Game of Thrones by George R R Martin is the first in the Song of Ice and Fire series upon which the television show is based. I read a novella that made me consider reading the series before I even saw the television show. When I saw the first season of theshow, I wanted to read the books but the entire series is not fully published, with at least two more books on their way. Given that I have a personal rule saying I will not read a series of books until it is fully published, why am I reading these novels now?
Because of Marc. Grrrrr . . .
Someone recommended the series to him and he bought himself a copy of the first book and borrowed the first book of the Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan from the library. But I heard he’d bought the former before he explained to me he was reading the latter. By the time I realized his shift in focus, I was halfway through Martin’s novel. Oops.
Now, if you’ve seen the television show, you won’t find a lot of surprises within the cover of this book. There are a few changes but they are narratively insignificant. My favorite characters (Arya (I adore her), Tyrion, Jon) lose nothing in my appreciation for them. Naturally, there is a greater depth of character when one can read the internal struggles and ideas. However, one can’t help but be impressed how well the writers of the television show manage to translate these characters to the screen.
Eddard, Daenerys, and Bran are all strong characters but I was pleasantly surprised by Sansa, who rose in my estimation. She’s woefully naïve and idealizes circumstances, with her romanticized vision of how things should be, not how they are.
Martin does a wonderful job of interweaving a complex plot, shifting the character point-of-view flawlessly, each character moving the plot forward so seamlessly that this novel could be a textbook on how to write a novel that uses multiple viewpoints to tell a story. The chapters are also fairly short so even when you’re in a story thread or character who is less than engaging, you know that there are only a few more pages to go before you return to one you prefer. Not that the story is ever slow, boring, or not fascinating. Far from it. And the choice of viewpoint, as I have already said, is so perfectly crafted you don’t begrudge even a moment of being in a less favored character.
There are a few things I did not like. I always feels suspect when a writer ends a novel with a cliffhanger because it implies to me that the author doesn’t have enough faith in his/her writing to trust that the reader will follow along. However, while Martin does end on a cliffhanger, the story is so intricate that he could hardly have ended it with any clear closure. Of course, this probably means that every other book in the series will be like that except for the final one. (This is why I vowed a long time ago I would not read a series until it was completely published. Why am I doing it now with this series? Because the men in my life hate me but that’s another story for another time.)
Another thing I find troubling is how very few truly strong women characters there are. For the most part, they are treated like chattel or they are bitches. Personally, I see little difference between Catelyn and Cersei, albeit the latter is a bit more cold-hearted. Sansa and Daenerys seem to be the same side of one coin. Arya alone stands out as different from the other women and I can only hope that there will be some other female characters who are worthy of admiration and even adoration. (Seriously, I must reiterate how much I adore Arya.)
Currently, Rob and I are watching season 2 of the series so I already know that there are new characters who will be introduced and some minor ones will be moved front and center. From what I understand, the first two seasons follow the first two books and, when Marc does get around to reading the first book and starts the second, I will be right there with him, reading alongside, as it were. And I already know that this means I’ll be reading the story lines for characters I don’t adore as much as I do Arya. (Have I mentioned that I love Arya?)
To the best of my ability, I’ll try not to give away any spoilers and, if a favorite character from one review doesn’t show up in another, please don’t assume that character has been killed off in the previous book. I’m going to purposely avoid mentioning my preferred characters from one review to the next for this very reason. (Yes, even Arya.) The good news is that, since my son shifted over to the other books, I am now able to freely set aside this series without feeling too much guilt. At best, we can expect the sixth book to be published in 2015 and that still leaves at least one more book to be finished. Under the circumstances, I’m understandably reticent about continuing onto the next book so don’t look for a review of the second, third, or fourth books any time soon. Or don't look for them here. However, you can look at the video clip below of Maisie Williams talking about Arya. Really. You should watch it. In fact, you should be watching the series so we can talk about the characters and moral ambiguity and the role of women in this society and such.