Friday, January 11, 2013

Death of a Protagonist

I am almost 75% through with reading George RR Martin's A STORM OF SWORDS and have invested approximately 2600 pages of reading into this amazingly gritty and realistic fantasy series he has created.  Last night, as I neared the 70% mark, I almost threw the book across the room.

I don't want to spoil the story.  Besides, many may not have read the books. I was mad, though.  Disappointed, infuriated, annoyed, and mad.

For those that are familiar with Mr. Martin, I am sure you know what I mean.  One protagonist, fine.  Several flamboyant tertiary characters, alright.  After GAME OF THRONES and especially A CLASH OF KINGS, I was beginning to get used to perusing the back of the book and considering striking out all the characters who are now dead.  It felt novel that an author was as free with the deaths of so many characters.  To be sure, he has populated this world with more characters than I have Facebook friends.  To kill off a few feels like culling a herd or at the least, As the World Turns.  Turnover is inevitable when betrayal and violence are common.

But, at the end of the chapter after the Red Wedding, I was shocked even beyond the loss I felt from the two noble wolves of House Stark.  The pup, too!  It cannot be!

Before you respond with condolences and a spoiler alert, I already know.  I was weak and flipped through looking for Arya's chapter.  Found it.  Now I am wading through more about the Onion Knight and this weirdly accurate witch, Milisandre.  Sometimes I wish he had put some of these story lines into another book entirely.  I am always tempted to skip them.  I guess some other readers may want to skip the feasts and the tourneys with their endless descriptions of armor and weapons, food and names of folk we will never meet again or that will soon be dead.

Case in point:  the singer that threatened to blackmail Tyrion.  Why even bother?  He's dead in four paragraphs and mentioned in passing during the feast.  But to what did he amount?  Another corpse to add to the considerable pile.  Another sick joke.  I dunno.  I guess I feel Martin's greatness is dulled through the continual cutting of ties with so many well-fletched-out tertiary characters that come and go so quickly.  Their deaths are often more flamboyant than their lives.

Which leads me back to my original complaint and the rubbing of my cat the wrong way, so to speak.  I am developing a love/hate relationship here.  I am aware that some of this is manufactured.  The author is deliberately pulling the strings.  Characters are created for effect rather than catharsis, or triumph.  As far as I can see, the great lesson, the moral of the story, as far as the Red Wedding goes is two-fold.  Lords will always have bannermen that envy their positions;  the only way to deal with them is with strength.  The second is something that I think the author plans to use going forward:  to harm others to whom you have extended hospitality under your own roof is to bring a curse upon yourself.

Despite this, I feel empty, betrayed, and am loath to trust Mr. Martin going forward.  I don't know. Is it just me?  I feel invested in Catelyn and Robb, Bran and to some extent, Rickon.  Jon and Sam.  Dany and even Ser Jorah.  If these people die after we have invested 2600 pages in them and knowing that we have 2000 more pages yet to come, are we not to feel their loss?  Or is that the point?  Unless we care, they do not matter?  Or is it what Little Finger says to Sansa?
"Always keep your foes confused.  If they are never certain who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are like to do next.  Sometimes the best way to baffle them is to make moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you.  Remember that Sansa, when you play the game...The only game.  The game of thrones."--A STORM OF SWORDS pg 841.
 What do you think?