Everyone is entitled to have his own opinion, but it doesn’t mean that one doesn’t have to keep contact with reality.
So today I read this review of Best Served Cold and came to this part:
Where most authors dealing with multiple Point of View characters use a standard voice (grammar, structure and vocabulary) across all viewpoints, Abercrombie joins the ranks of authors like George R.R. Martin in his ability to reveal pieces of their personality through the way they tell their story.
Ok, I understand that some readers really love Martin’s series and have adopted it as a canon to judge all other fantasy, but the process of idolatry that is going on has trespassed all boundaries of plausibility of honest and earnest opinion.
George Martin has indeed a huge skill with characters, he makes them alive and sympathetic for the reader. That’s his greatest skill. Along with making dialogues relevant and effective. But there’s an aspect that was obvious to my eyes when I was reading the first book in the series and that has been praised by many readers: the prose is very good and even.
Martin writes very good prose, a pleasure to read. The book is accessible and engaging. But there’s no experimentation with language. Grammar, structure, vocabulary? If true that would be the antithesis of an even, flowing prose. It would mean switching styles for every POV and it’s definitely not something I saw happen in A Game of Thrones (especially with seven years old kids that would make any kind of adjusted use of vocabulary and structure extremely obvious).
So say that Martin is great at portraying multi-dimensional characters whose themes ring true and powerful. Say that he indulges in their minds, render wonderfully they thoughts on the page (plausible, faithful, consistent. Ok). But he does this through an even prose and style that represent constants through the book.
Doing true POVs that play with grammar, structure and vocabulary is extremely hard. It is rarely found in fantasy as it is rarely found in all genres of literature (Ulysses? Infinite Jest? House of Leaves? All examples of very simple and accessible books), and when you find it it’s almost always about gimmicky aspects that are easily isolated. When it happens it also often leads to extremely polarized reactions by the readers because you can really come to HATE certain habits of certain characters and certain parts of the book really hard to wade through. It leads to an uneven prose, text hard to follow and definitely not an accessible book that is aiming for the broadest audience possible.
If that claim was true Martin’s series would be nowhere as successful as it is. If it’s successful is instead because the book has the kind of competent and beautiful prose that represent a constant throughout the book and that makes it a pleasure to read.
I also think that Abercrombie’s style is completely different from Martin’s and that you’re really don’t do Abercrombie justice if you look at his work through Martin’s looking glass. It’s hard for me to think even something vague that they may have in common.