I’ve just finished off A Clash of Kings, the second volume of George R. R. Martin’s sprawling fantasy series. I’ve got some thoughts on the books, so click on the link to see them:

They’ve been very popular, and I’d say deservedly so, but there is the fact that it shouldn’t take me five months to finish two books.

Admittedly there was a couple weeks where I was worn-down and busy enough that I basically didn’t read at all. And they are big books. But really…!

Were they bad books? No. Martin’s writing is quite good, I like his characters, I have a couple of nagging problems with the setting, but I like what he’s doing with it.

I just couldn’t motivate myself to read more than a minimal amount in either book, except for a few occasions where I gulped down a several chapters at once.

A Game of Thrones presents a fairly typical medieval fantasy setting. The background history is nice with a long-established dynasty having been overthrown about a generation ago, and the kingdom plunged into civil war over problems with the succession (a popular reason for wars in the actual middle ages). The politics are well done, I can believe the intrigue, and it’s handled well (I get tired of webs within webs within webs pretty fast; a good thing I’m not involved in court politics). The war quickly turns into four separate factions, with a permanent breakup of the kingdom likely. There’s also a mysterious (and magical) menace starting to move in frozen lands to the north, and the last survivor of the previous dynasty plotting her return to power.

So, lot of things going on, all powered by good characters and — individually — handled well from a plot point of view.

The problem is that there’s so many disconnected plots going around that the books never gel as a whole, and therefore don’t hold my attention. The beginning of the first book more-or-less makes it look like it’ll be the story of the Starks of Winterfell in these troubled times (and they are focused on them more than anything else), and if the books as a whole stuck with them and one of the major plotlines, I’d be very happy. As it is, it’s too unfocused, with too many disconnected plot fragments not really impacting each other for me to really get into.

Thanks to a very nice coworker, I’ve got a copy of the new Harry Potter book. So I’m eagerly diving into that. After that, I’m not sure what I’ll read, I’m kinda low on new things, and I’ve gone through some of my more favorite books lately….

‘Tis a puzzlement.