In my scribblings, there always seems to be a lot of death. And, as we all know, writing about death is never a pleasant experience. It’s notoriously difficult to write about it without stepping in to the comical, caricature death scene, or making it so dismal it’s easily forgotten. So, as inspiration for that tragic death scene, here are some of the best death scenes in fiction… Continue reading
Tag Archives: A Game of Thrones
A Dance with Dragons: After the Feast by George R.R Martin
HarperVoyager: Paperback published 2012: 493 pages
The Future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance.
In King’s Landing the Queen Regent, Cersei Lannister, awaits trial, abandoned by all those she trusted; while in the eastern city of Yunkai her brother Tyrion has been sold as a slave. From the Wall, having left his wife and the Red Priestess Melisandre under the protection of Jon Snow, Stannis Baratheon marches south to confront the Boltons at Winterfell. But beyond the Wall the wildling armies are massing for an assault…
On all sides bitter conflicts are reigniting, played out by grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves. The tides of destiny will inevitably lead to the greatest dance of all.
Okay. I can’t even review this book. This is all just a bit too much. Basically, all you need to know about this book is this:
It trundles along quite happily, not many people die and generally most people are plotting and/or getting their comeuppance (this is a good thing by the way). THEN… it goes completely arse about face and GOES COMPLETELY AND HORRIFYINGLY WRONG.
Honestly. I’m starting to have issue with Mr George R.R Martin. I’m not really sure why he insists on traumatising me like throughout every book. You know how I warned you not to get attached to anyone?
Oh, and don’t take sides and start to think that the baddies will get their Just Deserts. Because I can pretty much guarantee they’re not going to. Ever.
I still love it though.
Next book: I honestly have no idea. I’m so traumatised by this book, and so desperate for the next book (which doesn’t look to be out any time soon) that I feel I’m in a vortex of booklessness. Help!
The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
Spectra Books: paperback published 2006: 483 pages
Secreted away in a garden, a lonely girl spins stories to warm a curious prince: peculiar feats and unspeakable fates that loop through each other and back again to meet in the tapestry of her voice. Inked on her eyelids, each twisting, tattooed tale is a piece in the puzzle of the girl’s own hidden history. And what tales she tells! Tales of shape-shifting witches and wild horse-women, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars – each story more strange and fantastic than the one that came before. From ill-tempered “mermaid” to fastidious Beast, nothing is ever quite what it seems in these ever-shifting tales – even, and especially, their teller. Adorned with illustrations by the legendary Michael Kaluta, Valente’s enchanting lyrical fantasy offers a breathtaking reinvention of the untold myths and dark fairy tales that shape our dreams. And just when you think you’ve come to the end, you realize the adventure has only begun…
I was harangued into reading this by the ever-fabulous Lunameth. And I’m glad she did! I think the word “lyrical” is the best way to describe these stories – because, essentially, they are a lot of short stories bundled into one long thread. Which is what I quite enjoyed this book – little bite size pieces that were each enjoyable in themselves, but even better strung together. I really don’t have much more to say on the matter because it’s a book that has to be read, not talked about. If you’re a fantasy writer, you MUST READ THIS BOOK. It gave me more inspiration than any writing exercise book ever could. If you like fairy tales, fantasy novels, short stories or even lots and lots of description, this book is for you.
Downside? It felt like it took forever to read, because there were just SO MANY stories. And sometimes they got so insanely descriptive I had to re-read a few pages just to make sure I understood what was being said. Also, it ends on a cliffhanger.
Next book: Well, what did you expect? The second season of Game of Thrones is on TV (massive addiction, and E at work is my geek-buddy so we talk GoT every Tuesday over tea) so it really just had to be another George R.R Martin book. This time it’s Book Four in the series (the fifth volume), A Feast for Crows. Seeing as the last book was so traumatic, I really hope he stops killing people in this one. Just for a bit. Maybe have a marriage or a cute baby or something. Or a unicorn galloping over a rainbow with glitter in its mane… y’know, just to lighten the mood a bit.
So Twitter was awash with the joys of Game of Thrones. Not only – to my delight – are The Simpsons doing a spoof of the (multi-award-winning and highly addictive and epic) TV series (based on the most amazing fantasy novels I’ve read). BUT. Wait for it.
SEASON ONE IS NOW OUT ON DVD!
I can’t contain my excitement. I really, honestly can’t. Which is why I’m dedicating this post to the amazingness of everything that is the Game of Thrones. And I can say, without doubt, Game of Thrones saved my life. You wonder why? Then you probably haven’t read/seen it and therefore not had your life saved.
1. It saved me from boring/stilted reading
The advantages of a series of books means that you can have several weeks of uninterrupted, joyous reading in the same story universe. The extra advantage of reading this particular series (A Song of Ice and Fire for those who need to know) is that it is so unimaginably amazing, you can’t be bored. It’s a physical impossibility. Even when not reading the book and doing normal, everyday stuff, you can’t help but be excited by the fact that you are reading these books. [And, if you’re me, you also imagine eating your porridge at the same table as the Starks, and suddenly breakfast is that much more interesting.]
2. It introduced me to Jon Snow
I hasten to add that I am less inclined to be attracted to the 14-year-old Jon Snow in the books (that’s too weird) but the TV series Jon Snow has shown me the way. That’s a real man. I now therefore have no need to waste time on ordinary men (if you aren’t in uniform, handing me your credit card, with a sword in the other hand [not a euphemism] then I’m not interested).
3. It taught me to trust no one
The characters are so poisonous, and keep turning against one another, that you can’t help but wonder who’s backstabbing you. So therefore, I have learnt to keep a close eye on all I know … and keeping in mind some Cersei-like revenge. This, I am sure, will one day save my life.
4. It saved me from hours of mind-numbing boredom watching soap opera after soap opera.
Instead, I now spend hours of blissful TV watching without ever knowing what’s happening next (without the same old plotlines) and loving every second of it.
5. I will never again waste my time on trifling fantasy
A Game of Thrones, if it has taught me anything, is that we can’t waste our time on sub-standard fantasy – and that includes both reading and writing it. Which brings me back to my point (posts and posts ago) whereby I scrapped my sub-standard fantasy writing in the attempt to gain something from Game of Thrones. It has saved me from a life of pitiful attempts at writing (I hope).
I still have a crush on Jon Snow. There, I said it. The TV series ruined my image of him to make him a tall and hot man, not a 14-year-old boy as is mentioned in the books. I also adore Tyron Lannister and Arya Stark because they seem to get all the best lines.
So welcome back to the world of blood, betrayal and a big old ice wall.
And how I have missed it!
You get to meet new characters, and visit old friends. There are new battles to be won, and more frenemies than you can shake a stick at. Be warned if you haven’t read the first book/seen the TV series (what kind of mad are you!) – there be spoilers ahead.
Ned Stark is dead. His eldest son, Robb, is named King of the North, and one of the younger Starks is crippled after seeing brother-and-sister Lannisters in an act that shouldn’t be shared by siblings. Joffrey is on the throne (technically), and his sport is beating up animals that get in his way and poor little Sansa Stark… who I didn’t feel too sorry for, by the way, because she really is stupid. Jon Snow is off finding his uncle the other side of the Wall with his albino direwolf, who is also amazing, and Theon Greyjoy has decided he wants to be king too and so has nicked a few ships from his dad to do it. It’s not many chapters before you lose count of kings and claimants to the throne.
Meanwhile, another favourite character of mine, Daenerys, is trekking across a massive desert with her dragons – because, if you hadn’t already guessed it, she wants to be queen.
Cersei (regent until Joffrey is “of age”) and the Imp (woo! Go Tyrion!) are having a battle of wills over the control and salvage of a starving King’s Landing, leaving the late king’s elder brother to sail across and whoops! insult his younger brother, who also wants to be king. Catelyn Stark is rushing about like a headless thing (no pun intended, and all respect to the late Ned) trying to get all the kings to talk and not hack at each other with armies, while Arya’s desperately trying to escape home, posing as a boy recruited into the Night’s Watch. Oh yeah, and if you’re not confused enough? Winter is coming… not just because the Starks keep saying it, it really is, everyone says so now; which means things are really only going to get worse.
These books are epic – not just for their huge 800+ pages, but because Martin covers an ENTIRE WORLD in one fell swoop. You’ve got different armies, families, religions, countries… the list could go on. The magic of it all? There isn’t a single weak link. Everything is so carefully thought out and it all fits together brilliantly. I don’t kid myself that I could ever be this good a writer, but I really wish I could be! I’m now leaving you to go back to my book – I have another 300 or so pages to go and not even a pack of direwolves will take me from it (though Jon Snow might).
Yes, you’ll be pleased to hear that I have at last finished A Game of Thrones… and wow. SO, if you don’t want spoilers, don’t read the next paragraph!
So the TV series finishes with Daenerys in labour and Eddard about to have his head lopped off in front of his daughters. That was a pretty annoying ending because you don’t know if a) the baby is born, b) Eddard actually really does have his head lopped off, c) if Khal Drogo survives and d) if you’re going to see Jon Snow with his top off again. Thankfully, the book doesn’t leave you on these cliffhangers (although Jon Snow is less fanciable in the book, being around 14). So, yes, Eddard has his head lopped off – and, might I add, this is very upsetting as I now don’t know who will find out the truth about Joffrey next – and Daenerys has her monster baby, but it’s dead, and Khal Drogo survives but is a vegetable. This seems a very sad ending for each of the characters that I invested several days and 780 pages into. But! It doesn’t end there… Jon Snow abandons his post at the wall, shock-horror, but is taken back by his friends, but THE BEST BIT EVER is that Daenerys, after smothering her husband in an half-mad act of cruel-to-be-kind (again, in the TV series, Drogo is fanciable, which is why I was so upset to see him die now), puts the dragon eggs into the fire (as well as herself) and THREE DRAGONS ARE BORN. Oh yes. This instantly makes this the most awesome book series ever. Do you know why? Because I literally have no idea what’s going to happen next. Joffrey is on the throne, and his grandfather hates him, Eddard is dead and Sansa is hostage. Jon Snow is about to go North of the Wall to find his suspected-dead uncle. Robb has been named King of the North, Renly Baratheon has announced himself king to contend against Joffrey, and now there are dragons. I have no idea who we should be supporting or hating, who’s going to win and what the hell is going to happen next.
I’m heading straight to Waterstones for the next one.
Wait, no. I promised I’d read First Rider’s Call next. Damn.
I know, I know, I was briefly silent. Blame my internet – I have to rely on an infrequent and temperamental Dongle that only works when it feels like. I’m now back at the flat in Basingstoke – my den. Yes, I love my parent’s house, and my slightly mental cat, and the free food (I’m pretty sure these jeans weren’t that tight before I stayed there…), but nothing quite equals having My Own Place. Okay, so my bed’s broken (in the most boring way possible, I’m afraid – I lay on it) and I’m currently sleep on a mattress, and I’m too scared to turn on the heating until I get a Proper Job again. Oh, and the fridge is half-empty (hello size 10 by the end of September). But it’s Mine.
So what have I been doing with this valuable offline-time? Apart from reading (yes, I’m still ploughing my way through A Game of Thrones, but you’ll be pleased to hear I’m over halfway now), and apart from my “fascinating” temp job to add a few pennies to my pitiful bank account; well – I’ve been applying for jobs… HA!
Really, I’ve been fighting with myself over my characters. Who loves Aistren and our mysterious Cadellan?
Well, yes I do. But remember what I was doing in my last post? I’ve been writing fantasy on-and-off since the innocent age of 14 (I was awful back then, but managed to find one or two acceptable bits) and after all my chopping and sticking and rearranging, the one thing I’m not short of are characters… and I really want some of them to appear now. Like Rayne, my redhead, or Sanoh, my scarred and elegant duchess… or how about Jarett, my arrogant shit of a good-looking man, who you hate so much you kind of want to rip his clothes off?
Am I the only person who has favourites? The same characters you go back to again and again and desperately try to shoe-horn into every story you ever write because you just know how awesome they are and you know exactly what they would say in that situation. They come to your rescue every time you’ve written yourself into a corner with some pithy comment or amazing feat of bravery/cowardice/sexiness. You know the ones. The ones you think you’d want to be.
So, now what do I do? Do I push my favourites to the top of the class, and swiftly and subtly erase our kitchen-woman and slave-that-isn’t-a-slave? Do I try to blend the two and have an epic host of characters to rival War and Peace? Or do I just start again (which, by the way, I hate doing because it takes about 15 attempts of “starting again” until you end up in exactly the same place you were before).
So, here’s my question to you; do you want to hear more about Aistren and the Cadellan? Or are you bored with them already?
Now, I know some of you have been instructing me to read MORE. I hate to disappoint, but I am still on A Game of Thrones, purely for the reason that it’s 700-odd pages long and I have been distracted and therefore not dedicated my entire day to reading it (shock, horror). I will, however, pledge to read EVERYONE’s recommendations as quickly as possible.
So, to my writing today. Yesterday I put my world together; continents (now reduced to simple countries when I ran out of ideas), peoples, religions and even what my peoples will look like. Thoroughly populated, my world now needs something happening…
So I played the Word Puzzle. Has anyone ever tried this? I printed off every single piece of fantasy writing I had ever done – from single sentences to my appalling teenage novel that I thought was amazing at the time. Then, I attacked…
Grab a pair of scissors, some glue and the scrapbook that you’re putting together (mine is a beautiful green and gold brocaded one that was £3 from Tiger in Basingstoke) and go for it. Some of it, I cringe at what I wrote, other bits I love it. In fact, I love one bit so much, that I kind of think it could be an opening! I am going to honour you all with this writing, and let you guys tear into it; be honest, and also I wonder – where could it go!?
In the city, the tavern was not one that would have been noticed by many. It was cramped between equally unremarkable buildings, down a shadowy street that elbowed itself between narrow roads and alleys. A sign hung above the door, paint peeling and hinges rusting from years of neglect. Rain dripped from the clogged gutter into the muddied street. The city was mostly paved or cobbled, but the smaller alleys had no surface, and when the rains came, the ground turned to ankle deep mud. The lamps that hung along the road, desperately trying to illuminate the gathering dark, stuttered in the breeze. The tavern sat in this gloom, carefully thrusting light from its narrow, smoky windows.
The cloaked figure brushed the shadows, and paused under the sign, glancing up at it – The Cork and Lantern. The door opened to allow a puddle of light to fall onto the figure’s feet, and a rush of heat and scent and noise rubbed itself against the dark. The person stepped inside, clods of mud falling off their boots onto the wooden floor. Raindrops sluiced from the cloak as the figure pulled back their hood, revealing a tall, broad male with dark hair tied back and stubble across his chin. The bartender glanced up and froze. The visitor flickered a smile. The rotund owner scuttled across, darting nervous eyes around the crowded room.
“Hello Belsmont,” the visitor announced in an undertone.
“She at least had the decency to arrive around the back.”
“Ah, Belsmont, surely no one here would betray you.”
“Things have changed since you’ve been gone. No one can tell who is friend and who is enemy anymore. Here, come around to the kitchens, Aistren has food and mead waiting for you.”
Belsmont led the man around into the kitchens. Clattering noises assailed them. Barmaids sat on stools by the back door, smoking cigarettes – they were foreigners to the city, and the smoking was an unusual sight. The man regarded them for a moment, as Belsmont scuttled across to a young woman, whose brow was shining with sweat, and strands of hair had escaped her bun and were sticking to her temples.
“Aistren, please get a meal ready for our guest. Also, get a new barrel for him.”
Aistren glanced up at the man, who was still watching the blue-grey tendrils of smoke from the cigarettes. She narrowed her eyes, instantly suspicious. Feeling her gaze, the man looked across, and Aistren felt a jolt in her stomach at the sight of his eyes – one brown and one blue. A Cadellan with no slave band. Another one, after that woman.
“Another guest, Belsmont?” she snapped, turning away. “How do you expect me to run a kitchen whilst dealing with your guests?”
“Don’t ask questions,” he replied, more brusque than usual. “Just do it.”
Aistren flapped a hand at him and muttered the obligatory, “Yes, yes.”
“And our lady guest, where is she?”
“In the room you instructed for her to be in. Jan took the horse to the stable and made sure it was bedded down for the night.”
“If Jan could do the same with my horse.”
Aistren jumped and spun around. The man had approached them and was rolling an apple around on his palm. Aistren snatched the apple from him. The man pronounced it yan, with a thick Cadellan accent.
And so it begins… what should I begin with? I have decided to add to my collection of blogs (The Fashion Lover being my latest and most worthy blog, and Welcome to Your Twenties being my aborted attempt at real-life drama). This one, for its sins, will be solely around my writing and everything to do with it. So, welcome, and I hope you enjoy the musings.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
I’ll be honest – I started to read this because a certain Bathonian friend introduced me to the TV series with Sean Bean. I had been under the false impression that it was a historical drama, much like The Tudors or the book, Wolf Hall. As soon as I found out it was fantasy, well, the book went straight on my list! My meagre attempts at fantasy-writing are only aided and abetted by my extensive fantasy reading. I managed to find the book in WHSmith in Northampton (the one with the original cover, not the TV cover, as I have an unerring aversion to those covers). I had to finish the previous book (Black Powder War by Naomi Novik) before starting this one, which I did yesterday. I’m on page 188.
I think I might be falling in love with this book – it’s rocketing up my list, and even rivalling Tolkien’s reign. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are the first fantasy books (in the most accurate description unless you include Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree) that I discovered. But Tolkien’s world lacks one thing that Martin’s seems to have found – political intrigue. And sex. We can add sex onto that. But Martin’s weaving of the various characters is as in-depth as I’ve ever found it. Fantasy is notorious for its flat characters and lackadaisical worlds – most rip-offs of Middle-Earth. But Martin’s are easily believable – they existed before the book, and will continue to do so after I have finished reading.
That’s my favourite thing about reading – finding a world that you think could be real, but is just out of your line of sight; half-glimpsed and wondered at. Somewhere to escape to when the real world gets a little too… bogged down.
Anyway, if you’ve seen the TV series, I definitely recommend going to read the book; the series honours it very closely, but doesn’t seem to live up to the vast quality of Martin’s story-telling.
The beginnings of the fantasy world
As mentioned, I have spent many years trying desperately to write a decent fantasy. There seems to be one reason that I keep falling flat on my face, and that is the first hurdle: setting. Tolkien had Middle-Earth, and even Neil Gaiman manages to find a fantastical setting for his characters (I read Neverwhere when I was commuting to London for internships and I will never look at the Underground in the same way again). But for me, I can’t agree with myself on anything. I have literally box-files full of fantasy worlds and histories and peoples and languages and even the beginnings to adventure stories that I have created and discarded over the years. I have maps I drew at 15, descriptions of magical artefacts that would be best put to use in yet another world, and even a list of Gods and Goddesses that may prove useful somewhere else. So my first step is to collate it into a comprehensible world, that – for once – agrees with itself.
My first step was the maps. I rewrote some of the names (at 15, I don’t think I was that original) and decided on what my world was. The next step is to decide who populates the world – where they are in my world and why, and why should my reader care about them. With seven continents and five seas to populate, I might have my work cut out for me.
So, next step. Get chopping. I’ve printed off everything to do with my fantasy writing from year Dot (aged 15 and terribly narrow-minded it seems) and attacked it with a pair of scissors… a hair colour here, a name there, a government in between. It seems to be working quite well, I’m rather liking my races of peoples that I’m putting in my world. They work together, and where one is lacking another is plentiful; I’ve yet to decide on my favourites (I’ve had no adorable “Hobbits” pop up yet) but I think that will come in time.
My next step will be to decide what else I will put into the world – after all, my peoples have to have something to fight about.