"Great Story, Difficult Narration"
I actually own the paperbacks to A Song of Ice and Fire. And I re-bought the entire series as eBooks for my Kindle. The I purchased the Season 1 DVDs for A Game of Thrones. And the Graphic Novel (Part I). So take it as read that I'm familiar with the books, the story, George R R Martin's writing style, and the cast of thousands that populate Westeros and the lands across the Narrow Sea.
As you might surmise, I love the story. Unfortunately, this audiobook was a struggle to listen to because I just couldn't get on with the narration. Leaving aside the characterisation, for a moment, Roy Dotrice has this bizarre habit of pausing... mid-sentence so you're not sure if the sentence is finished... or if there's another portion... to come. At some points, these pauses almost change the sense of what's being said, and you find yourself having to mentally re-wind to re-phrase the words in your head to get the proper meaning.
In a similar vein - just concerning the narration rather than the characterisation - at some points the narrator's choice of tone doesn't jibe with my own interpretation of the story's tone; the first time we hear the Stark's motto, '"Winter is Coming", we're given it in almost upbeat fashion, rather than the heavy, almost portentous phrase that I have in my head.
However, my biggest obstacle with the narration was the characters' voicings; to be fair, the book has a cast of thousands (probably literally, although I haven't counted), and it would be impossible to form a distinct voice for every single person. But characters frequently sound much older than written (Theon Greyjoy, for example), the cod-Irish accent deployed for some characters is almost unlistentable, and, most disappointingly, Tyrion's accent changes mid tale, from Lancastrian to something that oscillates between Welsh and Irish.
It's a hard job, and I wish Mr Dotrice no ill, but I would've liked to hear Steven Pacey's reading of this instead.
"Excellent story, narrator still irks"
The story is brilliant - what stops these audiobooks being five star recs from me is the narration.
I wonder whether this is another of those US/UK taste things - perhaps different elements of narration strike us, whilst other elements pass us by? In the case of this audiobook, characters change accents, characters get mis-named (Joffrey frequently becomes Geoffrey), and the narrator's tone often seems to be at odds with the text.
There are two killers for me, though, which cause me to hit 'pause' before I throw the iPod at the wall. The first is Mr Dotrice's tendency to interject pauses mid-sentence (and yet, at other times, he'll run on immediately to a new scene with nary a breath), which just breaks the story's flow and makes it harder to follow than it need be.
The second is more personal, I admit, but his habit of assigning an *awful* cod-Irish accent to any arguably 'ethnic' character, the bizarre decision to have Tyrion's voice in Welsh (for the most part!) vs the rest of his family, and voicing characters like Theon as though they're middle-aged... All these are, to me, jarring, but I appreciate that you've got a cast of thousands, and so it's going to be difficult to make them all distinct.
I listen to audiobooks whilst walking the dog - normally in hour plus chunks. I almost never managed to get a solid hour's listen in with these books; I'd always reach a point where the narration was so painful that I had to switch the iPod off. The fact that I've completed the book is testament to the compelling story, despite the pains of narration.
A really good reading, with good voicings for the characters, I nonetheless felt that the story ended a little abruptly, and whilst there were certain set pieces that stood out, other sections of the book seemed a little disjointed, with characters appearing in consecutive sections with little indication of how they arrived there.
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