Yo, I’ve got my eBook copy and I’m ready to light this candle. I think I’ve decided to go about this by reading one chapter at a time — that is, I’ll read a chapter, write about it, read another, write about it, post whenever. This means that by the time this post goes up I’ll have probably gotten a few chapters in already. Nevertheless, I hope it goes without saying that I do not want any spoilers.
Spoilers suck, seriously. Now, let’s see here . . .
So, the book starts and a lot of information gets thrown in my face, but I was expecting that. This is a fantasy story — things need to be established. The good thing is the info is in complement to the main content of the prologue, which plays out kind of like a miniature horror movie.
Three dudes are riding around in the forest tracking some bandits, worrying about the cold and the general creepiness of the woods. We’ve got Will, our POV character, a poacher-turned-Night’s Watchman, which is some kind of ranger — Gared, the grouchy old guy who’s ready to retire — and Sir Royce, a nobleman barely out of his teens who’s been put in command of the other two.
I’ve seen this set-up before, of course, but it’s a good one: a small group of experienced soldiers/rangers truck around trying to play smart and avoid getting killed, but their commanding officer is a thick-headed git who likes to ride clumsy horses and wield shiny, over-sized weapons. Like I said, it’s a nice set-up that lends some inter-party conflict to this group as they ride after the bandits.
Will’s scouted ahead and found the bandit camp, and according to him everyone there is sleeping or dead, but when he returns with the others they find the camp deserted. Spoooooky.
And then everything goes to total hell when a bunch of ghost warriors appear and attack them. Remember back in my intro post when I mentioned that I’d heard this series started very grounded and realistic? I guess you can chalk up that spit of knowledge as completely inaccurate. Freaking invincible ghost warriors right there in the prologue.
Anyway, said ghoulies kill Sir Royce and leave. Will goes to take Royce’s broken sword as proof of this nightmarish encounter, but before he can escape Sir Royce comes back to life as an undead and throttles him, ending the prologue. This actually surprised me, since I thought I’d read somewhere that one of this series’ main characters was a dude named Will — I assumed this was the same guy, but now he’s dead. Either there’s another character named Will, or my memories are a hallucination.
I don’t think Gared’s fate is mentioned, but I’m sure he perished as well, which means this was a Total Party Kill. Oh well.
I’m guessing the events of this prologue will go unmentioned in the rest of the story, at least until dramatically appropriate — it seems to me George R.R. Martin really wanted a foreboding and action-packed opening, so I anticipate the next chapter will be relatively low-key. I liked it, though. Not a bad start to what is sure to be a grim, epic book.
A couple things I noticed in the prologue that are probably important: apparently the Night’s Watchmen perform guard duty around something called the Wall. I’m not sure yet if it’s, like, a literal Great Wall of China kind of deal or something more symbolic, but I’ve heard it mentioned online before, so it must turn up again later.
The other thing: at one point Gared starts reprimanding Sir Royce and talks about how cold the winters are, explaining that he lost his ears and toes to frostbite, and he implies that the winter only occurs once a lifetime. That’s a pretty cool idea — the “winter once a lifetime” thing, not the “my ears fell off” thing — and I kind of wished I’d thought of it. I’m a nerd for world-building, and this book looks to be shaping up to have plenty of it, so that’s encouraging.
Well, I guess that’s all I have to say about the prologue. Thanks for reading.
EDIT: Check out Ian’s interpretative illustrations here.