In this world, George RR Martin is God—he giveth and he taketh away. And sooner or later, the constant, casual slaughtering of men will grant you immunity from emotion. That is inevitable. Gone will be the days of practicing character favoritism and mourning every hero who dies. As you get tangled in the webs of the story, you will experience pain so excruciating that you will emerge as stoic as an Unsullied soldier.
For GRRM is a heartless author, and he teaches you to be a heartless reader.
That was meant in the best possible way.
No name-dropping here, but most other authors set too much store by their characters. Now this is understandable, but the disadvantage here is that the plot becomes too invested in the characters and not in itself. Pretty soon, the whole fandom revolves around one or two people and everybody else gets pushed to the side. We get to love some characters very well while the others simply fade into the background, producing a cast made up of Mary Sues and fillers, and a storyline that’s ridiculously predictable .
George RR Martin, again, is the man who dares break the mold. There is no room for attachment in the ASOIAF world, thus none either for predictability—just another secret that sets The God apart from the others.
He lets you into their skin, but not their minds. There’s always a glass wall preventing you from knowing exactly what the people are thinking, thus stopping you from ever sympathizing with them fully. So when Martin goes on a killing spree, you find yourself saddened, but curiously detached. You’ll grieve for a moment, take a breath, and soldier on.
There’s no time to cry for your fallen champion, not when there are half a dozen others waiting to join the fray in his place. There are no sides, no ultimate savior with the weight of the world on his shoulders. This is the magic of Martin: it is the plot that spins the characters, not the characters who weave the plot.
And because even the greatest kings are only pawns, why should any of them be given monologues and supernovas when it’s time for them to die? Admit it, there are times you hate Martin for unceremoniously killing off characters you’ve come to love. You ask, how can someone who’s a large part of the story die at a single swipe of a sword?
Yet in the end you appreciate the perverse beauty of these simple exits. It’s a welcome break from other fantasy stories where the authors all need an overdecorated and symbolic stage for every death scene they write.
With Martin, it’s like this: Ser, your part is done. Die. Move on. Characterization parsimony at its finest. It’s humbling to know that no matter how legendarily men lead their lives, they are still mere little mortals in the cosmos.
Because when you evaluate the grand scheme of things, each character is simply that—a character. You cannot help being attached to them, but you still see the insignificance of each person in relation to the whole picture. Take any player away, and you remain assured the rest of this game of thrones doesn’t crumble along with him.
In fact, it only makes the suspense in the snake pit all the more heated.
Because when I labored through the Red Wedding, this all happened to me.