Well, not all aspects of George R. R. Martin’s fantasies are totally fantastic and all of them include their share of the darkness and murder frequently a major part of just plain murder or crime stories. But there is so much more and that is where they entertain in their specialized settings and complicated family connections and their never-ending stories.
I began “A Song of Ice and Fire” (ASOIAF) back before the television series had been cast and, with a break before A Feast for Crows, finished it only recently. I thought I had given it up but found I could not persevere with that plan. So in August of this year (2016) I determined to finish AFFC even though it was a serious challenge. The challenge disappeared quickly once I was past page 100 and didn’t stop until I finished A Dance with Dragons (1051 pages). I am looking forward to the release of The Winds of Winter.
If you have watched the video version and enjoyed it, don’t be deterred. I watched only the first season and then went back to my reading. I will watch more of the series but think the books do greater justice to the story and allow me to do my own imagining. Once the video image of Eddard Stark and Tyrion Lannister and Cersei and Jaime and Arya and Sansa etc. etc. are fixed in one’s mind the images will not go away but are only restrictive and not disturbing. I will leave the video until another time. Some readers are held back by the very large character list: the lists in the back of the books are exhaustive and very helpful.
I most enjoy the creativity and the major dedication and effort involved in creating this story. I would encourage you to try it for yourself and be patient with the process. My favourite part was close to the end but I loved every minute of getting there. Daenerys is my newest favourite character but the stories of Tyrion and Jaime and Cersei are rivetting and truly entertaining. Oh, and yes, don’t forget Jon Snow! or Arya or ………
Another dragon story I read recently is written by Jo Walton and is only a slim single volume. It is titled Tooth and Claw and is a very creative look at the personal lives of dragons. It may perhaps have been intended for a preteen and/or teen reader but I (as an adult) found it delightful and perfect for a summer’s read: it succeeded in distracting me from daily worries and comforted me in its “humanity”. And the dragon characters were all people I know!
Alongside my reading of ASOIAF, I read several murder-mystery novels that were quite good.
Firstly, I read three more Walt Longmire titles (Another Man’s Moccasins; The Dark Horse; Junkyard Dogs) by Craig Johnson. I enjoy the setting in Wyoming (Big Horn Country) and the characters of Walt who is the Sheriff in Absaroka county and his deputies, Vic and Branch and Ferg and the other regulars such as Ruby, the receptionist and Lucienne Connally, the former sheriff and Henry, Walt’s best friend who runs The Red Pony and is his partner when he needs extra manpower, on and off the rez. I have read seven of this series so far and find them realistic, entertaining and comforting for some reason. The latter possibly has to do with the recognizable humanity always present in the stories no matter how violent and unacceptable some of the actions might be.
I also read some Canadian mysteries including Susan Philpott’s Blown Red and Dark Territory which deal with care workers helping women threatened by men in domestic situations of a wide variety and Debra Komar’s The Ballad of Jacob Peck which was a case in New Brunswick in the early eighteen hundreds and for which Komar has used whatever written records are still available to her. This is the second of Komar’s works I have tried (The Lynching of Peter Wheeler). Komar is a forensic anthropologist and her work is non-fiction but as enjoyable a read as any fiction novel on similar subjects.
I read a Greg Îles book, The Turning Angel, just to sample his work. It was a good read but has a quality I associate with American writing and which I don’t enjoy in large doses. Îles’ books are long generally I believe and I find the length unnecessary and sometimes onerous, even pedantic. I recently read a much shorter and more appealing murder-mystery called Seven Days Dead by a Canadian, John Farrow (also publishes under pen name of Trevor Ferguson) which is the second volume of The Storm Murders series. Farrow’s detective is retired (!) but always ends up involved directly in a murder investigation. His name is Êmile and his wife Sandra is often drawn into the action of whatever case they are involved in. This one takes place on Grand Manan in New Brunswick where the couple go for their “first real vacation”. Very exciting and all inside of less than 300 pages!