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There's a new, awesome trailer for this equally awesome series 


Strangely enough, HBO this time did not employ the usual epic trailer music, but rather a song from Florence & the Machine (I confess never having heard of this performer...) and I've quickly fallen in love with it.
It's a haunting melody that stays with you for a long, long time.

And April 1st is approaching...  Counting the days.... counting.... counting....


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In my search for more of the "magic" that is GRR Martin's prose in his acclaimed saga A Song of Ice and Fire, I have been reading some of his other works, discovering what an accomplished story-teller he can be even outside of the realms of Westeros.

DYING OF THE LIGHT is one of these amazing finds.  Published for the first time in 1977, it's a science fiction story set on the rogue planet Worlorn: hurtling through space in its aimless course, for the first time since its creation the planet crosses a region densely packed with suns, and gets a chance for warmth and life, however fleeting.

The 14 existing galactic civilizations declare a Festival on Worlorn, each of them building a city to showcase their culture and its accomplishments: when the story begins, the Festival is long over, the cities mostly abandoned, the planet headed once more into the cold blackness of space.  

From Worlorn Dirk t'Larien receives a whisperjewel – a psi-encoded memory storage from his former lover Gwen Delvano. It's a summons, based on an old promise made when they both had the jewels crafted for them: never reconciled with the end of the relationship, Dirk departs for the rogue planet full of hope and dreams.  Once there, though, Gwen welcomes him with puzzlement, looking distant and ill-at-ease, and soon Dirk discovers she's bound to another man, Jaan Vikary, a highborn from the aggressive and patriarchal society of High Kavalaan.  Now convinced that the summons was Gwen's way to forever cut the ties with Dirk, saying a final goodbye, t'Larien slowly learns that Kavalar culture requires a woman to be little more than a chattel, to be shared between her mate and his teyn, a sort of blood brother, a bond that stands as the foundation of all things Kavalar.

The "marriage" is not an easy one, complicated by Jaan's peculiar customs and his society's preoccupation with racial purity and mutations, therefore Dirk slowly comes to the conclusion that the whisperjewel represented a mute appeal from Gwen to save her from the unhappy liaison.  The situation becomes more problematic as we learn that other Kavalars on Worlorn practice a form of hunt whose prey are the creatures they deem inferior and non-human, which includes everyone else by their standards, so that Jaan's attempts at stopping the bloody sport and bringing his planet to a higher galactic standard further inflame the already volatile tempers.

Soon Dirk find himself enmeshed in a political and personal struggle, complicated by his feelings for Gwen and a slowly unfolding web of discoveries that create a fascinating cultural backdrop and change his world-view, leading to a breath-stopping open ending.

Even that early in his career GRR Martin could create spellbinding tapestries, dotted with beautiful characters that sport the many shades of gray I have come to expect from his writing.  Kavalar culture is fascinatingly explored in the juxtaposition between Jaan Vikary, the equivalent of a Renaissance man, and his teyn Garse Janacek, a man torn between duty to the old customs and his ties of loyalty and friendship to Jaan.  Strangely enough, despite the obvious shortcomings of their mind-set, I found them both more likeable than the "hero" Dirk t'Larien, whose stubbornness and sometimes childish pique offer an interesting contrast that reveals Gwen's unvoiced doubts and regrets.  Gwen herself is a wonderful creation: a woman still in search of herself, she seems to be wandering aimlessly through her life (much like the rogue planet where the action takes place), taking life and warmth from the suns she passes by. But in the end she surprises the readers with an unsuspected show of strength, as ultimately does Dirk, whose changes and inner growth take us to the very last pages of the book.

If you like George Martin's works, this one will not disappoint you: you will find many of the themes he further explored in the ASOIAF saga, together with spellbinding writing that often touches on the lyrical, and a fascinating story that will reserve many revelations.


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If you are a fan of GRR Martin and his ASOIAF saga, if you enjoyed the HBO mini-series, you can re-capture some of the atmosphere in two awesome vids by the talented [livejournal.com profile] diarmi

HERE is the most recent one, Farewells and Crossroads and
HERE is the previous one, All or Nothing.

And while you're there, check out the rest of her vids, and prepare yourselves for a visual feast...

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After the long summer marathon in which I re-read the first four books of GRR Martin's saga, I finally tackled the long-awaited fifth book and finished it yesterday.

It's difficult to say how I feel about it: the long months of full immersion in the realms of Westeros left me a little unsettled, as if I just woke up from a convoluted dream and were still trying to regain a foothold in the normal flow of life.   There's a part of me that needs different "pastures" for the brain to explore, and another that's longing for more of that story.

It was a satisfying read, of course, the thousand-odd pages a welcome find after the six years long drought between this book and the previous one: several questions on the whereabouts of a few characters, totally absent in A Feast for Crows, were answered; new characters were added to the mix and older ones were presented in a different light, making me change my mind about them. GRR Martin often surprises us with these turnarounds, and it's one of the marks of how good a writer he is.

Yet it was not an "easy" read: the first half of the book suffered a little from the slowness many perceived in Book 4. These events ran in parallel with the story-arc of A Feast for Crows, so the feeling of having gone back and retraced one's steps must have been responsible for this sensation.
Once the story picked up again toward further developments, though, the pace did not greatly improve and the feel that some of the characters had lost momentum became too strong to ignore.

Daenerys is the one who suffers from this "illness" more than most: after having stormed through Slaver's Bay and taken over city after city, she stops at her last conquest, Meereen, and here she seems to get frozen in amber. Or rather, to be wading through molasses. Only toward the end of the book something changes - finally! - but we are left in the lurch thanks to a massive cliff-hanger. Thank you very much, Mr. Martin!

Something similar happens to other beloved characters, like Tyrion, or Jon: their last pages see them on the brink on something, with no clear indication of what will happen next. That is all right, of course: readers must be left hungering for more - it's a law of story-telling, and also a sound commercial tactic… But did we really need to suffer through pages and pages in which *nothing* happened at all to get to this point? I'm not too sure.

I've often read that sagas suffer from "sagging-middle syndrome", and ASOIAF seems no different: I hope that the next two books, which should see the conclusion of this huge story, will get back to the breath-taking, blood-racing pace of the first three instalments. It would be sad if this particular mountain were to give birth to a puny mouse, after all… 


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September 2013

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