Game of Thrones: Best Fantasy Series Ever
By Winter Is Coming on in Books, Editorial.

The Iron Throne
Game of Thrones is the best fantasy series ever. Or, if you prefer, A Song of Ice and Fire. (Though, for simple name recognition, I wonder if Game of Thrones won’t become the de facto title for the whole saga?) This was the stance I took in a featured guest post I wrote for Ology in conjunction with their I Am Fandom month. Here is a snippet:

A Song of Ice and Fire is the best fantasy book series of all-time.

Yes, better than The Wheel of Time. Better than Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia or (yuck) Twilight. And better, even, than The Lord of the Rings. So it is no wonder it has spawned one fantastic television show in Game of Thrones.

If you haven’t watched the show, or read the books, you’re seriously missing out. This series seems real in a way that no other fantasy series is able to achieve. It’s not just the fact that it is based on medieval England with magic that is seen as myth by most people in the story. The deep and flawed characters are what really set it apart.

There is no good and evil, no absolute right and wrong. The “good” characters all have shortcomings. The “bad” characters all have redeeming qualities (with a few notable exceptions). From the honorable but bumbling Ned Stark, to the cunning but good-hearted Tyrion Lannister, each character has a depth to them that you don’t often find in contemporary fiction.

You can read the rest over at Ology.

Winter Is Coming: What do you think WiCnet readers? Do you agree? Disagree? Is Thrones the best fantasy saga of all-time? Why or why not?


213 Comments

  1. Azurecobalt
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Right on!

  2. Anna Backström
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Not better than Lord of the rings… Quite different both, but equally good. I can’t even say my final word because ASOIAF is still unfinished and we need to know the full work to judge rightfully. That thing that happened to Jon at the ending of Dance…. can become a disaster D:

  3. Horatio
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    I’d go Malazan Book of the Fallen

  4. Lou
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    I love a song of ice and fire, and books 1 and 2 are among the best ever written. However, the last two books, especially book 4, are not very good. Wheel of Time redeemed itself after some stinkers in the middle, hopefully GRRM can do the same.

  5. Rhymes with Freak
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Although I am very much obsessed with this series, I will have to wait until its completed to judge it as a whole. LOTR (the gold standard for fantasy literature) and the rest of the examples you gave are completed. That being said I have faith GRRM will give us an epic enough conclusion that ASOIAF will ultimately go down as the best ever. But not yet…not yet.

  6. John-Michael Lelievre
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m not even sure how Twilight and ASoIaF can be used in the same sentence (oh look I just did it… haha) but I definately agree.

    I Think the characters have more depth, and are more engaging than Wheel of Time, Better setting and writing than Harry Potter, and more grounded into our everyday lives than Lord of the Rings. Granted it isn’t without It’s faults, but the fact that with every twist I feel like throwing the book across the room swearing to never read another page, and yet always knowing would draw me back in… You just don’t see that anywhere else.

  7. Jo
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    is one of the best, but we will only be able to judge when the books will be (let us pray) completed. But I do not think better than the ones mentioned (minus Twilight yuck), I would say equally good.
    I do not know why one has to be better than the other.

  8. TJ
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Great fantasy series, but from a literary perspective it is not the best. The story itself doesn’t lend much to originality, as it’s simply based on the 15th century War of Roses; something Martin openly admits to. Martin has even stated that he took the character structure and character development straight from Lord of the Rings – main characters starting together and becoming close (The Fellowship/Stark family), taking separate paths, and then the stories of the surviving characters eventually coming together in the end.

    I do enjoy Martin’s preference for realistic fantasy, as he does not get too outrageous with magic and sorcery compared to other fantasy novels.

  9. Justin Pace
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    No.

  10. Huttburt
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Certainly better than Lord of the Rings.

  11. Aziraphale
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Horatio,

    I JUST started reading the first book a couple of nights ago, I’m not kidding! I hope it turns out to be one of the greatest epics I’ll ever read, so I’m savoring each page.

    As for greatest fantasy series? I’m sorry, but A Song of Ice & Fire isn’t done yet, so I’m reserving my judgment on whether or not it’s worthy of the title, but it’s certainly in the running.

    Another one to consider is Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, which I’ve heard to be incredible, but I’ve never read myself.

    For personal fantasy favorites, Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles kicks serious ass (I highly recommend it).

    Right now, best fantasy series? I’d bet on Neil Gaiman’s seminal Sandman series.

  12. John-Michael Lelievre
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Aziraphale,

    I’ve started reading it as well, only a few chapters in, enjoying it so far :)

  13. EPN
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    I think it is a very close 2nd to LOTR. In some ways I think the book is closer than the show. Don’t get me wrong, I love the show – it’s my favorite on TV right now – but it seems to lack the incredible scale (especially in the battles) that the Rings movies nailed. That said, the characters on Thrones tend to have more depth and more thought-out and complex motives and emotions, which is one of the things I like. I just hope that the second season picks up the “epicness” a little bit. (I would point out the number of people at the tournament – a citywide event – and the skipping of the Whispering Wood – a battle that could have been legendary had they been able to shoot it.) Here’s looking forward to the second season. My advice? If you think Peter Jackson would do it, DO IT!

  14. Maxwell James
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    As Chairman Mao said regarding the French Revolution: “It’s too soon to tell.”

  15. EPN
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    John-Michael Lelievre,

    You are in for a treat my friend

  16. Lex
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Awesome post… but I still think The Lord of the Rings beats ASOIAF for title of Best Fantasy Series Ever.

    I don’t think ASOIAF can top the depth of Tolkien’s creation (especially if you include the backstory and world building of The Silmarillion)… but this question can’t really be answered until ASOIAF is finished. Only then can we truly compare the two.

  17. Hollyoak
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Great post and apt to garner discussion. I would have to say that Rings is the best fantasy ever written. While I believe Martin is a better wordsmith in the craft of writing, Tolkien created the groundwork and rules for modern fantasy. Every fantasy game, movie, song, whatever, has its roots in Tolkien’s made up world peopled with elves, dwarves, orcs and others.

    He was truly an incredibly great thinker and fantasist. While I respect GRRM greatly, and the world of Westeros he created, I think Tolkien still deserves the title of world’s greatest fantasy writer.

    Thank you very much, and God bless America.

  18. EvilPicnic
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Awesome article, you some up some of the great aspects of the books! One line didn’t quite scan for me: ‘Real life, especially in medieval times, is sexy’ but otherwise it was really well written! Kudos Winter!

    I generally agree with some of the posts above though; ASoIaF is just not finished enough to be able to compare with such behemoths as LotR or Earthsea or The Once and Future King. But I think it’s getting there!

  19. Julian Walker
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Awesome post… but I still think The Lord of the Rings beats ASOIAF for title of Best Fantasy Series Ever.

    I don’t think ASOIAF can top the depth of Tolkien’s creation (especially if you include the backstory and world building of The Silmarillion)… but this question can’t really be answered until ASOIAF is finished. Only then can we truly compare the two.

    I guess we will be comparing the two when George finished Time for Spring in 2020!! :D

  20. Dan
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    The Harry Potter series is still my favorite of all the fantasy books. There’s something about J.K. Rowling’s storytelling ability…

    And at the time I read it I could relate to it more than ASOFAI :)

  21. Blueberry2
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t consider it the best until it’s finished and we see where it goes, but so far I do enjoy reading it more than I did LOTR. I like the low magic, complex characters, and real sense of the characters being in danger. I like that for the most part it deals with humans, and not a large variety of the usual elves, hobbits, dwarves, orcs, dark elves, etc. Martin has written a series that’s complex yet accessible. The dense prose and mythology of LOTR make it more of a chore to get into and follow.

  22. Julian Walker
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Well, here’s an interesting question: Is Song of Ice and Fire the best medieval fantasy series of all time? In comparison to other fantasy stories that DON’T deal with medieval Europe I wouldn’t know. I pretty sure that there are fantasy authors out there that have written may be better than Martin, we just haven’t seen or heard too much of them yet.

  23. Knurk
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    I’d go with fantasy-series that started out the best. After the last clunker (or two, depends on who you talk to) there is little hope this one will end with a good book or end at all. I’ll read the next book, but have zero hope for it. I’m not recommending the books anymore, but instead am recommending the HBO-show.

  24. Jason
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    No, its not complete. Once it is it very well may be though

  25. FacelessMan
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    If the next two books turn out as good as the first three, then it could very well be the best series ever. As for the show, even though it doesn’t have the budget of big huge blockbuster, it’s easily my favorite :)

  26. Corey Brooks
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    I agree wholeheartedly. While Wheel Of Time is one of my favorite fantasy series, ASoIaF just takes the top spot (followed by WoT and Sword Of Truth).

    Lord of the Rings is too overrated, IMO. I’m glad to finally see it get taken down off its holy pedestal and be replaced by ASoIaF (which is a thousand times better than LOTR).

  27. Clob
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    I’d have to say that I’ve enjoyed reading ASoIaF more than any other fantasy series. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy others (a lot). Any series that I read all the way through is good (to me).

    It’s been years since I read the Chronicles and The Hobbit/LotR trilogy. Of course they are both great, but they feel a bit more for a younger age as well as being sort of short. A less adult series isn’t a bad thing, it’s just… different. I really loved WoT through about 3 1/2 novels and then it just became stretched out too long. I continued reading but the entire series could have been completed in around eight books. Chapter after chapter filled with descriptions of clothes and environments from multiple perspectives rather than moving the story forward were/are maddening. This sort of thing is what I think about when people mention they didn’t especially enjoy one of the ASoIaF novels or parts of them. I have not read a book series of any genre that didn’t have slow spots.

    I’ve tried finding other series to fill time. I started reading the Malazan series but put it aside for the time being as I lacked the motivation to get through the odd style (future read). Eddings’ The Belgariad and The Mallorion are good, but again, very “soft-core” fantasy. I go for a lot of sci-fi/fantasy as well, like Dan Simmons’ work. I absolutely loved the Hyperion Cantos and Ilium/Olympos for example. If someone decided to do a movie or television series for those I’d be all over that as a major fanatic too.

    I typically check lists of ‘bests,’ awards and such, as well as recommendations on forums for book series, and ASoIaF is typically very high in all areas. That’s actually how I found out about this series in the first place.

  28. Epic Awesomesauce
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    It’s like as if someone wrote an article that Snickers is the best $.89 chocolate bar ever. Because unlike Whatchamacallit that established all the chocolate bar rules 50 years ago, this one has a little salt. My next post will delve into the marvelous implication and detail of this new fannish revelation.

  29. Epic Awesomesauce
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Clob: Dan Simmons’

    That would deserve a little more funding IMHO. I’m a fan.

  30. K
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with many posting here that books 4 and 5 have lost some steam for sure so my verdict remains out right now. And, seriously, with all respect. sorry, folks, but the Lord of the Rings is definitely NOT overrated – it is the template for nearly all fantasy series that have followed – it’s just like when people say they don’t get the big deal about “Citizen Kane” – get a sense of historical perspective please.

  31. Luana
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Much too early to tell where ASOIAF will rank in the annals of literary history, especially given that it’s not finished yet. But I don’t see how it could surpass the Lord of the Rings, which is in a league of its own, and defined the entire modern fantasy genre.

    Obivously I’m a big fan of ASOIAF, or I wouldn’t be here. But in terms of originality, creativity, writing style, plot, and characterization, I’d say Zelazny’s original Amber series is just a bit better.

    I’ve never understood why people like the Wheel of Time books. Reading this series was like wading through mud; I only kept going because I thought at some point there must be something good. Never found it.

  32. Ellsworth Toohey
    Posted November 2, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Although I greatly admire the ruthlessness of Tywin Lannister, the best fantasy series of all time is, of course, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

    There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world.

    The other, of course, involves orcs.

    Regards.

  33. Joshua Taylor
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Knurk,

    It’s a telling point when someone won’t even recommend the series. Personally while I was disappointed with the last two novels, I still love the world and the characters too much to not have hope that the final two books will deliver. I’ve invested so much time in the series that it would be a waste to forsake my aspirations for what is to come. But I understand the sentiment and am happy that ASOIAF lives on for you in the television series. I will go on the offensive at this moment for not even recommending the series as I would never want to deprive anyone of the first three books. Let them judge the last two on their own merits.

    Now that the Meerenese knot aka all of the mishmash of the last two books have come and gone maybe the game will continue. I hope your faith in the series will be reinvested with a stellar book 6.

    Just throwing a bit of optimism here.

    Cheers.

  34. Sam
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    To get all wordy on you, I think “bumbling” has far too humorous connotations for Ned. He made mistakes, yes, but bumbling makes him sound…like some silly fool, not a serious character.
    (And having reread aGoT a few times or more, I really doubt things could ever have gone that well for him, even if he’d made different choices. But then maybe I’m just growing weary of the “Ned is so stupid, lulz” meme….)

    As for best ever…it’s probably my favorite fantasy series ever, depending on my mood on a given day. But it’s hard to make judgments on an unfinished work.
    And IDK, much as I love it I’m not going to run around hitting people over the head with the books, yelling that “IT’S THE GREATEST EVAAAAR” because that always makes one sound like a snob!nerd and that’s just unattractive. For the books and the person pimping them.
    While there are a million non-subjective reasons for ASOIAF’s greatness, people have their tastes and for some it’s a beloved series and for others…not so much. I don’t get that most of the time, but then there’s lots of stuff that I think is shite but like everyone looooves for some many good reasons, so there you go.

  35. andrea
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    what the heck are you talking about? My goodness how little fantasy/s.fiction I know. I read Tolkien because my niece is a very persuasive girl (and bad temper) and ASoIaF because of the show. I liked it (both) but I can not compare it to what I read, would not be fair I guess. And can´t compare it with other fantasy because I´m almost an ignorant. I’m embarrassed. I don´t know any of the authors you named. I can only name (appoint?) Howard Fast and Italo Calvino. They are the closest (to fantasy or s. fiction genres) that I have ever read. Oh, and Gilgamesh jijijiji that counts as ancient? Augh, how old I am? What am I doing here?
    No! Ok, sorry, I know the Eternauta almost by heart (it´s a wonderful argentine science fiction comic written by Héctor Oesterheld).
    If I could compare with other fantasy writers I would say the same others have said: is not yet finished.
    I’m taking notes of what I must read. please recommend.

  36. Amir Mishali
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    I totally agree, and I’ve been saying it for quite a time.
    I consider ASoIaF best fantasy series ever, with LotR taking second place and the Amber books third.

  37. Joshua Taylor
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    Hands down the most enduring fantasy novel is LOTR. Not only is a canonical text but one cannot deny that in its pages lies the genetic make-up of the entire fantasy genre. But I think another novel was instrumental in influencing A Song of Ice and Fire and other “darker”, grittier fantasy series. And though it is considered a science fiction novel, I would put Frank Herbert’s Dune at the top of that list.
    Dune’s blending of historical novel (the ongoing realpolitik between great powers, epistolary passages at the beginning of each chapter) with fantasy tropes such as prophecy and messianic figures combined with the accoutrements of science fiction (space travel, ‘logical ‘explanations for supernatural phenomena, world building) is ASOIAF in its most embryonic form. In my opinion anyway. Does anyone know if Martin ever said Dune was an influence?

    As for Song of Ice and Fire being great literature…I dunno. Lord of the Rings whether you like it or not has resonant themes all throughout, its message and the purpose of why it was written is very clear. It is quite a tome, but you can dissect it piece by piece and it fits together organically. It’s cohesiveness can probably be attributed to the fact that it was written by an English Professor?

    One thing I have noticed since GoT made ASOIAF a rather known quantity is a small but growing backlash towards it, mostly by the’ Unsullied’ readers lured in by the television series. Someone commented how it was The Wire of fantasy series because of it is so unrelenting in its betrayal of human misery and the notion that ambition/power always trumps honour and goodness. The argument goes that since The Wire is based on real life, the ongoing tragedy of the story and many stories like it is justified. Therefore it is eye-opening, provocative, it generates feelings in people where they are bothered by what they have saw or read but do not hold it against the author or the text because it’s ‘real life’. But in a fantasy novel? Many view Martin as a sadist. And these are reactions that I am getting. Personally I think they should look up the word metaphor, but this is what a lot of people now exposed to this universe seem to feel. To be honest on the topic of ASOIAF joining the fantasy literary canon I side with the recurring answer I’ve seen on this board: wait until it is a complete work.

    But even then television series and the novels now exist at the same time and neither (as we all know) are completed. A rare thing. I fear that perhaps ASOIAF won’t join the fantasy pantheon as a complete work because the show and the books will have become interchangeable.

    As for Erikson’s Malazan, I struggled through the first novel but I am halfway through Book 2 and enjoying it immensely. I recommend it.

  38. TJ
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    I just can’t see how people can say ASOIAF is better than LOTR when its entire story development was admittedly (by Martin) ripped from LOTR. Not too mention ASOIAF is an unoriginal concept, as Martin admits the whole premise was taken from Wars of the Roses.

  39. Langkard
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    I suppose if you held my feet to a fire I would rank A Song of Ice and Fire with The Malazan Book of the Fallen in a tie for second just below Lord of the Rings. Perhaps when he finishes the series, I’ll be able to change my opinion. Then again, Erikson has said he’ll be writing several new prequels and Esslemont still has several books to go in his part of the series. Since neither series is technically finished, maybe we shouldn’t rank either yet?

    There so many other great series which I loved for different reasons, just a few of which would be: Andre Norton’s Witch World series and related books, Glen Cook’s Black Company series and Dread Empire series, Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Pratchett’s Discworld books and Zelazny’s Amber books. I’d even rank Sergei Lukyanenko’s Watch tetralogy in there among the best, though it isn’t technically high fantasy, it certainly is fantasy. Likewise Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover books, although both mix science fiction in with the fantasy.

    Pfft. I don’t want to choose! I shall claim that they are all winners and give them all a politically correct gold star or something.

  40. The DarkStar
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    It is already, unquestionably, without a doubt, the best fantasy series ever written. There is nothing better than those first three books, nothing. Book 4 was garbage compared to them, but still better than nearly everything out there…..It makes no matter where the series goes from here, there is NOTHING that can touch those first three books.

    JK Rowling = Spielberg
    great movies, fun to watch, they are awesome, FORMULA is great.

    Martin = Tarantino, Cameron, a Kubrick that doesn’t suck.
    His shit is just on another level that wizards, wands, magic rings, adolescents, and a clear evil just cannot touch.

    No other writer writes between the lines the way Martin does. There is so much depth to his characters, his world, and his words.

  41. Damryn of Dorne
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    I would rank Lord of the Rings as number one solely because it was the first major epic fantasy series. It allowed all the following writers to expand their imaginations to design totally different worlds.

    Second would be a tie between a Song of Ice and Fire, and the Malazan Book of the Fallen. ASoIaF has more of a political/human aspect which is really awesome against the backdrop of a Fantasy world. Malazan is straight epic fantasy, mystery and intertwining storylines spanning thousands of pages. It takes effort to get through that series; not for the faint of heart.

    Wheel of time has a place in my ranking because I grew up reading them. Brandon Sanderson should be able to wrap the series up nicely after a lull in the middle volumes.

    Glen Cook’s Black Company series also has a place in my top 5 due to it’s military aspect and down-and-dirty feel.

  42. sjwenings
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    Yeah, it’s the best. I don’t really care much about arguments that it was inspired by this and that, and therefore not the best. It’s the one I have enjoyed the most reading and gotten the most emotional about. So it’s the best.

  43. andrea
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    Wic:
    As I read your note I was thinking: Why I like this story? The best thing about the show, for me, are the actors and therefore, from the book, the characters or vice versa, doesn´t matter. Is not fantasy what I like I guess (although I love hero´s myth). Just like you? You don´t seem interested in that either, you don´t even write about it in your post (it was on purpose?), as if fantasy, for GRRM, is just an ornament (should be?). Maybe we’ll know some day when the series is complete.
    I guess HBO saw that too, human condition, real people with real flaws rather than a fantasy series or adult fantasy (what the hell is that?). I don´t know, just wonder why fantasy.
    Oh, is too late, I hope I make sense.

  44. Sean Fan
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:26 am | Permalink

    Sam: To get all wordy on you, I think “bumbling” has far too humorous connotations for Ned. He made mistakes, yes, but bumbling makes him sound…like some silly fool, not a serious character.

    You beat me to it. Totally agree with what you said. Bumbling? I can’t think of anything further from the truth when it comes to describing Ned.

    Lucky Sean. What actor can claim being in both film representations of what most people here feel are the top two fantasy books of all time?

  45. Dario
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    Well, I totally agree… ASOI&F it’s really different than all others previous fantasy books, and the TV series isabsolutely the best fantasy ever seen on screen simply because it isn’t set for children… in my opinion, Jackson’s LOTR showed that fantasy is not necessary a children/nerd matter, and GOT has gone over, creating a show based on a fantasy novel but NOT suitable for children, with enormous potential to interest even people who don’t like fantasy…

  46. Ser Harry 'The Heir'
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:57 am | Permalink

    I like it even though i am only halfway through ‘A Feast For Crows’ I still miss Robb and Ned

  47. E
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    As a fan of LoTR, HP and ASOIF… I just can’t say. I can’t compare them to each other. The only common thing about them is they’re fantasy. HP is more YA, LoTR is classic fantasy, while ASOIF is more medieval fantasy.

  48. dimensionallyT
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    LOTR is awful drivel! I can’t get past the wittering, droning descriptions. GRRM’s writing style is far superior.

    My problem with the question is the definition of ‘best’. I have more fun reading the Harry Potter series as well as various others (any of Diana Wynne Jones’s series, for example). Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy is much neater and tidier, a more consistent form. Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series has a female central character with her own mind, so from a feminist perspective is more interesting. Gaiman’s Sandman is more sophisticated (although granted it is a comic series). Abercrombie’s series is darker. ETC ETC ETC

    What GRRM does better than all these, is complexity combined with character development within a gripping atmosphere. In many ways that does make him better, but it also causes problems when things go awry (book 4!).I’ll wait before I judge it.

  49. Alexander Dubrovsky
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    ASOIAF is still unfinished. I’d like to see how it develops and ends before I can declare it the best fantasy ever. If Martin returns the quality of the first three books – ASOIAF will be very high in the list of best fantasy series.

    For me, the best fantasy ever is LOTR.

  50. The Kneeling Knight
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    No, don’t agree at all ASOIAF and LOTR so different they are almost incomparable. However when it comes down to it LOTR takes it. And when it comes to the adaptations you can’t compare the two emmy’s against ROTK’s 13 Academy Awards. LOTR takes it, huge fan of both GOT and ASOIAF though.

  51. Tar Kidho
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    It’s stupid and typically human to try to compare and rank things, even something as broad as ‘fantasy novels’, written in many different styles and in different epoques of recent (and not-so-recent) history.

    LotR? Yes, it defined the outlines of most of today’s fantasy, and as such it deserves a lot of credit, a bit in the same way that The Beatles redefined popular music. Do I think The Beatles are the best pop band ever? No, there’s later music I like better. Do they deserve the high praise for what they meant for pop and rock music? Hell yeah! Even though The Beatles were obviously influenced themselves by earlier music, they opened up a new genre that has now been investigated and hugely expanded by literally millions of music bands that came after. In the much smaller world of fantasy writing, Tolkien basically did just that. Fantasy has existed in some form for a long time as fairytales, folklore, and (some might say) many religious writings, and then Tolkien transformed it into what we now see as fantasy. Does this mean that he is automatically the best fantasy author ever? In my opnion not, but it depends on how much weight one puts on historic merrit. To me personally, LotR is closer to a fairytale than the more gritty fantasy I have come to like more.

    The Wheel of Time? Definitely one of those series *very* close to LotR, but in the sense of world building it is undeniably one of the most impressive feats in modern fantasy. The richess of Jordan’s world and descriptions is something to both fear and admire. Unfortunately, as with almost every series that is longer than three books, Jordan lost direction at some point, but luckily the plot is running forward again towards the end, at the pace set by Brandon Sanderson on the guidelines left by RJ. If this ends on a high as it would seem from the last two books, I am sure that for some people WoT will become their personal favourite of all time.

    GoT? I would probably rank it #1 for character building and the dialogue of all the fantasy novels and series I’ve read so far (and be honest about it people, no one of us has read ALL fantasy ever written so how could we speak about ‘the best of all times’?), but George has lost the plot a bit after book 3. I would still recommend it to anyone, but not as my first recommendation. That ‘title’ at the moment goes to:

    The Mistborn Trilogy. The scope of this series by Brandon Sanderson is smaller than those of LotR, GoT, WoT and many others, but in return the story is on a constant high level and you get the impression that the author knew from the start where and how the story would end. It has in my opinion the best developed and most interesting magic system I’ve come across, and I found myself genuinly caring a lot for some of his characters (I couldn’t pick up another book for more than a month after finishing the series – still missing Vin…). Is this then the best series ever in my opinion? NO! THERE IS NO SUCH THING!!!

    As an outtake, here’s some short opinions about a few series worth reading that I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

    - Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera: great read for people that like a big series with a constant high dose of action. He’s really good at describing fight scenes, which eventually left me a bit disappointed at the end as the last book didn’t meet my high expectations in that regard. But a good read nonetheless for entertainment values, and on that criterium alone definitely amongst my favorites. (he’s also the author of the very popular ‘Dresden Files’ series, but since that is urban fantasy I haven’t read it yet and am not really inclined to)

    - Katherine Kerr’s Deverry (and subsequent) series: as for scope, this has to be one of the most impressive attempt ever. Kerr relates the history of a world by weaving together stories of numerous characters in different times of history, building on the notions of rebirth and the fact that events and personal relations in past lifes can influence future lifes. And this is not just a series for people that like a large number of characters (in different lifetimes!), Kerr also comes with some heartbraking events throughout the series. All in all a very good read for people who want to invest some time in a story. (I haven’t actually read all books because they were still being written back then, but I defintely plan to start all over again at some point and finish all books in the shortest timeframe possible to grasp the entire history as good as possible)

    - (could write more, much more, but really have to get to work now!)

  52. Ahimsa Kerp
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    “There is no good and evil, no absolute right and wrong. ”

    With overwritten proclamations like this, the article sounds more like fanboyism and less like a critical analysis.

    This just isn’t true. While some characters that you initially hate become favorites, there are plenty of “evil” characters. The Mad King, Joffrey, Vargo, Gregor, etc. Beyond them, of course, are the Others, who are definitively evil (pending later developments). There’s no sense of moral grey about Gregor’s raping, pillaging, and torturing.

    Many of the characters are multi-faceted. There are a great many reasons to enjoy the series. But what you are saying is that A Song of Ice and Fire is your favorite series ever, not that it’s the best.

  53. Ramah
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    I doubt that anything could ever supplant LotR as my own personal favourite. I first read it when I was 13 and have loved it ever since. Nothing I have read after can compare to the emotional and sentimental attachment I have to the book…

    That being said, ASoiaF has come closest. In the past, depending on my mood, I would even have ranked them as equal first. I have raved about this series since GoT first came out and have bought the first book five times now as I kept giving it away to people I knew would get into the series.
    After the last two books however I don’t recommend the series. Or if I do, I feel I have to almost apologise for how slow the last two books are. They weren’t bad but they have retro-actively downgraded the rest of the series for me, which is a shame.

    So nope, LotR is tops for me.

  54. TWEEDIE
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    For me ASOIAF is the best ever.

    I like LOTR, the Riftwar by R Feist and The Prince of Nothing by R Bakker but ASOIAF is a class above in my opinion. I love all the books in the series but Storm of Swords literally left me speachless. I woke up in a cold sweat at night many times screaming “How can you DO that GEORGE???!!!!!” after reading that one.

  55. eleusis
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Calling Tyrion Lannister “good-hearted” seems awfully misguided to me, haha. Funny and likable, sure, but he’s as nasty as any of his family members.

  56. Pepi
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    Although I love LotR, I gotta say, I enjoyed reading ASoIaF saga more. As for their adaptations; frankly, I don’t think LotR can be topped. PJ really did that book justice. And while GoT series are awesome aswell, I don’t think they are as good as LotR movies(but yeh… comparing movies to tv series is lame).

  57. Hear Me Roar
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    I read the comments, and I like Tar Kidho‘s analysis best, I agree with it. Winter’s piece fits well in the ‘I am fandom’ posts series, I’d say, as far as I know. Bumbling and sexy are indeed not the best choice of words, though :)

  58. alex
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    i wonder how many people cried “heresy” or “sacrilege” when ASOIAF was deemed better than LotR

  59. Chris Henry
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Good, very good. But LOTR good? Thomas Covenent/Il Earth War good? The Dragon Riders of Pern good? Sword of Shannara good? (Ok, you got me on that one.) Elric of Melnibone good? Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser good? Let’s give it a generation and see how it settles in among the masters.

  60. Hear Me Roar
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Oh, and I like how this post got the discussion going :)

    Subquestion: Best fantasy series ever … what about the TV aspect reading of ‘series’, is it best fantasy on TV? And where does it fit when you consider TV and movies combined?

  61. fhan
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    If you are someone who likes your stories to have happy endings, where the good guys win, the bad guys lose and the two lovers ride off into the sunset, well, Thrones may not be for you.

    Oh, please. It might have seemed that way after the first book or two, but by now we all know that in the end, Dany will be Queen and Jon her King. Tyrion (happily married to Sansa who has been cured of her superficial ways) will be the Hand and the true ruler. Arya will be warden of the North and rebuild Winterfell. There will be some sniveling over the dead people (Starks, mostly, don’t expect anyone to shed a tear over a dead Lannister) and Jaime and Brienne will make very average-looking babies who will all be awesome knights. Happy ever after.

  62. Ron E.
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    I might have agreed if it were a trilogy, but then there were books 4 & 5. We need to wait to see if Martin can redeem himself in the final books before we can make a final verdict on the series.

  63. Croat
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    The only fantasy book that asoiaf is not better of is His Dark Materials. But just in the fact that Ice and fire isnt truly fantasy in some sense, at least not yet. They are not to be compared but if u would ask me if i wanted all fantasy books to be like asoiaf or like His Dark Materials, I’d pick the second one. That said, Asoiaf is the best at everything else. Lord of the rings is pritty boring compared.

  64. SHampooo
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Noooooooooooooooooooope,

    I never will agree because George RR martins English is truely Americanized.

    He uses word like Bunghole and the F word,
    Fior godsake it is a midieval story the language in the
    books are too 20 century it would be nicer if he used
    proper english

  65. John-Michael Lelievre
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Hear Me Roar,

    I think It’s definately the best fantasy on TV right now, there aren’t even any others of note really at the moment are there?

    Compared to movies… I’m not too sure about that one. I can’t really say if it’s on par with say, the Lord Of The Rings movies or not. They both have their strong points, LotR’s budget for one. And GoT’s storytelling. It’s impossible for me to choose between those. There are probably others to compare to but I can’t think of them at the moment haha.

  66. Hirondelle
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    I am so tempted to say yes, ASOIAF is the best fantasy series of all time, because no other I have read ever drew me in like this (or compelled me to join a fan forum), but in my country there’s a saying that you shouldn’t praise the day until the evening, and – like many of you have pointed out – Martin’s series is far from completed. While A Dance with Dragons has in no way made me want to give up on the whole thing, for me it was definetly a plummeting low point that needs to be climbed out of asap. This is where the TV show comes in: the epic awesomeness it is acquiring in its own right keeps the magic of Martin’s story and world alive.

  67. Hear Me Roar
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Ron E.,

    and everyone discussing books 4&5 compared to the first three. I fully agree that we need to wait, much and more hinges on the last two books (hey, maybe even three in the end, though 7 is the fitting, holy number). I remain optimistic, though. The latest two installments constitute the middle act of the Song (GRRM initially imagined three books, where the first would end where the third book now ends!). It’s a transitional part of the storyline, at once point considered to be skipped by using the infamous 5-year gap. Middle parts are always hardest to write, and the split between characters didn’t help much, though it was an understandable decision, all in all. Now I just hope George managed to succeed in what he set out to do with books 4&5, bringing the threads to where he wants them for the final act, arriving at the next shrubbery he planted in his gardener-not-architect style of planning the narrative. Water it well, George, water it well! :)

  68. Gypsy
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Nothing tops LOTR – nothing. And none of the rest of the works would have existed if not for Tolkien leading the way. I do love ASOIAF but it will never ever have the place in my heart and my soul that LOTR does – books and movies.

  69. Hirondelle
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Tar Kidho: It’s stupid and typically human to try to compare and rank things, even something as broad as ‘fantasy novels’, written in many different styles and in different epoques of recent (and not-so-recent) history.

    So true. But, hey, we’re human. Can’t help it. :oD

  70. Dreamlife
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    I agree that we’ll have to wait until the series is concluded to judge whether it is the best ever, but what I can say is I love everything I’ve read so far. Even if GRRM “pulls a Lost” I won’t be upset about the time I spent reading about these characters’ journeys. After all, what I like best about ASOIAF is the characters (kind of like how my favorite aspect of Lost was the characters, not the mythology). I feel like they are much better defined and have more depth than characters from, say, Lord of the Rings.

    I did not consider myself a fantasy fan before ASOIAF. In fact, I was ready to return A Game of Thrones to the library as I was slogging through the prologue. Bran’s push from the window got my attention and I have been hooked ever since.

  71. Hirondelle
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    fhan: Oh, please. It might have seemed that way after the first book or two, but by now we all know that in the end, Dany will be Queen and Jon her King. Tyrion (happily married to Sansa who has been cured of her superficial ways) will be the Hand and the true ruler. Arya will be warden of the North and rebuild Winterfell. There will be some sniveling over the dead people (Starks, mostly, don’t expect anyone to shed a tear over a dead Lannister) and Jaime and Brienne will make very average-looking babies who will all be awesome knights. Happy ever after.

    Oh, *lol*. This reminds me of another sarcastic prediction I read somewhere, which said the exact opposite: in the very end, the Others have won, the world is covered in ice, everyone is dead, but a lone blue rose of winter pokes out of the snowy wasteland.

  72. Hirondelle
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Dreamlife: I was ready to return A Game of Thrones to the library as I was slogging through the prologue. Bran’s push from the window got my attention and I have been hooked ever since.

    This is exactly how it went down for me and all the people I’ve gotten hooked on the books so far. I actually found the prologue beyond the wall tantalizingly chilling, but pretty soon I was wondering who all these people are and why I should care what happens to them. Then a child was pushed from a window to cover up incestuous adultery…

  73. friendly man
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    LOTR is something you read as a kid. ASOIAF is something you read as an adult. So can we really compare these 2…?
    I know there are a lot of fans of LOTR who have read it at an young age and therefore the eppic tale sticks longer and better with you.
    But give it time, good tales are like good wine. They taste better after aging. I bet our kids will say that ASOIAF is the best book series ever written…

  74. Eos
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I don’t think ASOIAF can top the depth of Tolkien’s creation (especially if you include the backstory and world building of The Silmarillion)…
    Lex: Lex

    Agreed. To me, the biggest pull of LOTR is in all the details he put into his world-building. I’m absolutely IN LOVE with Middle Earth in all its variations and forms and to me, the author’s ability to transport me into a believable and attractive fantasy world is one of the most important things (that’s why I like reading fantasy). I am perfectly aware that Tolkien’s characterizations were by no means close to GRRM’s and thus LOTR itself may appear a little flat and uninteresting. GRRM is the absolute dialogue master. Even though some of his characters are more believable and intriguing than others, most are a pleasure to read. But I did get the feeling, in the later books, that GRRM run out of ideas of what to do with his characters and that at some points he went a little over the top. Like somebody said, with Tolkien, everything has it’s purpose.

    As for other authors – in my opinion GRRM beats Robert Jordan any time. I only read the first book, but I didn’t really like anything about it. JK Rowling is, I think, great at what she does and Harry Potter books are really pleasant to read but were – in my mind – made to please, they never take you out of your comfort zone and surprise. Terry Goodkind was an absolute pain to read and other authors (like Fiona MacIntosh, Kristin Cashore), while fun to read, were just that – totally trivial read.

    I think LOTR and ASOIAF are two completely different works, totally different styles and I will (probably) always enjoy picking either one up.

  75. K
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Maybe if Tolkein wrote about Arwen losing her maidenhead or the size of a Hobbit’s manhood (if foot size has any correlation…..) then perhaps some of you would think the Lord of the Rings was more “adult”….yawn.

  76. toast
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I am not a big reader of fantasy books (although I did read LOTR and other things in the genre), but I can say that ASOIAF is definitely enjoyable.
    From my point of view, the writing (and the saga) has one major flaw: cheap plot devices. For all the intricacies of politics in Westeros and beyond, big events are almost always caused by the sheer idiocy of characters otherwise presented as intelligent people, if not cautious and clever.

  77. Who Is Jacopo Belbo?
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Ellsworth Toohey:
    Although I greatly admire the ruthlessness of Tywin Lannister, the best fantasy series of all time is, of course, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

    There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life:The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged.One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world.

    The other, of course, involves orcs.

    Regards.

    luckily some of us keep Rand’s writing in perspective and grow from there and read other things like Russell and Eco and Paine et al who then temper her rather basic message.

    but i do love your user name, because Elsworth Toohey is in fact the seminal character in the book and one of the most important lessons. that there are segements of the population, who wish to control others, that must defacto make quality, genius, uniqueness an unwanted and vile thing. simply attacking great art and thought is not enough to destroy genius however … but holding up mediocrity as “greatness” so as to blur the lines and neuter the massess ability to discern the difference is however most effective.

    and we see it around us every day in our current society.

    Rand’s work is often mana for a young person who leans towards atheism but has no contact with others who doubt as well … but like the teenage boy who thinks Neitzche is the “best philosopher” in the world … you hope that the young person grows out of strict “randism” (as interpreted by shallow, corrupt, greed meisters of the political right wing looking for justification for their way of life … oddly enough most of whom would not be invited to “Galtland”) and build on that base with the myriad of other rational philosophies out there to read and enjoy and to make a part of one’s own personal philosophy.

    but going back you can find that reading Rand is still very insightful, even if perhaps she did not fully intend all of the meaning that can be gleened from the books with her very limited and biased viewpoint in writing it. but there is something to be said for striving for “greatness” in a personal enlightenment sense … striving to be or know or to express oneself uniquely and at the highest level of competence one can achieve. and of course there are plenty of insightful warnings about how the masses despise and wish to destroy any culture which values knowledge or recognizes quality … usually at the behest and under the guidance of those who wish to control the masses by keeping them subservient and in necessary ignorance.

  78. Who Is Jacopo Belbo?
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    what makes LotR the “best” fantasy series ever is that you have to include the Silmarillion … the work of decades of research in language and mythmaking and world building by Tolkein.

    GRRM may take 5 years to write one novel but he did not spend 40 years creating a set of languages and building an entire multi-cultural world mythology and history on top of that.

    LotR is simply unparalleled and is the cornerstone for fantasy.

    As for the “best” written today … GRRM is good … but these past two books have proved he is not the “best”.

    the Malazan books are far better written from a language and literary point of view … and Erickson’s characters are every bit as well written and unique as Martin’s … there just happens to be hundreds more of them that you don’t see in every book.

    the Malazan books also show that Erickson is a much better “plot” writter … his massive series goes everywhere and anywhere weaving hundreds of characters and plots into one final climax that actually works and is satisfying without much, if any, dead ends or dangling threads. but it is very very “thick” and often not an easy read as far as keeping track of everything in relation to everything else … especially if you have read it as they were released with a year or so between them like i have. Malazan is not really for everybody but it is in my opinion the best written fantasy out there.

    but best written may not be the same as “best” or most enjoyable. so there is probably plenty to debate and many other candidates. but as much as i love GRRM’s first three books these last two have put a serious dent in the series being considered “the best” fantasy out there. i wouldn’t have it in the top 5 now that it has gone of the rails … of course if it recovers it could get back in my top 5 …. i just don’t see it happening.

    PS: anybody who puts Sword of Truth series and the words “best fantasy” in the same sentence in any other way than as an opposite day joke needs to have their “fantasy nerd card” revoked and their head examined.

  79. André
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Anna Backström,

    I completely agree with Anna here, it is hard to compare ASOIAF with the Lord of The Rings since it is yet to be finished..

    I don’t think that because George Martin chooses to add a more human side to his charachters it makes them more captivating that the ones in LOTR. Both set of characters are great and important in their own ways to the story they are portraying..

    I think Martin’s books are easier to read since the story flows naturally and he doesn’t has the need to describe every single tree like Tolkien but that is just because they are from different styles of literature..

    The bottom line is we can’t label ASOIAF as the best anything yet simply because it is not done! and after it is finished we have to see if it will change the genre as LOTR did.

  80. userj
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    The issue with ASOIAF is that it is unfinished. And it may go the way of Jordan or *shudder* Goodkind completely sucking after the first couple and possibly someday ending with a whimper. Obvs I hope it does not, but it very well may.

    As it stands if you compare to LotR (classic) or His Dark Materials (modern), ASOIAF doesn’t compare. These are well crafted, complete arcs. ASOIAF is not. And it appears to be meandering away…

    I would say that I am the most attached to the characters of ASOIAF (though HDM also has some great, real characters). The read has been more emotional for me than any other series. LOTR lacks this emotional depth, IMO, because the characters don’t seem real… they seem like heros from the distant past whose tales we are being passed down – that is it reads like a history. HDM and ASOIAF characters seem like real people with real weaknesses and moments of greatness.

    Anyway ASOAIF may be my favorite series regardless, but I don’t think it’s “the best”.

    Ellsworth Toohey:
    There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world.

    The other, of course, involves orcs.

    Well played, sir, well played.

    I was one of those sucked in by Rand when I was about 15. Thank god I grew out of it.

  81. Tinker Tanner
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I think it’s a fruitless exercise to try to place an unfinished work in an “all time best ” list. That being said, I’m sure everyone else here would agree that ASOIAF has the potential to grab that top spot. (or else why woould you be here?) In my opinion though, it has less potential than it used to. 3 books in, I would have said it was a surefire lock to be the best ever. Now 5 books in, I’m not so sure. It still could be, but GRRM has spread the story out so much and lost so much steam that I’m skeptical that he’ll be able to wrap it up tightly. If we’re placing bets on unfinished works potential atop the all time greats list, right now my money is on Patrick Rothfuss. His books are incredible; epic and intimate and eloquent all at the same time, and I have little doubt that he’ll wrap it up as well as he’s started it. If you haven’t read him yet, do it now.

  82. Epic Wunderscheisse
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    pffff! The best ever fantasy novel is Poul Anderson’s 1954 The Broken Sword.

    You’ve probably never heard of it.

  83. userj
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Tinker Tanner,

    U serious? Rothfuss’ books are soooo cheesy and cliche i can’t even… I dropped the first one about 1/3 of the way through due to the ridiculous derivitive D&D-esque aspects. Yuck. Might as well read Dragonlance.

  84. Who Is Jacopo Belbo?
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    userj:
    Tinker Tanner,

    U serious?Rothfuss’ books are soooo cheesy and cliche i can’t even…I dropped the first one about 1/3 of the way through due to the ridiculous derivitive D&D-esque aspects.Yuck.Might as well read Dragonlance.

    hey hey hey. the first two trilogies of the dragonlance books are still great. don’t hold the truckload of shite that came after against the early books. the characters are memorable and endearing and for young adult fantasy they are very engaging.

    now the fact that they tried to turn 6 good books into a whole industry and spawned a hundred other crappy books is sad but those first six are still very good fantasy.

  85. Tyrion
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    The last two books suuuuucked, so no, I don’t think you can call this the best fantasy series of all time.

  86. Lisa
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I would agree with everyone who said that we can’t really compare ASOIAF with LOTR, as the former is still unfinished. Tolkien’s work is pretty much unparalleled when it comes to worldbuilding, ASOIAF can’t really reach that. But I find GRRM’s work more human and realistic. So, I can’t really decide, I’ll best wait until ASOIAF is finished. ;)
    As for other fantasy series, I really love the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey, but it seems that not many people know/like that one. And His Dark Materials, that really should be up there on the list. I tried to read the first Malazan book but gave up halfway through, it just isn’t for me.

  87. Mr. Crow
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I always take issue with the idea that anyone can really sit down and say “to date, there is nothing that surpasses this One Shining Exemplar of fantasy/sci-fi movies/cheesecake.”

    Martin’s written a fantastic series, but it’s not finished yet. I think when it’s finished, he’ll have cemented a seat amongst the greatest fantasy authors since the inception of fantasy as a genre, which he’s arguably done already.

    Tolkien, by contrast, wrote the series that DEFINED fantasy as a genre. And yet I think making a value judgment of saying “A Song of Ice and Fire is better than Lord of the Rings” or the inverse of such isn’t really a valuable statement to make.

    LOTR has its flaws. It is an artifact of its time, and it teeters between being a novel that’s important because it was the foundation for a genre versus being a novel that’s important because it spawned a series of particularly well-crafted fantasy films. Even a self-avowed Tolkien scholar like myself wouldn’t say that it is the “greatest fantasy series of all time,” but that’s because I don’t feel that title is necessary in order to compel people to read it.

    TL;DR: I don’t disagree with giving this title to ASoIaF, but I disagree that the title itself must exist.

  88. John Keady
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    LOTR will always be at or near the top because it was the first and for a long time the standard. A Song of Ice and Fire to me, is the best of the last 25 years though not far behind is Tad Williams’s Memory, Sorry and Thorn trilogy

  89. Daniel
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    The show? there isn’t really a lot of competition compared to other fantasy TV shows. The show could be better though, what with all the pointless filler and sex scenes meant to attract horny teenagers.

    The books… The first three were definitely the best couple of fantasy books published in a long time. Lately though, the series seems to be going the same way that the wheel of time went, the past two books have moved the plot forward at a snails pace. Nevertheless its still the second or third best fantasy series out there, but its fast going downhill IMO.

  90. Heather Galaxy
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    While I am loving ASoIaF, I have to give it to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle as the best series so far.

  91. Knurk
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    dimensionallyT: LOTR is awful drivel! I can’t get past the wittering, droning descriptions. GRRM’s writing style is far superior.

    André: I think Martin’s books are easier to read since the story flows naturally and he doesn’t has the need to describe every single tree like Tolkien but that is just because they are from different styles of literature..

    You guys did read Dance right? I agree LOTR can be boring sometimes with all the world-descriptions but it seems GRRM wanted to best him in Dance, and the worst part is GRRM’s writing style isn’t nearlyas good as Tolkien to make those world-describing chapters interesting. What GRRM does best is creating awesome characters and creating awesome stories for those characters, if he sticks to that game all will be well. If he wants to be another Tolkien (as all the critics are calling him, for shame) the upcoming books won’t get any better than Dance.

  92. EvilPicnic
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Hear Me Roar

    Give the man a cookie.

    The last two books have their faults, but I think it’s the consequence them being an unintended middle-child that George too-late realised was necessary to further the story he wants to tell later. We have to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, and not write the series off just yet.

    SHampooo:
    Noooooooooooooooooooope,

    I never will agree because George RR martins English is truely Americanized.

    He uses word like Bunghole and the F word,
    Fior godsake it is a midieval story the language in the
    books are too 20 century it would be nicer if he used
    proper english

    Fuck is known as an ‘Anglo-Saxon’ word for a reason; it’s pretty old. Shakespeare alludes to it, and Chaucer came right out and used the ‘C’ word quite frequently:

    ‘For certain, old dotard, by your leave/You shall have cunt right enough at eve … What aileth you to grouch thus and groan?/Is it for ye would have my cunt alone?’

    This idea that the European middle ages were somehow all pleasant and chivalric and nobody swore is completely false. In reality it was (to paraphrase Hobbes) nasty, brutish and short.

    Although GRRM is obviously Americanized (y’know, cos he’s an American) he displays a wider knowledge of European history (especially English) than many European writers of fantasy or other fiction. The allusions to the War of the Roses are common knowledge (Stark=York, Lannister=Lancaster), but there’s also stuff that’s a clear reference to the events of The Anarchy, or the Princes in the Tower.

    One aspect of aSoIaF that I think often gets overlooked is that it shows in many cases the effect that this prolonged war is having on the general populace (i.e. lots of rape and starvation and death), and I think it’s notable that none of the villains or ‘heroes’ seem to care are notice:- they’re too caught caught up in the ‘game of thrones’ to give a damn.

    It’s this sort of realism that GRRM inherits from historical fiction (particularly Bernard Cornwell), and that to my mind makes him unique amongst fantasy authors.

    Not like ‘the best’ or anything. Just different.

  93. Magnus
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Lotr itself is not entirely original. It draws on a lot of mythological sources, such as the Volsunga saga. So you can’t really say that Lotr is original, but Asoiaf is not because it takes some elements from the War of the Roses. What makes Lotr special is that it popularized modern mythological writing (though it was not the first in that genre). I doubt Tolkien invented the storytelling structure used in Lotr (the main characters starting in the same place, then get split up), as that is a very natural way to tell a story with many characters. It allows the reader to familiarize with them before moving on. That is also how life happens in many ways. All your friends from childhood (or college or university) end up in various different places.

    If you make a cake recipe and I change a little of it, but everybody thinks my cake tastes better, then which is the better cake? It is all about personal opinion.

  94. Steve Hugh Westenra
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Hmmm. I’m going to stand with most people and say that, as a general rule, I find comparisons like this to be pointless, since the idea that something can be such a shining exemplar of its kind that it is the “best” relies so much on subjective opinion.
    I do think that there are some aspects of ASoIaF that are superior to most fantasies I have read, but the same is true of other series and novels.
    For me, GRRM’s actual, technical and literary merit leaves much to be desired. He isn’t a great writer in the sense of a wordsmith and, to be honest, and find myself groaning a little when people say that he is.
    That is not to say that he isn’t a great writer though, since a story is much more than being talented when it comes to language. For instance, GRRM’s characterization is phenomenal, and he is first and foremost a good storyteller (he spins a good yarn!). I think his world-building is some of the best in fantasy as well, though LoTR trumps him there (and how can it not).
    The difference for me between Tolkien’s excellent storytelling and Martin’s is that ASoIaF is a much more personal and intimate novel, whereas LoTR and its spin-offs are great, sprawling epics. Though ASoIaF is epic in the sense that it’s long and covers vast geographical regions, I think Martin’s pacing is strongest when he’s focusing on internal, rather than external conflict. This is one of the reasons I don’t really care that much about the battles, etc.

  95. Yellow Dog
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Maxwell James: As Chairman Mao said regarding the French Revolution: “It’s too soon to tell.”

    It was Chou En Lai and he was referring to the then-recent student uprisings in Paris in 1968.

    But it is, indeed, too soon to tell on ASOIAF.

  96. friendly man
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Daniel,

    If not for the horny teenagers, the show would not have exist. I’m not a fan of all the sexplenation but it does keep the ratings up. As long as it does that, i’m thrilled to all the upcoming seasons.

  97. OhWhoCares
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Well it’s obviously better than Twilight. Hello. My vomit is better than Twilight.

    As others have said, I don’t think it can really be judged properly yet as it isn’t finished and I personally don’t think GRRM even knows for sure where it’s going to go. I think he’s spread the story line out so far he’ll have a hard time wrapping it all up, and while the first three books are amazing, the last two are really sub par. I think it’s hard to compare it to LOTR or Harry Potter as they’re all quite different. Harry Potter was written for a young audience, quite unlike ASOIAF. So obviously the writing is far more advanced in George’s books, but I think as far as the story and tying things together, yes, ASOIAF is more scandalous/violent, but like I said, Harry Potter’s written for kids/teens, and for what they are, they are equals. LOTR is probably superior.

  98. Matt
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Who Is Jacopo Belbo?,

    I searched this whole comment section until I found an opinion that reflected my own. I wish more people had the patience to read through the Malazan Book of the Fallen and also understood that you need to simply get through book one because books two and three are where the real heart of the story begins. (Seriously, Coltaine and the Chain of Dogs, more jaw-dropping than the Red Wedding) Erikson really knows how to put a story together and actually write books in one or two years.

  99. Bad Dog
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    “The best ever” is always a matter of taste.

    To me, nothing surpasses J.R.R. Tolkien where fantasy is concerned. He pretty much defined the genre, and his prose is high literature. He wrote a mythological epic that, to the day, remains unequaled.
    GRRM has a different style of narrative. ASoIaF is a more “gritty” and “realistic” fantasy series that is not centred around the struggle of good against evil (though this is, of course, a part of it), but rather focuses on several human parties.
    As such, one migth argue those two works can’t quite be compared – except in writing style, and there Tolkien surpasses Martin – Tolkien’s prose is flawless, as is his poetry. I do like Martin as an author, but sometimes his wording feels… not exactly smooth. :)

    But each to his own.

  100. Steve H
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    The first three books of ASOIF are fantastic, and, IMHO, the best fantasy ever written, but GRRM has gotten the Robert Jordan bloat-my-books disease and has allowed books 4 and 5 to go completely out of control. He needs to reign in the bloat and finish the bloody books. It’s salvageable, but not if he continues like he did in books 4 and 5.

  101. Blood
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    You can’t really compare ASOIAF, or any of the newer fantasy books really, to LOTR. It’s in a completely different category.

    Between the series that actually are sort of comparable, for me it’s a 3-way tie with ASOIAF, Malazan Book of the Fallen and R. Scott Bakker’s The Second Apocalypse series. Wheel of Time, Harry Potter, or any of the other ones I’ve read don’t even come close.

  102. Ed
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I just picked up this trilogy. I KNOW you did not just f*$%ng spoil it for me! Tell me you didn’t.

    Tar Kidho:

    The Mistborn Trilogy… I found myself genuinly caring a lot for some of his characters (I couldn’t pick up another book for more than a month after finishing the series – still missing Vin…).

  103. Keith Collinsworth
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know about the GRRM ASOIAF series until I watched Game of Thrones on HBO. I’ve spent the last two months reading all of them nonstop! It has been the most enjoyable read I have had in ages. LOTRs will always be a classic and the Standard (and I would throw Dune in there for good measure), but ASOIAF is the best fantasy series written in 30 years! I hope the series reaches a good destination, but the journey is awesome!! Can’t wait for Season 2 of Game of Thrones!

  104. shadallion
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Just because LotR came first does not automatically make it better!

    That is one of the most specious arguments possible, and I”m shocked to see how many people keep repeating it over and over!

    Martin’s series is much, much better in every single way.

    1. Song of Ice and Fire
    2. The Wheel of Time
    3. The Riftwar Saga
    4. Lord of the Rings

    P.S. I liked the Silmarillion far more than the more famous trilogy.

  105. andrea
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Magnus: I doubt Tolkien invented the storytelling structure used in Lotr

    Of course not. It´s the ancient structure of hero´s myth. Vladimir Propp deciphered that structure based on the analysis of Russian fairy tales (they reflect old socio-economic structures: initiation rites of hunting societies, shamanism, ancestor worship, totemism, etc). And of course the same structure is in Greek, Jewish, Nordic or any other mythology you can imagine. So, no, Tolkien did not invent the genre (is like a prototype of the human mind).

  106. Chai_latte
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Like all the others, I reserve judgement on ASOIAF until the series is finished (and I finish reading it). That being said, I love books 1 and 2 so far, and think it’s a seminal work in the genre. Lord of the Rings is still the best fantasy series for me, because it started the ball rolling, and still remains extremely popular after all these years. It’s not just because of the movies. The story is something kids and adults can appreciate. As much as I love the power of ASOIAF’s storylines, I doubt that 10 year old kids or younger can fully comprehend the moral ambiguity of the characters, or the violence.

  107. TJ
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Magnus,

    I’m not saying the character structure in LOTR is original, but the reason I pointed out that the character development in ASOIAF was structured after LOTR is because George RR Martin was quoted as saying the exact same thing. He noted in an interview that the Stark storyline is structured around the same development as The Fellowship. That being said, it’s hard for me to say that ASOIAF is better than LOTR since much of its literary structure was taken from LOTR – plus book four and five were pretty awful on all accounts.

    However, Tolkien’s story develoment may not be original but his story template is unknown, while Martin’s story template is taken straight from the Wars of the Roses – that takes away from his creative concept in my opinion.

  108. Joshua Taylor
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Magnus,

    The splitting of the fellowship does not come from any pre-existing text that Tolkien might have alluded to. The fragmentation of that group is a reference to Tolkien and his boyhood friends being sent to different ends of the European battlefield when they were enlisted in World War I. Tolkien and his friends were the founders of an Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry circle. Tolkien nearly lost all of his friends in the Great War. In fact he started writing the basis for The Simalrillion whilst in the Trenches.

  109. TJ
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Straight from the horses mouth:

    “Let’s blame that on J.R.R. Tolkien (why the story got so big), at least in part. I read “The Lord of the Rings” as a kid and was impressed by something not every reader notices: Tolkien begins his story in the Shire with one group of inhabitants, hobbits, but eventually expands the tale in ever-widening orbits to cover many races and huge tracts of land. That’s what I wanted to do, too. I wanted to start with a tight focus on a few characters and one place in the world, and as the story is told, the world will continue to get bigger and bigger and more people get drawn into the conflict.” – George RR Martin

    Hard for me to say Martin’s book is better when he took much of the character development inspirations from Tolkien. ASOIAF is still fantastic though – minus book 4.

  110. Epic shtickybuns
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Who Is Jacopo Belbo?: the first two trilogies of the dragonlance books are still great.

    Hated it!

    Matt: I wish more people had the patience to read through the Malazan Book of the Fallen

    Hated it!

    Heather Galaxy: I have to give it to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle

    Hated it!

    Gypsy: Nothing tops LOTR – nothing.

    Hated it!

    dimensionallyT: GRRM’s writing style is far superior.

    Hated it!

    Who Is Jacopo Belbo?: LotR is simply unparalleled and is the cornerstone for fantasy.

    Hated it!

    Eos: JK Rowling is, I think, great at what she does and Harry Potter books are really pleasant

    Hated it!

    shadallion: I liked the Silmarillion far more

    Hated it!

    Horatio: I’d go Malazan Book of the Fallen

    Hated it!

    OhWhoCares: Hello. My vomit is better than Twilight

    Mmmmm, OhWhoCares’s delicious vomit. For the win.

    Seriously, I like fantasy books that skip to the excessive violence, rape, and torture. Cos’ it’s so gritty. That’s why I exclusively read Warhammer books, rated t for teen.

    Seriously, sorry. This thread is too much to resist.

  111. loco73
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I take issue with proclamations which fall in the category “the best of…” not necessarily because I disagree with the item, subject or topic being discussed in that manner. I do so because as soon as you, or I, or anyone else for that matter says something along those lines, we have animated something which is highly subjective.

    I would be remiss, and a veritable hypocrite, if I didn’t mention that I have obviously made the same statements in the past and will continue to do so about many things in life, when it comes to music, movies, a restaurant and yes books and TV shows. But even at my most euphoric moments I realize that those things are “the best of…” for me, my taste, my point of view, my preference etc., and it is perhaps the same for other people who share those very affinities with me. But that is not certainly true for other people.

    I certainly do not disagree with you in terms of quality, vision, creativity, imagination and so on. My caveat would be that the novels comprising the saga of “A Song Of Ice And Fire” are AMONGST the best I have ever read or will ever read. The same goes for the HBO tv series “Game Of Thrones”.

    However I am not ready to dismiss “The Lord Of The Rings”, “The Wheel Of Time”, The Kingkiller Chronicles” (Patrick Rothfuss), the Harry Potter novels or others, in favour of a one-all-time favourite only. Just as I cannot dismiss the LOTR movie trilogy or the Potter movies now that “Game Of Thrones” has been on for a season.

    One of the less benefitial side-effects of such a stance is that people who are perhaps not as familiar with any of the other works or movies might dismiss them out of hand and ONLY read “A Song Of Ice And Fire” or only see “Game Of Thrones”. While that is a slight possibility given the age of information we live in, even one fan, reader or viewer who might not avail himself or herself of those works will miss out on a lot. Other negative fall-outs from “the best of…” argument can be contentious and bitter discussions, resenment and perhaps even more detrimental to ASOIF and “Game Of Thrones”…negative backclash against the books or the series. Now all those can happen anyways, but sometimes it is good to keep things in perspective.

    Besides, as some have already pointed out the epilogue to “A Song Of Ice And Fire” has yet to be written, as the series is not yet complete. The same will hopefully be true for the tv show, as I hope for a full run and a complete story arch.

    For my part, I enjoy “The Lord Of The Rings”, “The Wheel Of Time” , “Harry Potter”, “His Dark Materials” (Phillip Pullman), “The Kingkiller Chronicles” and other books from a variety of genres, not only fantasy/sci-fi. The same goes for the movies and television

    I actually think that having read other fantasy sagas opened me up to enjoy other works of equal creativity and worth and made me more aware of them and their essence. So I could definitely say that having read “The Lord Of The Rings” novels, or “The Wheel Of Time” only increased my appreciation, admiration and love for “A Song Of Ice And Fire”. The same goes for the TV show. Having seen the LOTR movie trilogy and the Potter films only increased my desire to see “Game Of Thrones” come to life on HBO. Keeping an open mind and having the willingness to accept such variety has enhanced, in my eyes at least, the saga of “A Song Of Ice and Fire” and its HBO companion “Game Of Thrones”.

    But that alas is, as they say, my own point of view…one not worth more or less than anyone elses…

    PS I have checked the HBO Shop site and they have introduced the DVD/Blue Ray Season One items. There are no cover images yet, no release dates, only the pre-order option is available for now…

  112. Joshua Taylor
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    TJ,

    I think Martin wanted to bring gritty realism to the fantasy genre, that I believe is the purpose of ASOIAF and how else can that be done without alluding to history somehow? As authors we are inspired by what we know. I myself am writing a novel, something that could be categorized as dystopian historical fiction and make many references to historical events. I guess my argument isn’t sound because my story is set in this world, but there it is.
    Nothing is truly original. And even then the events of the novels may stem from the catalysts of the War of the Roses, the Hundred Years War or the Anarchy or 1066 (which Tolkien referred to as the end of the truly English world as we know it) those events shaped the whole of medieval Europe. Sans the Tudor era, they are the benchmark for medieval historical fiction. Of course they would be the perfect fodder to graft a visceral, truly medieval interpretation onto high fantasy.

    Best discussion on this site so far I must say. Everyone is respectful (with the exception of one or two people saying that someone needs to have their head checked for liking X fantasy series…really? )and the concept of admitting subjectivity on these matters is quite heartening.

    Does anyone think that the claims of Martin being a sadist or a misogynist will bear upon the future legacy of the series?

  113. Argilac the Arrogant
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t had the chance to read all the comments since they surpassed the 20 mark, but I find the hatred of A Feast for Crows a bit much. I mean I understand since they don’t follow Jon Snow, Daenarys or Tyrion, but I thought it was a fantastic view of the just how damaging the War of the Five Kings was to the realm of Westeros through the point of view of characters caught in that terrible landscape. With that frame of mind, the title made absolute sense.

    However after A Dance with Dragons, I’m left feeling conflicted. I enjoyed following the characters around but personally I looked foward to the Battle for Winterfell and the Battle at Meereen that when they never came, I was left completely and utterly disappointed. Yes, I enjoyed the journey but compared to the first three books, nothing had really happened in the last two (or last BIG one depending on who you’re talking to) that leaves me worried for the rest of the series. GRRM really needs to make those last two books feel like the first three in order to bring this entire thing around.

    Don’t get me wrong. Like I said, I’ve enjoyed the journey and adventures of Daenarys (less so, stupid young girl), Tyrion and Jon Snow in A Dance with Dragons…but nothing really ever happened! When I remember there’s only TWO books left, I’m left wondering if anything will get wrapped up APPROPRIATELY in time at all. Martin needs to tighten the plot up and have more progression occur than in Feast/Dance to leave me completely satisfied.

    At this point, I’m too emotionally invested in the characters themselves to really care if this series goes on for a total of 15-20 books (I enjoy following them around regardless of how long it gets to reach the endgame) but to obtain “Greatest Fantasy Series Ever” status, he needs to really bring it home with the last two books and make them feel like the first three. I can forgive Feast/Dance because it was an experiment gone unexpected but at this point, he cannot afford to experiment further. Wrap it up, get it done.

    And please, PLEASE don’t kill off Stannis… Please, PLEASE don’t let it be true. =(

    I named my kitten Stannis, don’t let it be true…LOL

  114. Peter Rutten
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    You take big words in your mouth. Its always so potethic that someone has to measure it with other great stories. Don’t do that. Your no expert.The Lords Of The Rings is a foundation where others are set off. I must admit though that the Game Of Thrones take it further with more twisting and disturbing threats. The Lord Of The Rings cannot compare with other fantasy stories…. and The Game Of Thrones also :-)

  115. BieberFeiver
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I cant say anything is “greatest ever,” because that’s too subjective, but I can say “a Song of Ice and Fire” is my FAVORITE series. I have enjoyed it more than any other series. By a landslide.

    The Lord of the Rings trilogy lost me in it’s seemingly endless description of trees and it’s seemingly random and inappropriate songs scattered throughout (I did love The Hobbit but I was a kid and it was a childrens story).

    I don’t like Rothfuss (though his blog is amazing) because I’m picky and hate first person narrative. Erickson may be brilliant, I cant tell, I get completely lost after the first few pages. Then I’m like, “Why am I even reading this if I hate it?”

    Robert Jordan … That’s basically just a harem story, right? I can get that watching anime.

    For my money nothing beats ASoIaF.

    Then again I loved ADwD, I just thought it ended too early, so your mileage may vary.

  116. Thand
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    The “plot” is just the means to tell us about the characters, I don’t see why the story would need to be finished for one to make a judgment on this issue.

    I also don’t see how the fact that LoTR is influential has anything to do with it’s literary quality.

  117. Joshua Taylor
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Thand,

    It’s about form. From cover to cover LOTR utilized its plot and the central thematics. It conveyed its ideas and message. Until we see the end game of ASOIAF we can’t be sure what Martin’s final statement on the series is going to be.
    While characters are crucial for a reader to have emotional investment in a story, remember that in the literary canon, such sentiments do not supersede the writing craft itself or it’s liminal meaning. This is an academic perspective of course but if we are talking about greatest fantasy novel written in a formal sense it would have to be LOTR for the present time anyway. Popularity while playing a factor is a trend, not a mark of long-standing endurance.

    Now if you care not about the literary canon then my argument is probably not satisfactory. But that’s the way I see it.

  118. David Watson
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I guess C.S Lewis’ space trilogy isn’t too well known.

    Narnia is to kids as the Space Trilogy is to adults, and I hear many times from people who read both the Space Trilogy is much better.

    Don’t know how Twilight can even be on there, when things like R.A Salvatore’s series with Drizzt (which currently is at over 26 books and is much more developed then any story I have ever seen) isn’t on there. The others I definitely agree with.

  119. David Watson
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Thand: n there. The others I definitely agree

    I would have to say C.S Lewis was a much better writer then J.R.R Tolkien, it’s just Tolkien captured more minds with his setting and story.

    Interesting fact, both people where best friends, taught at the same place (Oxford), and decided to write their books at the same time. C.S Lewis had a lot of influence on Lord of the Rings just like Tolkien has had quite a bit of influence on Narnia. They have even co-authored a few more adult books.

  120. TJ
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Joshua Taylor,

    I agree, nothing is original, and by pure context I don’t really see a lot of similarity in ASOIAF and LOTR outside of character development within the story itself. I also like that you point to the gritty realism, which separates ASOIAF from most other fantasy novels – and the main reason I love ASOIAF so much. Good luck on your novel by the way, I too am writing a novel set in the Anglo-Saxon/Celtic Fringe eras; it’s been an arduous but exciting process.

  121. mimi
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Corey Brooks:
    I agree wholeheartedly. ………………..

    Lord of the Rings is too overrated, IMO. I’m glad to finally see it get taken down off its holy pedestal and be replaced by ASoIaF (which is a thousand times better than LOTR).

    THIS!!!

  122. Joshua Taylor
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    TJ,

    Question for you…it seems we are both writing stories with a historical basis which ultimately brings us to idea of no good and evil but merely Human characters with flaws. Such as it is, do you feel slightly self conscious when you write scenes that well…let’s just say moments in a story that Martin has a plethora of? Scenes that portray the dark side of our nature? Do you wonder if people are going to call you disturbed or sadistic for even mentioning words like ‘rape’? Can an author’s persona be judged upon the content of their work?

  123. Langkard
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Hear Me Roar:
    Oh, and I like how this post got the discussion going :)

    Subquestion: Best fantasy series ever … what about the TV aspect reading of ‘series’, is it best fantasy on TV? And where does it fit when you consider TV and movies combined?

    So far, the TV series is way above anything else I can think of in movies or television in the fantasy genre. Most of the time, the fantasy movies and TV shows, when adapted from good books or entirely original, are written and produced and directed by people without a love for the genre, without any knowledge of the genre or people who have been taking way too many drugs (*cough* David Lynch *cough* Tim Burton). With AGOT we have writers and producers who care about the story. That makes all the difference.

    And on the issue of GRRM using modern language, EvilPicnic addressed it well. I’d like to add that GRRM uses period words and phrases throughout the books which give it, to me, a very medieval flavor. It brought a smile to my face when he used the phrase “below the salt” in context with obvious understanding of what the phrase means. I like that in an author. Too many fantasy authors using a medieval setting think tossing in a castle or two, some guy in armor and a sword make something medieval. GRRM has the knowledge to give a proper medieval flavor to his work.

  124. Magnus
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    TJ:
    Magnus,

    I’m not saying the character structure in LOTR is original, but the reason I pointed out that the character development in ASOIAF was structured after LOTR is because George RR Martin was quoted as saying the exact same thing. He noted in an interview that the Stark storyline is structured around the same development as The Fellowship. That being said, it’s hard for me to say that ASOIAF is better than LOTR since much of its literary structure was taken from LOTR – plus book four and five were pretty awful on all accounts.

    However, Tolkien’s story develoment may not be original but his story template is unknown, while Martin’s story template is taken straight from the Wars of the Roses – that takes away from his creative concept in my opinion.

    Tolkien’s “story template” is not unknown. As I said, it takes a lot from the Volsunga saga and also the Poetic edda. It also has a lot of similarities with Wagners Ring des Nibelungen which was again inspired by a German version of the Volsunga saga. Also, Asoiafs relation to the War of the Roses is pretty loose. You can’t transcribe characters and events one to one for instance. The situation in Westeros is a lot more complex than the one in England at that time. I wouldn’t say Martin relies more on historical sources than Tolkien did on mythological sources.

    As for the structure of the character development (which was not new to Lotr), that is one small thing out of all the things that make up the series. That, together with a (very socially and politically different) medieval setting and the fact that both Asoiaf and Lotr have mythological elements (not many of the same mythological elements though) are the only things that allow us to put them in the same genre at all.

    I feel that the things that are different outweigh the things that are similar too much to say that Asoiaf is a derivative work of Lotr. Some elements of Asoiaf were inspired by Lotr or the same sources Lotr was inspired by. That is all.

    As for what books were better, that is entirely up to personal opinion. I disagree that book 4 and 5 of Asoiaf were more awful than certain sections of Fellowship of the Ring (mainly the first half), and also some parts of Return of the King that were overly predictable, but that is just me.

  125. Team Sansa
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I’ve really enjoyed this thread (minus the bunches of comments that just repeat other comments), but I, too, am surpised at the yuck/meh- sentiment to books 4 and 5. Before AFFC came out, I re-read books 1-3. Before ADWD came out, I re-read books 1-4. What I discovered is that I liked Book 4 MUCH BETTER on the re-read. The plot doesn’t move at the same clip, but the settling in on rich character development is kind of delicous. First time through AFFC I was so annoyed (who cares about Dorne! Who cares about Ironborn!). On the re-read, though, I slowed down my pace, stopped hoping for familiar characters to show up that I knew weren’t going to show up, and let myself fully enjoy the writing. Arianne Martell’s story arc in AFFC is one of my favorites from all of the books. I guess you can tell by my Team Sansa nickname, I root for the underdog.

  126. Maxwell James
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Yellow Dog,

    Too bad. I’ve always enjoyed that joke.

  127. D4skalosM
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Well, come on everyone.. Lord Of The Rings was more than just a classic, it established the very foundations of fantasy and the writing style was totally different than ASOIAF. It is more like a fairytale and it drives you to a totally different world with extraordinary creatures and, tribes (high fantasy) and behaviors where ASOIAF is mostly focused on the people (low fantasy), their feelings, their thoughts and that’s what makes every little change to seem so dramatic. I believe that there can’t be, and there shouldn’t be any comparison between them, because in every case you would underestimate a great work of art.
    Personally, i really liked THE FIONAVAR TAPESTRY trilogy of GUY GARVIEL KAY. I would propose it to anyone who liked the ASOIAF since it is serious adult fantasy, very person focusing and has really capturing scenario.

  128. Eddie
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I don’t agree, at all. While I do greatly enjoy ASoIaF series, I think calling it ‘the best of fantasy’ is a long shot. Of course, I don’t believe in stating that anything is ‘the best’ of something, due to that being an incredibly subjective judgement.

    Fantasy is too broad a genre to name one series ‘the best.’ ASoIaF is not the ‘best’ satirical fantasy, it is not the ‘best’ alternative history fantasy, it is not the ‘best’ folkloric fantasy, etc, etc, because it is not any of these to begin with. So to make such a general statement is ridiculous. I can say that a certain apple is the best apple I’ve ever had, but to say that this apple is also the best peach, and pineapple, and cucumber that I’ve ever had just does not make sense. George R.R. Martin does not write the same stylistically or for the same reasons and ends as Terry Pratchett, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Catherynne M. Valente, Suzanne Clarke, etc, so I don’t see the point in trying to peg one book, one series, one author as ‘the best.’ They’re different, and they should be. It would be damn boring if they weren’t.

    I hope that made sense and didn’t sound too angry. This rubbed me a bit the wrong way, and apparently I care about this more than I thought I did?

  129. Sean Fan
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Completely OT, but I didn’t know where to post this. Looks like Emilia has her first big film role…….

    http://www.fansshare.com/news/emilia-clarke-makes-move-onto-the-big-screen/

  130. Varamyr Fourskins
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I was a historical fiction guy before I started reading ASOIAF, so perhaps my opinion isn’t quite as valid, but I would definitely second this notion. I’ve read all of the LOTR books, including The Silmarillion, but they didn’t speak to me in the same ASOIAF does. Conversely, I attempted to read the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, but just couldn’t get through it (I know, blasphemy, right?). So, yes, for me, without a doubt, ASOIAF is easily the greatest fantasy series of all time, and could very well be the greatest SERIES of all time. I’ve never read anything like it.

  131. TJ
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Joshua Taylor,

    No I don’t personally feel that way, I actually enjoy crafting the dark side more so, versus the good nature of characters; perhaps that’s a reflection on me I don’t know. Everyone has a dark side, and temptation and sin are easier to give into, therefore the darker sides of characters shine through more often and are in many ways much more complex as they deal with conflict and intense inner struggle. Obviously you need both sides to correlate a story, but every story needs conflict and more oft than not that conflict deals with the inherent evil or bad nature in people as opposed to the innate goodness. People are drawn to drama and novelty, it’s a type of bias we all share, and the more creative you get with the darker struggles of your characters the more interesting the story can get.

  132. TJ
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Magnus,

    Tolkien’s template is pure speculation, while Martin’s is not. I used The Fellowship and Wars of the Roses comparisons because Martin openly admitted to using them as such. If you disagree that they play large roles in the concept and character development of ASOIAF then you are not disagreeing with me, you are disagreeing with the author himself.

    As for books 4 and 5, I wouldn’t say they are awful, I was being overzealous. However, most agree they were blunders in an otherwise amazing epic, particularly book 4.

  133. Ghost
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    yep book 4 and 5 are good however not as good as the first 3. As far as Mr. Martin copying from War of the Roses, well even Bill Gates copied ideas from Apple. So no ideas completely original.

    I can’t think of a series that I enjoyed more. LOTR was too predictable, Harry Potter was good however I’m not much into all that magic. Of course if Martin’s series has a horrible ending that it will ruin the entire series. Just like Lost perhaps. As long as he gets the ending right it will make up for some of the mistakes he made, like in book 4 only showing a few of the characters.

  134. Magnus
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    TJ,

    TJ:
    Magnus,

    Tolkien’s template is pure speculation, while Martin’s is not. I used The Fellowship and Wars of the Roses comparisons because Martin openly admitted to using them as such. If you disagree that they play large roles in the concept and character development of ASOIAF then you are not disagreeing with me, you are disagreeing with the author himself.

    As for books 4 and 5, I wouldn’t say they are awful, I was being overzealous. However, most agree they were blunders in an otherwise amazing epic, particularly book 4.

    Martin said that it played a part, not a large part. It was an inspiration Which is what I said as well.

    As for Tolkien’s template being pure speculation, Tolkien did admit several of the influences, and the similarities between Lotr and some of the others are apparent that it is unlikely to be pure happenstance.

  135. Danny
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I’d say it’s my second favorite work of fiction, of all time.

    The top spot is being claimed by R Scott Bakker’s : The Second Apocalypse series. His first trilogy consist of The Darkness that Comes Before, The Warrior Prophet and The Thousandfold Thought.

    So far he’s two books into his second trilogy which is directly linked to his first: The Judging Eye and The Warrior Prophet.

    His proze is insanely good. His setting is horrendous, bleak and epic in size. It’s also one of the most depressing fantasy books I’ve ever written, but it’s utterly addictive. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a writer that writes such poetic battle scenes as well. A good example would be (albeit out of context of course):

    “Hands clutched for his arms and he shattered wrists, punctured faces. Forms tackled his torso and he snapped necks, crushed spines. He tossed lifeblood skyward, nailed beating hearts still. All the world had become rotted leather, and he was the only iron. The only iron.”

  136. Blueberry2
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m one of the people who found the ending to Dance very disappointing. Leaving out the Battles for Mereen and Winterfell was a huge blunder imo. It left the book climaxless. Still love the series overall and hope Martin can get it back on track in the next book which has a lot of potential now that pieces are in place (or so it seems).
    Robert E Howard’s short stories have been largely neglected in this conversation. His Conan stories pre-date the LOTR and Hobbit and are very good reads. They’re essentially macho pulp stories, but are very well written.

  137. fhan
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Argilac the Arrogant:
    When I remember there’s only TWO books left, I’m left wondering if anything will get wrapped up APPROPRIATELY in time at all.

    I’m worried, too. It’s going to be Lost all over again.

    And please, PLEASE don’t kill off Stannis… Please, PLEASE don’t let it be true. =(
    I named my kitten Stannis, don’t let it be true…LOL

    Cute! :) Mine are named Jaime and Cersei. So hoping those two will get a decent ending…

  138. Knurk
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    BTW, I found this hilarious breakdown of ADWD on the Winteriscomingbitch Tumblr (which is a great fanblog btw): http://archiveofourown.org/works/253639 It summarizes every chapter with the reader’s reaction to it.

  139. TJ
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Blueberry2,

    Yes the ending to Dance was pretty anti-climactic, and understandably most are upset with the third to last chapter (not giving anything way – also not including epilogue); most likely the chapter was just a big misdirection by Martin. I’m hoping the last two books redeem what the fourth and fifth books have done to the series – or not done depending on how you look at it.

  140. The Rabbit
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I was thinking about the whole day should I write down something on the subject or not.
    Because, I am one of those who just do not like to compare books. Any of the books, if you like.
    In my mind nowadays (and it was not like that years before) I just can say which book I like and which I do not like.
    Every comparaison is subjective, even if talking in terms of litterary expertise, IMO.

    So to say: I like LOTR, I like HP and I like ASOIAF I like Sailing to Sarantium by G.G. Kay, even Tad Williams, but all these books or series are so different to even consider some comparaison among them.
    One could compare the thematics, other could compare building and depths of each world, author s style, narration, approach to the characters, the plot…and each of these category would have different winner.

  141. Nick Larter
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I think the answer probably has to be ‘no.’ It might be ‘yes’ in the fullness of time after the last book has been published for a few years and readers have had time to reflect having experienced the whole story, but to say that now is too soon in my view.

    Actually, you could have had a stronger argument after ASOS came out but before AFFC was published. GRRM’s greatest strength in the first three books, aside from his gift for making you want to know what happens next and for creating grime and ambivalence – the unique selling point that set ASOIAF apart from what came before – was the build of the story arc in the first three books to a narrative climax – respectively Ned’s Execution, Blackwater and the siege of The Wall. That just didn’t happen to the same degree in AFFC or even ADWD and that lack is mostly what drives my conclusion above; we will only know when we have read the whole thing and can fully understand how AFFC and ADWD build the foundation for the climactic events.

    Of course, as many commentators have noted you can’t compare apples with oranges. Many cite LoTR as the greatest series. Certainly Tolkien had the most detailed world history in place that any author ever had – one can even argue that for him the history was his main project and that LoTR was a sort of diversion.

    The argument for LoTR is compelling but that too had weaknesses – the black and whiteness of the plot, the lack of grime/blood/sex, a certain passionless sterility about many of the characters. Certainly the LoTR style gestated many of the worse things about all of the hack fantasy trilogies that have emerged over the years that followed.

    If you broaden the definition of fantasy further then the comparisons get even more impossible. Try comparing ASOIAF, LoTR, the Aegypt tetralogy of John Crowley and Lev Grossman’s new series which has begun with The Magicians and The Magician King, for example – it’s just impossible.

    Of course I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t throw in my own nominations as many others have. But actually I want to be slightly different and praise a couple of ‘what might have beens’ – in one case the author died before his series were complete and the other just gave up on it. The first is E.R. Eddison’s Zimiamvian Trilogy and the second is the series begun by James Stephens with Deirdre and continued with In The Land of Youth. I’m not naïve enough to assert that either of these is the best fantasy series ever, I just think that they could have been if they had ever been completed. The first volume of the Zimiamvia TrilogyMistress of Mistresses – is the closest I have found to A Game of Thrones, at least from the perspective of a low magic, pseudo-medieval tale of political intrigue laced with lots of sex and violence (more discreetly portrayed obviously as it was written in the 1930’s, but it’s all there). Deirdre is just breathtaking from beginning to end and is criminally little known today.

    Voting is one way of deciding these things and if there were a vote today, then I’d say ASOIAF would get it, not least because of all the new fans created by the HBO series. In fact if one were to say that Game of Thrones was the best fantasy TV series of all time then there would be far fewer dissenters. This is in fact the interesting thesis that blogger C.B. Droege published a few weeks ago here:-

  142. Herr Fick
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    It may have been mentioned already, but Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a novel, not a series of novels.
    And “best of”-lists are nonsense.

  143. Ser Pounce
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Not just the best fantasy, in my opinion. I’m in to literary books too, but A Song of Ice and Fire is my favorite and most artistically satisfying book(s) I’ve read.

  144. TJ
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Herr Fick,

    LOTR is one story, but the act of breaking something up into sequences makes it a series. Once Tolkien decided to make it a trilogy of books/volumes he then created a series by definition. Most in the fantasy genre like to use the term epic in place of series – a “high fantasy epic” – but it’s still considered a series – series of books.

  145. Lex
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Looks like they just posted a possible pic on facebook from the Battle of the Blackwater… Or maybe it’s something outside Storm’s End, since it mentions night shoots in caves.

  146. Food for Thought
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    I am a huge fan of Martin’s work and believe it is definitely a contender for top fantasy series.

    I would just like to point out for those who claim that all of Tolkien’s work is completely original, that a lot of his writing was based on Norse mythology. For example, many events and names can be traced to The Elder Edda, including the name Gandalf itself. While his works were groundbreaking and are the standard to which all fantasy is held, they are based in other mythology. I don’t think this fact is often recognized.

  147. Johan Sporre
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I respect Tolkien a whole lot for what he’s meant to modern fantasy, and for all the work he put into creating Middle Earth. LOTR is the foundation, but for me that doesn’t mean anything when determining which is my favourite story. Originality of work leads to greater respect for the author from me, but has zero impact on enjoyment.

    Characters I care about and their trials and tribulations, as well as overall plot and intrigue is what I care about, and in those categories I find that LOTR falls short of much newer stuff (ASOIAF for one, but also “Sword of Shadows” by JV Jones, “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” by Tad Williams, “Deed of Paksenarrion” by Elizabeth Moon, “Codex Alera” by Jim Butcher, “Wheel of Time” etc).

  148. Adam Whitehead
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    The best fantasy series ever? No, or at least not yet. As for what series would deserve that accolade, I’d say some of the clear front-runners so far were THE LORD OF THE RINGS, Jack Vance’s LYONESSE TRILOGY and maybe his DYING EARTH sequence (or at least the middle two, Cugel-focused volumes), or possibly Mervyn Peake’s GORMENGHAST trilogy.

    However, the clear winner for me at this time is Gene Wolfe’s THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN.

  149. andrea
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Knurk,

    “Reader: Ok, seriously, where the hell is Poirot?”
    I’m reading the whole thing. It seems that our reactions are not original at all. Very funny.

  150. Lex
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Adam Whitehead:
    …or possibly Mervyn Peake’s GORMENGHAST trilogy.

    However, the clear winner for me at this time is Gene Wolfe’s THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN.

    I’ve been thinking about re-reading Gormenghast for many years now. I really liked the first volume, but never read beyond it. Peake’s prose was truly amazing.

    I’ve also been considering checking out Wolfe’s NEW SUN for a while now.

    But I’ll say it again… Tolkien is still the undefeated master.

  151. Coltaine777
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    My fav series of alltime ?…too hard to choose…but on the list are …Asoif…The Chronicles of Thomas Convenant…LOTR and Memory, Sorrow and Thorn…and two series that broke my heart because the stories unravelled ?…Wheel of Time and Malazan book of the Fallen…

  152. Emma
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Harry Potter is the best fantasy book series ever (they’re my favorite books of all time) and Wonderfalls is the best fantasy TV show ever, but ASOIAF and GOT are definitely brilliant.

  153. Tywin's Bastard
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Tolkien and Martin have written quite different kinds of fantasy and both are truly great in their area.

    Tolkien will always have a special place since he basically created modern fantasy but in terms of story I actually like ASOIAF more this far since the depth there lies in characters rather than history, to put it in a simplistic way. LotR is a great piece of mythology but it doesn’t really convey a coherent and functional world in the same manner. I prefer the character driven story of Ice and Fire to the plot driven one in LotR.

    But in the end I don’t really compare them that much and could probably hold them both as #1, especially since no fantasy work will ever rival Tolkien’s in importance. Plus that LotR isn’t truly a series since it was originally intended to be just one volume and that’s how I’ve always read it.

    There are of course many other great fantasy writers, but no, I can’t really hold them to quite that level personally.

  154. Johnny E
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    I agree, this series is highly addictive. But I also must say it’s rather depressing. I don’t know if I’d say there’s no Good versus Bad here at all. In fact, I’m almost done with the 3rd book and it seems that the “bad” guys win nearly all the time. Walder Frey! What a jerk! Really, look at what’s happened so far Bran is crippled, Rickon was hauled off by a wildling to who knows where with no family but his wolf. Sansa is living a nightmare, Arya finally catches up with her mother and brother after 2 whole books of unspeakable suffering just in time for both to be killed, and of course Rob, Catlyn and Greywind are all dead. That’s just the poor Starks! The Umbers are pretty much finished, Maester Luwin is dead and endless other innocent people. Riverrun is now captured also. Some of the baddies get their just desserts like Joffrey, Amory Lorche, Theon and a few others but mostly, justice is losing all hope. I’ve got two more books to go and it sounds like things get even more gloomy. That said, I can’t stop reading!

  155. Meg
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Some 4000 pages and 15 years later, and its still “too soon to judge”? Do we realize how insane that sounds?

    This is why the answer is “no” for me.

  156. Joe Blanche
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    It will be.
    why you ask?
    “It is known.”

  157. Sancho Panza
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I swear by my wife’s little black moustache that Don Quixote is the greatest fantasy series ever.

  158. afterroots
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    As great as ASOIAF is Scott Bakkers Second Apocalypse takes the cake

  159. Nate Hickman
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Like others have said, it’s hard to rate aSoIaF, along with other incomplete series, as the best ever. As far as on-going fantasy series I’m reading (Gentlemen Bastards, The King Killer Chronicles, The Final Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, to name a few) it’s my favorite. I have a hard time saying “best” because it assumes ones own vast knowledge and expertise among the literary genre, but to me it’s the best.

    As far as completed fantasy series, my favorite is hands down Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet. My perspective is this author had a clear idea where he was going and ending when he started this series and he stayed on track, that alone is a huge feat IMHO. But not only that, the world he built, with the technological Galts vs. the magic based Khaiem was wonderfully executed. I loved following a story that started with a child, ended with an old man reflecting on his life, and everything he accomplished in the middle. Will this always be my favorite, or the best in my eyes? I kind of hope not, because I’m really banking on GRRM pulling it all together in the end here…but I can live with it if he doesn’t, because there is no shortage in my opinion of great fantasy authors with stories to tell that are worth reading.

  160. Nate Hickman
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    afterroots,

    Is that the one that starts with The Judging Eye? Honestly, I think Bakker dropped the ball and decided to go off on philisophical rants of no real importance (or interest) to me. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED The Darkness That Comes Before, not so much the second book, but again loved his third book. The Prince of Nothing Trilogy was amazing. But I am having such a hard time with the second trilogy. The Judging Eye was a pain to get through, and I have put down The White Luck Warrior so many times since it came out that I wonder when I’ll really read it. I’m not sure what went wrong, but Bakker has let me down immensley, but that’s just me.

  161. Nicole
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Your mom’s the best fantasy series ever.

    HAHA

    No seriously, I thought ASOIAF was the best but these last two books have me wondering if we haven’t all been setup for supreme disappointment. Hopefully, like GRRM promised, the best is yet to come. I’m still die hard. <3 Team Dragons and Wolves <3

  162. patrick
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    Who cares? Ranking stuff that are not really similar seems silly to me. Game of Thrones is almost it’s own category, fantastic middle ages Europe character-driven epic. If you like that mix, there are few that come close, sure, but there are so many other great mixes. For instance, to compare it to Harry Potter, which really speaks to the growing up part of life, it has almost nothing on the subject. It shines it’s light on other things. How do you compare a beautiful painting of a landscape to a portrait, to an impressionist? The “genre” of those paintings may be similar, but the subjects are worlds apart.

  163. Khamsin
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    Whoa, whoa, whoa….slow down there. This series isn’t even finished and you’re putting it above LOTR? Not even close… I think this opinion is greatly influenced by the “hype” factor of all the buzz because of the show in production and the latest book finally coming out. Simmer down for a year (or 10!) and see if ASoIaF stands the test of time. Remember, LOTR spawned the very genre that ASoIaF belongs to. Putting it ahead of LOTR right now is premature, at best. In my own opinion it would take a herculean effort by Martin to surpass Tolkein. Invent a few dozen languages, races, etc., then I think he can enter the conversation. Right now, although Martin is at the top of his game, indeed the WHOLE game, it’s still Tolkein’s title.

  164. Hilda
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    Why must there be comparisons! All of the mentioned are quite diffrent! It is so annoying when people gotta start that comparing or bashing. I will say this,the books are pretty damn amazing,the series is the best thing on tv,IMO.

  165. Kate
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    It is really, really premature saying that ASOIAF is better than LotR. Not only because it’s not finished, but because classics have to be seen through the lens of time. You can only compare ASOIAF with its contemporaries: The First Law, The Gentelman Bastard sequence, The Kingkiller Chronicles, … Anything else is out of place,

  166. Hirondelle
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    Yeah, this is somewhat similar to the WiC-Awards: the question is “which is the best” when it really should be “which is your favourite”.
    The best implies and requires a set of measurable, verifiable standards based on extensive empirical research, whereas “my favourite” allows for individual, emotional criteria such as enjoyment, level of identification and sympathy, personal priorities, preferences and areas of interest etc.
    Heck, when we were kids, my cousin thought her guinnea pig was better than mine. Sure, because she knew and cared about hers. I say again: when we were kids. Because that’s what kids do, how they work. It makes the world easier to grasp and tackle when you’ve got categories such as best and worst, good and evil…

  167. Nick Larter
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    People ask why do we even try to answer subjective questions like ‘what is the best?’ It’s human nature, folks. Debate is one of the things that drives social interactions – everything from sitting up all night with a few mates and a few beers to posting on a virtual board like this one – we’re social animals after all. 160-odd comments, many passionate, some of them even well thought out and argued is evidence enough that the question was worth posing. Live with it everyone! :D

  168. Tar Kidho
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Ed,

    No, what I said wasn’t spoilery at all, I only named one of the fantasy characters that I cared for most out of any series. If it’s a good book, I often feel a bit sad when the story comes to an end. I don’t like re-reads, so at the end of a book with characters I came to care for, it’s a bit like saying goodbye to some good friends. And for that reason I needed time after the Mistborn books before picking up something new, because there were several characters I loved.

  169. dimensionallyT
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    Knurk: You guys did read Dance right?

    I loved it! I was one of its few defenders on the WiC dsicussion post. I even liked ‘words are wind’. The writing in LOTR is baroque and unnecessarily flouncy. GRRM doesn’t use flouncy language: words are wind is clearly an expression, used much like ‘winter is coming’ (which I use in RL as much as the characters use ‘words are wind’ in the book).

    The descriptions GRRM use enhance the characters, Tolkien primarily describes landscapes and scenes.

  170. Leland's Axe
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    Very interesting thread, I’m glad to see that most of my favorites have been represented somewhere above in the comments.

    I wanted to throw in a quick plug for Robin Hobb and her two great trilogies, “The Farseer” and “The Tawny Man.” They don’t have quite the scale of ASOIAF, but they feature some of the most compelling characters from any book I’ve ever read. She’s the only modern fantasy writer I’d put toe-to-toe with Martin.

  171. Hirondelle
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    Nick Larter: People ask why do we even try to answer subjective questions like ‘what is the best?’ It’s human nature, folks.

    Exactly:

    Hirondelle: Tar Kidho: It’s stupid and typically human to try to compare and rank things, even something as broad as ‘fantasy novels’, written in many different styles and in different epoques of recent (and not-so-recent) history.

    So true. But, hey, we’re human. Can’t help it. :oD

    And:

    Nick Larter: 160-odd comments, many passionate, some of them even well thought out and argued is evidence enough that the question was worth posing.

    Totally. Things we feel strongly about, matters of opinion and individual points of view trigger more heated, animated discussion than cold hard facts do. Perhaps it’s just the premise/category “best” as opposed to “favourite” that tripped me up. Details, details, semantics, semantics…
    Bottom line: This sure is fun!

  172. Hirondelle
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    fhan: I named my kitten Stannis, don’t let it be true…LOL

    Cute! :) Mine are named Jaime and Cersei. So hoping those two will get a decent ending…

    Neat! My husband and I are thinking of calling our new parakeets Varys and Sansa. Because of The Spider’s little birds and because The Hound calls Sansa “little bird”…

  173. BenesHacha
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Without LOTR, there is no genre. Without ASOIAF, the genre is poorer, but continues.

    LOTR is finished. ASOIAF is not.

    LOTR has clearly stood the test of time. It’s too early to tell with ASOIAF.

    That bias being indicated however, a pair of points :

    a) many are calling out the flatness of Tolkien’s characters. I think these people perhaps fail to realize that they’re not supposed to be complex, flawed characters, and that if they were, much of the narrative power would be lost. They’re archetypes. You don’t admire Frodo because he is Frodo, you admire him because of his courage. You admire Sam for his loyalty. And so on.

    b) It seems to me, and this is only my not-GRRM-so-can’t-know-for-sure opinion, that GRRM has lost control of his story. It keeps getting bigger and bigger, adding more and more character viewpoints, locations, etc., as if he lacks the discipline to make his story do what he envisioned. In the first two (and I would probably lump the third also), George was the master of the story. In the last two, the story definitely seems to have broken the leash. I keep praying that this is all some gorgeously complicated set-up for a spectacular finish where all the threads come together, but I do so with increasingly less faith as time goes on. People like Tolkien and Dorothy Dunnett (not fantasy, but I’m propsing her anyway) kept a tight control on their narrative, everything in service to their overarching idea, and that puts them a notch over GRRM as writers, from a technical standpoint.

    YMMV, obviously :-)

  174. Shinyteapot
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Johnny E,

    Spoilers! Someone please edit this post.

    As to the question, having not read every fantasy series- or even all that many- I’m in no position to judge (while I enjoy good fantasy, I tend more towards sci fi). I don’t think a decision can be made while the series is unfinished. So far it shows great potential, and I like the realistic nature of the world- people are complicated and life isn’t always nice.

    Since the main comparison seems to be to LOTR, which I have read- if we’re considering series, then surely The Hobbit needs to be included with this? In which case my thoughts about the two become more similar. While the worlds and the writing style are very different, in both cases I loved the earlier work (The Hobbit and books 1-3 of ASOIAF) but found the later stuff (LOTR and books 4&5 of ASOIAF), while still enjoyable, to be unnecessarily long winded and in places very much dragged compared to the earlier work.

    One of the reasons I enjoy ASOIAF so much is the unexpected plot developments- things which fit with the world and keep it realistic (the characters we follow can make mistakes and fail, sometimes permanently, and the obvious story doesn’t always play out) so for me, much of whether or not it deserves the title of best series depends on whether or not this continues. If some favourite speculation happens, it will detract from that for me. If well loved characters who get into increasingly difficult situations survive unrealistically I will be annoyed, because it doesn’t fit with the setup of the first three books. (Not saying this has happened yet- there are at least two books left). I also like the ‘prophecies aren’t necessarily right’ aspect and hope some of this continues.

    So, jury definitely still out for me. A lot depends on the remaining books!

  175. Anrake
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    not a chance. There’s already something wrong with this assessment when the “peers”ASOIAF is compared to are the likes of WoT, Harry Potter, LoTR and Narnia. In that company, you could likewise call Gene Wolfe, Donaldson or Glen Cook’s books the best in fantasy, but realistically Malazan should win this honor, hands down.

  176. André
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I’ve read all 5 books of ASOIAF, and they’re not even close to Tolkien’s. Not nearly. So many people keep writing about how Tolkien was excessive in describing things… well, GRRM do the same, but only with food. Really, there was a joke going around when ‘Dance’ 5 came out, saying “Book 5 Spoilers: There’s a table with some honey-dipped pork. fried onions, and …”. C’mon…

  177. Herr Fick
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    TJ:
    Herr Fick,

    LOTR is one story, but the act of breaking something up into sequences makes it a series. Once Tolkien decided to make it a trilogy of books/volumes he then created a series by definition. Most in the fantasy genre like to use the term epic in place of series – a “high fantasy epic” – but it’s still considered a series – series of books.

    You obviously don’t know what you are talking about.
    It was not Tolkien’s decision to split the novel. The trilogy-structure has no artistic purpose or merit. His original format was one volume, divided into six “books” (ie super-chapters that serve to accent novel’s appearance as a pseudo-chronicle). He didn’t even like some of the titles he had to choose for the volumes. Allen & Unwin’s decision to publish The Lord of the Rings in three parts was due to economic reasons and such of publication management (for example, Tolkien’s last major revision lasted until 1949 or 1950 and there was a dispute involving another publisher, Collins, which further delayed the novel’s printing; furthermore, a single volume would have been too risky and expensive, if at all possible).
    If the label “series” is meant to signify more than the random and trivial number of parts a novel had to be printed in, then the Lord of the Rings, just as War and Peace, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften or other very long novels, shouldn’t be labelled a series.

    By the way, Tolkien’s German publisher, Klett-Cotta, sells this superior edition of his novel (the two German translations are deficient in their own ways, but the layout is fantastic).

  178. EvilPicnic
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Knurk:
    BTW, I found this hilarious breakdown of ADWD on the Winteriscomingbitch Tumblr (which is a great fanblog btw): http://archiveofourown.org/works/253639 It summarizes every chapter with the reader’s reaction to it.

    HELLO BASTARD. I KILLED YOUR KING. I HAVE HIS MAGIC LIGHTSABER. AND HIS FRIENDS. AND HIS LITTLE DOG TOO. TELL HIS RED WHORE. OH BTW, U LIED. UR KING LIED. MANCE BURNED? MY ASS. I HAVE HIM. IN A CAGE. AGAIN. FOR SYMBOLISM. THIS TIME TO FREEZE. OH, AND I MADE HIM A NICE SPEARWIFE CLOAK. IT’S MY PERSONAL DESIGN. SOON WILL BE ALL THE RAGE, TRUST ME. I WANT THE FALSE KING’S QUEEN AND DAUGHTER AND MANCE’S SISTER-IN-LAW AND SON. I WANT MY BRIDE AND MY REEK. LIKE NAO. OR I’LL COME AND KICK YOUR EMO LITTLE ASS.

    LOVE,
    RAMSAY BOLTON
    TRUEBORN LORD OF WINTERFELL
    P.S. FUCK YOU.

    I just fell off my chair…

  179. Jill
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Completely off topic, bt tomorrow is my 30th birthday, and a lovely co-worker, close friend, and fellow GOT nerd took a pair of crimson converese and painted golden Lions of Lannister on them as my B-day gift!! I am super excited!

  180. Ryan E
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I don’t know if it the “Best” (especially since its not yet complete), but it is definitely the funnest to read, which makes it the best in my book.

  181. Zack
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    It would be wise to not make such a determination until the books have run their course, honestly. There were three beloved books in the series, but the two most recent have both failed to live up to that high standard in the eyes of many fans. What comes to mind is Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, which IMO had four really incredible books and then three…forgettable ones, to put it as nicely as possible. The way in which that series concluded was really unsatisfactory. I really hope The Winds of Winter can recapture the brilliance of A Storm of Swords, because I don’t want to see another DT situation.

  182. Ryan E
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    TJ: I just can’t see how people can say ASOIAF is better than LOTR when its entire story development was admittedly (by Martin) ripped from LOTR. Not too mention ASOIAF is an unoriginal concept, as Martin admits the whole premise was taken from Wars of the Roses.

    Because its much more enjoyable to read than LOTR. Its realistic, grittier, much, much funnier, and its characterization is exponentially better (characters motivations don’t simply boil down to “because I am good” or “because I am bad”). Oh and the dialogue and suspense are not even comparable between the two.

    Edit: Yes, the last two books don’t measure up to ASOS, but ADWD was great except for one story line.

  183. Ryan E
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    K: Maybe if Tolkein wrote about Arwen losing her maidenhead or the size of a Hobbit’s manhood (if foot size has any correlation…..) then perhaps some of you would think the Lord of the Rings was more “adult”….yawn.

    If the characters were written as real people with believable motivations, then I’d consider the LOTR more adult.

  184. TJ Flynn
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Ryan E: Because its much more enjoyable to read than LOTR.Its realistic, grittier, much, much funnier, and its characterization is exponentially better (characters motivations don’t simply boil down to “because I am good” or “because I am bad”).Oh and the dialogue and suspense are not even comparable between the two.

    Edit:Yes, the last two books don’t measure up to ASOS, but ADWD was great except for one story line.

    I’m speaking from a literary perspective, we all know the context of ASOIAF is much simpler to read, and therefore more enjoyable. There’s a reason TV scripts are written on a 4th grade level, it’s because most people operate on that level. Have you ever seen the show, “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?” That seems like a funny concept right? It’s not, because most people aren’t smarter than a fifth grader, so things are often dumbed-down. I do agree about the grittiness and realism, I do enjoy that about ASOIAF, and I do agree it is easier to read – I don’t have to think as much.

  185. TJ Flynn
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Herr Fick: You obviously don’t know what you are talking about.
    It was not Tolkien’s decision to split the novel. The trilogy-structure has no artistic purpose or merit. His original format was one volume, divided into six “books” (ie super-chapters that serve to accent novel’s appearance as a pseudo-chronicle). He didn’t even like some of the titles he had to choose for the volumes. Allen & Unwin’s decision to publish The Lord of the Rings in three parts was due to economic reasons and such of publication management (for example, Tolkien’s last major revision lasted until 1949 or 1950 and there was a dispute involving another publisher, Collins, which further delayed the novel’s printing; furthermore, a single volume would have been too risky and expensive, if at all possible).
    If the label “series” is meant to signify more than the random and trivial number of parts a novel had to be printed in, then the Lord of the Rings, just as War and Peace, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften or other very long novels, shouldn’t be labelled a series.

    By the way, Tolkien’s German publisher, Klett-Cotta, sells this superior edition of his novel (the two German translations are deficient in their own ways, but the layout is fantastic).

    I do know what I am talking about, and sorry but you are highly misinformed. Tolkien always intended LOTR to be split into a series (1 volume with a series of 3), he just did not want three volumes (3 volumes with a series of 6). He also created the art covers for all three volumes. If a novel is split, by any regard, it is a series. Even ASOIAF is one long story, but that does not negate the series label.

    “The work was initially intended by Tolkien to be one volume split into three sections.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lord_of_the_Rings

    Here, they spell it out for you:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_(literature)

  186. Ryan E
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    TJ Flynn: I’m speaking from a literary perspective, we all know the context of ASOIAF is much simpler to read, and therefore more enjoyable. There’s a reason TV scripts are written on a 4th grade level, it’s because most people operate on that level. Have you ever seen the show, “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?” That seems like a funny concept right? It’s not, because most people aren’t smarter than a fifth grader, so things are often dumbed-down. I do agree about the grittiness and realism, I do enjoy that about ASOIAF, and I do agree it is easier to read – I don’t have to think as much.

    I disagree completely. ASOIAF is much more complex to read than LOTR, because there is so much more going on in the book, so much more sublety, foreshadowing, and the characters next actions are not completely obvious, because they are actually realistic characters with real motivations and problems. In my opinion there is much more to think about in ASOIAF than Tolkien, infinitely more depth. In Tolkien, once a characters race is established, you pretty much already know their character traits and how they will act the rest of the book.

    I guess that is just my experience with the books, I haven’t read LOTR in a decade but I always found it a pretty simple read, because the characters motivations and decisions were usually obvious and rarely surprised me. And the deus ex machina ending to the Battle of Pelenor Fields? I think the book would have been stronger if that was resolved differently.

    I guess the only thing that makes LOTR seems more complex is Tolkien’s writing style, which is beautiful, but the characterization makes it seem a simpler read to me. It’s a great series, I just don’t think it stacks up to ASOIAF and I personally disagree with you regarding its relatively complexity.

  187. Delta1212
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    TJ: Game

    ASoIaF is ripped from the War of the Roses in the same way LotR is ripped from Norse mythology. At the end of the day it’s mostly a superficial resemblance that was greatly expanded upon and honestly, who really cares?

  188. TJ Flynn
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Ryan E: I disagree completely.ASOIAF is much more complex to read than LOTR, because there is so much more going on in the book, so much more sublety, foreshadowing, and the characters next actions are not completely obvious, because they are actually realistic characters with real motivations and problems.In my opinion there is much more to think about in ASOIAF than Tolkien, infinitely more depth.In Tolkien, once a characters race is established, you pretty much already know their character traits and how they will act the rest of the book.

    I guess that is just my experience with the books, I haven’t read LOTR in a decade but I always found it a pretty simple read, because the characters motivations and decisions were usually obvious and rarely surprised me.And the deus ex machina ending to the Battle of Pelenor Fields?I think the book would have been stronger if that was resolved differently.

    I guess the only thing that makes LOTR seems more complex is Tolkien’s writing style, which is beautiful, but the characterization makes it seem a simpler read to me.It’s a great series, I just don’t think it stacks up to ASOIAF and I personally disagree with you regarding its relatively complexity.

    Most of my argument is geared toward Tolkien’s writing style, not so much character depth and development (which is the same development as the The Fellowship in LOTR). His literary style is much more complex and fascinating than Martin’s simplistic style. Let’s not forget though, Martin was a script writer – in regards to my fourth grade comment.

    I think people see all these characters and POVs in ASOIAF and immediately think they are complex because so many exist. However, what do we really know about them past basic human virtues like courage? Or past greed and canivary? I see complexity in Martin’s characters, but not the extent most people are claiming… it’s just not there. Massive amounts of characters does not equal complexity. I would argue their are too many characters to even give them complexity.

  189. TJ Flynn
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Delta1212: ASoIaF is ripped from the War of the Roses in the same way LotR is ripped from Norse mythology. At the end of the day it’s mostly a superficial resemblance that was greatly expanded upon and honestly, who really cares?

    Well… I care. I have heard about twenty different claims on where Tolkien got his template from, but we know for a fact that ASOIAF was modeled directly from the Wars of the Roses; the Lannisters are the Lancasters and the Starks are the Yorks, and it is yet to be seen who the Tudors are. It’s a lot easier to model a novel after one event as opposed to the numerous sources that everyone is separately claiming Tolkien took his from. As I said before, originality does not exist, but creativity does. Based on the eras these books were written, Tolkien takes the cake in creativity, ASOIAF isn’t anything ground breaking.

    Not too mention, we are discussing what the best fantasy series of all-time is; in the literary sense. You can’t just point and say, “that one,” like you’re a kid in a candy store. These things have to be dissected and peer-reviewed, which sounds ridiculous considering we are on a web forum, but it makes for a better discussion.

  190. TJ Flynn
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    The Bible is the best fantasy series ever… I win.

  191. MajorPayne
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Tar Kidho,

    Please, Please, Please read the Dresden Files. I am generally a traditional fantasy reader but came across this and never regretted it. Cheers!

  192. Delta1212
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    TJ Flynn,

    I’m not one to make absolutest statements about value (i.e. “this is the best [whatever]“) but I also really don’t think that the quality of a work is tied to the source of inspiration very strongly. You’ve cited both LotR and War of the Roses as sources of inspiration for ASoIaF, and those are both true, but in a very, very limited capacity. Anyone who writes anything is going to pick up inspiration from a variety of sources. If I dissected ASoIaF more thoroughly, I could pull out many.

    I could do the same to LotR. Tolkien was very heavily influenced by European folklore and especially Norse mythology in the creation of his world, and stylistically he borrows very heavily from the epics that he is on record as having loved, such as Beowulf.

    You seem to be criticizing ASoIaF because you’re aware of what elements drew from what inspirations while you are unaware of the specific inspirations that Tolkien drew from. This doesn’t change the fact that Tolkien did draw heavily from a variety of sources for his inspiration, and while his world building is easily some of the most thorough that has ever been done by a single individual, it didn’t spring from his mind as whole cloth.

    There’s also the issue that things like “all the characters start in one location and then spread out” didn’t originate with Tolkien. It’s a fairly established storytelling technique because it allows you to cover a story with a wide scope but still manage character introductions economically and in a way that ties the threads together in the minds of the audience. Martin may have cited Tolkien as an example that made an impression on him, but using the technique doesn’t mean he’s borrowing heavily from Tolkien.

    And then there’s the additional fact that, outside of the very initial parallels that you already mentioned, the War of the Roses analogy doesn’t run particularly deep. This isn’t a fantastical retelling of the events of the war or an allegory of the same. It’s a case of “A civil war between rival factions of a feudal kingdom makes for pretty interesting story material.” And it does, but that’s about it.

    I don’t have a problem if you disagree with the article (I’m not really sure I do myself, though I’m not prepared to champion an alternative best, either), but I think your specific reasons for doing so don’t make much sense.

  193. TJ Flynn
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Delta1212,

    I’m not debating whether Tolkien used inspirations, as I’ve stated originality doesn’t exist – I know Middle Earth didn’t just spring from his head. Tolkien definitely had inspirations to work from, but I feel it is a credit to his story telling that he wrote LOTR from a variety of sources and created a detailed world from simpler works; and in doing so paved way for an entirely new form of fantasy genre… something Martin has not done. On the contrary, Martin has based a critical story structure almost entirely on the ins-and-outs of Wars of the Roses (which he openly admitted to); where do you think the title Game of Thrones came from? I’m not taking anything away from Martin, I think ASOIAF is fantastic, and I think he did a great job molding his own novel, I just don’t think he’s pulled it off nearly as well as Tolkien.

    His inspirations aren’t the only criticism I’ve stated either, character development (Starks/The Fellowship) and story structure (Wars of the Roses) are just a few, I’ve noted he has a pretty simplistic style of writing as well compared to Tolkien’s. I would argue that Martin’s style is a bit elementary compared to Tolkien’s, and is more kin to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series than LOTR (with added sexuality and gore of course). Which is fine, because simpler styles can reach broader audiences.

    I only noted the comparison of the Starks and The Fellowship’s stories bowing out and coming back together, because it was a direct quote from Martin himself – he made the comment that Tolkien WAS his inspiration for that (not any other source) regardless of where that type of character development came from. Martin also noted that his story derives heavily from the Wars of the Roses, so again you are negating inspirations that he personally noted as derivative to his novel.

    I am merely stating that Martin has been personally quoted as using some of Tolkien’s methods for his own, and that it his hard for me to crown the student as king when the student took much from the teacher. Let us not forget, without LOTR we likely wouldn’t have ASOIAF or the same type of fantasy genre we have today. Regardless of all that, I still say the Bible is the greatest fantasy series of all-time; non negotiable.

  194. Epic shtickybuns
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    TJ Flynn: Which is fine, because simpler styles can reach broader audiences.

    Ironically, all fantasy authors have Tolkien to thank for popularizing the adult fantasy genre. Not only are they copying him to some degree, they are writing for the audience he essentially created.

  195. newjeffct
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I love both LotR and ASoIaF, but I don’t think I’ll call Martin’s work better until it’s done.

  196. Epic shtickybuns
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    TJ Flynn: , I still say the Bible is the greatest fantasy series of all-time; non negotiable.

    I think Homer is a lot more fun than the bible.

  197. Athelstan
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Like everyone else on here I love ASOFAI, but will reserve judgement in its ‘greatness’ until its finished, though I do live the books. However, for now LOTR remains my firm favourite in the fantasy genre and a strong contender for my overall favourite.

    If GRRM is looking for some source material beyond 15th C England, and if anyone wants some enjoyable reading then I can strongly recommend the period from the accession of Alfred as King of Wessex in 839 until the Norman victory at Hastings on 14th October 1066 (I have laid flowers on Senlac Hill).

  198. TJ Flynn
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Epic shtickybuns: I think Homer is a lot more fun than the bible.

    Homer the individual or the period Homer? Iliad and Odyssey are just narrative poems by the way, not a series, or even volumes for that matter.

  199. Epic shtickybuns
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    TJ Flynn,

    If it isn’t implied that by Homer in this context it is meant Illiad (and Odyssey) , and that the Illiad is much more than a narrative poem, that it is as important to the history of human civilization as the christian bible…

    in favor of a notion that the christian bible is the best ever fantasy series which I would have considered (not so much allowed) because of the important stuff; the content of the books and not because of a simple little rule that it is a “series of fantastical books” which itself is completely absurd. …

    .. then I don’t want to be part of your revolution.

  200. TJ Flynn
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Epic shtickybuns,

    The Iliad (sometimes referred to as the Song of Ilion or Song of Ilium) is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iliad

    An epic poem is a lengthy narrative poem.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_poem

    It’s not absurd, the only thing absurd is your sentence structure and grammar; but in any part I was being facetious in regards to the Bible (a series of two books).

  201. Epic shtickybuns
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    TJ Flynn,

    Congrats on your Wikipedia searches and on being smart. By the way, Homer is still a more fun read than the bible.

  202. Tony
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Horatio,

    Hell yes. Malazan is the best :)

  203. Carter
    Posted November 5, 2011 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    As many others have said, I think we should wait and see how the series wraps up [if it ever is finished] before naming it the best. Especially, when the last two books haven’t been on the same level as the first three, at least imo.

    I think the argument that ASOIAF can never be as good as LOTR because GRRM was influenced by the earlier books is a terrible argument. If Michael Jordan said he was influenced by watching his older brother play basketball, would that somehow mean he couldn’t be a better player than his brother? Of course not.

  204. Tywin's Bastard
    Posted November 5, 2011 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    The argument that LotR is better than the rest because it created the modern genre is a pretty bad one. The first car was a far bigger revolution than the latest model we have today but it still doesn’t mean that it can hold a candle to the evolved and improved product. That’s an exaggerated comparison but it shows the point. To say that a book is better because it’s importance in litterature history is a very meta way of thinking and doesn’t belong in this kind of discussion. If you want to put it like that it’s more honest to go by the order you read the books in, although I don’t think that’s particularly good either. If a book is the best in your opinion, it shouldn’t matter what it did in history and it shouldn’t matter if you read it before or after other works, it should stand on it’s own literary qualities.

    André,

    Nothing in ASOIAF is even close to approaching the kind of descriptions that Tolkien wrote. The food if definitely not like that since it’s more about just showing the variety of what they eat but the courses themselves aren’t heavily described. Not that I had any problems with Tolkien’s descriptions though. I felt that it fit well with his style of writing.

  205. TJ Flynn
    Posted November 5, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Epic shtickybuns:
    TJ Flynn,

    Congrats on your Wikipedia searches and on being smart. By the way, Homer is still a more fun read than the bible.

    Maybe it’s more fun, that’s not the argument, but it’s not a series and I was merely trying to spell that out for you. Things can be mindless and be more fun, but that doesn’t make them better. Besides, I doubt you’ve even seriously read Homer – regardless I was being facicous.

  206. Rudyard
    Posted November 5, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    If you think you can make a straight comparison with LOTR and ASOIAF – more research is clearly required!

    Further reading into the underlying metafictional nature of Tolkien’s work, will surely render any attempt at comparing the two works as rather futile. I’m sure that GRRM (being a life-long Tolkienist himself) would be quick to point out that the scope and intention of the two works is really very different. Trying to compare them shows a superficial reading and understanding of LOTR and in turn ASOIAF.

  207. k
    Posted November 5, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    I cannot speak for other people posting here but I can say that I am not personally arguing that The Lord of the Rings is great because it is historical and influential – my point is that it is historical and influential because it is so great. A Song of Ice and Fire is not even completed yet and there is no way to know what any of us will think of it until we read the final volumes. Obviously, anyone posting on this thread loves GRRM and what he has created (if you don’t love it then I think you have far too much time on your hands to read through this thread just for the heck of it). So, I sincerely hope that the series will end on a high note, stand the test of time and that twenty years from now we can all reconnect and see if we still feel as passionately as we did today…..

  208. loco73
    Posted November 6, 2011 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t Martin himself saying at Comicon, when asked what kind of ending he forsees for ASOIF, that he was greatly influenced by Tolkien and that liked the ending Tolkien gave LOTR, and that is what he is aiming for?

    I seem to recall that during the “Game Of Thrones” panel, or maybe it was somewhere else at another press conference, or interview…

  209. Icebird
    Posted November 6, 2011 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    I think this discussion is best saved for when the series (and Wheel of Time) is complete – so you can judge the series as a whole against all of the others. I think that’s the best way to do it really.

    That said, I do prefer Game of Thrones and Wheel of Time to LOTR so far. But It’s been so long since I’ve read LOTR that I may be a bit biased. Also, IMO Feast and Dance don’t live up do the first 3 ASOIF books – so who knows how I’ll judge the entire series once is actually is complete. I will say this, Game of Thrones is my all time favorite (single) book.

    I will gladly pick up this conversation again once ASOIF and WOT are both complete.

  210. TJ Flynn
    Posted November 6, 2011 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    loco73:
    Wasn’t Martin himself saying at Comicon, when asked what kind of ending he forsees for ASOIF, that he was greatly influenced by Tolkien and that liked the ending Tolkien gave LOTR, and that is what he is aiming for?

    I seem to recall that during the “Game Of Thrones” panel, or maybe it was somewhere else at another press conference, or interview…

    Yes that is what he said, he noted that he would include a “bittersweet” ending to ASOIAF.

  211. world_dancer
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I think your article is premature.

    Do I love Song of Ice & Fire? Yes.

    But to call it the best series of all time, it needs to be finished before it can be compared to the others (one of the major problems with Wheel of Time). Until it is finished, completed masterworks like Lord of the Rings or Narnia or Harry Potter are going to rate higher simply for the sake of having finished their tale. (I’m not going to count Twilight because it is also technically unfinished, and never had a plan behind it, unlike most of the others.)

    After that very important detail, you then have to consider stories in context. Harry Potter, Narnia, and the Oz books (sad that you left them off) are gear toward children. The Oz books are also touch and go, and mainly are about teaching self sufficiency, if you break them down, on a level that children can understand. The Narnia books were written by someone with a deep understanding of theology to convey Christian religious concepts and ethics (something they do very well). And Harry Potter is a modern coming of age story using the British school system and British values (something it also does very well).

    A Song of Ice and Fire is… Well, it’s not over with, so I can’t definitively say. Coming of Age story for some of the young characters like Jon, Arya, Dany & Sansa. Other than that, perhaps a political novel at heart (American in its dislike of mixing religion and politics, modern in the death of the honorable and noble to the treacherous. Usually that kind of thing happens before the story begins). But I can’t say for certain as it is unfinished. Will it be a tale of redemption for Jaime? Will it be the tale of abuse turning a hero to a villain with Tyrion? Will the death of nobility be repeated in Jon as it was with Robb?

    And so on.

    Compare that to the Lord of the Rings, which does have death and treachery, and is focused essentially on the tale of soldiers coming to terms with war, and was written by a veteran in part trying to put his feelings in context. For now, Lord of the Rings carries a lot more weight than A Song of Ice and Fire both for being a good story and for what it represents not just in fantasy literature, but in war literature.

    Could A Song of Ice and Fire be better than the other works? Certainly. But I’m still waiting for the end, the final thesis, so that I can properly compare it.

  212. vianney
    Posted November 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    On a somewhat related note, I’ve been looking for pro -i.e. somewhat objective- reviews of the whole first season, that wouldn’t contain any spoiler at all, to advertise to my friends (and for a marathon i’m hosting soon). Do you have a list of that somewhere? I remember reading a few that could have worked but it’s hard to search for in such a big web…

  213. vianney
    Posted November 17, 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    and by pro i meant professional critique, of course :)


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