This summer I have been working on reading through George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The first book had been purchased on my Nook for a few years now, and I always found excuses not to start reading a long, extensive fantasy series. I knew that the books had grown in popularity, thanks to the televised version’s success on HBO. I came into the books with minimal knowledge, having only heard faint whispers about the content (such as how everyone always says “Winter is coming” in the book). I also should point out that I still have not watched a single episode of the television show, nor do I know if I will.
I thought it would be fitting to start posting the occasional review as I read through some books, and what better review than to recap the first three books in this highly regarded series? I have witnessed, firsthand, the greatness of Martin’s writing and can count myself lucky that my favorite character since Book 1 has not been killed (so far).
A Game of Thrones
It was a struggle for me, personally, to adapt to the way that Martin mapped out his book. I hated how each chapter changed the point of view to a different character, preferring the perspective of some over the others. But as the book moved on I started to get caught up in an endless cycle. At the start of a chapter I’d frown because it was involving a character that I was not particularly fond of. By the middle of the chapter I was sucked into what was going on. When the chapter ended, I found myself wanting more of that character to continue. That is, perhaps, one of Martin’s greatest successes with the book is making the reader interested in every chapter, even when the character is not a personal favorite.
The characters and the world come alive in the novel. It is, by any account, an excellent first novel in a series. It establishes a lot of the important elements without making the reader feel overwhelmed by the locations and cast of characters and the political alliances introduced. It is a novel quite unlike any other I have ever read. How many other sagas end their first book with the death of one of the established main protagonists?
A Clash of Crowns
This book took everything great about the first book, added in some new elements, and delivered a masterpiece. It introduces one of the most interesting characters with the Onion Knight. At first I was unconvinced about him, but by the end of the book I ended up liking Davos a lot. He is a hard character to dislike, possessing many admirable qualities.
If the Starks were the centerpiece of the first book, then the group of kings and their armies were the centerpiece of this one. It would be no small task to juggle writing a book of this complexity, keeping timelines and character locations/allegiances straight. But I honestly didn’t see any place where I noticed things being out of place.
In spite of being on the “wrong” side of things, I couldn’t help but grow to like Tyrion a lot over the course of this novel. He definitely stepped out into his own light as a character, displaying a lot of the clever wit and ability to play the game with the best of them.
A Storm of Swords
The Red Wedding. This book should really be called A Sea of Blood from All the Dead because there are a LOT of deaths in this book. He really does not hold back in this one, killing off the major and the minor with disregard. Yet all of it continues to push the plot forward, especially as many secrets and plots are uncovered or hinted at. Mysteries from the first book get some attention in here, bringing the wonder to an end.
I was completely shocked that Jamie Lannister became one of the characters who was featured with his own chapters. I could have bought into the idea of Brienne of Tarth right away, and for much of the book it would have shown the same things because their stories run parallel. But by the time he reunites with his father, it becomes a little clearer and I found myself showing some sympathy toward the character that spent most of the second book imprisoned.
Ygritte was an awesome character, and she made the chapters about Jon Snow a lot more interesting and fun. Because he knows nothing.
I love how the book wrapped things up, leaving many question marks to be addressed in the fourth book along with a trail of bloody (and not-so-bloody) deaths to get there. My favorite character is free from the Dog and is headed North (if you’ve read the books, you’ll know who it is. I’d hate to name them, in the chance that George R.R. Martin reads their name and decides to kill them off).
I’ll probably pick up the fourth book from the library on Saturday. I’ve heard the next two books aren’t as good as the first three, but I hope that I heard wrong.
A short sonnet I wrote, trying to dig into how Ava feels toward the memories of her father. Thoughts?
Laying upon a bed of green, watching
stars twinkle bright in a sea of black, thoughts
drift away to a distant place and bring
you back here. In this fantasy I’m caught.
With the memory of you my heart resides,
keeping your words and your lessons within
each move I make. In your footsteps I stride,
wishing I could see your face once again.
This mighty sword is my sole weapon, drawn
in defiance of this eternal grave
that keeps me from my father. You are gone,
but I continue your trade. I am brave,
facing monsters inside and out every
day, hoping they bring you back here to me.
For those who have been following along for a while, you’ll know that the Monster Hunter series came about in the second half of last year. It was my second attempt at a serialized story and has received incredible support from my readers. It is difficult to get my brain out of Monster Hunter mode, now that things have really begun to pick up and take off. So I thought I’d summarize what we have so far, as well as what to look for in the future (both on this blog and off of it).
For easy access to all of the Monster Hunter posts, there is a handy link at the top called Monster Hunter. I will be keeping that current with all new Monster Hunter posts that are created in the future. They are placed there in the order in which they should be read, and the poetry series at the bottom is unrelated (right now) to the story posts above.
Ogre Hunt was where it all began, posted in four parts. The completed story currently stands at 4,101 words and will be under revision shortly.
The Doppelganger series just concluded last week and spanned across seventeen posts and weighs in at 8,518 words. There will be a lot of work to do in the revision stage to smooth the transition between some of the posts, since many of the early ones were written to fit into a particular prompt.
I’ve written three poems, sharing two of them on here throughout four posts, and that project comes in at 2,871 words in length. Look for a future post to hold the sonnet titled Remembrance.
Finally, I have started work on a story involving Ava at an early age. This comes prior to her father’s death and shows the friendship between her and Edgar, her spitfire personality, and her deep love for her father. In writing the 2,320 words I have so far, I have gained deeper clarity and understanding for these characters and the world they are in. This past week I’ve mapped out how this story will progress to its conclusion and I can’t wait to get it all down. Although this story is being held back for attempts at publication, I will still post an occasional snippet of this work-in-progress (one is included in this post, too, at the end!)
The next few Monster Hunter posts will be from Edgar’s perspective, taking place shortly after Ava departs from Talesin. Look for more detail in the Museum of Monster History, a deeper understanding of Edgar and his motives, and a preview of the upcoming plot for the next series of Monster Hunter in those posts.
Finally, be sure to check out the Facebook page for Scholarly Scribe. I’ll be making an effort to be more active with that, sharing little Monster Hunter quotes and information. And now, here is a short sample from my Origins story about Ava.
* * * * *
She reached for the bundle, biting her lip. The silky cloth contained something hard and heavy inside, a shape and weight that seemed somehow familiar. Ava peeled away the layers of fabric, squealing in delight at the new treasure in her possession. She grasped the hilt, the symbols engraved in the leather painfully pressing into her skin. The sheath was made of the same tanned leather as the hilt, making it appear to be one seamless piece. She pulled it free, a soft ringing sound filling the air as the weapon slid along the leather. She recognized some of the ancient glyphs that ran along the length of one side of the steel; her father had the same symbols of strength, victory, and protection on his own sword. The other side contained a single glyph, naming the blade so that the foes might know the means of their demise, but she didn’t recognize the symbol.
“This blade belongs to you now, Avalina,” her father said, brushing a strand of her red hair aside with a calloused hand. “Do you remember what I taught you about the tenets of a swordsman?”
“Yes, father,” she replied with a heavy sigh.
“Let’s hear them.”
“A swordsman is a weapon unto himself, the sword is merely a tool. A swordsman uses his sword to ward evil, never to cause injustice. A swordsman keeps…but father, I’m not a swordsman. I’m a swordswoman!”
His hearty laugh in response warmed Ava more than any fire in a hearth, and soon they were both laughing without control. Her father wiped tears from his eyes, trying to regain a serious demeanor. “Do not torment that boy with your sword, Avalina. Remember all that I have taught you, because while I am gone you will be the protector for this village.” He took the sword from her, tracing his finger along the name of the sword. “The sword is named Seraphina, which means ‘burning fire’. Let it be the torch that guides your path and keeps our home safe.”
He handed the sword back to her and she stared at the glyph, marveling over the intricate design that contained the name. Seraphina, she thought as a smile crept onto her face. She said a prayer for the sword to be blessed, to grant her the ability to serve and protect the ones she loves and cares about. Her father watched her in silence, his slate eyes filled with a warmth she had rarely seen since her mother died. He pulled her into an embrace after she finished the prayer, the bare metal of Seraphina cool against her midriff. Ava didn’t want to see him go, but she staved off the urge to tell him so. She needed to be strong for him.
New to the Monster Hunter series? Check out the portal page to catch up before reading this conclusion to the Doppelganger series!
* * * * *
Edgar stared down at his corpse, unable to believe what he was seeing. His blonde hair was matted with gore, a silver bolt jutting from his chest, and his skin was covered in lacerations. His skin had taken on a gray hue and his eyes were wide open, staring lifelessly up at them. The facial features were slowly beginning to revert to the form of the doppelganger, but it still looked enough like him to send chills up his spine.
“Did you have to carve me up so much?” Edgar asked Ava as she wiped the blood from her hands.
“I had to extract my vengeance for the kiss you enjoyed,” she snapped back, a hint of a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
“Remind me never to kiss you again,” Edgar said, “because next time I might not be lucky enough to have a doppelganger around to suffer your wrath.”
Ava looked down at the corpse, wondering if it would be worth her while to haul it back to Mulhaven. Would there even be a reward, since the doppelganger had been masquerading as the Baron? It would probably be wiser to cut her losses and move on. She looked up at Edgar, studying his face. He was still visibly shaken from seeing his own corpse, though he was trying hard to hide that fact. He had been right, for once, about the doppelganger. He managed to pinpoint its location and predict its actions.
“Remind me,” Ava said, pointing to the body, “how you knew the location of the doppelganger.”
“It was convinced that it was too clever for us. We followed dead trail after trail, just like it wanted us to. But then it slipped up when it took on the form of the leader of the Thieves’ Guild, because one of my men saw that same man die two days prior.”
“But how could you know it would come after me, instead of killing you first?”
Edgar smiled at her, rubbing a red bump on his forehead. “It believed you to be the only real threat to its existence. I did it a favor by knocking myself unconscious, allowing it to slip away and rendezvous with you.”
“But it didn’t realize we had agreed beforehand on a place to meet,” Ava said. “So when you stumbled toward me three blocks early, I was pretty sure it was the doppelganger.” Edgar nodded in agreement, his brown eyes glowing bright in the torchlight. “But, just in case it was you, I stabbed it a few extra times with my dagger.”
His face wrinkled up in disappointment, which caused Ava to let out a hearty laugh. The merriment drew unwanted attention, and she felt a dozen eyes watching her from the shadows around. It was time for her to leave, and soon. Talesin was far from a friendly place for the normal traveler, and it would not bode well if the wrong eyes happened to spot her.
She stepped over the corpse, the body still shrinking down in size as it morphed back to the original state of the doppelganger. Edgar shadowed her movements, his footsteps carelessly sounding off the pavement. He clearly believed that there was no danger remaining, now that the monster was dead. But Ava knew that her work would never be done. Even in the calm, she had to be cautious.
“Where are we going now?” Edgar asked when they left the outskirts of Talesin.
“We aren’t going anywhere,” Ava called over her shoulder. “You are staying here, where you belong. This life isn’t meant for you, Edgar.”
“Let me be the one to decide what my life should be,” he answered.
Ava stopped, clenching her fists. She spun toward him, shouting, “You don’t get it, do you? I can’t be watching over you all the time. I can’t be responsible for keeping you out of harm’s way anymore. We’ve tried that, Edgar, and it nearly got us both killed.”
“But we survived.”
“And now I work alone. Get used to it.”
Both of them turned away from each other, neither one wanting to be the first to speak again. Finally, Edgar said, “Where are you going to go now?”
“Finding my father’s old sword in that Ogre’s cave reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. I need to go back and retrieve my own sword, Seraphina. My father entrusted it to me, and I lost it years ago. It is time to reclaim my weapon and go back to making a difference in this world.”
“You’ve always made a difference in this world,” Edgar said, “in more ways that you know.” He turned back to her. “Send word when you can, now that you know where I am. I’ll be there when you need me, Ava.”
“Farewell,” Ava said as she started walking toward the rising sun.
New to the Monster Hunter series? Check out the portal page and catch up on Ava’s adventures!
“There is no way I’m letting you go alone,” Edgar snapped, “it is suicide. Is that how you want to honor your father, with a premature death?”
“Don’t talk about my father,” Ava said softly, turning her back on Edgar. “It makes sense for us to split into two groups. We can cover more ground.”
“I agree with that, but…”
“But you want be the one to go alone? Don’t try to be all chivalrous on me. I’m a better hunter than you, Edgar. I always have been, ever since we were children. That is why I’ll be the one to go alone.”
“I don’t like it, Ava,” Edgar said.
“I’m not asking you to,” Ava said as she turned back toward Edgar. She noticed the hint of a smile on the face of the leader of the Thieves’ Guild. So far phase two was playing out as planned. Now to put the finishing touches on it. She reached up, gently running her fingers along Edgar’s jawline. He pulled her in close, pressing his lips against hers in a forceful kiss. Any other time Ava would have pulled away and answered the kiss in kind with a slap. But she had to stick to the plan, which meant suffering through these signs of affection.
She could tell he was enjoying this part of the plan. A little too much. If they survived this, he would have to pay for that. She would extract some pain for his pleasure. She had to admit that this kiss wasn’t all that bad, but there was no way she would tell him that. Better to let him think she is repulsed by the thought of his affection.
“Ava, I…” he whispered in her ear. She shushed him, covering his mouth with her own. “Come back safe,” he said after the unexpected second kiss. She turned from him, grabbing a crossbow and a dagger from a table before heading off into the dark alleys of Talesin. It was time to see if their plan worked.
* * * * *
She navigated through the streets of town, slipping through crowds of drunkards and thieves. She kept to the shadows whenever possible, allowing the darkness to be her ally. The humidity made her skin slick with sweat beneath a charcoal cloak she stole, but she needed concealment over comfort. The aroma of ale and spiced stew mingled in the air, beckoning her to forget her mission for a few minutes. Sharp pangs of hunger rippled through her abdomen but she forced the thoughts of food to the back of her mind. Now was not the time to eat. Not when they were so close to the end of their hunt.
She turned a corner and pressed up against a wall. Edgar was limping her way, blood soaking through his clothes. He carried a bloodied dagger in his hand and his hair was matted with gore. His eyes searched the shadows frantically, desperately seeking her. He was counting on finding her here, and he would. Eventually.
Ava dropped to one knee, taking aim with the crossbow. No one would hear the release of the bolt over the raucous laughter nearby. Her finger eased the trigger back, firing the silver projectile straight at Edgar’s heart.
This past week I have been honored to collaborate with SAM at My Write Side on a tale for her new Flip Flop Fiction series. What happens is we work together on a story that takes a familiar literary character and flips them into another literary world. This transportation comes courtesy of the Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, and this week I chose to send Gollum from The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings into a new world. It was a lot of fun, and I hope you’ll check it out and leave some comments over there on this new story.
And while you’re there, be sure to check out on of my favorite ongoing works of fiction: The Elven Games. You’ll be hard-pressed to find better Fantasy Fiction on web!