Horse Jerky and Sandcamels

A Primer of Ice and Fire

  • comments (57)
  • Print
+ Enlarge this Image
Karolina Webb
MARTIN Watch out, intestines!
+ Enlarge this Image
+ Enlarge this Image
+ Enlarge this Image
+ Enlarge this Image
+ Enlarge this Image

Basically—here is the dark, mewling shame-baby that's been calcifying for years in my brain-womb (medical term)—I will read anything with a fucking fictional map in the front.

Ohhhhhh, how I crave a fictional map! Oz, Middle Earth, Narnia, Neverland, Fantastica, Tortall, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the one with the talking war-bears where everyone gets to have a magic otter that is their best friend... uhhh... Dinotopia... ummmmm... you know, all the other ones. All the main ones. I love that shit. So imagine my delight upon discovering that not only does each volume in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series have a fictional map in the front, IT HAS A FUCKING FICTIONAL MAP IN THE BACK, TOO. That's two fictional maps. Two. (Plus sometimes a third supplementary fictional map that I really can't get into right now because I need both hands for typing, if you know what I mean [MASTURBATION JOKE].)

Now, I know that A Song of Ice and Fire has gone rather mainstream and de rigueur these days (more on that in one second), so it's not exactly a radical statement for me to openly read this shit on the bus, but just indulge me in one quick personal moment of liberation. Because do you know what time it is, shame-baby? ABORTION O'CLOCK. Flush. My name is Lindy West, and I will just read whatever I want on the bus.


Okay. Down to business. So you've probably noticed that all the people you've ever met—even normals!—are feverishly reading these books right now. Maybe you feel confused. Maybe you are overwhelmed. Frightened. Maybe you don't know where to start, and maybe an oily, red shame-baby is sitting on your chest while you sleep and is staring at you with its horrible rheumy goat-eyes (I can relate, bro). So for you, dear friend, here is everything you need to know to speak authoritatively about A Song of Ice and Fire.

You Are Late

The nerds would like you to know that you are late. Recently, I jokingly scolded a friend on Facebook for not having read ASOIAF, and was reprimanded thuswise by an angry die-hard: "Don't worry [REDACTED], most people who give you shit about it are just bandwagon readers, anyway. I doubt a single one of those jerks had to wait for A Clash of Kings." Yes, hello. This is my wagon, and here is my band of jerks. If you don't mind, I am going to continue reading now. Sorry I like the same thing that you like.

Hella Hella Intrigue

Perhaps you are one of those horribly condescending garbage-people who assume—with no investigation—that if something is very, very popular it must logically be very, very terrible. God, shut up. ASOIAF is popular because it is basically what would happen if Bruce Willis were a wizard and he had sex with Sarah Palin and she gave birth to a baby and then they only let it watch Breaking Bad and then Professor McGonagall transfigured that baby into a book. Shit is exciting and stressful and GOOD, and that's why people like it. Good luck not dreaming about it.

Trigger Warnings

It's probably a good idea to stay away from these books if any of the following has ever happened to you: Rape. Incest. Twincest. Domestic violence. Throat ripped out by a wolf. Disemboweled by a stag. Disemboweled by a sword or ax. Disemboweled by a lance. Basically any disembowelment of any kind. Being flayed alive. Being taunted by a dwarf. Being taunted because you are a dwarf. Zombie attacks. Coming back to life as a zombie. Woolly mammoth attacks. Dragon attacks. Forced castration. Facial burns. Seasickness. Bored to death by heraldry.

Have a Vagina? You're Probably Getting Raped in It

Yup. But don't worry—sometimes you learn to like it once your handmaiden gives you some super-sexy Cosmo tips for How to Please Your Warlord Every Time. If that happens, congrats. To the rest of you, condolences.

Have Intestines? You're Definitely Getting Stabbed in Them

As far as I can tell, George R. R. Martin is under the impression that that's what intestines are for.

I Hope You Like Outfits!

Sometimes, George R. R. Martin will just stop in the middle of a battle to go on for 100 pages about enameled armor and filigreed shields and the sigil adorning everyone's (and I mean EVERYONE'S) doublet. Just go with it.

It's Really, Really Sandy in Dorne

Seriously, George, we get it. Everyone rides their sandhorse down to the sandhole to pick up their sandwives and eat their sand sandwiches washed down with sandmilk from the sandteat of the sandcamel. WE ARE FOLLOWING YOU HERE.

That One Guy Really Likes Drowning People

Again. We get it. We really, really get it. OH MY GOD, WE GET IT.

Brienne Is Not That Great-Looking

Please make a note of it. Or, if you don't make a note of it, just wait two pages because someone will tell you again. Brienne is basically Andre the Giant but with smaller boobs and a horse-mouth and a face carved out of last week's leftover ham. But that doesn't mean she might not cause your manhood to stir within your pantaloons to your great surprise!!! (You know who you are!)

I Can't Tell if It's Racist or Not

I mean, there are all kinds of barbaric and swarthy slave traders and such eating horse meat across the sea, but at least they're not evil. The most evil people in the books are the world's blondest Aryans. But even they're not evil, exactly. I think there are some black people here and there, but I'm not clear on exactly what it is they do or where they come from. Let's just say that the fact that I can't tell isn't a great sign, and epic fantasy doesn't exactly have a pristine track record in terms of racial sensitivity (I'm looking at you, Orcs).

For Some Reason, a Whole Lot of People Live in "The North," Even Though It Is Horrible There

Seriously, you guys? Move south. MOVE. What are you even talking about?



George R. R. Martin Has No Sense of Humor

Which is fine. This shit is serious. (And, no, Tyrion's tasty bons mots do not count unless you've never heard an actual joke before in your life.)

Don't Get Attached

You know your favorite character? The one with the intestines? Yeah. You know what that means (see above). Dead as fuck.

Except for Every Single Person Who Dies Offscreen

They're still alive. I KNOW IT. I'M NOT GIVING UP ON YOU, SYRIO FOREL!!!!! recommended


Comments (57) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Sounds like you and I spent much of July coming late to the same party- I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!!! Love the review- and I have to say, I am glad I came late because I am grateful to have been able to read all 5 in a marathon stretch and only have to wait for the next installments!
Posted by Duvall-ite on July 27, 2011 at 9:27 AM · Report this
Philly 2
Posted by Philly on July 27, 2011 at 9:57 AM · Report this
Love, love, love the series and I actually do dream about it! Quite often as a matter of fact. Disembowelment, rape, incest, lions, and wolves do not make for pretty dreams, but I cannot help reading before I go to bed.
Posted by LizzieVeg on July 27, 2011 at 12:29 PM · Report this
RaindogBride 4
Lindy, I love that you're a Syrio fan. The rest of us are still holding out for the real Hound.
Posted by RaindogBride on July 27, 2011 at 12:38 PM · Report this
@4: If the Hound is revealed, I hope it gets revealed that he's really Syrio Forel now taking the face of the Hound. Hah!
Posted by Avtar on July 27, 2011 at 12:42 PM · Report this
picaroon 6
I can tell you read the books recently because you used the word, "rheumy." Good summary. Also: if there is a location named on the map, there is some sort of rule that some chapter will take place there eventually. Map names are like a checklist. Why do we need to follow Brienne to Crackclaw Crackpoint? Because it's on the map, that's why.
Posted by picaroon on July 27, 2011 at 12:44 PM · Report this
Meags 7
Sweet Tortall reference, Lioness!!
Posted by Meags on July 27, 2011 at 12:59 PM · Report this
Okay, I'm one of these new to the books. Mostly because I've been burned by my fantasy-loving friends who have told me in the past "You HAVE to read this ZOMG itz the BEST THING EVAR!!!!!!!" And then it's some poorly written piece of crap - that occasionally lapses into bodice-ripper territory - with a dragon on the cover. So I stopped listening to the recommendations.

I'm not a literary snob - I'm a monster-huge fan of Christopher Moore, if only because reading a paperback titled "Practical Demonkeeping" will assure that the seat next to you on the bus stays empty - but there's a lot of really bad fantasy out there.

This stuff is the shit. It is SO not in that category. This stuff is awesome, and I'm kind of grateful I didn't have to wait years for A Dance with Dragons. Now I just have to wait for Winds of Winter like everyone else.

Anway, so - yes, holding out for Syrio. I still can't figure out why Sam is still fat either. The armor description cracks me up on occasion, but you also forgot to mention the food obsession - every meal is lovingly described. Sometimes I felt like I needed to keep olives and bread on hand to snack on while I was working my way through the books!

If you like the food descriptions, you need to go to this site:
Posted by Chasmosaur on July 27, 2011 at 1:07 PM · Report this
leek 9
Yaaaay Tortall! (At least for the first series.)
Posted by leek on July 27, 2011 at 1:21 PM · Report this
Just to be nit-picky about your list of triggers, technically it should be "Coming back to UN-life as a zombie". Except maybe that shrouded guy who's probably Uncle Benjen who guided everyone's favorite paraplegic snot-nose to the underground tree-huggers realm north of The Wall.

And a big Braavos shoutout to all the Syrio fans.
Posted by Smartypants on July 27, 2011 at 1:24 PM · Report this
Haven't finished reading the article, but I just HAD to tell you how AWESOME it was to read "Tortall," then dig into my memory bank and drag out all the hours I spent reading those books. They were some of the first books I read that had sex in them, and I LOVED IT.
Posted by catewithac on July 27, 2011 at 1:48 PM · Report this
sikandro 12
@8 I finished Feast for Crows this weekend, and had to laugh when there was a literal bodice-ripping in one of the sex scenes towards the end of the book.
Posted by sikandro on July 27, 2011 at 1:55 PM · Report this
Parsnip 13
Let me be your gay man-maiden. I think I love you.
And I think the Summer Islanders are the black people.
Posted by Parsnip on July 27, 2011 at 2:21 PM · Report this
erin 14
all of my friends who are reading these books look really guilty when they talk to me about it and apologize to me about the book rapes. it's good to know my reputation as humorless feminist even has my friends nervous about their fiction choices. that said, i still might read them.
Posted by erin on July 27, 2011 at 2:22 PM · Report this
@8, your reasons are my exact reasons for coming late to this party. My ex adored the books, and he desperately wanted me to read them, but all i could think of was "Ugh, dragons and LARPer talk, no thanks." Honestly, I don't think he did a good job explaining why they were such amazingly good books...I'm not even sure if he (or anyone) could. I try to tell people now about how awesome they are, and they give me the same look I gave him.
Posted by Greycat on July 27, 2011 at 3:17 PM · Report this
The Summer Islanders are most defiantly black. Also, people from Asshai and YI TI are pretty dark as well. I think most people from the jade sea are dark skinned.
Posted by Joe Henry on July 27, 2011 at 3:43 PM · Report this
@16: Isn't Melisandre from Asshai? She's not described as dark, as far as I remember.
Posted by Avtar on July 27, 2011 at 4:56 PM · Report this
Tortall! Loves it!

Couldn't stop laughing when I read this. As for Sam being fat, didn't they try to address that in LOST with Hurley? Maybe he's still fat, but slightly less fat.
Posted by AliceR on July 27, 2011 at 5:33 PM · Report this
seen the show? also badass. and makes the ages a tad more appropriate.
Posted by cillycilia on July 27, 2011 at 6:59 PM · Report this
I'm sorry, but any book whose first paragraph includes the word "wildlings" does not make my list of Books That Are Well-Written. Granted, I only read the free sample of the first volume on Google Books (a mere 70 pages or so), but it was enough to convince me that the free sample was too expensive.
Posted by elsie on July 27, 2011 at 7:54 PM · Report this
Lindy, I love you. Yes yes yes, on all counts. Not sure about the racism -- I read it more like no matter where you're from or what you look like, you're probably a shitty person -- but true that as yet he doesn't have any dark-skinned main characters. (Dornish don't count.)

@4 YES! The Hound can't be dead. Not dead-dead. Maybe undead...
Posted by Nitidiuscula on July 27, 2011 at 8:34 PM · Report this
Eee, Tortall! Those books were so formative for me. I can't be a knight? Fuck that noise, I'm gonna be a knight.
Posted by -ink on July 27, 2011 at 9:16 PM · Report this
The series is very good, but the books have been published so far apart that I hardly remember the characters' names and many of the plot lines. Suffice it to say that I won't be spending $35 on the hardcover edition of A Dance with Dragons.

If you are really interested in quality fantasy novels real Steven Erikson's Malazan Books of the Fallen.
Posted by Approaching 40 in LA on July 27, 2011 at 9:41 PM · Report this

The Hound (Sandor) is the tall guy at the monastery in book 4.
Posted by Spike1382 on July 27, 2011 at 9:54 PM · Report this
Christampa 25

Every character is Jaqen H'ghar in disguise. Even the ones talking to each other.
Posted by Christampa on July 27, 2011 at 11:42 PM · Report this
@25: You beat me to it!
Posted by Faber on July 28, 2011 at 6:53 AM · Report this
New fan: Even Jaqen H'ghar is Jaqen H'ghar in disguise?

Experianced fan: Especially Jaqen H'ghar is Jaqen H'ghar in disguise.
Posted by Spike1382 on July 28, 2011 at 11:02 AM · Report this
Knat 28
I love all this validation that I'm not the only total fanatic for this series.

Lindy, are you going to be at the book signing tomorrow?
Posted by Knat on July 28, 2011 at 12:07 PM · Report this
balderdash 29
Just so.

Wait, was Syrio Jaqen too?

Posted by balderdash on July 28, 2011 at 12:39 PM · Report this
I think it's fair to point out that as of the end of book 4 Sansa, Arya, Catelyn, Brienne, Melisandre, Margaery, Myrcella, Arianne, and the Sand Snakes have NOT been raped in their vaginas. Rape most certainly occurs in this series, but to say having a vagina guarantees a raping is overkill.
Posted by dickfreevajayjays on July 28, 2011 at 2:36 PM · Report this
I get that you're joking...but I can't tell if you're drifting into Penny Arcade assholery with your "trigger" comment.
Posted by I'm assuming not... on July 28, 2011 at 4:33 PM · Report this
Lindy, that was the funniest and truest review of Ice and Fire I've ever read! I'm one of those who read the series from wayyyyyy back and I'm happy more people are finding out what a cool series it is. Welcome to the party, Lindy - just remember to keep your back to the wall and your eyes on your intestines.
Posted by Fangirl on July 28, 2011 at 8:13 PM · Report this
33 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
@14 you should read the books because the rapes *make sense* in the context. Lots of women got raped then, it's interesting to see how they dealt with a very real facet of their life. A 13 year old tells an 11 year old he's going to rape and impregnate her as soon as she's reached menarche. She contemplates murdering him. A 14 year old bride is married off to her non-english speaking warlord husband, who takes the time to learn two words in english (yes and no), specifically to obtain her consent. One lady talks about using 'other methods' to satisfy her husband so she doesn't have to sleep with him. It's treated with integrity every time.
Posted by Caralain on July 29, 2011 at 1:51 AM · Report this
Sam is less fat than he used to be. From page 82 out of 774 of my e-book version of A Feast for Crows

"Wheres your longbow, Sam?" asked Grenn. Ser Alliser used to call him Aurochs, and every day he seemed to grown into the name a little more. He had come to the Wall big but slow, thick of nest, thick of waist, red of face, and clumsy. Though his neck still reddened when Pyp twisted him into some folly, hours of work with sword and shield had flattened his belly, hardened his arms, broadened his chest. He was strong, and shaggy as an aurochs too. "Ulmer was expecting you at the butts."
Posted by Roland00 on July 29, 2011 at 11:45 AM · Report this
Sam is less fat than he used to be. From page 82 out of 774 of my e-book version of A Feast for Crows

"Wheres your longbow, Sam?" asked Grenn. Ser Alliser used to call him Aurochs, and every day he seemed to grown into the name a little more. He had come to the Wall big but slow, thick of nest, thick of waist, red of face, and clumsy. Though his neck still reddened when Pyp twisted him into some folly, hours of work with sword and shield had flattened his belly, hardened his arms, broadened his chest. He was strong, and shaggy as an aurochs too. "Ulmer was expecting you at the butts."
Posted by Roland00 on July 29, 2011 at 11:46 AM · Report this
Roland00, that is a description of Grenn, not Sam. Aurochs was a nickname Ser Alliser bestowed on Grenn. Sam is still a Hurley.
Posted by samisstillfat on July 29, 2011 at 12:03 PM · Report this
Tetchy Brit 38
You totally forgot the most important thing to remember: Jon Snow knows nothing
Posted by Tetchy Brit on July 29, 2011 at 1:42 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 39
Wait ...

Are you saying this isn't Avatar?
Posted by Will in Seattle on July 29, 2011 at 2:03 PM · Report this
Andy 40
@35/36, Aurochs is Grenn, not Sam.
Posted by Andy on July 29, 2011 at 2:50 PM · Report this
McGee 41
@39: Will you go be a shit-for-brains somewhere else

@20; You are a sucky human.
Posted by McGee on July 29, 2011 at 3:37 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 42
What do we say to the god of death, Lindy? Not today!

I am expecting Syrio to leap out sooner or later, muss someone's hair, and proceed to cut everyone in half.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on July 29, 2011 at 7:24 PM · Report this
It's less rape-y than it could be. I mean, how can it even be possible than Sansa and/or Brienne haven't been raped yet, what with all the other shit that's happened to them?

Also, Tyrion IS funny, dammit! HE'S FUNNY!
Posted by rcd05 on July 30, 2011 at 9:19 AM · Report this
TORTALL!!! :3 my entire childhood was spent there. Of *course* Lindy is a fan, my heart is warmed.
Posted by faithful on July 31, 2011 at 4:58 PM · Report this
@43, Sansa hasn't been raped yet, because she swallowed the "women must be complacent" schtick hook, line, and sinker. If she had been married to Joffrey, she would have seen it as her duty. Rape wasn't the worst thing you could do to Sansa, so it wasn't necessary. Brienne hasn't been raped yet for ironic reasons. We need her to be the complete opposite of Cersei, so that the humiliation when Jamie falls in love with Brienne is all the more potent. Jamie needs something he believes in to defend.
Posted by anyes on August 1, 2011 at 10:31 AM · Report this
I absolutely hate that The Stranger wrote about this series. It's mine bitch. Got it? Good. Stay the fuck away from it "The Stranger".
Posted by emilyfuckingpost on August 1, 2011 at 4:48 PM · Report this

anyes, I find your post confusing. How is the fact that Brienne hasn't been raped "ironic"?
Posted by O.D. Iron Knee on August 1, 2011 at 5:01 PM · Report this
you had me at sand sandwiches
Posted by Swearengen on August 1, 2011 at 5:49 PM · Report this
49 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
I read the first book and LOVED it. I refused to read any further in the series because I was burned out on epic fantasy series, and even the first book was totally emotionally grueling. I don't regret that. I MAY pick up the books again, but only on my own terms. Dammit.
Posted by JrzWrld on August 2, 2011 at 8:15 AM · Report this
@50 If you found the first book emotionally grueling, your fragile heart will be put through the wood chipper by the rest of the series. Save yourself the heartache (and the thousands and thousands of pages).
Posted by -ink on August 2, 2011 at 4:01 PM · Report this
"The one with the intestines"! The cheap red wine that is currently dripping down my monitor? Totally your fault Lindy.

And @8, I agree wholeheartedly. There is so much bad fantasy out there, ASOIAF is not that, and Chris Moore is funny as hell.

I watched the series and couldn't believe that I'd managed to miss these books. I just got the first four on Friday and I just can't put "A Game of Thrones" down. It's like a siren song! "The dishes can wait. Pets don't need to be fed EVERY day. Just one more chapter."
Posted by Kitchenwitch on August 3, 2011 at 7:28 PM · Report this
I think Dolorous Edd is pretty damn funny. His lines in DwD made me laugh out loud literally ........
Posted by Timchi on August 4, 2011 at 1:54 AM · Report this
I love you, Lindy.
Posted by Gloria on August 10, 2011 at 12:12 PM · Report this
devon rocketship 55
i too love you, lindy. at every point you made i just kept saying, "yes! yes!"

i also wonder why sam is still fat and am pretty certain that now that he's portrayed by a real actor he's doomed to stay fat for sure as it seems much easier to get a fictional character to go on a diet than a real person. remember hurly in lost?
Posted by devon rocketship on August 10, 2011 at 1:36 PM · Report this
If you think about it, there was only 1 actual rape so far (other than when towns are sacked and the spoils of war are taken, but we don't really get any details of those acts.) and that was Lollies. Brienne hasn't been raped because she will disembowel any man who tries. Sansa hasn't been raped yet, and I say yet because I don't trust Little Finger. But otherwise it is all just sex, most willingly, some dutifully which turns into willingly. Either way, all rapes considered, from a woman's perspective I don't think this story is anti-woman in anyway, Daenerys kicks ass with her Dragons and Arya is going to be the next Syrio Forel/Jaqen H’ghar. I absolutely love the series (started shortly after the 3rd book came out) and compare all other fantasy to this (or to the Wheel of Time which is also amazing, if you haven’t read it, DO!) I agree with all of you who mention bad fantasy, there is a lot of it out there but this series is amazing and will only make it that much harder for other fantasy writers to measure up.
Posted by shellybabe on August 18, 2011 at 2:31 PM · Report this
One thing I'd like to add...the plot device Martin uses over and over again where a chapter ends with someone (possibly) getting killed, or maybe they just got knocked out but you'll have to wait at least a hundred pages to find out which it is. Or in the case of Brienne..another book.
Posted by amyaskew on June 9, 2012 at 10:58 AM · Report this

Add a comment