It is my favorite volume to date, however, its cliff-hanger end and the six years it took until the next volume also created the greatest problem with the series as a whole.
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The personal and nasty actions of some characters set in motion a series of events that result in a very violent civil war and an epic story. Wing as I do about George R. Martin from time to time, his internal world logic is superb. Also of great importance are the seasons of the world, for while every year has four seasons, there are also great seasons that last for years at a time, suggesting the planet has an irregular elliptical orbit.
In this, the first book of the series, there has been an unusually long Great Summer, and no Great Winter… but as the Stark family motto decrees, it is clear that Winter is Coming. For me, it is not the dark and bitter nature of the story, nor the loss of so many hard earned victories. Neither is it his brutal method of killing off characters that one comes to like; while many readers grew to dislike him because of that, for me that is again one of the great strengths of this novel.
As with the previous installment, Martin continues to add depth to his world and particularly to the characters within it.
One learns to sympathize with some of the most reprehensible characters of the first volume like Jaime and really begin to become annoyed and even dislike some of the most sympathetic characters of the previous volumes like Caitlyn and to one degree or another, even Jon Snow. Standing out from these is Brienne of Tarth, whose perspective helps add depth to Jaime while simultaneously creating a break from the stereotype of women in Fantasy literature.
Brienne is a warrior knight who, unlike most women warriors in fantasy, is not attractive. She is large and strong, and really quite plain of features. She is far from eloquent and in a sense is a bit of a brute, but she is also noble and kind without being at all soft.
As for the plot, as with any series, it grows harder and harder to discuss it in any detail without giving spoilers but in essence it is a War story — not a Military Fiction tale — but a story about war in all its horrors. We see the personal and family lives  of the politically strong interfere and potentially derail the greater political and moral goals, we see the lives of those without power trampled by the war, and we see the really important issues like the undead and Others from Scotland… errrr….
Beyond the Wall ignored as the comparatively unimportant War of the Five Kings drags on. Theme-wise, character-wise, plot-wise, A Storm of Swords is a masterpiece. Indeed, the very mixed reaction that it inspires in readers demonstrates this. Yet, here also we see Martin setting the trap that his next two volumes fall into. He has painted a picture so vivid and complex that he has had and continues to have a difficult time completing it.
As stated in my reviews of A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons , the next two volumes are less a dragon of a tale as they drag on as tales. Hopefully, in The Winds of Winter he will begin to cull his story and A Dream of Spring he will end it, but one can never tell.panel.hipwee.com/31407-what-is-the.php
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To that end, while I highly recommend this book to anyone who has read the others in the series, I would also suggest holding off buying the series until it is actually all in publication. There comes a point in reviewing a series of audiobooks where it almost becomes pointless to keep writing reviews of them — particularly when they remain at the remarkably high level of the Random House Audio versions of A Song of Ice and Fire. This is even more the case when you have a veteran actor like Roy Dotrice continuing to excel in his narration.
Indeed, his plumby, highly educated English accent remains the perfect choice for the reading of this book, and his regional accents are pretty much spot on well… totally spot on to my ear. In short, a brilliant read for a brilliant listen and I highly recommend it. Makes you think of things beyond the scope of the book.
For the most part, they are minor, but even when they are written large like the entire Gendry plotline that appears in this series , they make sense and add to the story telling rather than detract from it. Additionally, the acting really continues to shine. Rose Leselie continues to bring Ygrette to life in a manner that far exceeds what Martin tried to do in the books, but matches what I feel he was trying to do. Indeed, he comes across as far more sympathetic to me, though that could be simply because we see his point of view.
Indeed, every actor in the series shines in some way or another…. Indeed, many of these are done to keep the cast of characters under a bit better control, and here they succeed. I must admit that in the books even I get confused sometimes when we get introduced to yet another new character or one who has been mentioned but never seen. Particularly as that there tends to be half-a-decade or more between publication dates.
The reason? While Tolkien has influenced the genre, his books are also more than 50 years old and the genre has radically evolved since Lord of the Rings was first written. You are firmly stuck in the past if you don't yet realize this. Tolkien's works are classic and are rightly regarded as masterworks, but are they the best in light of ? I firmly state they are not and will vehemently argue the genre has evolved quite a bit since the 's. You simply just have to look at how characterization in the genre has evolved, how women are not mere pretty perfect window dressings but actually real and flawed characters now, how heroes are flawed creatures with a bit of villain in them and villains are not all bad who may even have a bit of the heroic about them too.
Fantasy has grown up folks and become more nuanced -- far more complicated than Tolkien's simple dichotomy of good and evil.
And, for fuck's sake, let some other writers have a chance at some glory dammit you selfish people :p -- where's the fun if Lord of the Rings is always at the top spot on every single damn list? Because of Tolkien sheer influence on the genre and the spectacular world building and mythology created, I've put him at 4. Is Tolkien now in the best in the genre? I say no, he's not. There are better modern fantasy works -- works influenced and built on the backs of literary giants such as Tolkien, but more refined works. Is Tolkien one of them most influential -- even up to the present?
I say definitely yes! But, the fantasy genre has moved on since the 's, so give Tolkien's magnificent work the recognition it deserves and trust me, the series has been getting it's recognition for about 60 years and counting now , but let's not all get fixated only on past glories and instead look to the future. If this argument doesn't sway you by now, I suggest you look at our Most Influential Fantasy List INSTEAD of this Top 25 List and treat that as your own Top 25, as you're mood won't be improved as you continue down this current list which has an eye firmly set on the modern rather than the past.
Post-modern fantasy and one of the best fantasy reads when you take all three books together in the genre. The Magicians is a book that will take you by surprise. In a genre populated by epic fantasy quests and magical swords, by overused cliche's, thin characters and even thinner plots, this book is an ode to something more profound, something more substantial; it's fantasy that's decided to grow up; fantasy where there is not always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, fantasy where heroes don't always win and if they do come out on top, they sometimes suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress.
This is part Harry Potter on downers and suffering from clinical depression, part Alice trapped in a Wonderland gone nightmarish wrong. At its heart, the Magicians is really the story of a boy-become-man struggling to give the world meaning in a world that has no meaning. If you are looking for a happy-go-lucky read where the world is saved and everyone finds true love and does a victory dance into the sunset, you may want to skip this one.
For the rest of you who want to taste something different and this one has a lot of zing to it folks , Lev Grossman's The Magicians delivers. The Magicians takes a number of children's classics such as Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Alice and Wonderland and transfigures them, moving them from the simple innocent child fiction into the adult land with adult problems to deal with.
This is a series of three books and you absolutely must read all three books before you start casting your judgment don't post how much you hated the first book unless you've read all three books. By the end of the third book which was just released , the full scope of the events in the first and second books are bought to a close and the circle completed. This is a series where each book becomes better, where the characters grow, make mistakes, more mistakes, then learn.
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The flaws of the first book disappear as the final chapter in the tale ends and the story finds a sort of uneasy inner peace. It's an ending, and as satisfying as an ending can be in a world where endings are not always happy. This book was formerly on a previous iteration of the Best Fantasy Books list , back when only the first book was out, but I bowed out to public pressure and removed it during an update because of all the complaints I was getting.
Well now after all three books have been released and the tale is completed, this book is going back on the list where it rightfully deserves its spot. For some of you who want simpler fantasy fare, where black is black and white is white, where there is a clear villain, the heroes are all heroic and don't whine and bitch about emotional issues, who don't want a postmodern subversion of the fantasy genre, then this is not a book that will resonate.
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But IF you like complex fantasy or subversive fantasy, then wow, you're in for a fucking treat. Or you could always watch the new The Magicians TV series by SyFy which has turned out to be pretty awesome -- one of the best fantasy TV series I've seen yet on TV and perhaps, more palatable for some of you readers who don't like the book. So I highly recommend you listen to the audiobook version of reading the book; it's an even better experience than reading the book.
Discworld, a long running 40 series long sharp biting satire on the human condition couched as fantastical hilarious and downright ridiculous fantasy romp. I have not yet included Pratchett on the Top 25 list so this makes his first entrance. Pratchett, because his stuff is so different, may not be on the radar of the ordinary fantasy fan.
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But it's a mistake to ignore his works. This man is great a pillar in the fantasy genre and needs to be read. I'm putting Pratchett on for his entire series some of his books are fantastic, some outstanding, some merely good, but all make for good reads.
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