I want to add a quick thought about George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. As the amount of magic increases in his world, notably in the third book, A Storm of Swords, so does the extent to which the moral rules of his universe become flexible and more likely to be broken. The first book, A Game of Thrones, is essentially devoid of magic. Though the world used to have dragons and wizards, these are long gone from the lives of Martin’s characters, with the exception of a couple brief appearances of zombie-like Others. Martin’s world was at first a brutal and violent one, devoid of romantic influence of standard fantasy elements.
But as the story has progressed, so too has the magic. In magic, Martin has found a device that allows some of the cruelty of the world to be mitigated, some of the negative worn off by magical turns. I’m not sure that it rises to the level of deus ex machina, as Martin has build these magical themes into the very beginnings of the story and only now, in his third book, are they starting to dramatically influence the plot. The magic is actually adding a really great dimension to the books, as to this point it remains subtle, but will clearly be a larger factor in how major characters and forces collide.
The sole irony for me is that what made A Game of Thrones so incredible – its rigid moral universe, free of deus ex machina to benefit its heroes – is slipping away through the evolution of Martin’s story, primarily through the addition of magic, which is to say, fantasy. I’m not sure how much I’m complaining, though I’m certainly very watchful of Martin’s consistency following Adam Serwer’s great post on the coming HBO series.
OK, nevermind. I just read the chapters on Edmure Tully’s wedding in A Storm of Swords. Martin’s world remains as cruel as ever; magic has not tempered it.