Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Song Ice and Fire Review

In his commitment to reality lies the greatness of George R.R. Martin. This series is not another epic battle between good and evil. Not even close. There are no members of the Order and no Death Eaters here. What I mean is, we always knew Harry Potter was going to defeat Voldemort. It was just a question of how it was going to happen. We were only along for the ride, but we already knew where we were going. The beauty of ASOIAF is the fact that you don’t know where you’re headed. 

No, more like, you won’t even know what direction you’d want to take. And if you’ll forgive my passionate Filipino, putang ina, dalawa pa nga lang na nag-aagawan naguguluhan ka na kung kanino ka kakampi, gawin mo pa kayang ANIM.

Because it’s not another good vs. evil story (and I cannot stress this enough, because this really is the magic of the book), you won’t know which side to root for. There’s a bit (or maybe loads) of good and a bit (or maybe loads) of evil in every contender.

Let us examine that claim, shall we?
The Lannisters, to begin with, are a bunch of blackhearted bilge rats. You want to drown them all in a bucket, but then you remember Tyrion. Tyrion—whom you can’t help but love for his brilliance and wisdom (yes, those mean two different things). Would you condemn him too? Likely not. But you can’t spare him either, because you never forget that he’s a Lannister, and thus serves his family’s best interests.

Having a better claim over the bastard Joffrey Lannister are the Baratheon brothers. But which one? The iron Stannis, who is next in line after the late King Robert but is not much loved by the populace, or the copper Renly, who is amiable but rather flighty and foolish? In my personal opinion, when it comes to these two, it’s really a matter of choosing the lesser evil.

And don’t even get me started on the Greyjoys.

We could say that Robb Stark has the best idea, but that may be because the book is written in such a way that we are taught to love the Starks and hate the Lannisters. Attachment aside, when you get down to it Robb is as much an usurper as Robert Baratheon was against Aerys Targaryen.

On the other hand, let’s have a history lesson. You could also say that the Targaryens overreached themselves when Aegon the Conqueror united the seven kingdoms of Westeros nearly 300 years ago. Which brings us to yet another question, is it better to have seven separate regions, or one subjugated kingdom?

And speaking of House Targaryen, what of dear darling Daenerys? If you support Robb’s claim, what of hers? She wins you with all her talk of being of the blood of the dragon. She makes you hers as you were never anyone else’s by showing you a balance between maturity and naïveté, between girl and khaleesi. You admire her, you think her dragons are cool, but can she hold the Iron Throne? Let me guess: you’re not entirely sure.

So who has the right of it now? Each claim is strong, but they all have holes in their armor. It’s not even a case of the good guys having flaws and the bad guys having redeeming qualities. ASOIAF is pure human greed and survival, period. 

In conclusion, I’ve given up speculating on what’s going to happen next. The god that is George R.R. Martin has lain before me a bevy of characters, all so deliciously complex and deserving of love (or at least, grudging respect) that I am forced to surrender to the merciless dragging of the plot they’re tangled in. I’m merely reading on with bated breath, and for once I am utterly without my bearings. In a world like this one, I’m finding it is impossible to choose a side.

But then, have I learned nothing from my own exposition? There are no sides. There is only power, and those who grapple to keep it.

Written in the middle of A Clash of Kings, page 409.

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