While George R.R. Martin takes his time with writing the 6th book in A Song of Ice and Fire (and the TV show gets to tell the story he missed the opportunity to tell), we thought it’s a good opportunity to try and rank what’s been written so far: Five huge novels, telling an incredible story that still doesn’t have an end, but hopefully will.
5. A Dance With Dragons, 2011
For now, A Dance with Dragons is the last novel in the series, with fans waiting for two more. And that’s the biggest problem with ‘Dance’: It came out six years after A Feast for Crows, and offered almost no closure to some plot lines. Only more branching off, and more complexity that seemed to take things a bit too far. The Meereenese knot plays a big part in why the book took so long (six years) to come out, the stagnation in Daenerys’ chapters or the futility in Quentyn’s storyline, but it might also be a bigger problem than that: George R.R. Martin writing himself into a dead end, which he isn’t sure how to get out of. This is still a good book, with Arya Stark and Bran Stark each taking their skills towards a certain destiny up a notch, Tyrion finding purpose, Jon Snow trying to change the Night’s Watch and especially Reek/Theon trying to redeem himself. But this book falls short both in the first and re-reads when compared to the other books in this series.
4. A Feast for Crows, 2005
At first read, A Feast for Crows is disappointing. Not because of poor writing or anything, but because of three things: An incredible slowing down in pace compared to the previous book, the missing key characters like Tyrion, Jon Snow, Bran Stark and Daenerys due to the split with ‘Dance’ (were supposed to be one book) and the introduction of many more, resulting in a book that felt more like world building than plot advancing. But as far as re-reads go, it might be the best one. It drops so much detail on the saga, gives us Cersei’s inner thoughts, shows us Dorne, the Iron Islands and the torn up Riverlands from two different perspectives, and finally Sansa in less pitiful form. Not a perfect book, but one that gets better when you give it more than one go.
3. A Game of Thrones, 1996
The book that opens it all, and introduces us to Westeros and the world of ice and fire. The first book in the series focuses on the Stark Family and how it falls apart bit by bit, or at least some of it does. Robert comes north, asks Ned Stark to come south, and sets everything in motion, while we’re introduced to, well, the main characters, on both sides of the narrow sea. It blends action, world building and what we later learn, foreshadowing, kicking off what is in my opinion the finest fantasy series ever written. Hopefully it’ll have an ending as well.
2. A Clash of Kings, 1998
The second book in the series pushes the story in a number of directions: Further north, as Jon Snow ventures beyond the wall in the great ranging, deeper into Essos as Daenerys Targaryen shows her dragons (still small to the world), deeper into King’s Landing politics and especially Tyron trying to juggle everything, Arya going through things that no kid should, Theon changing everything up North, and overall some incredible action sequences (Blackwater) and a brand new kind of magic (shadow babies) by the mysterious Melisandre. A book with no real flaws, only it happens to be standing next to something a bit better.
1. A Storm of Swords, 2000
First off, A Storm of Swords is f***ing huge (973 pages, split into two books in some countries). But it’s not the size, it’s the amount of things that happen. The cliffhangers, the payoffs, just about everything that goes down. The Red Wedding and the Purple Wedding obviously rise above everything, but the book also includes the best duel ever written (Oberyn vs the Mountain), gives us some incredible reveals that give us a completely new way of looking at the story, and overall attacks us at an incredible pace while being impossible to put down. As far as fantasy books go and especially action ones, this is as good as it gets.