I recently completed an editing gig where I needed an example of why writing a fantasy in a shifting limited 3rd person POV can be risky. Coincidentally, I had also just finished watching the third season of the TV show Game of Thrones.
I’ve tried to like the show, I really have. Just like I’ve tried to like George R.R. Martin’sSong of Ice and Fire novels. I even paid full hardback price for the fifth book. Now that I think about it, the thought of that $35.00 I’ll never get back may have contributed to why I found it so underwhelming. Or maybe I’m just old fashioned. Because I believe it takes a great hero to make a great fantasy adventure.
Don’t get me wrong, Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, is an incredibly empathetic hero, complex and conflicted, noble yet accessible; he has it all. At least he did until Martin beheaded him. Ever since that moment near the end of the first book, the story has just limped along, sprawling further and further out of focus.
I’ve slogged through the whole thing, so I can tell you Martin trots out lots of candidates who vie to replace Stark, but none of them ever manage to seize the mantle of hero and give the reader a character to root for, a focal point. In other words, there’s no one in the story for me to care about.
Okay, maybe that’s overstating it. Westeros is peopled with plenty of interesting and sympathetic characters. Tyrion Lannister rocks. For a long time I held out hope that he would step forward as the saga’s new protagonist. Even his brother Jaime started to get sympathetic after his maiming. But Martin refused to center his story on either of them. Instead he just dragged me along, meandering from viewpoint character to viewpoint character until I just gave up trying to figure out whom to root for.
Judging from the popularity of the novels and the show, I’m guessing I’m the only person in the world who feels this way. Oh well. I still think I’m right. And I still used George R. R. Not-Tolkien’s saga as my example for how a shifting limited 3rd person POV can fracture an otherwise fascinating story until it reads like a poorly structured history book. (And I enjoy a good history book.) So, thank you, Mr. Martin for unintentionally providing me with a useful editorial tool.
Oh, in case you’re wondering, yes, I will probably get suckered into reading the next book. That’s assuming Martin ever publishes it; like winter, he keeps saying it’s coming… But I seriously doubt I’ll spendany money on it.
Thank the Seven for libraries.