There’s much to like about what George R.R. Martin does in his juggernaut of a fantasy franchise: his juggling of a ginormous cast of compelling characters, his willingness to kill and maim those characters in horrible ways, and his relentless critique of the way that high fantasy handles class and gender.
I appreciate that there’s something barking mad about demanding ‘realism’ in fricking high fantasy, but medieval Europe was not populated by well-fed and endearing freeholders, chivalrous knights, and free-thinking warrior-maidens. And let’s not even get started on whether the political economy of feudal society is compatible with low-cost extra-dimensional energy sources.
Given all of the ways in which Martin breaks with tropes found in the bulk of high fantasy, it can be easy to forget the degree to which his underlaying fantasy architecture is dungeons-and-dragons level pastiche — complete with Dire Wolves, cliché “barbarian” steppe nomads, pseudo-vikings, and other flotsam and jetsam from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.