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“In the game of thrones you either win or you die”––with over 10 million viewers per episode of Game of Thrones, one of the most successful television shows of all time, George R.R. Martin definitely wins. The success of the show is even more amazing considering it’s genre television––fantasy, to be exact. Some assert that the power of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the crowning jewel of HBO is based, comes from the author’s willingness to ignore the conventions of the fantasy genre. Not so, argues Dr. Joseph Young in his new book, George R. R. Martin and the Fantasy Form (Routledge, 2019)
Using the frameworks of literary theory relevant to modern fantasy, Dr. Young undertakes a compelling examination of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and his employment of the structural demands and thematic aptitudes of the genre. Examining Martin’s approaches to his obligations and licenses as a fantasist, Young persuasively argues that the power of A Song of Ice and Fire derives not from Martin’s abandonment of genre convention, but from his ability to employ those conventions in ways that further, rather than constrain, his authorial program.
Written in clear and accessible prose, George R. R. Martin and the Fantasy Form is a timely work which encourages a reassessment of Martin and his approach to his most famous novels. This is an important book for both students and critics of Martin’s work, arguing for a reading of A Song of Ice and Fire as a wide-ranging example of what modern fantasy can accomplish when employed with an eye to its capabilities and purpose.
Dr. Joseph Rex Young lives and works in Dunedin, New Zealand, where he pursues his research interests in Gothic literature, neo-Romanticism, and the intellectual history and structure of modern fantasy narrative. He has taught at universities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, and New Zealand.
Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City.
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