume though is that the chapters have become somewhat formulaic - or it's just that I've read enough now to recognise the formula. The chapter begins by updating us on a character's situation since the last 'episode' in which we saw them, then they make a plan for what to do next, attempt to execute it, and something goes horribly wrong. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with this structure, but the repetition meant that I started to expect it and try to predict the ending rather than just enjoy the ride.

Still a fantastic series though and I'm now desperately waiting for the next instalment - the first that I'll be able to read in hardback as soon as it's out, regardless of how long it is.

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A Dance with Dragons (1: Dreams and Dust)

A Dance with Dragons (1: Dreams and Dust)

George R R Martin

22nd June 2014

I’m reading the paperback editions of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and so book five is split into two parts - as with the third book, I’ve decided to read each half separately to spread the load.

The series depicts a fantasy world - focussing on the island of Westeros - where a war has broken out amongst various houses over who should rule, distracting the people from necessary preparations for the coming winter. In this way, it provides an interesting allegory for a world where political point scoring is seen as more urgent than responding to legitimate threats to climate.

It’s hard to be specific about the plot and characters of this particular volume without plot-spoilers. This volume in particular focusses on this characters in the northern half of Westeros and overseas - the previous novel having focussed on what was happening simultaneously in the southern part of the continent. This makes for an interesting situation where we know more than the characters do, and so can read with a knowing grin as we predict where certain plot elements are leading. In a way though it’s frustrating - there was a lot happened in the fourth novel and very little has yet been followed up on.

Probably the best thing about Martin’s writing is the characters - there are such a wide range and each have truly believable traits. He’s a master of switching his readers feelings around, so that characters I was completely unsympathetic with early in the series have become some of my favourites, who elicit a groan of disappointment as their chapters come to an end. In fact I feel with this volume Martin has reached a peak, with there being no character I haven’t wanted to spent more time with.

Martin’s narrative is also brilliantly crafted. The structure of long chapters, each from a single point of view, rotating around the world, gives a really strong viewpoint in each scene. It allows each scene to show one important event, or character moment, and skip the narrative over sometimes quite long periods between scenes without the reader feeling anything has been missed.

Still a really great series that I’m thoroughly enjoying reading. I’m really looking forward to reading the second part of book five, even though I know I’ll then have to wait, possibly years, for anything to be resolved.

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A Feast for Crows

A Feast for Crows

George R R Martin

18th January 2014

The fourth book of A Song of Ice and Fire is set almost entirely in the south of Westeros, with the promise that the fifth book will cover simultaneous events in the rest of the series' world. This meant that it's focus is mainly on characters that were far from my favourites from the first three novels, and certainly at first and into the middle of the book I found this detracted from my enjoyment.

The plot is less action-packed and seems to focus more on distinct scenes that develop the characters and politics, as those who have power make attempts to solidify their grip on the people and lands they rule. After the first half I stopped reading for about two weeks, and was surprised when I picked the book back up that I'd started to fall for some of the characters I hadn't loved before.

The usual twists and turns fill Martin's narrative, and he manages to surprise and entertain easily with a world that's remarkably deep and realistic. It's really interesting to read a series that is truly based around an ensemble cast and not the typical chosen-one on a quest trope that appears again and again in fantasy novels.

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Other reviewed books

A Storm of Swords (2: Blood and Gold)
A Storm of Swords (1: Steel and Snow)
A Clash of Kings
A Game of Thrones

Unreviewed books

Fevre Dream
Fire and Blood
Rogues
The Armageddon Rag
Tuf Voyaging

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