‘Winds Of Winter’ Author George R.R. Martin Is A Brilliant Writer, And That’s The Real Tragedy

I’ve been listening to the wonderful audio book of George R.R. Martin’s first Song of Ice and Fire book, A Game Of Thrones, recently. It’s been many, many years since I read the novel.

Still, I can remember the first time. I was at a used bookstore here in my hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona and I was going through the books in the Fantasy / Sci-Fi section when I came across one I’d never heard of by an author I’d never heard of, with the catchiest title I’d seen on a fantasy tome in a long time.

This was the edition:

I opened the book to the prologue and began to read. I was instantly absorbed. Three men riding through a dark, snow-swept forest. Members of some group called the Night’s Watch. Two were seasoned veterans of ‘rangings’ while their commander was an arrogant and untested noble youth.

When I got to the passage where we first see the Others, I knew I’d soon make the purchase and put off all social engagements so that I could read it as fast as possible. Behold:

“A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood. It stood in front of Royce. Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took.”

I stood there and read the entire prologue and then the first chapter and then I bought the book and went home to read more. This was around the time A Storm Of Swords was published, back in the year 2000, before the Towers fell, before we invaded Iraq and just four years after A Game Of Thrones was published in 1996.

I worked in a (not used) bookstore around this time. Heady days for the world of fantasy. This was the same year Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire came out. I remember the stacks of copies for both novels, the excited readers lining up to get their hands on the latest Potter adventure. Martin’s work wasn’t quite as popular then, but he was already amassing a loyal following.

(The Goblet Of Fire released on July 8th of 2020 and Storm Of Swords came out exactly one month later on August 8th).

In any case, I read through all three of the first brilliant novels in the series in short order and then eagerly awaited the next. A Feast For Crows came out in 2005. It was actually just half a book. Martin split A Dance With Dragons from it, and the result was two books that came out years apart (Dance in 2011) but took place across the same timeline. In other words, between 2000 when A Storm Of Swords came out and right now, 2022, we have only progressed the story’s chronology the length of one book.

I was 19 years old—just one year older than Theon Greyjoy in the books—when I found that copy of A Game Of Thrones. I am now 41, six years old than Eddard Stark is (again, in the books, everyone is older in the show). In 2000, I had no children. Now, my daughter, Aria, is 15, a year older than Jon Snow and six years older than her namesake, Arya Stark, was in the first book.

Listening to the novel as an audio book for the first time, and diving back into Martin’s fiction for the first time in years, reminds me just how absolutely brilliant he is as a writer and storyteller. The characters he’s created are real and complex. Westeros is so much more well-drawn than most fantasy realms. And the stories are so rich with history and lore and backstory, with little clues to the past and its trove of mysteries, you can’t help but get lost in it all (in a good way).

Martin’s prose is rich and evocative, his dialogue tight and nuanced. Whether it’s a bloody battle or a tense exchange between Lannisters and Starks, Martin reels you in. His twists and turns are unexpected. His major character deaths always serve a higher purpose and aren’t just there for shock value. George R.R. Martin is simply one of the best writers in the fantasy business, and listening to the book reminds me why I fell in love with these in the first place. There’s simply nothing else quite like them. Even some of my very favorite fantasy series, like Joe Abercrombie’s wonderful First Law books, fail to quite capture my imagination the way Martin’s works do.

And that is the real tragedy. That is what makes me so damn sad about the endless waiting for The Winds Of Winter. It’s been eleven years. I was 30 when the last book came out. I’m starting to think I’ll be 50 when—if!—we read the next one. It just feels like such a loss, such a missed opportunity. Martin is busy with many other projects. He’s rich and wildly successful. But his magnum opus remains unfinished and the clock is ticking.

The HBO adaptation was—up until the last couple seasons—a really great attempt to adapt Martin’s work. But the books are better and it’s not even close. I get depressed just thinking about how great this story is, and how badly we need Martin to finish it the way it’s meant to end—not the rushed, bungled ending of the TV show.

MORE FROM FORBESWinds Of Winter: 7 Reasons Why The Books Will End Differently Than ‘Game Of Thrones’

Martin has expressed anger and resentment toward fans who get passionate about this subject, or who express fears that he may die before the books are finished. I can only point out that this passion—and its excesses—stem from love. From loving something that is truly great, written by one of the greatest fantasy authors of all time. Something we are afraid we will never actually get our hands on. Sometimes I wish Martin could just find his motivation in the realization that we love these books so much and we’re all rooting for him to finish them.

Anyways, all of it just bums me out big time. I am sad. Enjoying getting back into the books for sure, but still very sad.

Hopefully House of the Dragon is a nice distraction from our Winds Of Winter woes.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2022/08/05/george-rr-martin-is-really-bumming-me-out/