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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Epic success

The early reviews are in, and I'm pleased to see that the general verdict is that A SEA OF SKULLS is an improvement on A THRONE OF BONES. Success, for a writer of epic fantasy, is when one aims at George RR Martin, only to discover that with Book Two, reviewers are beginning to compare the work to that of Tolkien rather than Martin.
Even better than the first. The perspectives were well written and differed entirely on the concepts of civilization and what it means for each to make war. Whether it is from an orc captain or an elven wing of flying calvary, a stranded Legion, a feudal kingdom of knights and let us not forget the Vikings. All unique with a current of practical realism in how strategy and tactics play out in total war including the inner turmoil of personal ideology of each main character. What is the right choice? What pieces make up the foundation of how to even begin to inform one of which choice is wisdom and which folly.

Epic on the level of Tolkien, but written in a totally different way, for a different generation of audience. Tolkien addressed good and evil of his generations struggle, while Day is focused on the heart of his own generation. Good and evil are timeless, but the battlefield shifts with the times and Day nails it.
When I began writing Arts of Dark and Light, I believed that I could do better than Martin did in A Dance With Dragons, which I found extremely disappointing given the earlier books in the series. I was naively optimistic that the decline in quality I perceived in the fifth book of ASOIAF was more the result of a foolish decision on Martin's part to fill in the blanks rather than skipping ahead to when the dragons were grown, as I understand was his original plan.

After all, even though A Storm of Swords was not quite as good as its two predecessors, the introduction of the Ironborn and their religion was a spectacular scene, and it was entirely possible that its deficiencies were more related to middle-book syndrome than any incapacity or lack of imagination on Martin's part. And the problem with A Feast for Crows was obviously mere fat fantasy bloat, a problem easily resolved by stripping things down. But A Dance With Dragons was simply bad, with false characterizations and even the dread river journey; the surefire sign of an author who lacks for better ideas. Even given the signs that the decline was structural in nature, it never once occurred to me that I could write anything equal to the rest of the series.

However, as I struggled with the challenges of deciding how to proceed with all the various options presented by the perspective characters, and prospective new perspective characters in the second book, I began to realize how thoroughly Martin had ruined A Song of Ice and Fire when he expanded it from the original concept of a trilogy. What I realized was that as the story expanded, and as the characters separated, even more discipline and focus was required, not less. In other words, fewer perspective characters, but deeper engagement with their personal story, and therefore letting significant elements of the larger story go without more than tangential attention or description.

This is why it has taken me so much longer to write the second book. It was less about simply cranking out the story, and more about making good decisions about what not to write and what avenues to leave unexplored. Even a well-written and interesting scene is a problem if it requires going down a path that will ultimately prove an unnecessary distraction.

Martin's error, as I see it, is that he tried to describe too much of the larger story while failing to understand which of his characters are necessary to the larger story. His books increasingly read as if Tolkien had decided to devote as much of The Return of the King to Elrond in Rivendell, and to introducing the travails of a new female character from Bree, as he does to Aragorn and Frodo. Martin's error is compounded by his apparent compulsion to keep trying to shock the reader; the impact of the Red Wedding was considerably less than that of Ned's execution despite the greater quantity of blood shed, because the sophisticated reader can't help but see it coming. Moreover, Martin increasingly relies upon cheating the reader, engaging in increasingly transparent sleight-of-hand, and sabotaging his characters in order to try to achieve the effect he is foolishly seeking.

The idea that the Young Wolf, who has proven to be a brilliant strategist and tactician, is going to throw everything away for love in the middle of a war to avenge his father is so profoundly stupid, and so false to his character as established, that it actually made me angry at the time. And all so that Martin could have an excuse to "shock" the reader. That was the moment that I realized Martin was not necessarily the first-rate writer one might have believed on the basis of the first book, although I wrongly assumed at the time that it was a singular mistake.

I won't give away any details, nor will I claim to be a better or more accomplished writer than Martin across the board, but I will note that in ATOB, I was capable of pulling off something that Martin proved unable to do without cheating, despite multiple attempts on his part to do so. What is intriguing about the recent reviews of A SEA OF SKULLS is that, unlike when I started writing Arts of Light and Dark, I now believe that the end result of what will be a five-book series has the potential to be considered by impartial readers of the future to be a better epic fantasy in the end than A Song of Ice and Fire.

I'm not saying that it will be, only that I now think it may be possible. There is still a long and arduous road ahead. It is possible that my writing has peaked, it is possible that Martin will somehow manage to pull a rabbit out of a hat and reverse his apparent decline. Only time will tell. But what I can say is that it is no longer my object to write an epic that will be seen as being worthy of comparison to Martin's, but rather, one to which his series compares unfavorably. That may sound arrogant or it may sound insane. Nevertheless, that is my objective.

The good news, for those who are just reading the first book now, is that the second one is now available. And, of course, for those who have read both, there is Summa Elvetica and the collection of short stories set in Selenoth, which will be available in hardcover and paperback editions next month.
A fabulous read, very entertaining. I was very sad to reach the end. Dammit, I want to know what happens next! The sequel cannot come quickly enough. Mr Day is a great new voice in fantasy. The story moves at a brisk pace, and is just a whole lot of fun. The world of Selenoth is imaginatively realised, and both more logical and intriguing than Westeros from Game of thrones. I was particularly impressed by the scenes featuring the Legions, which featured some incredible battles. Very well realised. Highly recommended for anybody who likes fantasy. Great characters. Shocking twists. And a story that continues to suprise right up to the end. Try it, and see for yourself just how quickly you go through its hundreds of pages.

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59 Comments:

Blogger Jack Ward December 20, 2016 11:14 AM  

I've purchased Sea of Skulls but have not started it yet. That read will probably be mys Christmas present to myself. I do intend to write the eventual review, and, I suspect it will be a fiver.
You have stated, earlier this week I believe, that you will never publish your notes to novels like this. The most interesting discussion of how you went about Skulls was very enlightening but just whets the appetite for more master notes. Maybe some day?

Anonymous TS December 20, 2016 11:29 AM  

Martin's error, as I see it...

Vox why give Martin that intel? Just finish him!

Anonymous Til December 20, 2016 11:50 AM  

One of the best aspects of your writing is how the short stories (and characters' perspectives in general) are integral components to the whole. Such as how reading the Last Witchking or the history of Bessarias gives you insight into what's happening in ASOS. It's even better that you prefer to leave such stones unturned for those who haven't read the short stories. It makes it satisfying to see the significance of what was learned by the reader in the short stories and how it ties into the whole.

Blogger Phunctor December 20, 2016 11:51 AM  

I've read both ATOB and ASOS in the last week. Had I not been haunting this blog I would not have spotted the didactic payloads. Bravo Zulu! Great pen-aids!

The most powerful elements in any scene are the background assumptions. Which is why I watch ZERO TV. I deeply respect (((their))) skills at mind-fuckery; I'm sure there's plenty of it that I neither see nor have immunity against.

Blogger Mats December 20, 2016 11:51 AM  

I have to start getting your books, having been reading (and enjoying) your blog for over 2/3 years.

God bless and keep up the good work, VD.

Blogger VD December 20, 2016 11:51 AM  

Vox why give Martin that intel?

I don't believe it matters. I strongly suspect that Martin is now writing his own fan fiction, filling in the blanks provided by the series, which with one exception, has been increasingly lame.

Anonymous John "Butthurt" Sculzi December 20, 2016 11:55 AM  

Yeah. But how big is your lawn? I didn't think so.

Blogger Elocutioner December 20, 2016 11:57 AM  

The Dark Lord was monologuing!

Blogger Nate December 20, 2016 12:12 PM  

"The idea that the Young Wolf, who has proven to be a brilliant strategist and tactician, is going to throw everything away for love in the middle of a war to avenge his father is so profoundly stupid and false to his character that it actually made me angry at the time"

GAH

You defended it. I hated the whole Red Wedding thing and viewed it as a huge sign that the story was going to fall apart.

This is why I say for all your Dark Lordness... you're far to kind. You give people the benefit of the doubt with great frequency... often leading to a polyanna outlook.

its like there is this happy do-gooder inside you.

Blogger Ostar December 20, 2016 12:17 PM  

As someone who really liked ATOB and will be buying ASOS, I'm glad to read how you've set yourself boundaries. One of the greatest problems with modern SF fiction (beyond SJW's) is the bloat. Writing a great novella but turning into a 1000 page average to mediocre novel, etc. As writers get more popular their editors seem to let them ramble on and on and on and on....

Blogger mike mike December 20, 2016 12:18 PM  

I found my memory of all the Selenoth characters to have atrophied. I'm having a little trouble remembering who is who. Is there a dramatis personae by chance?

Blogger Lana J December 20, 2016 12:21 PM  

ASOS is better than ATOB and I can't believe I'm going to say this, but it was way too short! I spend the entire time I was reading it checking the page count and dreading the end. The pacing was just excellent and I didn't want to put it down. I need to write a review in the next couple of days. It was outstanding so far, Vox. Given the latest book, I will not be surprised at all if you do succeed in surpassing Martin.

Blogger RobertT December 20, 2016 12:25 PM  

The opening is light years ahead of the previous book. That opening grabs you by the throat. Then everybody died, so they are completely off the table, but the table is set. Your writing has improved by leaps & bounds. IPO it ranks with the great classical authors like Tolkien.

Blogger Cluebat Vanexodar December 20, 2016 12:26 PM  

"The idea that the Young Wolf, who has proven to be a brilliant strategist and tactician, is going to throw everything away for love..."

I had the very same feeling. Ludicrous.

I will be playing catch up on your work and hope to see the personal development you are describing. Your non fiction is very good, but epic fantasy is a completely different animal.

Hardcover Throne is in the shopping cart.

Anonymous Ezekiel Cassandros December 20, 2016 12:27 PM  

"ASOS is better than ATOB and I can't believe I'm going to say this, but it was way too short!"

As I recall, this is only the first part, and the rest of the book will be released when it's through the editing or whatever.

Don't worry. There's more coming soon.

Blogger VD December 20, 2016 12:27 PM  

Then everybody died, so they are completely off the table, but the table is set.

That's not true, but let's not give it all away here.

Blogger Nate December 20, 2016 12:30 PM  

"That's not true, but let's not give it all away here."

right. Its only Marcus, and Lodi, and Lady Shadowsong that died.

lets not be spreading false rumors.

Blogger VD December 20, 2016 12:36 PM  

Its only Marcus, and Lodi, and Lady Shadowsong that died.

And the dragon. Don't forget the dragon.

Anonymous Bz December 20, 2016 12:40 PM  

I would be surprised if Martin ever finishes book 6, actually. And with the TV show being done in a year or two, is anyone really looking forward to reading the text version in ten years?

Blogger Aeoli Pera December 20, 2016 12:40 PM  

Your competitive advantage over Martin is your Christianity. Martin is fairly perceptive with respect to the human heart and its failings but his instincts and philosophy surrounding this lack structure and coherence. This translates to unstructured and incoherent creative output.

Congrats on the improvement, I presume this will eventually replace that Psychosonik song as your favorite piece of personal creative expression.

Blogger VFM #7634 December 20, 2016 12:53 PM  

eviewers are beginning to compare the work to that of Tolkien rather than Martin.

That would be if baby girls named Caitlys start showing up.

Convincingly nerding out on languages would be a secondary indicator.

Along these lines, I think it would be funny if you introduced "Low Amorran" or "Vulgar Amorran" and represented it as over-the-top colloquial Italian. It would explain placenames like "Civitavecchia" which don't sound Latin (High Amorran).

Similary I could see the reavers having a high archaic register for names (Icelandic) and a vulgar evolved register for common usage (Norwegian).

Blogger VD December 20, 2016 12:59 PM  

That would be if baby girls named Caitlys start showing up

You are confusing popularity with literary quality.

Blogger RobertT December 20, 2016 1:08 PM  

" It is possible that my writing has peaked, "

That won't happen until your creativity and innovative juices has been completely consumed, which is highly unlikely. I see no signs of stagnation from the most important perspective - the reader's. Success as a writer is not based due to technical refinement or anything it takes to be a proper writer. It is entirely to interesting content. "On the Road" is certainly not a literary masterpiece, but it is wildly popular. Even 75 years later, I would certainly like to be getting royalties on that book.

Anonymous Incurvatus December 20, 2016 1:24 PM  

I'm just pleased that I recognized the names of the great Elf war strategists.

Blogger Some Guy December 20, 2016 1:27 PM  

@2

It matters because that's what Babe Ruth would do. It's incredible to do it, it's insane when you tell everyone you're going to do it first and then do it.

Blogger B.J. December 20, 2016 1:41 PM  

Well said Vox, completely agree with your assessment of Song of Ice and Fire.

Blogger S1AL December 20, 2016 2:26 PM  

Martin's great strength is word-smithing. He has a tremendous talent in that area. He also writes some characters extremely well. But there's no light on his work, and that bleak nihilism translates into the senselessness of his world-building.

Blogger Cynic In Chief December 20, 2016 2:27 PM  

So when is the TV series of A Throne Of Bones coming out?

I only say that halfway in jest. The Game Of Thrones TV series has been popular. If an enterprising TV producer wanted to start a new series, ATOB/ASOS would be a good one to use.

Blogger bara December 20, 2016 2:32 PM  

I haven't read ATOB, but I enjoyed Summa Elvetica, and would like to revisit Selenoth once I'm caught up on my reading.
One thing that I appreciate is that you have the right view on how to do world-building. You don't need to state all the details, just create a consistent world and tell the story within it. Most of the time I see writers going into irrelevant detail, while the failure of not showing enough of the world is much rarer (although I've seen it from time to time and it's jarring; as in "didn't I tell you this important detail of the culture? sorry, it's a key plot element now", which feels like a cheap Deus Ex Machina). The most illustrative example I've seen is the original Dune books (Frank's) vs. the new ones (Brian's). Same world, based on the father's notes, but lacking focus and explaining for chapters what the older Herbert could imply in a couple of paragraphs.
I hope you can meet your goal and build a story as tight as Modesitt's Adiamante, where a description of the world could easily fill three times the novel's text and yet he was disciplined enough to do it right without resorting to cheap tricks.

Blogger sconzey December 20, 2016 2:37 PM  

Started it, but very quickly realised I remembered too little of ATOB to do it justice, so re-reading that first. I should have planned this better and started the re-read weeks ago.

Anonymous Matthew McConnaugay December 20, 2016 2:39 PM  

Some thoughts.

1. What's wrong with a river journey? Martin needed to isolate Tyrion for a while, as well as move him from point A to point B; the river chapters seem to mostly get that job done, albeit at some length. There's a much bigger complaint to be made about those chapters than where they take place, but that would be a spoiler. Besides, it remains possible that Martin could make it all worthwhile. If certain fan theories are correct, then the river journey is actually providing background for another character in another part of the story. And if the remaining books are long enough, and of course good enough, then what looks like bloat and tangent now could turn out to be necessary and awesome. I certainly hope that's the case!

2. The idea that the Young Wolf, who has proven to be a brilliant strategist and tactician, is going to throw everything away for love in the middle of a war to avenge his father is so profoundly stupid and false to his character that it actually made me angry at the time.

This is a mis-read, I think. While love (and sex) is a pretty decent explanation for why any 16-yr old boy would behave irresponsibly, here we have the added motive of not wanting to disappoint his mother. All Robb's life, he's had people telling him how honourable his father is, and he's seen it with his own two eyes. But his father fathered a bastard, and raised him at home, to the lifelong consternation of Robb's mother. That's been the significant source of familial tension and shame hanging around him his whole life, and it's left both him and his half-brother very sensitive to the issue of issue. (lol) Jon is extremely down on the idea of fathering a bastard, and although it's less explicit, I think Robb is too. If he fathers a bastard, he repeats his father's greatest shame, the shame that's visibly wounded his mother so much. So, he panics and marries the girl.

Other considerations: there is a fan theory that the girl's mother threw some love potion into the mix. And frankly, I think Robb was somewhat within his rights. When Walder Frey and Catelyn Stark made their deal, Robb was merely the heir to a Great Lord. Frey never bargained to have his daughter married to a king. Surely Robb could argue that his coronation invalidated the betrothal, and that instead, a Frey girl should marry Robb's brother Bran, or some other great Lord's heir, like Edmure Tully. Granted, it's not an argument you ought to make when your brother's dead and you're depending on Frey goodwill for your very survival, but then, none of that was the case when he broke the pact.

3. I won't give away any details... but I will note that in ATOB, I was capable of pulling off something that Martin was not able to do without cheating, despite multiple attempts on his part to do so.

And now I gotta read it, just to see what you mean here.

Anonymous VFM #5651 December 20, 2016 2:39 PM  

Started it yesterday, and it's definitely better than the first book. I hadn't given a lot of thought to how and why yet, but your post clarifies that - primarily because it's *tighter.* I'm not quite halfway through, and will review when finished. Already mad that I won't get the rest until next year. And then the last book until... sometime.

Anonymous Philalethes December 20, 2016 2:42 PM  

Enjoying A Sea of Skulls on my new Kindle Paperwhite – which, btw, Amazon presently has on sale at 20% off. (I'd recommend the Bundle, which is discounted $40; the cover is very nice and convenient, and the charger is useful for when you're not near your computer.)

I found the Paperwhite a little small at first, being used to reading on the iPad, but unlike the latter it's easily held in one hand, and once I got used to simply reading the text, rather than expecting it to look like a book (the iPad is good for that, but uncomfortably large and heavy for simple reading) I like it fine. The only thing I really miss is that you can't see the book cover in color, but I'm sure that would add cost (and maybe weight) and detract from battery life. (The iPad – or another Amazon device – is good for that.) The screen is very easy on the eyes.

And of course it'll hold the entire Arts of Dark & Light collection, along with thousands of other books. I'm looking forward to divesting a lot of mass I don't really need to haul around any more, so long as I have the information in an easily-accessible form.

Naturally I'm looking forward to more of ASoS, and the rest of the series. Did you say five? Ambitious. So many trilogies grow weak toward the end. Anyway, gonna require some patience on your readers' part, as well as discipline and energy on yours.

Your competitive advantage over Martin is your Christianity. Yes. That's why Martin's work will die with the decadent, nihilist culture that spawned it, while yours, like Tolkien's, has a chance to live on. I don't need to be reminded that this world is ruled by the Prince of Darkness; I see that every day. The story I want to read is one that reminds me that there is a Way Out, and that human beings can find it, if they have the will to develop their character. That's why I loved Opera Vita Aeterna; it's a tale of redemption and transformation of spirit.

Blogger sconzey December 20, 2016 2:42 PM  

IMOHO one of the traps Martin fell into is that every world has more than one story to tell, and Martin tries to tell all of them in the same "trilogy", with the exception of one spinoff series and a couple of stories written for anthologies.

VD on the other hand has embraced the opportunities presented by digital delivery and told his spinoff stories as standalone novellas, which works much better, and allows the author to let off creative steam without compromising the integrity of the main story.

Anonymous Stephen J. December 20, 2016 2:47 PM  

"I will note that in ATOB, I was capable of pulling off something that Martin proved unable to do without cheating, despite multiple attempts on his part to do so."

Insofar as you can without spoilers, can you tell us what you are referring to here? I haven't read ASOS but I do remember ATOB pretty clearly, and I remember being struck mostly by how different the stories were despite a superficial plot-summary resemblance. I'm also curious as to why you describe Martin's attempt at whatever it was as "cheating".

Anonymous Ezekiel Cassandros December 20, 2016 2:54 PM  

@31
Those are some interesting possibilities that GRRM did not explore in the slightest. Like, the reason the show invented a whole new identity for the girl he gets with is because they actually wanted the sideplot leading up to the Red Wedding to have more depth than "Oh, by the way, Robb slept with some chick and got her pregnant so then he fell in love and married her so he can't fulfill his end of the bargain. Moving on."

Blogger JudgeMontrose December 20, 2016 2:56 PM  

OT: If I'm reading the WorldCon website correctly, I would need to buy a supporting membership before 1/31/17 in order to vote this year, correct?

Also, I see WorldCon 75 is boldy advertising 25 free hotel rooms and memberships to assist "PEOPLE OF COLOR/NON-WHITE PEOPLE." I would donate to help cover Godfrey Elwick's airfare if he can get one of these.

Blogger VD December 20, 2016 3:17 PM  

What's wrong with a river journey?

What I already said. As Umberto Eco once cracked wise, any time one takes more time on the simple task of getting from one place to another than necessary, it's porn. Turning transportation into story means the author has no interesting story to tell. Notice that in the earlier books, people require far fewer words to go on longer journeys.

This is a mis-read, I think.

It's absolutely not. If it was, it wouldn't have been the sign that the Red Wedding was incipient.

Jon is extremely down on the idea of fathering a bastard, and although it's less explicit, I think Robb is too. If he fathers a bastard, he repeats his father's greatest shame, the shame that's visibly wounded his mother so much. So, he panics and marries the girl.

FFS, that's so far off base it can't even be reasonably described as a reach. Robb is a general in the middle of a war. There is no military thinker of his caliber who would permit himself to be distracted like that, particularly when he is intent on avenging his father and claiming a throne. It would have been more credible if he'd murdered the girl in order to ensure there was no obstacle to him controlling the castle controlling the river crossing.

Only a teenage girl could imagine that "love" would be an impediment to that sort of individual.

Moreover, his mother is absolutely against the marriage.

Blogger VD December 20, 2016 3:18 PM  

OT: If I'm reading the WorldCon website correctly, I would need to buy a supporting membership before 1/31/17 in order to vote this year, correct?

I would not bother. The rules have changed. Tactics have to change accordingly.

Anonymous Dave December 20, 2016 3:31 PM  

IDK if you released the results of your poll from the other day but this thread suggests you're in a fantasy writing groove and should continue to strike while the iron is hot.

I say the hell with The Collapsing Empire.

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable December 20, 2016 3:33 PM  

I should have planned this better and started the re-read weeks ago.

That was my thought. Then I realized Hey, read Sea of Skulls 1.0 now, enjoy and comment on Amazon. Then, in due course, re-read Throne of Bones two weeks before the final version of Sea of Skulls is released.

There really is too much going on to really grasp in a single, quick flip-through. And the journey is worth it.

Anonymous bub December 20, 2016 4:00 PM  

I'd read an epic series re the Witch-kings. When you have time.

Blogger pdwalker December 20, 2016 4:01 PM  

@3 Til Agreed. Reading the short stories first, then ATOB and aSOS really helps bring the world to life. Those shorts (and Summa) are essential reading, in my opinion.

@10 Oscar That's definitely not the case with ASOS 1.0 so far. Tight writing, well paced and I was left wanting more.

Blogger VD December 20, 2016 4:42 PM  

As writers get more popular their editors seem to let them ramble on and on and on and on....

The difference in weight between Rowling's first Harry Potter book and the last one is educational.

Anonymous 5343 Kinds of Deplorable December 20, 2016 5:20 PM  

The difference in weight between Rowling's first Harry Potter book and the last one is educational.

The earlier and later Stephen Kings are equally instructive.

Anonymous Stephen J. December 20, 2016 5:54 PM  

The difference in weight between Rowling's first Harry Potter book and the last one is educational.

To be fair to Rowling, I understand that particular series wasn't a victim so much of authorial disinclination to be edited as it was of publisher greed to get the books out the door as quickly as practically possible. I seem to recall Rowling actually publicly stating that she would have preferred to have taken more time for editing the later books but simply wasn't given it.

Now that I come to think of it, I wonder if that isn't a more likely explanation across the board. The diva writer who won't suffer to be edited is a common stereotype, but it does seem unlikely to me that someone that diva-ish would have the stamina and discipline to finish books that large in the first place. It wouldn't surprise me at all if it is far more often the publishers deciding that once the audience fan base is large and rabid enough, a more polished edition won't make enough difference to sales to justify a three- to six-month delay, especially for something already behind deadline.

(Though there is an equal potential for diva-ishness in an author taking forever to tinker with a book until they're happy with it -- ahem, ahem, Mr. Martin.)

Anonymous Matthew McConnaugay December 20, 2016 6:00 PM  

@36 - fair enough, maybe I'm reading too much into it

...in the earlier books, people require far fewer words to go on longer journeys.

Yep. I won't argue that the travelogue in ADWD wasn't longer than it needed to be, especially in Tyrion's case. Victarion makes the same journey - longer, in fact - in 2 or 3 chapters. But then, Victarion doesn't have quite so many plot and character beats to hit on the way. Like I said, I'm still holding out hope that it will all pay off.

FFS, that's so far off base it can't even be reasonably described as a reach. Robb is a general in the middle of a war. There is no military thinker of his caliber who would permit himself to be distracted like that, particularly when he is intent on avenging his father and claiming a throne. It would have been more credible if he'd murdered the girl in order to ensure there was no obstacle to him controlling the castle controlling the river crossing.

Only a teenage girl could imagine that "love" would be an impediment to that sort of individual.

Moreover, his mother is absolutely against the marriage.


I don't see the correlation between military talent and strength of character in this instance. This is not someone who's acquired their skill over long years of hard work, this is an aristocratic teenager who's suddenly found himself a king. I think you're reading him as far more competent and mature and professional than he is. (And perhaps more focused or ruthless as well.) He may be a military prodigy, but he's still only 16. And a king besides! If he decides to ignore his advisors, who's to stop him?

Actually, it might be instructive to consider Littlefinger. The events of his life have made him hard, ruthless, and very clever and calculating, etc. He's not going to make the same kind of mistake that Robb did. But when Littlefinger was Robb's age, he challenged a high-born girl's betrothed to a duel, hoping to win her heart. Even if he'd won, he could never have married her. But he was in love, and more importantly, he was young. Young and stupid - but I repeat myself.

Correct that his mother is against the marriage, but (1) she's older and wiser, and (2) the political situation has turned unfavourable by the time she learns about it. But that's irrelevant: I don't argue that Robb consciously thought, "I'd better marry this gel or Mumsy will get the shits," I think his upbringing has left him with the vague, unexamined (remember he's 16) notion that there's nothing more shameful than fathering a bastard, and it's a fear of that shame that motivates him. It's irrational, but there you are.

As a matter of fact, we don't even know for sure that Robb is actually the military prodigy he's claimed to be. We're rarely present for his war councils, nor do we get to see his thoughts; meanwhile, his war council is chock-full of seasoned veterans. Maybe it's the Blackfish that has all the bright ideas, and Robb's actually an idiot.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if it is far more often the publishers deciding that once the audience fan base is large and rabid enough, a more polished edition won't make enough difference to sales to justify a three- to six-month delay, especially for something already behind deadline.

I am convinced this is what happened with A Dance with Dragons: they finally said, "Fuck it! We're publishing whatever you've got!" This helps explain the bloat, some weak plotting, and the missing ending. And perhaps the muted response to that book explains why they haven't done the same thing again... yet.

Anonymous Difster December 20, 2016 6:07 PM  

But there's caltrops; I heard there were caltrops.

Blogger VD December 20, 2016 6:11 PM  

I think you're reading him as far more competent and mature and professional than he is. (And perhaps more focused or ruthless as well.) He may be a military prodigy, but he's still only 16.

I don't think you know very much about military history. If Robb is an idiot, no one is following him. The books make it very clear that he is a surprisingly good warleader.

It's very clear that you want to believe the books are better than they actually are. They're not. If that's not already clear from ADWD, the next one should suffice to conclusively prove it even to your liking.

Blogger S1AL December 20, 2016 6:23 PM  

The entire argument about Robb glosses over the details of Jon's role - specifically, he was publicly acknowledged as Ned's bastard AND lived with the family AND Ned was already engaged to Catherine when Jon was born. Very different situations.

And yes, Martin's sloppiness.

Anonymous Matthew McConnaugay December 20, 2016 6:25 PM  

I don't think you know very much about military history.

I'll cop to that. But does Martin?

It's very clear that you want to believe the books are better than they actually are.

Yes, I said as much. I've sunk a lot of hours into reading those books, and I'm hoping my time hasn't been wasted, as it so often is with serialised drama.

Blogger VD December 20, 2016 6:41 PM  

Yes, I said as much. I've sunk a lot of hours into reading those books, and I'm hoping my time hasn't been wasted, as it so often is with serialised drama.

I am sympathetic. But I fear I lack your faith. I'm sure we all hope you're right.

Blogger Nate December 20, 2016 8:13 PM  

"I don't see the correlation between military talent and strength of character in this instance. "

/facepalm

Blogger JeffHansen December 20, 2016 8:28 PM  

Flying thru book 2 and enjoying it.

Suggestion for anyone who wants a well read blog page and no doubt a link from VD

**SOMEONE DO A "CLIFF NOTES" of BOOK 1**

Don't make me do it, wasn't planning on rereading book 1 this year.

Also, a good map of Selenoth.

I am reliable informed this is not VD's style

Blogger Brian Niemeier December 20, 2016 10:00 PM  

There is ample evidence for any objective reader to conclude that Vox is an excellent writer. His most vocal critics' sole reason for denouncing his work is their pre-rational Leftist bias, viz. "Anyone successful person who disagrees with us must be an utter retard and an evil genius."

Anonymous Brick Hardslab December 20, 2016 10:16 PM  

Do you feel you've learned more by practicing your art or by editing guys like Wright?

Anonymous Just another commenter December 20, 2016 10:30 PM  

The main problem with reading ATOB is that is pulls you in and kills a few days while you neglect things you really should be doing, like repairing the car, making dinner, walking the dog, sleeping, things like that.

Blogger Koanic December 21, 2016 9:52 AM  

You already have done better than that squalid self-squagging troll, merely by producing more than one readable book. The problem is that publishing is a numbers game, and there are more half-men than men, not to mention nutless Jewish gatekeepers.

As to whether epic scale is achieved, in the artistic rather than pagecount sense, I feel so far it's been on the cusp. That's due more to a sprinter's linearity and logician's clarity than a quality deficit. An epic's atmosphere encompasses winds which man knoweth not whence cometh nor whither go. Martin could do that, although the wind blew sour.

The new release bids fair to phase change, but I refuse to blueball myself with a needless intermission.

Ultimately, though, who cares? The fiction is getting better. I will read and enjoy it. Perhaps you could sleep more and remain productive into your 80's.

Anonymous hoosiertoo December 21, 2016 10:45 AM  

You haven't read bloat until you've tried to slog through Webber's "Safehold" series. I can't even bring myself to read he final installment.

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