If Tyrion Lannister were a time traveler, I can envision him on stage with Peggy Lee, doing a duet of “Is That All There Is?”.
I have just finished reading the five completed volumes of “A Song of Ice and Fire”. This is arguably the most complex and riveting series since Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy- yes, a cut above Harry Potter. Maybe it’s the unabridged realism of how the human animals treat one another, and the “no promises” twists and turns of George R.R. Martin’s imagined blend of pre-history, ancient Rome and China, medieval Europe and 20th Century American snarkiness that kept me going- and leave me waiting, eagerly, but patiently, for Volume 6.
There are characters I have come to love, and love to hate.
The aforementioned Tyrion swings like a pendulum between the former group and the latter- his finest moment, thus far, is his sensitivity in the wedding bedroom with the hapless Sansa Stark. His basest, the slaughter of his father, is balanced by the fact that Lord Tywin is such a hideous man of his times.
The girls, Daenerys Targaryen, Sansa (aka Alayne Stone), her sister, Arya (aka “Cat of the Canals”), Ygritte, Margaery, the two Jeynes and Myrcella are stunningly sympathetic beings- though never saccharine and always complete personalities, they are always supremely lovable. I found myself infuriated at the harshness that continually comes their way in the course of the story, but always cheering for their successes and ingenuity, while knowing that they will need to suffer the same ignominies as everyone else.
Besides Tyrion, the tale abounds with great characters: the insipid, but dangerous, Vargo Hoat; the ever-present shadow, Lord Varys; the good-hearted brute, Strong Belwas and the kindly giant, Wun Wun. I would have liked to have seen Ned Stark and his bastard son, Jon Snow, escape their cruel fates, at least for a time, but the story would have probably suffered.
The great villains, Tywin, his daughter Cersei, Roose Bolton, his bastard son Ramsay and the psychotic Walder Frey bring a near-blinding blackness to their corners of Martin’s undulating Eurasian prototype.
The great adventurers- Robb Stark, Drogo, Jaime Lannister, Stannis Baratheon, Jorah Mormont, Victarion Greyjoy, Jon Connington- and Tyrion, in his own way, show the destiny that so often awaits those who ride larger than life- and end up getting snagged by a combination of their own folly and the treachery of their petulant enemies.
The promise, and the threat, will continue for at least two more volumes, as Daenerys and her young nephew Aegon follow their destinies. My hope is that the vagaries of modern American television don’t thwart George R.R. Martin in HIS imaginative quest. Let’s wait for “The Winds of Winter”, “A Dream of Spring” and whatever else the denizens of Westeros and the eastern cities may care to bring us.