So, George RR (did he have the two R’s inserted by deed poll, to heighten the JRR Tolkien comparison?) Martin’s A Game of Thrones (and its three sequels) arrived on Saturday and I picked it up and started reading. Here I am, on about page 400 already, totally gripped. But I have… a few questions.

1) Why are northern folk always tough, stern, no-nonsense and essentially virtuous? OK so I’m thinking the Starks and the Dunedain here, but I have a feeling this is a bit of a fantasy trope.

2) A race of dark, violent, horse-riding raiders and plunderers? Really?

3) Why do we need to know so much about what people are eating and drinking? I don’t want to hear about any more garlic and herb crusts, or honey glazes, or sweet wines from the frickin’ Summer Isles.

4) And wearing? Next time I get a bunch of detail on the heraldic device embroidered in gold filigree on someone’s tunic, I’m tearing that page out. Not actually tearing it out. Just grimacing a bit and carrying on.

5) Why do all descriptions of castles end up with me just picturing a jumble of towers? Seriously, pages and pages get given over to lavish descriptions of the stone, wood and steel that these buildings are constructed from; the jutting rocky promontories that they stand upon, the heights that their towers rise to, their crenellations, arrow slits and portcullises, vaulted, echoing halls and ancient tapestries. This might sound racist, but they all look the same to me.

6) Why are dwarves (and I’m talking stunted humans, as opposed to the quarrying, quaffing, axe-wielding race – who are notoriously straightforward) cunning? Oh yeah wait I just remembered: “lacking physical gifts, I had to make my way in life by other means.” OK fine.

7) Pairs of pre-pubescent sisters: one a princess, one a tomboy. IS THERE ANOTHER WAY???

But hey: if it wasn’t for all this, we wouldn’t know it was a fantasy novel, and we couldn’t have that could we? Note to self: after all these Game of Thrones books, and that Le Carre stuff, and Visit from the Goon Squad, go re-read the Earthsea Trilogy.

Final note: I really am enjoying this book. Recommended, so far.

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