Terrible Fantasy - Malazan Book of the Fallen and A Song of Ice and Fire

This thread concerns the series’ entitled “The Malazan Book of the Fallen” by Steven Erikson and “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin.

Several months ago I began reading A Song of Ice and Fire. I had read nothing but good reviews about the series and, as an avid fantasy reader, eagerly dove in. Halfway through the first book, I was already experiencing a figurative bitter taste in my mouth. I finished the first book without much fanfare, but decided to read the second and third because I was at a loss for what else to read. Plus, I had just read too many good things about the series to give up after the first book.

My perception only worsened with the close of the second and third books.
I’ll grant that the writing itself, from a technical perspective, is much better than a lot of other material out there, but I just could not get into the storyline. The only character I found myself attached to at all was Jon; everyone else was too predictable and 2D. My biggest beef with the series, however, is the false advertising. For a fantasy book, it is almost entirely bereft of beloved fantasy elements! This drove (and drives) me batty. Sure, there are the three dragon hatchlings, and the Others, but they make such short, brief appearances as to be nonexistent. What kind of fantasy series is absolutely bereft of magic?! If I wanted to read realistic fiction in a medieval-type setting, I would browse the appropriate bookshelves. When I pick up a fantasy book, I expect certain fantasy elements, dammit!
I could not bring myself to read the fourth book, and threw in the towel on this series.
I picked up Gardens of the Moon (the first in “The Malazan Book of the Fallen”) almost three weeks ago after reading sterling review after glowing review for the entire series. At that time, I was searching for a new good fantasy series to keep myself occupied. I had finished reading most of the Forgotten Realms novels that are still in print and I had just reread the Dragonlance Chronicles for old time’s sake. I’m about halfway through the book, and am feeling woefully disappointed again. The time frame alone says something; usually I’d fly through a book of this size in a week at most.

My first grievance is that the book offers almost nothing in the way of background. I’m not asking for a mind-numbing info-dump, but the way the book drops the reader in the midst of a huge conflict within a huge empire within a huge world makes it extremely difficult to get absorbed into it. Also, the willy-nilly introduction of characters and plot points without proper introduction only compounds this problem.

So far I’m still pretty clueless as to who some of these races/societies are, like the Tiste Andii, Moonspawn and some others. I have no idea as to the motivations of even the major characters, except for Sargent Whiskeyjack - his motivation seems clearly to be only “Stay Alive.” Unlike “A Song of Ice and Fire,” there is actually magic in this series. That said, I only have the vaguest inkling of how the magic system works. Apparently there are a variety of things called “warrens,” which are metaphysical power sources that magic-users can tap into. I’m not entirely sure if this is correct, and, presuming it is, I have no idea how many there are or what sorts of power each one confers.
I haven’t quit reading a book without finishing it in a long, long time, but I’m afraid I might do that with this one. I don’t have one iota of connection to the characters, their problems, or the entire setting for that matter. The next book I have lined up is The Jackal of Nar, by John Marco. When I get to this one, I hope to find it more rewarding.


Well, the Malazan series isn’t intended to be a simplistic, paint-by-numbers series like so many others. The issues you’re complaining about were deliberate decisions on Erikson’s part. Things eventually become clearer, and the series gets better upon re-reading.

I think maybe you’re just not the target audience for A Song of Ice and Fire. I have no idea what you’re talking about with 2D characters. Either you were reading a different series or complex characters just aren’t your thing.

And as far as magic goes, it’s coming BACK. That’s the point. It was gone for hundreds of years, and now with the rebirth of the dragons, it’s coming back into the world.

I can only imagine that you didn’t actually READ the books, but rather just rushed through them to finish them. It’s not a rush-through series.

Frankly, I think A Song of Ice and Fire may be one of the best fantasy series out there.

You think Jaime Lannister is two dimensional?

Hell, Tyrion is about 5-dimensional, let alone Jaime! Even Tywin is multi-dimensional.

I’m still trying to get my head around the characters being described as “predictable.”

That sounds actually interesting. Maybe I’ll give them a try.

Jamie Lannister isn’t necessarily 2D, but he strikes me as a typical bad guy on a redemption streak.
He slew his king, he banged his sister and passed their children off as children of House Baratheon. Then he lost his hand and he suddenly he begins to re-examine his life. Totally didn’t see that coming…a life-altering event causes an arrogant prick tries to search for new worth for himself…:rolleyes:

I’ll grant you that one. I forgot to mention Tyrion, who is certainly a character with a surprise at every turn.

Yea, the 2-D thing seems inaccurate to me too. Especially compared to other fantasy series, Song of Ice and Fire has a set of pretty complex and morally ambiguous characters. And of all the characters, the one you mention liking (John Snow) is probably the most one dimensional. He (and Ned Stark) are basically the only “white hat” characters in the series, everyone else is shades of grey.

He slew Aerys because Aerys (“the Mad”) had put into place a plan to destroy King’s Landing by Wildfire if the city were put under siege by the rebels. The only way to prevent wholesale slaughter of the entire population was to kill the king and the people who were charged with putting his policide into action. It was after doing what Jaime considered the most honorable thing he’d ever done (saving all the innocents in the city) that he gained the reputation of being the most dishonorable knight in the kingdom, so he threw that honor out the window and acted as people expected him to.

There are very few characters in ASOIAF that don’t have complex reasons for their actions.

I love both these series equally, but I get your point, especially about Erikson. It would have been SO lovely for Erikson to have at least one character – an apprentice or a student or a new recruit (cliche, I know) – who would ask questions so some of the more esoteric stuff could be explained. They talk about the political maneuvering, but there’s not enough about the magic system. It makes me wonder if Erikson is working it out as he goes, but it’s probably just me, not getting it.

Song of Ice and Fire – you don’t think Tyrion is an interesting character?

A Song of Ice and Fire is even more sparse than Tolkien in its approach to the fantastical elements - it’s magic level would be considered as low-key, but high power - when it does work

I would not consider the traditional concept of fantasy stories here; I am not expecting Elves, Dwarves and the like (or any attempts to clone them and give them some gibberish names like Tryerling or Homonies or such). But the elements of fantasy are there:

  1. Dragons!
  2. Valyrian Steel
  3. Zombies!!
  4. Visions
  5. Dragonglass shards that works against zombies
  6. Doppelganger!

I would like to say that the series is more like a retelling of the medieval history of a world which has almost lost all its magic. But it’s there, in the background, and if all things goes as I’ve expected, Bran will be in the thick of it all.

As for the characters, I have to say, they are some of the most riveting characters around. All of them have some sort of secrets; lots of them do the unexpected, and lots of them die by the droves too. I was shocked by what happened, and what the following characters did

  1. Nate getting killed
  2. Catelyn’s treatment towards Jon
  3. Jon’s sudden realisation of that he in fact is a bully
  4. How Danys’ brother died
  5. How Danys adapted to her new lifestyle
  6. The incredible dumb thing which Robb did
  7. …and that he died…
  8. …while his mother did not…
  9. …and that young Sansa may become a shrewd politician
  10. …Arya becoming blind…
  11. Tryion shooting Tywin
  12. That the Viper f’ing died
  13. Tryion actually riding into combat

Not to mention that quite a number of important characters do not spring from nowhere. They have splattering of back-story here and there. I really hope the OP will give the books another read.

Jamie is not a bad guy. Either is he good. When reading the series, I don’t the characters in term of what’s good and evil anymore (wait till you see what Jon do later in the series. heh).

Regarding Jamie, he had love for his younger brother. From the narration, it seemed that he was always taking care of him. Before he lost his hand, he saved Brienne from rape, and he did, for all intend, wanted to save Sansa and Arya. And it was in defence of Brienne that he lost his hand. His killing of the last king marked him as oath-breaker, but did he do the right thing?

Besides being proud, arrogant and pushing a child off to his death, he’s quite human…like everyone else, I guess.

When the Red Wedding happened, I was so shocked and upset that I stopped reading the book for 3 days. George R. R. Martin is a ruthless writer.

See, I did have a sneaking suspicion about the wedding. But that was because I was a cynical, battle-hardened survivor of Martin’s “nobody HAS to survive” writing philosophy by that time.

The moment that I knew ASOIAF was a different kind of fantasy series was when Jaime dropped Brand out the window. THAT shocked me.

Frankly, I will never read these two series. Everything their fans have to say about make me vaguely dislike the books on principle. :smiley:

Sorry, Skip! I saw it openly mentioned before in this thread and figured we were spoiler-positive already.

If you’re interested in detailed magic systems, you might try Brandon Sanderson. (His characterization isn’t his strongest point. Writing is getting better.)

Redemption is a very small part of Jaime’s character. It’s more about learning that he isn’t the complete prick he is believed to be when we finally see things from his point of view. He’s still far from a stalwart hero. But then so are all of the characters in Martin’s books. Except maybe Ned. Much of the story is about how different the world can be when seen from different perspectives. That’s what i like about it most.

I’m sorry. I’ve tried to keep quiet, and I’ve tried to come up with a nicer way to say this, but I must speak up, and I hope you won’t take this personally. If you are rejecting George RR Martin in favor of Dragonlance, the problem is not with the books. You just have terrible taste in literature.