Sheer need for more Game of Thrones content, to fill the time between TV show seasons, is what got me into George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series (which the show is based on). But what hooked me in A Clash of Kings—the second book in the series—were Martin’s descriptions.
This book is close to a thousand pages long. It’s no small investment of time. But by the beginning of Chapter 11, when Theon Greyjoy comes home to the Iron Islands, I knew I’d plow right through it all:
The shore was all sharp rocks and glowering cliffs, and the castle seemed one with the rest, its towers and walls and bridges quarried from the same grey-black stone, wet by the same salt waves, festooned with the same spreading patches of dark green lichen, speckled by the droppings of the same seabirds. The point of land on which the Greyjoys had raised their fortress had once thrust like a sword into the bowels of the ocean, but the waves had hammered at it day and night until the land broke and shattered, thousands of years past. All that remained were three bare and barren islands and a dozen towering stacks of rock that rose from the water like the pillars of some sea god’s temple, while the angry waves foamed and crashed among them.
I’ve always lived near the ocean. This was one of those passages that was so vivid and accurate in its description of the sea that it pulled me right into the page.
I know what that sound is like—waves slamming on rocks and birds warbling on and on. There’s an area of my brain that can recall the smell of salt in the air, the way you’d remember a song or a password. I can feel uneven ground twisting my ankles as I walk and rocks pressing against my feet through the soles of my shoes.
Martin gets a lot of credit for his plotting, characterization, and his focus on a “realistic” fantasy world—and he should. But I’d almost argue that those points would be moot if it weren’t for his skill at painting pictures with words.
It’s an awesome ability to be able to describe things the way Martin does. And it’s a tremendous value as a writer to read—again—near-thousands of pages of this stuff.
Here’s that Amazon link to the book.