Like many people, I suspect, I have a difficult relationship with George RR Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. For one thing the name transcends the usual pretentiousness of the fantasy genre to reach for something that sounds downright silly. That aside though old George has a knack for writing the most deeply flawed characters and making them engaging. You find yourself caring deeply about people that, if they were in a lesser series, you wouldn’t give a damn about or would gladly see bumped off as soon as possible. He nails the hard fact, that in real life – and especially in times of war – there are no straightforward “goodies vs baddies” (despite what the news media might like to tell us).
As the characters so the books themselves; Martin’s writing may be compelling but it’s far from perfect. The first novel, A Game of Thrones, still stands for me as amongst the very best the fantasy genre has to offer, but the sequels – despite some really powerful moments – sometimes fail to reach it’s giddy heights. Whole chapters drag by in which next to nothing happens. Pivotal characters appear to be abandoned whilst the misadventures of every peasant in Westeros are paraded before the reader’s glazing eyes. And then of course there are all the high points, the compelling storyline, engaging characters and powerful writing that keeps you hooked whilst George retreats to whatever distant citadel he lurks in whilst he twiddles his thumbs for another decade or so, counting his cash and leaving the rest of us to wonder if he’s ever going to actually finish writing the damn thing.
Then there was the TV show and, in keeping with the theme, it had its up and downs. To begin with at least it was great; they changed things from the books (generally for the worse unfortunately but it was all forgivable in the early days) but the acting top-notch, and on the whole they did wonderful job of drawing the viewer into the world. Those who’ve seen it will recall the wedding held at Kings Landing which was so beautiful even Joffrey got a little choked up. After a while of course it all veered wildly away from the plot of the books and the flaws in the last couple of series are so extensive, and have been described in detail so many times, that they really aren’t worth going over again now. In the end it all came crashing down as the surviving characters smashed their way through the fourth wall to lecture us, the audience, wagging their fingers self-righteously in our faces because we had cheered for the wrong people all along and everything that had happened was somehow our fault.
So yeah, A Song of Ice and Fire is a series which – and I know this is quite a common phenomenon – I will say that I love and then complain about for the next couple of hours.
When it comes to the ASOIAF miniatures game I sat on the fence for quite a while. I loved the Lord of the Rings (both the books and the films) – although admittedly without the uncritical passion of some of my friends – but I never really got into the miniatures games. I’ve painted the odd model here and there but nothing substantial. ASOIAF however captured my interest. In general the miniatures themselves are much better, and that alone should be enough, but I feel – without wanting to indulge in self-psychoanalysis – that there’s more to it than that, I just can’t put my finger on exactly what. The intricate world-building and vast cast of characters of the novels, which at times makes them so dense for the casual reader to approach, is perfect when it comes to creating background for a miniatures game. However as soon as I realised the game was made by CMON I backed off, and stubbornly refused to buy anything for the first few years. Burned once too many by their shenanigans in years gone by I sulked, until a deal too good to resist came along and my resolve crumbled – which brings me to where we are now. I’ve got a bunch of Starks and Lannisters from the original starter set, plus a few extras, so I’m going to start by putting together a couple of little armies, alongside my efforts to work through my other neglected projects. First on the table we have a couple of ruthless rascals from The Mountain’s Men.
There are some pretty damn dastardly scumbags in Westeros but few are quite as unpleasant as Ser Gregor Clegane, often called The Mountain That Rides, or sometimes Tywin Lannister’s Mad Dog. The men that serve under him are known collectively, and unimaginatively, as The Mountain’s Men and are, not to put too fine a point on it, a right bunch of utter bastards. Needless to say my Lannisters won’t be getting their hands dirty when they can call in their bannermen instead so my first step towards raising an army is to bring in a few of these thugs, starting with this unpleasant pair. Butcher’s boys beware!
I really enjoyed painting these two and I’ve already got a few more that I’ve started working on so expect to see more recruits appearing shortly.