Although we bitch and moan about GRR Martin, and deservedly so, I think it is important to remember how very, very good Martin was in his first three novels. Let’s face it, the reason we complain – or write successor works – is due to the intensity of our disappointment with the last two works in light of the previous three. It is enlightening to see The Red Wedding again through the eyes of someone who is not familiar with the books:
What’s most interesting to me as this third season of Game of Thrones bleeds out all around us is the way its creators — Martin, certainly, as well as his able adaptors, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — are playing with more than just television storytelling conventions. They’re playing with storytelling itself. Robb and his family aren’t just cursed for believing in fairy tales — disembowled dreams like justice and happy endings — they themselves are fairy tales. Robb was the young prince boosted by righteousness and romance. Sansa was the beautiful innocent with visions of love and lemon cakes dancing in her pretty, untroubled head. And Arya — so painfully close to her family, thankfully not quite close enough to die alongside them — was the stereotypical tomboy who dreams of becoming a warrior. Once again it fell to the Hound to disabuse a Stark of her idyllic prentensions. Arya’s idea of a “real” killer isn’t a scarred pragmatist like Sandor Clegane — who, despite the little lady’s constant proclamations, has always struck me as a pretty nice guy, all things considered! — it’s a fantasy fulfillment machine like Jaqen H’ghar. You remember him, right? He’s the face-changing Lothario who granted Arya three wishes last year then vanished in a puff of smoke. That’s not a real killer. That’s a genie. Can you imagine Martin’s version of Snow White? The wicked Queen would reign supreme while the heroine would wind up crucified in Littlefinger’s brothel.
Fans of Westeros can, and should, be critical of Martin. But they should not forget the reason they became fans in the first place. Whether you like what he does or not, no one has done it better. My own Arts of Dark and Light are neither a ripoff of Martin nor a homage, but they are quite obviously influenced by him.
And who knows, perhaps he’ll pull a dragon or two out of a hat and The Winds of Winter will be more akin to the earlier books. At least until it is published, we can hope.