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George R R Martin vs Robert Jordan

April 19, 2013

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I recently finished George RR Martin‘s book “A Dance with Dragons” (just in time for the Game of Thrones Season 3 premiere!) and then decided to reread Robert Jordan‘s series “The Wheel of Time”, since I stopped right before he died and never did finish it.  I was struck by how different the two series are, even though they are, at their core, similar.  Both are fantasy books set in a medieval-ish time, both involve prophecy, both have magic, and both have people dying all the time.  But that’s really where the two stop being the same and each branch off into their own very separate categories.

“The Wheel of Time” is classic fantasy.  Magic and creatures all over the place.  Prophecy dominates all. And while there are a MILLION characters, and we see into the perspective of a number of people, the story mainly centers around one person.  If that one character died, there would almost be no point to the books whatsoever.

“Game of Thrones”, on the other hand, has main characters dying all the time.  Every book, it seems, we see into a new person’s perspective, because at least one other person has died (especially in “Dance with Dragons” – seems like everybody died up in that one).  And while there are certainly creatures, magic, and prophecy, the story is driven more by the people in it, and not the magical forces they are fighting against.  In “Game of Thrones”, the characters are fighting with each other more than anything, their own desires for power, money and honor driving them, as opposed to arguing over how to fight the big bad guy.

The other major difference is in pacing.  For much of “Wheel of Time”, each chapter picks up right where the last one left off.  Immediate satisfaction of knowing what happens next.  This makes the books go by very quickly. In “Game of Thrones” on the other hand, each chapter changes perspective, and very rarely are there two chapters back to back that take place in the same location.  This makes the pacing a bit slower, especially if there are certain characters whose perspective you don’t like (Brienne).  

Since I have yet to read the end of either series (Get on it, George!!!), I can’t really say whether one is better than the other.  I will say, I’m enjoying the feeling of wanting to drop everything else in my life in order to read.

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