Well, I just finished A Dance with Dragons yesterday so I'm finally all caught up.
I had bought A Game of Thrones years ago but I had never gotten around to reading it. I was excited though when I heard HBO was making it into a series. I really loved the show and it quickly became my favorite. Although I wish I had read the books sooner, I was kind of glad I didn't. Not just because of the long wait between books but because Ned's death was one of the most shocking things I saw on televison.
After finishing The Hunger Games, I started to read the entire series. It was definitely a long, hard read (especially for a slow and OCD reader like myself) but it was totally worth it. I loved the series and I'm going to miss not having a new book to read for who knows how long. Thankfully Season 2 is only two months away.
Martin is a cruel writer and I mean that in a good way. Just when you think something good is going to happen or that characters will finally get their long-awaited reunion (Arya trying to reach her mother at The Red Wedding), Martin yanks is all away from you (and especially the characters). You're getting the feeling that a Stark family reunion is getting more and more unlikely. The deaths in ASOFAI feel logical to the story, unlike so many of the deaths on televison nowadays. Characters make bad decisions and they pay for it in the worst possible way. If you are an honorable person in Westeros, you are not going to survive. You have to be a bit of a bastard.
I definitely agree with the consenus that the first three books were definitely the best. It built a strong, tight, and exciting storyline. If HBO decides to end the series before Martin finishes the series, A Storm of Swords wouldn't be a bad one to end on. It wraps up several storylines and gives new futures to some of the characters. With the deaths of key Starks and Lannisters, the teeth go out of that rivalry as well.
I'm very new to GOT's fandom but judging by the Amazon average reviews for AFFC and ADWD, I can see they were nowhere near as popular as the first three book. I enjoyed both of them though. I was surprised that Jaime became one of my favorite characters, as his own transformation becomes fascinating and compelling to read. I was impressed with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau performance on the show and thought that behind Peter Dinklage, he was the breakout actor on the show. Reading the books made me even more impressed with his performance because he inhabited the role so perfectly. Also really loved the scene with him and his Aunt Genna in AFFC.
It took me a little while to get into A Dance with Dragons. Seeing Tyrion out of his usual environment took some getting used to but the character as always is a joy to read. His discovery that Young Griff was Aegon was a nice surprise and I found myself enjoying his "relationship" with Penny. Though his storyline here (with seems to be showing how he gets from Point A to Point B) is nowhere near as intriguing as his storylines in the first three books.
Events in Westeros are definitely more compelling than events across the Narrow Sea. I loved the stuff in The North as well. Theon's storyline took my by surprise. With his unlikeable personality, his betrayel of the Starks, and what he did to those two children, he deserved the punishment he got. But damn, even I felt bad for the brutality he received as the hands of Ramsay. The character was broken in a way that felt very real and logical to me. Seeing him attempting to regain his identity while showing some heroics at the end was easily one of, if not the best storyline in the book.
If there was one problem I had with ADWD's is that it felt like it was spending its time setting up the next book. Like I brought up, Tyrion's storyline felt like it was just taking him from point a to point b. Daenerays time in Meereen was making me wish she would just return to Westeros with her dragons. Davos discovers where one of Ned's children went and we don't see him again. Same with Bran after the first chapter of his training. Then there was Jon. I liked his storyline a great deal and seeing what he was doing with the Night's Watch. He had the right of it, trying to end thousands of years of conflict with the Wildings to fight a greater enemy. But for the longest time it didn't look like anything was going to happen until the next took. Then we found out that Jon has the same bad family trait that Ned, Robb, and even Catelyn had...they don't see betrayel happening until the steel is drawn.
Jon became more like his father when he became Lord Commander. He even had more guile than his father, able to do things that were a little underminding. But he also picked up his father's tendancy to beligerently do what is right regardless of the consequences. I think Jon was trying to do the right thing with the Wildlings by bringing them into the fold to fight The Others. But he was trying to forcefeed certain members stuff they didn't want to eat. Bowen Marsh's betrayel is detesable but it makes sense. The Night's Watch was running out of food with a potential long winter looming. They couldn't afford more mouths Jon's mission to Hardhome was looking very much like suicide for the Watch. Credit to Martin there, he gives valid reasons for the mutiny to occur even though the mutiny might just destroy an important alliance with the Wildlings.
I don't think Martin's done with Jon Snow yet though. If Melisandre is capable of doing what Thoros did with Dondarrion, Jon Snow will rise again. Though his long-term future in nonexistent. I've become good at picking up certain things in the story but I have to admit I never considered that Jon might be the son of Rhaegal and Lyanna. Makes a hell of a lot of sense now that I think of it. Though fire can burn him.
Speaking of which, Quentyn Martell. I guess that storyline is to show that even noble adventures can end very badly. Another fantasy-shattering moment. It loosed the dragons on Meereen and hey, we did get a Ser Barristan POV out of it and I enjoyed that.
Glad to be here and able to finally post about this series.