I got bored about 2/3 of the way through the first volume of Game of Thrones and never finished reading it. But the series is clearly a Big Deal in the fantasy realm, so this morning I thought I’d skip ahead and try the opening of volume 2, A Clash of Kings, to see if it had something that would spark my interest.

In the course of the first few pages, we’re treated to: an old man with a bad hip who has painfully to climb many castle stairs; a young princess with a serious facial deformity; a half-witted fool who is just pathetic, not funny; a king who is churning with resentment over the actions of his brothers and obsessed with reclaiming his rightful throne, no matter how many thousands of men have to die along the way; an envoy whose left hand has been maimed, by the king, with a meat cleaver; a queen who is tall and thin and has “prominent ears, a sharp nose, and the faintest hint of a mustache,” and who is telling the king he should kill his remaining brother; offhand recollections of a siege in which people had to eat rats; and a blood-red comet providing a nasty omen of things to come.

Given that the story is about Serious Business, we can perhaps forgive George Martin for neglecting to include so much as a trace of humor, though such neglect is bound to make the story somewhat leaden. His failure to present a character we can admire or care about is, I think, a more serious defect.

Clearly he’s doing something right. People are eating this stuff up. To me, though, it reads like gravel.

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