A good thing in George RR Martin’s thick Game of Thrones (the first of a series) is the character list in the back. So many characters! It’s like Bleak House.
It would have been improved if it had a checkbox behind each one, so you could check them off as they died.
Characters die a lot on the various struggles for power.
A friend loaned me the first book (“Yeah, thanks,” I murmured as I hefted it). It was pretty standard stuff, guys on horses, guys with swords, a threat from the north, the uneasy lord, every bit of dialog sprinkled with “My lady” and “My liege”. Dada dada da. Nothing as exotic as Tigana.
And then I started to care. Like a car slowly cresting a long rise – no longer laboring but gradually accelerating, I found myself flipping a few more pages before going to bed every night. I wanted to know what the latest Lannister scheme was, how Lord Stark would deal with his latest domestic issue (like that crippled son of his). My interest kept growing as exiles sought favor with barbarian clans, courtiers schemed around the throne, and a bastard made a career upon the northern wall.
And as the action heated up, Martin started killing these characters off.
That’s what really caught me – the one’s he killed. First it was a second-tier character or two. Fine. But then main characters started to go. That rocked me back. And finally, a character I figured to be unkillable (not because of magic armor or prophecy or anything silly, but because he was central to the plot) got it. And no, no resurrection, no healing potion – that’s his head on that spike.
I’ll talk in a week or so about the literary charm of killing characters, but Martin’s got that, and a nod to him for carrying it through. I’ll be reading the other books (eventually) and hope that he can continue the solid storytelling and honest plot he’s followed so far. It took a while for me to heat up, but yes, I’ll admit, I’m hooked.