I’ll admit to being a bit of a snob when it comes to fantasy literature. I can read the good stuff over and over — think I’ve read Lord of the Rings four times, and I’m anxious to pick up the first Thomas Covenant trilogy once more — but I find most of it uninteresting (and I promise, this is the last time I’ll slam Eragon).
Fortunately, the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series from George R.R. Martin demonstrates how much potential this genre has for great storytelling. The characters are complex, the protagonists neither fully heroic nor the adversaries wholly evil. The only flaw I see is that the main characters seem almost too intelligent, too honorable, to survive in the often barbaric world of Westeros. But perhaps this is what makes these novels so appealing, the presence of modern-thinking characters struggling to escape from the nightmare of their medieval world.
Another aspect of the series that I enjoy is the way the supernatural elements are presented. There is a foreboding presence in the north of Westeros, magical and undead, and the author constantly keeps it at the outskirts of his narrative, as mysterious to the reader as it is to the novel’s characters.
I still find Roy Dotrice’s performance as narrator uneven, at times even distracting. He occassionally fails to come out of character when shifting between quotation and narration, and some of his character voices just seem wrong (he makes Davos Seaworth sound like an overzealous participant in Talk Like A Pirate Day). But he is good more often than he is not, and his performance is overall good enough to keep me downloading each book in the series.