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Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire

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Foreword by New York Times bestselling author R.A. Salvatore Go beyond the Wall and across the narrow sea with this collection about George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, from A Game of Thrones to A Dance with Dragons. The epic game of thrones chronicled in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has captured the imaginations of millions of readers. In Bey Foreword by New York Times bestselling author R.A. Salvatore Go beyond the Wall and across the narrow sea with this collection about George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, from A Game of Thrones to A Dance with Dragons. The epic game of thrones chronicled in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has captured the imaginations of millions of readers. In Beyond the Wall, bestselling authors and acclaimed critics offer up thought-provoking essays and compelling insights: Daniel Abraham reveals the unique challenges of adapting the original books into graphic novels. Westeros.org founders Linda Antonsson and Elio M. Garcia, Jr., explore the series' complex heroes and villains, and their roots in the Romantic movement. Wild Cards contributor Caroline Spector delves into the books' controversial depictions of power and gender. Plus much more, from military science fiction writer Myke Cole on the way Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder shapes many of the leading characters to author and television writer Ned Vizzini on the biases against genre fiction that color critical reactions to the series. Contributors: R.A. Salvatore (foreword) Daniel Abraham Linda Antonsson Myke Cole Elio M. Garcia, Jr. Brent Hartinger John Jos. Miller Alyssa Rosenberg Jesse Scoble Caroline Spector Matt Staggs Susan Vaught Ned Vizzini Gary Westfahl Adam Whitehead Andrew Zimmerman Jones

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Foreword by New York Times bestselling author R.A. Salvatore Go beyond the Wall and across the narrow sea with this collection about George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, from A Game of Thrones to A Dance with Dragons. The epic game of thrones chronicled in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has captured the imaginations of millions of readers. In Bey Foreword by New York Times bestselling author R.A. Salvatore Go beyond the Wall and across the narrow sea with this collection about George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, from A Game of Thrones to A Dance with Dragons. The epic game of thrones chronicled in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has captured the imaginations of millions of readers. In Beyond the Wall, bestselling authors and acclaimed critics offer up thought-provoking essays and compelling insights: Daniel Abraham reveals the unique challenges of adapting the original books into graphic novels. Westeros.org founders Linda Antonsson and Elio M. Garcia, Jr., explore the series' complex heroes and villains, and their roots in the Romantic movement. Wild Cards contributor Caroline Spector delves into the books' controversial depictions of power and gender. Plus much more, from military science fiction writer Myke Cole on the way Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder shapes many of the leading characters to author and television writer Ned Vizzini on the biases against genre fiction that color critical reactions to the series. Contributors: R.A. Salvatore (foreword) Daniel Abraham Linda Antonsson Myke Cole Elio M. Garcia, Jr. Brent Hartinger John Jos. Miller Alyssa Rosenberg Jesse Scoble Caroline Spector Matt Staggs Susan Vaught Ned Vizzini Gary Westfahl Adam Whitehead Andrew Zimmerman Jones

30 review for Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amalia Gavea

    This collection of essays edited by James Lowder is one of the best books about the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R.Martin. Each contributor touches upon themes that are vital in the wonderfully twisted universe that Martin has created. ''The Palace of Love, the Palace of Sorrow'' by Linda Antonsson and Elio M.Garcia. I don't particularly like this duo as personalities, but their essay touches upon the movement of Romanticism, the way it influenced Martin's writing and draws a very in This collection of essays edited by James Lowder is one of the best books about the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R.Martin. Each contributor touches upon themes that are vital in the wonderfully twisted universe that Martin has created. ''The Palace of Love, the Palace of Sorrow'' by Linda Antonsson and Elio M.Garcia. I don't particularly like this duo as personalities, but their essay touches upon the movement of Romanticism, the way it influenced Martin's writing and draws a very interesting comparison between the classical Byronic hero and Jaime Lannister. It is easily the best essay in the collection. ''Men and Monsters'' by Alyssa Rosenberg. The essay deals with Martin's way of using monstrous actions like murder, rape, betrayal, to advance the narrative and expose the vices of his world and ours. Rosenberg provides a lot of interesting answers to these who claim that Martin is cruel to his female characters. Each season since 2011, the time when the TV series hit our screens, there are critics who cry ''Horror'' each time a sex scene appears, when a woman is mistreated, accussing Martin or the screenwriters as misogynists. Frankly, how can these critics become more and more ludicrous year after year is beyond me. Read a Medieval history book, I say to them. The era upon which the series is based, had nothing to do with the Idylls of Knighthood. ''Same Song in a Different Key'' by Daniel Abraham deals with the grapjic novel based on the series. ''An Unreliable World by Adam Whitehead talks about the way certain key events are altered each time a different character narrates or remembers them. The most crucial example is the relationship between Rheagar and Lyanna. ''Back to the Egg by Gary Westfahl deals with the Dunk and Egg stories. ''Art Imitates War by Myke Cole. One of the most interesting essays of the collection, touching upon the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the series. Theon and Arya take centre stage here. ''The Brutal Cost of Redemption in Westeros'' by Susan Vaught. Which character does the word ''redemption'' bring to mind? If you don't answer ''Jaime''', you haven't been paying attention. In addition, Susan Vaught makes some very interesting remarks on the Stark family in all their ''righteousness'' and how their unwise choices bring about disaster, especially in the case of Catelyn Stark. ''Of Direwolves and Gods'' by Andrew Zimmerman Jones. The presence -or lack of it- of the many different gods in Westeros and beyond and the significance (?) of the direwolves. ''A Sword Without A Hilt'' by Jesse Scoble. The function of witchcraft in the events that seal the War of the Five Kings. ''Petyr Baelish and the Mask of Sanity'' by Matt Stuggs. Yes, this one...Littlefinger...The man we all love to hate. Probably the only character with a few scraps of brain in his head. ''A Different Kind of Other'' by Brent Hartinger. One of the elements that prove how much of a genius Martin is comes with the fact that he created characters who represent types of people cast out by society (even by today's norms) and brought them to the spotlight. ''Power and Feminism in Westeros'' by Caroline Spector. I didn't feel comfortable with this essay. I never feel comfortable with the views that constantly belittle Sansa as docile and cowardish, ignoring the codex of the era, glorifying Brienne and Arya just because they adopt a male attire. Or with the view that dismisses Daenerys'love for Drogo as ''absurd'', a simple Stockhom syndrome affair. Needless to say, the essayist didn't convince me at all. ''Collecting Ice and Fire in the Age of Nook and Kindle by John Jos. Miller. > Interesting to see how the TV adaptation brought the popularity of the book in sky-high levels. ''Beyond the Ghetto by Ned Vizzini. How George R.R.Martin transcends the boundaries of genres with his creation. A great choice for those who love the series. At the time of publication, the five books of A Song of Ice and Fire and the first season of A Game of Thrones had come out. Now, if we could magically have the sixth book, ''The Winds of Winter, it would make for a very good 2017...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Argona

    This book is basically a collection of essays on “A Song of Ice and Fire”. It was better than I expected and I really enjoyed reading some of these essays. It’s true that there are many amazing essays on ASOIAF available online, most of them created by devoted fans and for free. I have read many of these amazing online analyses but I still found very interesting information and thought-provoking analyses in this book. Some of the essays were very fascinating and informative and thought-provoking This book is basically a collection of essays on “A Song of Ice and Fire”. It was better than I expected and I really enjoyed reading some of these essays. It’s true that there are many amazing essays on ASOIAF available online, most of them created by devoted fans and for free. I have read many of these amazing online analyses but I still found very interesting information and thought-provoking analyses in this book. Some of the essays were very fascinating and informative and thought-provoking while some others were quite boring to me and didn’t interest me at all. These essays were either exploring subjects uninteresting to me, or were repetitive with no compelling insight. I especially enjoyed “Men and Monsters” by Alyssa Rosenberg which explored rape and sexual violence in ASOIAF. It was quite an eye-opener and it deepened my understanding of Martin’s intentions when he decided to include so many acts of sexual violence against women in his books. I admire this man even more now! It’s sad how much his intentions are misunderstood and he is accused of sexism! “Art imitates War” was also very fascinating and informative. It explored “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” in ASOIAF, using Arya and Theon in particular to show both sides of this complicated disorder and how it can affect different people in different ways. “The Palace of Love, The Palace of Sorrow” explored Romanticism in A Song of Ice and Fire and was quite interesting. “The Brutal Cost of Redemption in Westeros” explored Moral Ambiguity and had a very fascinating view on the morality of Westeros where Winter comes into the picture. I am not sure I agree with it completely, particularly when it comes to characters like Robb, but I did find the author’s argument quite sound and in a certain level, quite true. “Petyr Baelish and The Mask of Sanity” explored the psychology of a sociopath and was quite convincing. Again, I am not sure I agree with it completely but I found the reasoning quite logical. I simply think we need to wait for the series to end before making a final judgment regarding a character. I should also mention "A Different Kind of Other" that explored the role of Freaks and Outcasts in A Song of Ice and Fire. This essay totally won me over by pointing out the main outcasts in the series, which is half the population of Westeros, in other words, WOMEN! Yes, G.R.R.M knows what he is doing and he has a point! If you choose to read this book, keep in mind that you should only read it AFTER finishing the 5th book in the series, “A Dance with Dragons”, since this book contains many spoilers, possibly very very big ones for those unsuspecting readers who haven’t reread each book at least twice. This book contains popular fan-theories, so read it ONLY if you want to KNOW these theories! So I recommend this book if you have finished the 5th book, you’re completely addicted to ASOIAF and you’re trying to maintain your sanity while waiting for the publication of “Winds of Winter”.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mary S. R.

    5 STARS! essays to devour and savour the taste :) A writer writes to get people asking questions more than to give them answers, and the ultimate achievement of literature is to begin a conversation. To read the essays that follow is to recognize the depth and breadth of the conversation A Song of Ice and Fire has started. Fantasy has always been a genre critics—and people not already in love with it—have called a "game" or "juvenile" or "cliché" or even "trash" and dismissed it as not having any 5 STARS! essays to devour and savour the taste :) A writer writes to get people asking questions more than to give them answers, and the ultimate achievement of literature is to begin a conversation. To read the essays that follow is to recognize the depth and breadth of the conversation A Song of Ice and Fire has started. Fantasy has always been a genre critics—and people not already in love with it—have called a "game" or "juvenile" or "cliché" or even "trash" and dismissed it as not having any literary or academic worth; in fact, when it started in the 18th-19th century, it was to distinguish popular works they didn't want to call "crap"—just for the fact that it would be impolite and nothing else— from literary fiction and noteworthy works. What George R.R. Martin accomplished with A Song of Ice and Fire—and what the essayists masterfully analyzed in this book—was to "lift the boat" for all the writers in the genre who have had to continually defend their works that explore imagination so artfully, against critics that call them "childish" despite the serious themes explored. Beyond the Wall is a must read for any who question the fame of A Song of Ice and Fire series and ignorantly dismiss it as being a mere popular fiction with sex and battles and nobels and dragons; because these books are, in fact, not for the faint of heart. There's a reason why Martin's work has blown the mind of observant readers away, and has successfully shaken the critics who had so strictly placed themselves against the Fantasy genre itself. Beyond the Wall is also a must read for fans who want to understand how much more of a masterpiece ASOIAF is than even they could think! To be noted: These essays are written with the assumption that the reader is already aware of the story (through the books or TV show) and thus contain spoilers for the series! The essays in this book and the themes explored in each: FOREWORD: Stories for the Nights to Come by R.A. SalvatoreWhy Fantasy? Why write it? To entertain? To enlighten? To cut new alleyways of allegory? To chase spirituality with magic?This author writes a fantastic foreword for the book, exploring the "genre" and what labeling achieves—and fails to achieve—about books.That’s the thing about fantasy. Set aside the strange trappings, erase the swirl of magic and strike the fairy-tale castles, and you have elves and dwarves and evil orcs that the author has to make, in the end, human; if the readers cannot identify with the sensibilities of these characters as they react to the pressure of their surroundings, the book, like any book shelved under any label, will fail.Using different authors and works as examples, Salvatore explores these dilemmas briefly but effectively to prepare us for the essays which will each dive into thorough analysis of Martin's books and the conversation they have started.Classify it anyway you’d like; call it fantasy, or low fantasy, or high fantasy, or allegory. Feel free to assign the label of your choice. I’m sure those labels won’t bother George, however they’re applied or defined. Because what he knows, what the essayists in this volume and his millions of fans certainly know, is that what he really writes are damned great books, for this night and all the nights to come.This foreword absolutely blew me away and captivated me! Extremely well-written and informing. INTRODUCTION: In Praise of Living History by James LowderA Song of Ice and Fire is not a casual read. To work through a foot-tall stack of purposefully challenging novels requires enough of a commitment that, were the novels not brilliant, the dabblers and the fad-chasers would quickly find some less daunting object for their fickle affection. Martin announces in just about every way possible, from the books’ page counts to the long and name-filled appendixes, that they are going to be hard work. Or, at least, they will appear to be hard work.The editor goes over the evolution of ASoIaF in the public eye, and its success even before its show hit TelevisionThe tightly focused individual chapters functioning quite like the movement of discrete units in a miniatures battle.Analyzing the structure of the books and the writing in general, it also also addresses the chaos of the book and Martin's publishing datesThe chaos is a sign of creative freedom. It shows just how vital, how organic, this magnificent series has become. “Dead history is writ in ink,” notes Roderick “The Reader” Harlaw in A Feast for Crows, “the living sort in blood.” The Lord of the Ten Towers may prefer his history dead, but I prefer mine living, thanks very much. My fiction, too.Lowder's great writing style does much and more to make this amazing introduction and rapping up of the matter even more fabulous! THE PALACE OF LOVE, THE PALACE OF SORROW: Romanticism in A Song of Ice and Fire by Linda Antonsson and Elio M. García, Jr. RTC MEN AND MONSTERS: Rape, Myth-Making, and the Rise and Fall of Nations in A Song of Ice and Fire by Alyssa Rosenberg RTC SAME SONG IN A DIFFERENT KEY: Adapting A Game of Thrones as a Graphic Novel by Daniel Abraham RTC AN UNRELIABLE WORLD: History and Timekeeping in Westeros by Adam Whitehead RTC BACK TO THE EGG: The Prequels to A Song of Ice and Fire by Gary Westfahl RTC ART IMITATES WAR: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in A Song of Ice and Fire by Myke Cole RTC THE BRUTAL COST OF REDEMPTION IN WESTEROS: Or, What Moral Ambiguity? by Susan Vaught RTC OF DIREWOLVES AND GODS by Andrew Zimmerman Jones RTC A SWORD WITHOUT A HILT: The Dangers of Magic in (and to) Westeros by Jesse Scoble RTC PETYR BAELISH AND THE MASK OF SANITY by Matt Staggs RTC A DIFFERENT KIND OF OTHER: The Role of Freaks and Outcasts in A Song of Ice and Fire by Brent Hartinger RTC POWER AND FEMINISM IN WESTEROS by Caroline Spector RTC COLLECTING ICE AND FIRE IN THE AGE OF NOOK AND KINDLE by John Jos. MillerHumanity can be sorted into—among other things—collectors and noncollectors. To me and many others, collecting is a primal urge equivalent to eating and sleeping. This trait is not going to disappear from human nature anytime soon.Relating to my inner "collector" that sometimes drives me to excessive lengths, this essay was a precious account of the history of ASoIaF editions up for grabs, with prices, available shops and publication dates, it's an awesome analysis of the worldwide sales and their gradual popularity! It awakened the sleeping collector beast inside of me which I keep having to lull to sleep to prevent money-throwing-around casualties... BEYOND THE GHETTO: How George R.R. Martin Fights the Genre Wars by Ned Vizzini RTC It is safe to say that George R.R. Martin was a major turning point for fantasy—and Beyond the Wall will make you understand why. Companions Related books: • A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1) • A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2) • A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3) • A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4) • A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5) • A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (The Tales of Dunk and Egg, #1-3) • The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones • The Lands of Ice and Fire: Maps from King's Landing to Across the Narrow Sea • Blood & Fire (A Targaryen History, #1) • A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook

  4. 5 out of 5

    Petra

    First of all, this book contains spoilers up untill A Dance with Dragons, so if havent read it yet, catch up before reading this book. Before I get to the review, I want to share this quote from the book; "GEORGE R.R. MARTIN’S A Song of Ice and Fire has been a success, in large part, because it has recaptured fans of the fantasy genre who had grown bored and moved away from the standard fare, and because it has reached a wide audience of those who traditionally do not read or watch fantasy genre e First of all, this book contains spoilers up untill A Dance with Dragons, so if haven´t read it yet, catch up before reading this book. Before I get to the review, I want to share this quote from the book; "GEORGE R.R. MARTIN’S A Song of Ice and Fire has been a success, in large part, because it has recaptured fans of the fantasy genre who had grown bored and moved away from the standard fare, and because it has reached a wide audience of those who traditionally do not read or watch fantasy genre entertainment." That really includes me, I haven´t read fantasy in a while, because I felt that it became too predictable and cliched. Now, you can say a lot of things about A Song of Ice and Fire; "predictable" and "cliche" are definitely not among them. Now back to the review.Basically this book is a collection of essays on the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, each essay analyzing different aspects of the very complex world that Martin created in his books. It also includes a foreword by R.A Salvatore and a note from editor , both worth reading My favorite essays include; MEN AND MONSTERS Rape, Myth-Making, and the Rise and Fall of Nations in A Song of Ice and Fire by ALYSSA ROSENBERG, which explores the nature of sexual violence in the series. "Rape touches the lives, and shapes the world, of almost all the characters in the series, be they noble or common-born, perpetrators or victims. And while each of them feels pain, and terror, and anger individually, it’s given to us to see the collective impact of these assaults across continents" Another one that was very interesting is AN UNRELIABLE WORLD History and Timekeeping in Westeros by ADAM WHITEHEAD, which explores the history of Westeros, namely the unreliability of it. "To this end, the message of A Song of Ice and Fire may be that nothing is certain, not the world’s history and not the history of any individual within it. Everything is in the eye of the beholder, and the acts of one character may be heinous crimes to some but heroism to others." ART IMITATES WAR Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in A Song of Ice and Fire by MYKE COLE, in which he talks about PTSD and how it affects individuals differently comparing Arya´s and Theon´s very different reactions to trauma. "The behaviors of Arya and Theon, as well as other characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, so closely reflect behaviors I have seen in real combatants returning from war, in real crisis responders dealing with the aftermath of their experiences, that it shouldn’t go unremarked". OF DIREWOLVES AND GODS by ANDREW ZIMMERMAN JONES is a brilliant piece about the religions of westeros and how closely they resemble the religions in the real world. "In fact, the religions portrayed in A Song of Ice and Fire are reflections of the religions in our own world. They require a leap of faith, because the effects of belief are so intangible. The religions of Westeros claim to dictate absolute, perfect truths through imprecise, flawed institutions and beings—just like the religions we encounter every day" . PETYR BAELISH AND THE MASK OF SANITYby MATT STAGGS is another great one exploring the psychopathic behaviors of Littlefinger. " Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish isn’t a normal person: he is a psychopath, and this makes him an unsettlingly skilled player in the game. Littlefinger has no emotional chinks in his armor, mostly because he doesn’t have any real emotions—at least in the way that normal people understand them. Without any of the emotional vulnerabilities of a relatively healthy human being, Littlefinger is insulated against the pitfalls that await others who fight for power in Westeros.". These are just my personal favorites, there are more essays some exploring feminism or magic or outcasts and many other things in the world of Westeros and Essos. There were two essays that didn´t interest me one about the problems of adapting the series to graphic novels by Daniel Abraham, and another one about collecting first editions by John Jos Miller. All in all, this book exceeded my expectations, and is highly recommended to any fan of the series.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Johnny

    Robert A. Salvatore’s “Foreword” to Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, From A Game of Thrones to A Dance with Dragons sets a near-perfect tone for this entire book of criticism on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. He says all of those things we’d like to say to those who demean the fantasy genre in specific (and fiction, in general) and he says it all with his particular flair. I must take slight issue with his description of Martin’s work as the Robert A. Salvatore’s “Foreword” to Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, From A Game of Thrones to A Dance with Dragons sets a near-perfect tone for this entire book of criticism on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. He says all of those things we’d like to say to those who demean the fantasy genre in specific (and fiction, in general) and he says it all with his particular flair. I must take slight issue with his description of Martin’s work as the “tapestry of Westeros, filled with resonating characters who see the world through a different and sometimes magical prism.” (p. xi) Rather, I would suggest that Martin’s work is a mural of Westeros, carved brutally out of stone and violently defaced as the story progresses by the artist’s own and deliberate hand in accordance with the tragic ebb and flow of various factions. I don’t dispute the foreword’s observation about resonating characters and the truth of the human condition, I merely have trouble with a metaphor about needlework when Martin is so much more effective when wielding an axe (or, at least, a chisel). But even my contention about this one elegant line in a foreword should communicate something of the strong, visceral reaction to be experienced when reading, contemplating, or dissecting Martin’s magnum opus. Bookending this introduction was a concluding essay regarding the establishment of Martin’s work as “authentically” literary as opposed to “mere” genre (albeit the author of the essay offers significant evidence that “genre” is merely a retail conceit). I loved the Rousseau quotation resurrected by Ned Vizzini in this essay to demonstrate the denigration of imaginative fiction: “The real world has its limits, the imaginary world is infinite. Unable to enlarge the one, let us restrict the other.” (p. 207) Citing a caustic comment on the work of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island by Henry James (Portrait of a Lady, Turn of the Screw, Daisy Miller, etc.) to the effect that such work was juvenile, Vizzini notes that the “…persistence of cliché in fantasy allows critics in the Jamesian tradition to continue to dismiss it as writing for children.” (p. 207) Vizzini contends that Martin “fights the genre wars by sidestepping them” (p. 216) and, “In doing so, he elevates other fantasy with his own.” (p. 217). For a work of such magnitude, it is surprising that it took so long for a work of criticism to appear. Fortunately for fans of the work, Ben Bella’s “Smart Pop” imprint was willing to take the risk—even though it does not have the marketing machine of the European parent to Martin’s publisher to blaze the trail of awareness and expectation. So, fellow pilgrim in the shared semiotic construct known as Westeros, it is up to reviews from unknown admirers and critics to inform you as to whether plumbing further depths in Martin’s tomes is a fruitful exercise. Frankly, if you’re looking for consensus as to this challenging corpus of literature (yes, literature!), I doubt this is the anthology of critical essays you want. If you are looking for intellectual stimulus to help you extrapolate the feelings engendered by the story (history?) and cogitate upon, Beyond the Wall makes an excellent beginning to an overdue dialogue between fans of different stripes and sensibilities. For example, I personally don’t buy the arguments in the essay on Romanticism. The authors, Ms. Antonsson and Mr. Garcia, are gifted academics and are quite right to consign human nature’s tendency to idealize the past (p. 2), revere the individual spirit (p. 6), and expect great things from “great persons.” (p. 11). However, I cannot resonate with their confidence in Martin’s “belief in the indomitable human spirit.” (p. 2) To the contrary, it seems to me that Martin offers a cynical and cautionary view toward human nature. One case in point is the evidence presented about the idealizations of the “Watch” on p. 3. Yet, they quickly offer counter-examples to their own point. Do these not arise as representative of Martin’s own view that there is an entropic decay in every organization and organism? They cite Robert’s idealization of Lyanne (p. 4) but since they immediately mitigate their evidence with Eddard’s view (p. 5) and their own observation of Robert’s superficial adoration of Lyanne compared to his actual behavior (p.5), do they not suggest that Martin clearly wants the reader to know that the “golden age” (from any perspective) is not nearly “golden” from any perspective? They do a marvelous job of presenting Ser Jaime, the Kingslayer, as a Byronic hero (p. 9) but one wonders if Jaime wouldn’t have created some sense of social stability and been perceived with some level of respect if he were, indeed, a hero? After all, he had saved the kingdom from Aerys’ idea that he could let everything be destroyed and think he could rise from the ashes like some draconic phoenix. More troubling was the effort to present Tyrion as a Byronic hero (p. 10). Weren’t certain aesthetics of beauty considered a vital part of the whole Byronic milieu? Frankly, while Tyrion is often able to make fertilizer out of manure, he sure spends a rather inordinate amount of time in the latter to be a Byronic figure. As for Martin being heavily influenced by the “Great Man Theory” (p. 11), this hardly seems plausible when every individual (whether Daenerys’ social engineering to free slaves, Jon Snow’s reforms designed to replenish the ranks fo the Watch, Cersei’s machinizations on behalf of her son(s) to keep the throne, and Quentyn Martell getting roasted rather ironically after appealing to his ancestral blood (“The hero never dies, though. I must be the hero.” Ironically, he is burned but does not rise from the ashes as his ancestor expected to be.) in A Dance with Dragons. Indeed, perhaps the most damaging argument against seeing Martin as a romanticist is Antonsson’s and Garcia’s own comment on p. 13 of this anthology: “Martin has a way of undermining idealizations.” I found myself resonating more with culture blogger and contributor to The Atlantic, Allyssa Rosenberg. Rosenberg took issue with superficial criticism of the amount of torture and violence in general and sexual violence in particular in Martin’s work. In fact, I believe she defends the nature of the work better than Martin himself (as quoted on p. 16). As a male, I thought for many years that rape was about sexuality and, specifically, about sexual frustration and perversion. In reality, it is an expression of violence and a statement of power. If you ever doubted this, Martin’s work makes it clear. In these novels, rape is primarily understood as “…a weapon of war.” (p. 19) In speaking of Daenerys’ focus as sexual assault, Rosenberg notes that the program ends up marking “…Daenerys as a vulnerable ruler, someone who is unable to practice the kind of total war favored by other successful warlords on the continent.” (p. 20) After citing numerous examples of murder and social atrocities precipitated by rape and marital rape, she notes: “Even when rape isn’t being used as an excuse to start a war or a way to manipulate court politics, a tolerance for rape and the failure to provide justice to its victim’s deforms Westeros and its enemies alike.” (p. 26) What really would have been interesting in this collection would have been some type of response by Caroline Spector concerning Rosenberg’s essay and Rosenberg’s reaction to Spector’s essay. Both come to the same basic conclusion. After Spector (yes, the wife of famous game designer, Warren Spector, and a novelist in her own right) delineated the important female characters from a feminist perspective, she concluded, “Martin has created a subversively feminist tale.” (p. 187) Spector described the female cast as follows: 1) Sansa equals the passive pawn and traditional fantasy princess who demonstrates through her victimization “…how fanciful myths hide—and perpetuate—a fundamentally oppressive social structure” (p. 176); 2) Arya’s willingness to throw off her gender “…demonstrates her understanding of the workings of power in her world.” (p. 177); 3) Brienne shows how women who dare to take power are judged and treated in conventionally patriarchal societies (p. 180); 4) Cersei sleeps with her brother to usurp the line of succession and use the tools of patriarchy against itself, yet is judged negatively (p. 182); 5) Daenerys learns ways to manipulate Drogo sexually but becomes less compassionate as she gains power (p. 185). If you are a fan of graphic novels and you are fascinated by the creative process, Daniel Abraham’s notes on adapting the series to graphic novel format is fascinating. Did you know that they had to “age” Daenerys for the graphic novel due to the strictures of the PROTECT Act of 2003 because the presentation of Khal Drogo’s marital rape of his child bride would have been considered promoting child pornography? Did you ever consider how dialogue that worked well in prose form would come off very boring if presented with talking heads and word balloons? (p. 35) My other favorite essay (among the many) was Adam Whitehead’s essay about considering the work as history. He notes that “accounts of time and history in the book are not to be trusted, with doubts raised over when events happened, or even if they happened at all.” (p. 44) Really? And that’s different from the problem of history in the real world, how? Whitehead cites a disparity in the commander list discovered in Feast of Crows where Jon believes he is supposed to be the 998th commander and Sam can only find 674 listed commanders (p. 45). This reminds me of problems in genealogies and king lists (including the ones in the Bible) where unimportant figures are sometimes excised in order to shape a better narrative or more symmetrical list. I liked the idea that Whitehead suggested that the technological problem (that is, if Westeros is so old, why is it still in the medieval period when our world is where it is?) is partially answered by the idea that magic retards technological development. However, he wonders why it plods along in Martin’s relatively low magic world (p. 48). He concludes that “…nothing is certain, not the world’s history and not the history of any individual in it.” (p. 50) Isn’t he simply suggesting that Martin is postmodern in his approach to the history of Westeros? Another essay considers Martin’s prequels to the series in the light of Northrup Frye’s idea of four seasonal mythoi (spring = comedy, summer = romance, autumn = tragedy, and winter = satire and irony) and suggests that, since the epic is clearly moving toward “winter,” Martin wished to deal with a lighter era in the world he had created (p. 57). Gary Westfall has provided some nice interpretive charts of this (pp. 58-59), but argues his way to a delightfully different conclusion (p. 70). Myke Cole looks at Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome in A Song of Ice and Fire by observing what happens when (according to the Cooper Color Code) people in relatively safe and peaceful conditions (p. 75) known as Condition White are forced into sudden exposure to trauma. Some go to complete panic or denial (Condition Black—p. 78) and some go to a vigilant state with continual conditional awareness (Condition Yellow—p. 78). He pictures Arya as living in Condition Yellow and this seems particularly true in her street life depicted in A Dance with Dragons. Her life fits the description of, “hyper-vigilance, coldhearted decision-making, rapid reactions to dangerous situations, extreme attention to personal safety, commitment to training and lifestyle decisions that ensure reading for future traumatic events.” (p. 78) He sees Arya as being empowered by her traumatic experience while Theon Greyjoy went to Condition Black. Those undergoing Condition Black are, “Detached from a world that has come to terrify them, they may engage in suicidal levels of risk-taking or push away loved ones who try to help.” (p. 82) Seen in this manner, his seizure of Winterfall is classic Condition Black—highly risky behavior where one flails out in reaction to the traumas one cannot handle. (p. 84) Susan Vaught’s idea of morality in the books as being tied completely to the idea that Winter is coming and anyone who isn’t preparing to stave off those negative effects is evil or immoral (p. 92) works on several levels. I did have a question about her assertions about “sin” in other behaviors in Westeros, however. She asserts that “…incest itself likely does not constitute grievous sin in the cosmology of Westeros…” (p. 101). If so, why do Jaime and Cersei so assiduously try to guard the secret parentage of Joffrey? Why is Cersei stripped and humiliated in the latest book? I just think there is a slight overstatement there. In addition, contributors like Andrew Zimmerman Jones argue that both magic and religion in Martin’s work have very postmodern perspectives: “Characters believe or disbelieve in the gods based on their own temperaments, not because they typically have any real reason to think that one has more validity than others.” (p. 114) The bulk of the narrative attempts to use Martin’s work as a means to suggest that all religious perspective is “confirmation bias.” (p. 107) Religion is simply humanity’s excuse for creating a narrative that makes sense—whether or not it is true. I’d like to explore this further, but I doubt this is the place. I will simply suggest that it would have been nice if he had been able to read Caroline Spector’s essay to discover at least one more valid symbolism to the direwolves that he devalues in his discussion. Spector sees the death of Sansa’s wolf as significant; Jones does not. Matt Stagg’s essay on Littlefinger as a psychopath with no feelings for others (p. 145), a tendency toward manipulation (p. 146), and a sense of entitlement (p. 148) seemed quite convincing. I also enjoyed Jesse Scoble’s essay on magic, though I didn’t find any particular new insights. I relished Brent Hartinger’s analysis of the number of “outsiders” in Martin’s story. He noted that at least half of the major point of view characters violate gender or social norms (p. 154). Most importantly, he argues that the insiders tend to be easily manipulated fools, manipulated of course, by the “outsiders.” (p. 165) If these summaries of most of the essays in Beyond the Wall don’t pique your interest, this isn’t a book you need. If, however, you believe in the value of thoughtful consideration of so-called genre works which do not get sufficient respect, this volume is a must-read. Perhaps, just as the success of A Song of Ice and Fire is helping many other fantasy novels out of the genre ghetto, Beyond the Wall can spawn a methodology of criticism for fantasy and science-fiction that will take these works out of the “stepchild” category. My enjoyment of Martin’s work was significantly enhanced by reading these essays. I suspect I won’t be the only one.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Geri Reads

    I'm a huge fan of the books and the series, so this was a fantastic read for me. A fantastic exploration of the themes in the book A Song of Fire and Ice. I think this book is worth the read whether you're a fan of the books or the series. A copy is provided by the publisher through NetGalley exchange for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kifflie

    Disclaimer: I personally know the publisher, editor, and one of the contributors to this volume -- but will strive to be as objective as I can in my comments. Beyond the Wall is a series of essay on George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire," which had managed to stay out of my consciousness until the HBO series began airing, and certain friends of mine within the gaming community were talking about it. So I started reading the series, and was caught up in it almost immediately -- finishing t Disclaimer: I personally know the publisher, editor, and one of the contributors to this volume -- but will strive to be as objective as I can in my comments. Beyond the Wall is a series of essay on George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire," which had managed to stay out of my consciousness until the HBO series began airing, and certain friends of mine within the gaming community were talking about it. So I started reading the series, and was caught up in it almost immediately -- finishing the fourth book just a week before the fifth came out -- talk about timing! Anyway -- this is a nice, accessible, not too dry set of essays about Martin's work; particularly enjoyable because they are written from a variety of intelligent perspectives. Those working from a feminist angle, to my great relief, understand, as I did, that Martin's treatment of the women of Westeros is most definitely descriptive and not proscriptive (I've seen clips of interviews with GRRM that clearly show he is egalitarian in his philosophy). How I wish the HBO showrunners would have understood this a tad better...but I digress. Matt Staggs makes a pretty convincing case that Littlefinger is a sociopath, which was something I hadn't really wanted to believe, but now I think he's on to something. Brent Hartinger writes very observantly about the outsiders in Westeros and how they each cope with their varying statuses. It was a little painful to read Ned Vizzini's wonderful essay on the continuing stigmatization of fantasy and other "genre" fiction -- not because there was anything at all wrong with the points he was making -- but because he has now taken himself out of the picture. The only piece that felt out of place to me was the one on collecting. Since I don't really care about limited editions or first editions, blah, blah...I just wondered, why include it? But that's not a deal-killer. Overall, this is a good selection.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Saphana

    This book is not what it claims to be. A typical "companion" to a well-received and award-winning series should delve into insights in the background, the characters, maybe even enlighten us to mysteries or prophecies which permeate the series. Not so. Instead we get a rambling opening article (I refuse to use the word "essay") that honestly tries to place Martin's writing in the era of "Romanticism", not even once analyzing or comparing Martin's prose to an author of said era. The history of art This book is not what it claims to be. A typical "companion" to a well-received and award-winning series should delve into insights in the background, the characters, maybe even enlighten us to mysteries or prophecies which permeate the series. Not so. Instead we get a rambling opening article (I refuse to use the word "essay") that honestly tries to place Martin's writing in the era of "Romanticism", not even once analyzing or comparing Martin's prose to an author of said era. The history of art is bent to it's utmost just to try and put Martin on the same pedestal as Coleridge or Keats. No scientific evidence is given - what we get for an analogy are Yoren's words on how the Night's Watch has been ever so much more in the past - just any other reminiscence older folks like: everything tinged slightly pink. This does not constitute evidence. It goes downhill from there. On the themes of sexuality, rape and homosexuality: please read Craig West's review. This guy is so spot-on, I quote: "The next essay is about the "adult" portions of the series, particularly rape, that also failed to hit the right note. I think that the previous reviewer, Johnny Jay, sums it up well by saying the essay tries to paint the multiple rapes that occur in the series as important to the plot and not just gratuitous rough sex. I'd never even considered that was an issue, as I thought the rape scenes were unpleasant but essential to the story. Why that essay was included in the series is puzzling . After reading the essay, though, I actually think that there are gratuitous elements in how Martin presents those scenes. So, obviously, that essay did not work well." That being said: this book could have used an editor. Preferably a native English one. To publish a book, being ESL without having someone native/perfect copyedit it, is downright unprofessional.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stella

    A really good collection of essays on A Song of Ice and Fire Series, exploring many different themes, from feminism to religion and redemption in the books. I really enjoyed this. It opened up the world of Westeros in so many different ways i haven't previously thought of.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Hall

    An interesting collection of essays about A Song of Ice and Fire. My favourites included: An Unreliable World by Adam Whitehead Back to the Egg by Gary Westfahl Petyr Baelish and the Mask of Sanity by Matt Staggs

  11. 4 out of 5

    Audrey-anne

    I wasnt interested by all the chapters at first, but I read them all anyway and I ended really glad I did. Most of them are well written and enlightening.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Liviu

    FBC Rv: INTRODUCTION: As a huge series fan and also as I own the art books inspired by the novels, I was very curious about this essay book since I heard about it some months ago. While the recent A Feast of Ice and Fire is a bit "too out" for my interests, the upcoming map book "The Lands of Ice and Fire" is another huge asap, so this year we will have been treated with a lot of ASOIAF material, from the excellent HBO series, to three related works including the one discussed here! Note that Beyo FBC Rv: INTRODUCTION: As a huge series fan and also as I own the art books inspired by the novels, I was very curious about this essay book since I heard about it some months ago. While the recent A Feast of Ice and Fire is a bit "too out" for my interests, the upcoming map book "The Lands of Ice and Fire" is another huge asap, so this year we will have been treated with a lot of ASOIAF material, from the excellent HBO series, to three related works including the one discussed here! Note that Beyond the Wall contains spoilers about the series up to and including A Dance with Dragons, though I will avoid such below. OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "Beyond the Wall" contains 16 essays including the foreword from RA Salvatore and the introduction from the editor, both worth reading by themselves too and they group naturally in a few categories: The fan explorations of the wonderful ASOIAF universe which are the core of the book and are excellent and make the book totally worth reading. Here we have exceptional contributions: from Adam Whitehead on the mythical nature of Westeros' chronology: "In A Song of Ice and Fire, characters live in a world whose very history is uncertain and ill-defined, where myth and legend are hopelessly and inextricably entwined with accounts of real events.The predominant feature of Westerosi history is vagueness.", from Linda Antonsson and Elio Garcia on the perennial Lyanna-Rhaegar question and more generally on romanticism in a Byronic sense: "The most prevalent manifestation of romanticism is the view of the past espoused by many characters in the novel. It seems a part of human nature to idealize the past, to suppose things were somehow “better” in days gone by. The same can be said about how characters view the past of Westeros, citing examples of how the realm was once better off and has now declined.", from Andrew Zimmerman Jones on the multiple and quite intricate religions of the series: "In fact, the religions portrayed in A Song of Ice and Fire are reflections of the religions in our own world. They require a leap of faith, because the effects of belief are so intangible. The religions of Westeros claim to dictate absolute, perfect truths through imprecise, flawed institutions and beings—just like the religions we encounter every day", from Jesse Scoble on the way George Martin uses magic in the series: "What’s intriguing about this is that Martin’s world of the Seven Kingdoms is steeped in magic. But it is not used in a “traditional fantasy” sense." and from Gary Westfahl on the Egg and Dunk stories, essay which starts a bit ponderously with some generic talk about types of tales as seasons - talk that is very vague and even self-contradictory - but then rights itself with a wonderful appreciation of the three prequel stories to date and of course noting how GRRM actually does not really fit in such a rigid schemata anyway: "Interestingly, there is evidence in the third novel of A Song of Ice and Fire, A Storm of Swords, suggesting precisely such a desire to heighten the import of the Dunk and Egg stories." There are also three essays that are on the border between the pretentious and the interesting, but overall they fall on the interesting part mostly because they do not follow a particular pet-theory or ideology of the essay author, but stick to discussing the books and their universe. In Men and Monsters, Alyssa Rosenberg tackles quite reasonably the nature of sexual violence in the series - as I note below, imho, any (faux) medieval world is a world steeped in violence especially in times of trouble as surely we have in Westeros at the end of Robert's reign and men are also tortured and mutilated casually - as we see vividly in the books and the essay author to her credit points this out and makes the discussion more balanced. In "The Brutal Cost of Redemption", Susan Vaught has a good discussion of the moral nature of the series and I really liked this passage which summarizes my feelings too: "Westeros is not built upon a shifting foundation of chaos. True, there is no clearly marked, brightly lit path to salvation. Yet characters face a painful retributive justice, born of moral absolutism, that lends reality and depth to the medieval society portrayed in the series." Actually this topic is one of great interest as I think here the divide between the nuanced fantasy of GRRM and the "four legs good, two legs bad" fantasy especially pre-Martin but also today, is clearest. In "A Different Kind of Other" Brent Hartinger discusses the role of freaks and outcasts in ASOIAF, and while the essay starts very anachronistically (hey the world of ASIAF is an aristocratic one where even the handsomest man or the most beautiful woman does not really count unless they have the noblest blood) with: "Who doesn’t love an underdog? As humans, most of us seem to be instinctively drawn to outsiders, to the excluded. At least on some level, most of us sympathize with those who are denied even the opportunity to prove their full worth. We recognize that’s just not fair." After this very 21st century quote which denotes the author's lack of experience of any society beyond the wealthy modern western one, the essay gets better and has some good stuff to say about its topic, but the beginning jarred badly. Then there are three essays following a pet modern theory (feminism, PTSD, pop-psychology) which imho are both useless and anachronistic. While they contain the occasional gem they generally read like debating angels on a pin as for example people in a world like Martin's have an exposure to violence which is almost infinitely higher than ours in the modern world so we cannot really comprehend their mindset from that point of view. Similarly the world of ASIAF is a world where the powerless and the fallen from power are treated with no mercy and women and children (and the poor and non-noble) are part of the powerless, so feminism which is a modern western doctrine has very little relevant to say about the books beyond what can be said about any "realistic" faux-medieval stuff. Pop-psychology mercifully has not been invented in Martin's world so notions like psychopaths are just silly. Of course such essays by Mike Cole, Caroline Spector and Matt Stags may appeal to some, so from that point of view their inclusion broadens the book despite that I found them quite uninteresting. Finally there is general stuff like the Foreword, the Introduction, the essay about where ASOIAF stands in the "genre wars" - the usual bellyaching and moaning of some sff writers that they are "disrespected" by the literary establishment, when imho the correct answer is let the generally mortified canon die in peace and celebrate the vibrancy of genre - which actually here is treated quite well and rationally by Ned Vizzini: "Martin thus fights the genre wars by sidestepping them. Working from within the system, refusing to apologize for what came before, he writes books that are too bloody, unexpected, and relentlessly story-driven to be ignored. In doing so, he elevates other fantasy along with his own." Here I would also include the niche essays about adapting ASOIAF to graphic form by Daniel Abraham and the one about collecting the books by John Jos. Miller, neither of which are of particular interest to me, but they provided a good overview of the respective issues. Overall Beyond the Wall exceeded my expectations and it's a highly recommended book of 2012 and a great companion to any lover of the series though keep in mind the spoiler note above if you have not read all five books to date!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    A great book that disabuses the lazier criticisms of Martin's work.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Victor Hugo

    It's an interesting book indeed. It covers different ways to read and to watch A Song of Ice and Fire. But do not expect to much regarding the depth of analysis.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Eustacia Tan

    Beyond The Wall is one of those books that explores the world behind the books. In this case, it explores the world in the A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin. You may be surprised to see this because I haven't talked about A Song of Fire and Ice before and you're right. Before I picked up this book, I had absolutely no knowledge of this amazing world. It seems counterintuitive, not to mention spoiler-ish, but I actually became interested in this series because of this book. I'm t Beyond The Wall is one of those books that explores the world behind the books. In this case, it explores the world in the A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin. You may be surprised to see this because I haven't talked about A Song of Fire and Ice before and you're right. Before I picked up this book, I had absolutely no knowledge of this amazing world. It seems counterintuitive, not to mention spoiler-ish, but I actually became interested in this series because of this book. I'm the otaku kind of fan, so when I become a fan, I like to know as much as possible about the world (you should see how often I'm at the Detective Conan wiki!). I don't mind spoilers because honestly, I like to read for the writing. And wow, I'm still not even half-way through A Game of Thrones and it's such a great book. It's also a very long book though, so a review will come later. Maybe much later :p Ok, now back to Beyond The Wall. Beyond The Wall is very easy to read because each chapter is a stand-alone chapter, discussing one particular issue about the series. This means you can jump around chapter sequences and what not, and it wouldn't make much difference. And well, the topics themselves were interesting (and prepared me, in a good way, for what to expect from the series). They cover things like topics from feminism, sexual violence to things like the challenges of adapting it as a graphic novel and a brief guide to collecting the series (incidentally my favourite chapter, since I like to collect books. And stuff in general). Each essay is written in an interesting (and distinctive) style. The length is just right too, enough to inform me but not long enough to bore me. With such diverse topics, it's interesting to see that one common feature would be a comparison of A Song of Fire and Ice with Lord Of The Rings. And the comparison is not favourable. Adjectives like "simple" are used often to describe LOTR so if you're a fan, just take note. For the record, I believe that Lord of The Rings is much much deeper than they make it appear to be. And if you have a problem with the moral absolutism in LOTR, then why are you imposing an absolute judgement on the book? From this, I have a rough idea of the series so far, and it makes me want to read all the books. I'm not sure how I'll deal with some aspects (like the whole sexual violence thing), but at least I'm prepared for it. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review. First posted at Inside the mind of a Bibliophile

  16. 4 out of 5

    The Lit Bitch

    I’ve read a lot of reviews about this anthology, and most people say that you can find better material online in the discussion groups for free. While there is a plethora of material online, a lot of it isn’t structured or supported by research which was what I was looking for….something a little more organized. This novel had a broad selection of essays about A Song of Ice and Fire and Westeros. Some were interesting and thought provoking while others left me wanting. Some of the essays I could ha I’ve read a lot of reviews about this anthology, and most people say that you can find better material online in the discussion groups for free. While there is a plethora of material online, a lot of it isn’t structured or supported by research which was what I was looking for….something a little more organized. This novel had a broad selection of essays about A Song of Ice and Fire and Westeros. Some were interesting and thought provoking while others left me wanting. Some of the essays I could have done without were Adapting A Game of Thrones as a Graphic Novel and Collecting Ice and Fire in the Age of Nook and Kindle. What was unclear to me was if this collections of essays was meant to be more academic driven or more personal opinion and speculation. Some of the essays had supporting evidence from outside sources while others were more conjecture or the only support evidence were from the text alone. At the end of the day I tried not to be too hard on the essayists and took what I was reading at face value. Some of my favorite essays were Of Direwolves and Gods, A Sword Without a Hilt, and Power and Feminism in Westeros. I was hoping for more essays on these topics…..magic and feminism. I had hoped the essays would be longer with more support evidence from the texts however, I think that could easily gotten out of hand and exceptionally long. So all in all I though the length of the essays were appropriate–long enough to present and support thesis statements but not so long as to put the reader to sleep. If you haven’t read the books I would highly recommend that you avoid this until you do as it contains spoilers and lots of material that could ruin the series if you haven’t read it before. I think my biggest issue with this book, was I wanted more essays! I wanted to read more about what academics or professionals in the genre thought about the series and theories they might have. See my full review here

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is welcome addition to Smart Pop's series of books collecting essays about popular novels. All the essays are well written and informative, finding a perfect balance between academic depth and accessibility, and each reader will find what appeals the most. My personal favourite was the analysis of how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is depicted (apparently it is meticulously accurate) as it gave me new insight into the characters.... however, it is very similar to one on PTSD in The Girl Who This is welcome addition to Smart Pop's series of books collecting essays about popular novels. All the essays are well written and informative, finding a perfect balance between academic depth and accessibility, and each reader will find what appeals the most. My personal favourite was the analysis of how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is depicted (apparently it is meticulously accurate) as it gave me new insight into the characters.... however, it is very similar to one on PTSD in The Girl Who Was On Fire. There are several essays which explore the role of women and GRRM's depiction of rape, something which has long been controversial in the series. I liked their perspectives (and have long agreed with them) but would have liked a more critical view to counterbalance the positive explanations in all of them. This is the issue I had with the book - there's no criticism of the series content or literary merits. I don't mean it should be panned in a scathing review, but simply dissected and analysed. I would have liked more comparison of the different books in the series (some have been more critically acclaimed than others - maybe a defense of the least popular books?) and a wider view of how it compares with other fantasy series, particularly now that there is an increasing market for grimdark fiction. The book-to-TV series adaptation is also largely ignored, despite the amount of time fans, including myself, spend debating the merits of changes. Instead there are a lot of essays which explain character psychology as if they were real people and world building as if it was history. The Girl Who Was on Fire and Divergent Thinking also had the same overall feel and while it makes for great reading for undiscriminating teenage fans, it feels like a missed opportunity for many readers, despite the quality of the writing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steph

    This was a really interesting compendium of essays on Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. As with any collection of essays, some were better than others, and some appealed more to me than others. My favourite chapters included Alyssa Rosenburg's examination of the use of rape as a war weapon in the series; the character study of Littlefinger through the lens of psychopathy; and Whitehead's chapter on the uncertain history of Westeros. The chapters on religion, magic, the Dunk and Egg prequel This was a really interesting compendium of essays on Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. As with any collection of essays, some were better than others, and some appealed more to me than others. My favourite chapters included Alyssa Rosenburg's examination of the use of rape as a war weapon in the series; the character study of Littlefinger through the lens of psychopathy; and Whitehead's chapter on the uncertain history of Westeros. The chapters on religion, magic, the Dunk and Egg prequels and PTSD were also highlights. I sadly enough did not terribly enjoy the chapter on feminism; while there were some interesting insights, the author did not seem to see the nuances in some of the character arcs she was examining, and her disdain for Sansa was unforgivable as far as I am concerned. One of the real surprises was the chapter on the graphic novel adaptation, which explored many of the issues of translating a book series into a visual format. Ultimately I really enjoyed this compendium, even more so than the Blackwell Pop Culture and Philosophy volume; the fact that this was written by bloggers and authors rather than academics seems to have freed it of its Philosophy 101 feel and ungraceful shoehorning of the books into a philosophical essay. I'm really looking forward to the doubtless numerous volumes of this sort that will emerge after the series has ended, since these current essays are inevitably hindered by the lack of closure in the books. 3.5/5 stars.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Stoolfire

    Very interesting collection of critical essays on the world of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. My favorite essays within the collection: "Men and Monsters: Rape, Myth-Making, and the Rise and Fall of Nations in A Song of Ice and Fire" by Alyssa Rosenberg, "An Unreliable World: History and Timekeeping in Westeros" by Adam Whitehead, "Of Direwolves and Gods" by Andrew Zimmerman Jones, "A Sword Without a Hilt: The Dangers of Magic in (and to) Westeros" by Jesse Scoble, "A Different Kin Very interesting collection of critical essays on the world of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. My favorite essays within the collection: "Men and Monsters: Rape, Myth-Making, and the Rise and Fall of Nations in A Song of Ice and Fire" by Alyssa Rosenberg, "An Unreliable World: History and Timekeeping in Westeros" by Adam Whitehead, "Of Direwolves and Gods" by Andrew Zimmerman Jones, "A Sword Without a Hilt: The Dangers of Magic in (and to) Westeros" by Jesse Scoble, "A Different Kind of Other: The Role of Freaks and Outcasts in A Song of Ice and Fire" by Brent Hartinger, and "Power and Feminism in Westeros" by Caroline Spector. I also appreciated the foreword by R.A. Salvatore (one of my favorites!) and the final chapter ("Beyond the Ghetto" by Ned Vizzini) both of which touch upon the issue and (hopefully changing) place of fantasy in literature. "None of us wants to be consigned to the playpen, or have our work dismissed as unworthy of serious consideration as literature because of the label on the spine. Myself, I think a story is a story is a story, and the only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself." --George R.R. Martin, 2007 I won this through the Goodreads First Reads program. Thanks!

  20. 5 out of 5

    L. Lawson

    The main reason I didn't like this book very much (despite a few standout essays from Rosenberg, Cole, Staggs and Spector) is that the authors tried so hard to be 'academic' in their treatments of Westeros, tried so hard to sound so serious, but ended up not saying very much--and when they did have something valuable to say, took several paragraphs to make a very basic point (as though, to be taken seriously, judicious use of words goes out the window). Several of the essays were also quite repe The main reason I didn't like this book very much (despite a few standout essays from Rosenberg, Cole, Staggs and Spector) is that the authors tried so hard to be 'academic' in their treatments of Westeros, tried so hard to sound so serious, but ended up not saying very much--and when they did have something valuable to say, took several paragraphs to make a very basic point (as though, to be taken seriously, judicious use of words goes out the window). Several of the essays were also quite repetitive (a fault of the editor more than of the authors). At the end of the volume, I knew very little of Westeros and Essos, etc., that I didn't already know and little about the industry around Martin's work that I actually cared about. The process of adapting the novels into comics? Who cares? The plight of ASOIAF collectors? I am one but...who cares? And, really, there wasn't much said on the process of note anyway. The blurb promised 'thought-provoking essays and compelling insights.' Insights were few and far between, really. A fluff, filler piece on the ASOIAF universe that cannot really achieve its goals because, well, the work it's based on is incomplete, rendering most 'insights' simply conjecture.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jen*The Geeky Book Gal*

    I enjoyed most of the 14 essays in this book. Some were a bit dry or overly analytical but, some were extra compelling, such as "Petyr Baelish and the Mask of Sanity" by Matt Staggs which discussed Petyr Baelish's psychopathic nature as a clinical rather than a popular definition of the often used term. Andrew Zimmerman Jones discusses the various religions of Westeros in "Of Direwolves and Gods" ;and the essay on romanticism "The Palace of Love, the Palace of Sorrow" by Elio M. Garcia Jr goes i I enjoyed most of the 14 essays in this book. Some were a bit dry or overly analytical but, some were extra compelling, such as "Petyr Baelish and the Mask of Sanity" by Matt Staggs which discussed Petyr Baelish's psychopathic nature as a clinical rather than a popular definition of the often used term. Andrew Zimmerman Jones discusses the various religions of Westeros in "Of Direwolves and Gods" ;and the essay on romanticism "The Palace of Love, the Palace of Sorrow" by Elio M. Garcia Jr goes into romanticism through different characters views on events that happened and their interactions with other characters. There's also an essay on adapting the novels to graphic novels which appealed to my geeky side, as well as an essay about the collectability of certain editions of the books. Beware-this book gives spoilers, so be warned if you haven't read all the novels yet. I was given this advanced copy of the book through NetGalley to review. My digital copy had lots of capitalization and spelling errors, especially the forward. I don't know if it was the translation to Kindle or something else..anyway, wanted to note that but it is not factored in my review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    This is a must have for ASOIAF fans, and even aspiring authors. This book is a series of essays exploring various aspects of ASOIAF. Written by mostly authors, bloggers and dedicated fanboys. The book hits ASOIAF from pretty much every angle, and will have you looking at the world, the history, and it's characters in new or different ways Some of the highlights Author Daniel Abraham's essay on the transition of the series to a graphic novel was fascinating. I found his chapter to be full of informa This is a must have for ASOIAF fans, and even aspiring authors. This book is a series of essays exploring various aspects of ASOIAF. Written by mostly authors, bloggers and dedicated fanboys. The book hits ASOIAF from pretty much every angle, and will have you looking at the world, the history, and it's characters in new or different ways Some of the highlights Author Daniel Abraham's essay on the transition of the series to a graphic novel was fascinating. I found his chapter to be full of information, not only on Martin's world, but also the creative process behind writing a novel. Another author, Myke Cole, explores Post Traumatic Stress disorder and how it applies to some characters in the novels, he paints a great contrast between how 2 main characters are affected by traumatic events. Some of the essays were a little lackluster, or get a little preachy or wordy, but for the most part this is a great companion book for anyone who is a fan of the series. * I was a goodreads firstreads winner and received an ARC of this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah E.

    Beyond the Wall is a good educational companion to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. It's a compilation of different essays written about different subject matters relating to the books. I personally found R.A. Salvatore's foreward fascinating, as well as, Alyssa Rosenberg's essay about the sexual politics in the series. I also found the Westeros.org founders' essay about romanticism really interesting and talked about it with my husband (who has also read the books). The essay Beyond the Wall is a good educational companion to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. It's a compilation of different essays written about different subject matters relating to the books. I personally found R.A. Salvatore's foreward fascinating, as well as, Alyssa Rosenberg's essay about the sexual politics in the series. I also found the Westeros.org founders' essay about romanticism really interesting and talked about it with my husband (who has also read the books). The essays are a great starting point for discussion for all SoI&F fans. Thank you to NetGalley and BenBella Books, Inc for the galley!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ami Kismet

    This was a really fun and interesting read, but I can't help but feel that some of the essays could have gone a little deeper in their analysis. This could very well be because the series itself is not finished and Martin defies what readers expect at every turn. It was a fun quick read though that allowed me to spend some more time in Martin's world. I am sure once the series is completed, there will be more variety and deeper explorations such as this book. As it is, check it out. Gives new pe This was a really fun and interesting read, but I can't help but feel that some of the essays could have gone a little deeper in their analysis. This could very well be because the series itself is not finished and Martin defies what readers expect at every turn. It was a fun quick read though that allowed me to spend some more time in Martin's world. I am sure once the series is completed, there will be more variety and deeper explorations such as this book. As it is, check it out. Gives new perspective on the series and some of the characters.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Curry

    This book was absolutely incredible. Thoroughly enjoyed all of the articles. Particularly the one about collecting the song of ice and fire, touched a special place in my heart. Also loved how intense the final essayist got about the "genre war" and how fantasy is finally starting to come into its own! All in all, i loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who has finished the series up to date!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emanuele

    A collection of essays on the great A Song of Ice and Fire, a few of them very interesting, most of them totally forgettable. There is a lot which could be discussed, but must authors end up trying to create a philosophical system around the book to prove their personal, and sometime questionable points. Not really recommended, unless maybe for a selective skim over

  27. 4 out of 5

    Snezhina

    There were some essays in this collection that were somewhat boring or weirdly written (I do not know whether the typos were the author or the publisher's fault), but overall it was an enjoyable read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    *WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD* I just couldn’t write this review without some spoilers (so if you haven’t finished the series so far please stop reading right here, right now!). What a treat this book is for any George R. R. Martin fan who loves to delve deep into the story and engage in discussions regarding the series, explore deep into the characters’ minds, analyses the plot closely and read interesting theories. This rich collection was an absolute pleasure to read, a collection brimming with the m *WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD* I just couldn’t write this review without some spoilers (so if you haven’t finished the series so far please stop reading right here, right now!). What a treat this book is for any George R. R. Martin fan who loves to delve deep into the story and engage in discussions regarding the series, explore deep into the characters’ minds, analyses the plot closely and read interesting theories. This rich collection was an absolute pleasure to read, a collection brimming with the most fascinating and compelling essays as each author contributes a detailed analysis of the most captivating subjects. Despite the complexity and intensity of the essays I raced through this book. I mostly enjoyed all of the essays but decided to give the collection 4/5 due to a select few that just didn’t cut it for me such as ‘Same Song in a Different Key: Adapting A Game of Thrones as a Graphic Novel’ and ‘Collecting Ice and Fire in the Age of Nook and Kindle’. They were both interesting reads but didn’t captivate me enough to have me totally invested in what was being discussed. It was interesting though to read about the concerns regarding the graphic novel and discussing the changes needed in regards to the graphic sexual scenes especially with younger individuals. ‘Art Imitates War: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in A Song of Ice and Fire’ by Myke Cole was such an interesting and thought provoking read. It discusses the psychological trauma suffered by numerous characters within the series and likens their situations to that of PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Cole praises Martin for successfully portraying PTSD in his series whilst also portraying the numerous different reactions to trauma, whilst using the Cooper Colour System to categorise the reactions of certain individuals. It focused mainly on the characters Theon and Arya who have both dealt with trauma in different ways; Theon suffering at the monstrous hands of the Bastard and Arya traumatised by all that has occurred in her life so far. He states that Theon, suffering from PTSD has become a weakened, destroyed individual, damaged physically and mentally, an empty shell with suicidal tendencies paralysed by fear. He analyses his inhumane descent into weakness and transformation into Reek, a pitiful character. Arya on the other hand, plucked from an almost innocent and guarded life reacts differently to trauma by fighting back, forging new identities therefore empowering herself. She is not weakened by the events but made stronger, capable of defending herself in dangerous situations. Cole’s essay was thorough, relevant and completely captivating. In the essay ‘The Palace of Love, The Palace of Sorrow: Romanticism in A Song of Ice and Fire’ Romanticism is discussed in depth, linking the series with the Romantic movement of the 19th century. The idealisation and mythologizing of past events and individuals are analysed close. Take the Night’s Watch for example. The Night’s Watch is viewed by numerous characters in the series as a romanticised institution of the past now degraded made up of thieves, rapists and murderers seen as an honourable calling guarding the realm. The essay also discusses Robert’s rebellion, Lyanna Stark, Rhaegar Targaryen, Jaime Lannister and the Kingsguard. ‘Power and Feminism in Westeros” was possibly my favourite essay out of the bunch. This essay highlights the oppressive patriarchal society evident in Westeros and how it dominates the lives of the female characters of the novel. Cersei, the cold and evil Queen is discussed as being shaped by society, flawed and damaged by society and the roles that are determined for her as a woman. Her sex has inevitably destroyed any chance of true power and her villainous character is attributed to the brutality of patriarchy and its strict and oppressive roles for women. The author discusses the deluded nature of Sansa, a young and influential innocent, captivated by romance, knights, chivalry and Arya, a female character who rebels against her role and her gender. This essay completely captivated me and it has inevitably piqued my interest in feminism in regards to fantasy. I think one of my favourite essays was ‘Petyr Baelish and the Mask of Sanity’ by Matt Staggs as it brilliantly captured the sneaky, warped mind of one of the series’ most devious men. Littlefinger is undeniably a scheming little man, loyal only to himself and Staggs discusses in depth how he is a psychopath, devoid of feelings and emotions. This essay was so brilliantly compelling and successfully psychoanalysed the manipulative, cold, calculated Littlefinger and analysed his attempt at vying for power and so far succeeding as a cruelly prosperous villain. Such essays as this one really helps me look over the series again from a different perspective and view characters in a different light. Littlefinger’s manipulative and brutal demeanour is so obvious from the first moment we meet him and this essay helped unravel his character layer by layer. The essay ‘Men and Monsters’ discusses the use of rape and violence in the series and acts as an argument against the criticism the book has endured for its graphic scenes. The author does a good job of voicing his opinion on the issue; rape and violence is used to identify the corrupt and archaic societies, crumbling due to chaos. Examples of this are the Iron Islands, backwards in its attitudes towards women and sex. The monstrous acts committed in King’s Landing such as the rape of Lolly’s Stokeworth, depicts Lannister rule disintegrating in a fragmented and damaged society. Rape and violence is also discussed as being catalysts for war, acts that are so deeply frowned upon it starts wars evident in the case of Robert Baratheon’s rebellion beginning because of the rape of Lyanna Stark. The fact that rape is associated with monstrous deeds and individuals such as Gregor Clegane and Ramsay Bolton is also emphasised in the essay. I believe that this essay does a great job of giving a thorough opinion on the use of rape and violence in the series and shows that it isn’t used as plot filler but as an effective plot device. ‘Back To The Egg: The Prequels to A Song of Ice and Fire’ by Gary Westfahl was an interesting read which first discussed short stories in general before moving on to discussing Martin’s Dunk and Egg short stories. This essay was a fun one to read and it definitely piqued my interest in Martin’s other literature and short stories. Susan Vaught’s fascinating essay ‘The Brutal Cost of Redemption in Westeros Or, What Moral Ambiguity?’ discussed the morally ambiguous characters within the novel. Simply by reading the novels we are instantly made aware that most of the characters are not the archetypal goodies or baddies, but are more layered and complex fitting into more of a “grey” moral category. A portion of the essay analyses such characters as Sansa, Davos and Jaime as they attempt to redeem themselves of their past actions. What I thought was more interesting than that was the discussion of the fate of certain characters; Robb, Catelyn and Joffrey. The author analyses how emotions cloud the moral judgements of certain individuals therefore making them flawed and in regards to their morally good/bad actions, eventually seals their fates. Robb breaks an oath; a completely dishonourable act that the author argues undermines the values of society and therefore is unforgivable and punishable by death. By marrying Jeyne Westerling, Robb also seals his fate; an excruciating and humiliating death. Catelyn is depicted as being a woman, a mother, a wife disillusioned by her emotions. Vaught argues that her lifelong contempt of Jon Snow, her hunger for revenge and her dishonourable and distrustful actions eventually leads to her fate and her ironic reincarnation as Lady Stoneheart; a cold hearted, brutal being. This essay was just so intriguing and shed light on the morality (or lack of) of the characters and discussed some interesting thought provoking points. ‘A Different Kind of Other: The Role of Freaks and Outcasts in A Song of Ice and Fire’ discusses in detail the underdogs of the series, the individuals looked down upon and ridiculed by society. There are countless “freaks and outcasts” in the series; Tyrion, the ‘Imp’; Bran, the cripple; Jon Snow, the bastard; Brienne, the masculine woman; Varys, the eunuch etc. Each and every underdog exists in complete disregard to the so called “norms” of society; they do not conform to such norms and are therefore labelled as “freaks”. There are many other essays within this rich collection such as one discussing the complexity of history and timekeeping within the series, the use of religion, omens and their meanings and the dangers of magic to the world of Westeros and its inhabitants. The final essay is an interesting one as it analyses the effect of Martin’s series on the fantasy genre in general and discusses the success of a series in a genre looked down upon by literary buffs. I would highly recommend this book of excellent essays to lovers of the series who wants to delve into the world of Westeros long after they’ve finished the series. The essays are excellently articulated and contains the most intriguing and captivating discussions in regards to Martin’s masterpiece. In addition to the essays the foreword by R. A. Salvatore just completes this collection and makes it a must read for fans of the series and fans of epic fantasy in general.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Too many feels to not start reviewing this right away. :P Hopefully I'll be finished with the entire book in a few days. DONE! Spoiler warning--this review contains spoilers for all published ASOIAF books. Overall, this book is what I've been hoping for--literary criticism worthy of me adding a new shelf to GoodReads. :P We start with Elio and Linda's (the uber-fans who even GRRM goes to for fact checking, amongst other things,) and their essay romanticism, pulling me into the deep tapestry of AS Too many feels to not start reviewing this right away. :P Hopefully I'll be finished with the entire book in a few days. DONE! Spoiler warning--this review contains spoilers for all published ASOIAF books. Overall, this book is what I've been hoping for--literary criticism worthy of me adding a new shelf to GoodReads. :P We start with Elio and Linda's (the uber-fans who even GRRM goes to for fact checking, amongst other things,) and their essay romanticism, pulling me into the deep tapestry of ASOIAF's worldview and it's perhaps surprising emphasis on beauty and deep-feeling ritual. This medieval obsession on the vaulted past is highly Christian in our world, but perhaps even as a Jew I can get in on it? What else is Zionism, anyway, than at it's core a quest for liberty and self-determination in a land where, in ancient times, our ancestors were not subjects to our persecutors? I read the ASOIAF books, too, and feel a pull towards the past--not perhaps as predated as the past to which many adult characters subscribe, but definitely to the past that the Stark children remember when they were safe and happy at Winterfell. I was similarly impressed with Alyssa Rosenberg's essay, "Men and Monsters," which pointed to GRRM's focus on highlighting rape and violence as wholly destructive as he focuses on developing its victims as people. Brent Hartinger's "A Different Kind of Other" also focuses on how GRRM gives a voice to the powerless. "An Unreliable World" by Adam Whitehead and "Back to the Egg" by Gary Westfall focus on the mythos of Westeros: the unreliable time-keeping, which speaks to the power of legends over science as character and world-defining; and the Dunk and Egg stories, which GRRM has written as prequels to flesh out his world. "Of Direwolves and Gods" by Andrew Zimmerman Jones and "A Sword Without a Hilt" by Jesse Scoble prod at the murky reliability of gods, magic, and prophecy and what it all means. On an even more macro scale, Ned Vizzini's "Beyond the Ghetto" summarizes the history of the literary vs genre fiction divide, how popular fiction often "subverts" realist fiction in a way, and how GRRM's books in turn subvert their own genre. Pretty fascinating look into literary culture and storytelling tropes. I identified a bit with all of the broader and most of the smaller points Caroline Spector made in "Power and Feminism and Westeros." She analyzes the character arcs of Sansa, Arya, Brienne, Cersei and Daenerys, often coming back to Sansa for comparisons as she best represents the medieval and Westerosi feminine ideal. Oftentimes, she even centered on how similar Sansa was to the others, for example Brienne shares her naive idealism about knighthood and Dany and Cersei both had moments of being used as pawns. I wish she had delved a little deeper, however, particularly with the two sisters. Unquestionably Arya and Sansa have two different temperaments and two different ways of looking at/interacting with the world. But much is similar in their stories as well. They both suffer a fall from grace when things go south (no pun intended) for Ned. Sansa has to adjust her behavior to that of a hostage knowingly living under the rule of vindictive captors; and Arya must adjust her behavior to that of a fugitive and low born commoner, often at the brunt if the violence that comes to define much of her story. Both sisters are now fugitives, under the tutelage of questionable men; both have shed their former identities for the time being and both are continuing to hone skills--Arya learns to become an assassin and Sansa learns the politicking behind the game of thrones. I question Spector's omission of the fact that although Sansa never chose to take personal power in King's Landing (her relationship with Dontos ultimately revealed as one of Littlefinger's chess moves,) if she had acted out as Arya likely would have, she would have faced death. Not only did her countenance leave her with fewer choices but her situation as a highborn hostage under the microscope lens left her with few as well. And yet Sansa wasn't just a wall flower before Littlefinger whisked her away to the Eyrie. Her time as a hostage is peppered with acts of goodness--saving Dontos's life, encouraging Joffrey to give a modicum of charity to the needy, praying for friends and foes alike in the sept, taking over at Blackwater when Cersei leaves her women in turmoil. As her husband Tyrion--considered by most to be one of the best political masterminds--comments to himself that she would have been a great queen of Joff only had the sense to love her. Sanaa's ability to make small talk in the political arena and her ability to run a household at the Eyrie perhaps doesn't save her the way a sword saves Arya or Brienne, or conquering makes Dany the most powerful, but it's worth noting. This is the way, after all, that most noble women of Westeros make a small bit of impact. Myke Cole's essay on how PTSD affects certain characters was a little too black and white for me in how it painted Arya as empowered and Theon as weakened. Although he brings up some great points (especially about Theon's psychology before falling to Ramsay) I think the truth lies a little closer to the middle. I question how Arya's vengeful list is truly empowering (maybe on a psychological basis to get her through the day to day) and it also stands to reason that what the Faceless Men have taught her comes at the demanded sacrifice of her identity. Yes, she's gone from a victimized fugitive to a burgeoning professional assassin, but is she really wholly Arya Stark or is she "no one," simply an agent of the Faceless God? Whereas for Theon, though his existence as Reek laid him low, he still ended "Dance With Dragons" with a selfless act that not only reclaimed his identity as a man but surpassed who he used to be. He's not only Theon again, but a Theon who saved an innocent girl and might help take out the tretcherous Boltons. I also found Matt Staggs's article on Littlefinger's mental condition to be a little too all or nothing for me, but he made a compelling argument and doubtless the character leans far more towards being a psychopath than being compassionate. My least favorite essay is Susan Vaught's "The Brutal Cost of Redemption in Westeros," which I think wildly misinterprets both the overarching world and several individual characters. After starting her essay by proclaiming that most people judge Westeros based on their own biases she proceeds to do just that, labeling Jaime's slaying of King Aerys as appropriate by Westerosi standards (really? That must be why almost everyone reviles him and calls him "Kingslayer"); and she fails to bring up that Ned's decision to raise his bastard son as equal to his true born children is seen as scandalous. She also plays the "victim-blaming" game, faulting Robb not only for his recklessness with Jeyne but with his own murder (as if Walder Frey has no agency, much less that the Red Wedding featured a ghastly betrayal of guest rites); similarly she blames Catelyn not only for her reckless decisions but for starting a war (again, where is Tywin Lannister's agency? No one had a gun to his head when he chose war over diplomacy.) The Helen of Troy theory is lazy bullshit; there was no "face that launched a thousand ships" in a war named for five kings and even more motivations. Vaught, like several "anti-fans," doesn't seem to have read Catelyn's chapters at all--or somehow missed the pages and pages of the character's self-examination and contrition--and misinterprets Catelyn's reckless decisions as selfish and vengeful, when in reality she spoke out against vengeance and made every decision (whether good or bad can be debated) for the betterment of her family. Vaught is similarly dismissive of Cersei, labeling her as unfeeling towards Joffrey's death due to having sex with Jaime near his corpse (which could, after all, be a form of grief, not to mention all of the more traditional ways that she grieved for her son.) Like many liberals of the modern day, I struggle between the dichotomy between recognizing that the world is in fact a pluralistic society with multiple points of view vs embracing relativism and giving a free pass to all manner of cruelty and atrocity. Vaught chooses the extreme take on good vs evil--she clings to the character-flattening doctrine of "the path of redemption." I don't find GRRM's books nearly so provincial when prodding the complexity of human nature. More to the point, he proves that war, violence and rape extend far beyond any one individual; they are the communal faults of a corrupt society.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aspasia

    I've been addicted to Games of Thrones ever since Jamie pushed Bran out the window in Episode 1; that's when I knew this was a show that wasn't going to follow the rules. I started reading the books and soon found out that Martin doesn't follow the rules of writing either. His characters aren't strictly good or evil, the good guy (or gal) doesn't survive every encounter, and children or harmed or killed... While I'm waiting for Game of Thrones to return on July 16, I discovered this book to help I've been addicted to Games of Thrones ever since Jamie pushed Bran out the window in Episode 1; that's when I knew this was a show that wasn't going to follow the rules. I started reading the books and soon found out that Martin doesn't follow the rules of writing either. His characters aren't strictly good or evil, the good guy (or gal) doesn't survive every encounter, and children or harmed or killed... While I'm waiting for Game of Thrones to return on July 16, I discovered this book to help tide me over until the winds of winter come howling onto my TV screen (see what I did there?). Beyond the Wall is a literary, mostly non-stuffy critique on some of the recurring themes on the show and in the books: power, gender roles, violence, magic, identity, etc. Gary Westfahl in "Back to the Egg" explores why fantasy authors write prequels or side stories to supplement their already grandiose epics. This is something that GRRM fans have a love/hate relationship with. We want more writing from GRRM but the writing that is being released is not the writing we want (Hint: It's called The Winds of Winter. How many more years will you keep us waiting, George?). In "Art Imitates War" (one of my favorite chapters), Myke Cole praises GRRM for his authentic portrayal of PTSD within the world of Westeros: "He got an essential and often missed aspect of PTSD exactly right: sometimes traumatic experiences profoundly damage a character, but sometimes they enfranchise and strengthen the sufferer" (74). Case in point? Arya Stark and Theon Greyjoy. They both experience massive trauma due to events surrounding them; Arya uses her trauma to survive and to channel her rage into assassin skills. Theon succumbs mentally to his trauma and becomes a shell of a human being. Susan Vaught examines the moral ambiguity in the show and series. Much like our world, Westeros is not completely black or white but full of murky and questionable gray areas. Behaviors that are abhorrent, sinful and taboo in our world are mildly scandalous in Westeros (incest). Succumbing to personal desires instead of behaving in a manner that benefits the group or community is one of the top sins in Westeros (Robb Stark learned this the hard way). "A Different Kind of Other" examines the role of "outsider" status in Westeros. While most books and TV shows present freaks/outsiders as morally upright and virtuous, or as a poor male seeking to restore himself to a position of power, Martin give his "outsider" characters more depth. Bran is a typical rambunctious boy until he becomes disabled; Samwell Tarly is overweight and non-violent to the despair of his father; Brienne trains as a knight even though she is a woman (she is also an ugly woman which is offensive to some of the male characters in the series). "They're disappointments, even freaks, to their families and cultures" (159). Unfortunately, not all outsiders are kind in this world (Varys, Tyrion). "Outcasts pay keen attention to rules, precisely so they can manipulate them in order to give themselves a fighting chance. They also keep an eye on other outsiders as they can often be valuable allies" (162). The only chapter that I didn't enjoy in this book was about book collecting and book collecting statistics. It was boring to me and seemed out of place with the rest of the semi-academic chapters. Winter is Coming You can read more of my reviews at: http://thesouthernbookworm.blogspot.com/

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