Why You Should Read “A Song of Ice and Fire”


Potato Lord, Writer

A Song of Ice and Fire is a must-read series. It centers on noble families dealing with a complex political landscape as an ever-growing threat and dragon whispers loom in the dark of winter. George R.R. Martin’s magnum opus shows off his masterful storytelling, character work, world building, mythology, prose and theme.

Anyone who’s read the novels can deny the entertainment value alone was worth the read. From the start, A Game of Thrones prologue sets an eerie tone of the danger that is to come. Unlike most authors however, Martin spends less time on the greater otherworldly threats and focuses on individual characters and their own personal conflicts instead.

The biggest factor in the greatness of A Song of Ice and Fire are the characters. No other story has characters half as good as those from A Song of Ice and Fire. They feel real. They have real thoughts, real feelings, and a real impact on the story. The books are truly character driven. In most novels, characters are thrust into situations that they are ill-equipped for yet miraculously make it out better than before. Not in A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin kills off characters that he’s gotten you to love left, right, and center. If a character makes a bad choice they suffer greatly for it. And the opposite is true as well. Martin in constantly adding new characters into the plot, like a great big stew. This one interacting with that one, making remarkable bits of dialogue that can make you laugh and cry all in the same chapter. His characters also have realistic moralities. It is said that George R.R. Martin has taken the traditional morality of fantasy and dragged it through the mud, kicking and screaming. Gone are the days of knights in shining armor rescuing fair maidens in great keeps protected by fire breathing dragons. All of his characters make realistic choices, and the reader is supposed to decide how they feel about them. Even the characters who’d you want to classify traditionally as the hero sack cities and kill dozens. The villains are so likable it makes you question yourself and your own beliefs, like any great piece of art should.

The world building of A Song of Ice and Fire is on parr as those of Lord of the Rings and Wheel of Time, which is to say some of the best ever done. It is grounded in reality first. Despite it being an epic fantasy, you could easily be forgiven in thinking A Song of Ice and Fire is a historical drama. It has roots in the Wars of the Roses, Chinese history, and Ukrainian saints. The various different cultures have bases in our own world and the same groups can have roots anywhere from Irish folklore to Vedic Indian myth. Its histories stretch back millenium, and every detail put into the universe adds to the overall story in ways readers can’t understand from a first read.

The mythology in A Song of Ice and Fire is insane. Every story beat, every description, and every character fits into its own world mythology. Before the beginning of the novels, a figure who represents winter and death goes to marry a maiden of the South (with the South representing the spring and life) and brings her North, to his realm of death. This plays out the tale of Persephone and Hades. George R.R. Martin is a master of archetypes and storytelling. One of the in world religions is the faith of the seven, based on Catholicism. It has a God in seven aspects, mother, maiden, chrome, father, smith, warrior, and stranger. It is interesting to match the characters in the story in the said categories and then seeing where they fall into the story as it progresses. His in world mythology is also chocked full of foreshadowing that is clear in retrospect. 

His writing style itself is interesting. He always drips information to the reader in the most delightful ways, taking his time to build suspense and mystery. Each chapter is in a specific characters point of view and you only get so much information from each character. Much of the time, he explicitly keeps information from the reader despite the character knowing exactly what is going on. The mother of Jon Snow for example is kept hidden despite Eddard Stark, the main character, knowing exactly who she is. Martin’s use of language is so specific because when he tries to get the reader to link two different ideas together, he uses the same or similar description.

The messaging in the series is also interesting. Martin himself is very anti-war, having protested Vietnam. Yet, many of the characters in the story cause destructive wars. But not only does Martin show the horrors of battle, bu the cost and aftermath of senseless death as well. He also asks what it means to be a hero, and what the value of sacrifice is. His work is a perfect example of human nature and real world college philosophy classes use examples from the novels as moral dilemmas. This is quote from A Song of Ice and Fire, “Power is a curious thing. Three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man. Between them stands a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword kill the other two. Who lives, who dies?Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick. A shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”

A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the best written fantasy stories of all time, having some of the most universal and influential characters and themes the genre has to offer. The last two novels are forthcoming, yet there is a plethora of unrelated works by George R.R. Martin that are also worth a read.