Winter is coming and there be spoilers ahead.
Yes, I’ve finally jumped on the Game of Thrones bandwagon. I’ve heard people raving about the books and the HBO series. I don’t have HBO, but I wanted to read the book before watching it anyway. Reading on the Kindle is deceptive, though. I knew the book was long, but I was thinking maybe five or six hundred pages. No, the book is actually 800+ pages. I had no idea until I looked it up. Good thing it was a compelling read!
I won’t say it was an easy read because yes, the story is grim. Bad things happen to good people. A lot of very bad things happen to good people. I hear that George R. R. Martin isn’t afraid to kill off main characters, which makes me worry that many of the characters I like won’t survive to the end of the series. There’s lots of violence, sex, rape, incest, cruelty, and more violence. I know people who were turned off by those things and didn’t like the book. Frankly, I’m surprised I liked it as much as I did, but I loved the realism. Life in the society Martin has described would be horribly grim. I love the political scheming. I love the shades of gray in all of the characters. No one is a hero. In fact, the people who try to stick to their principles and do the right thing (yes, I’m looking at you, Ned Stark) have a hard time surviving in the lion’s den. And the people you want to throttle most (can someone please hurl Joffrey off the castle wall?) seem to be winning.
Writing chapters using many points of view is an interesting technique. Each chapter is told from a single character’s point of view, so at times you go for many chapters without going back to that particular character. I worried it might be confusing at first, but I rather liked reading the different perspectives. I’ll have to see what I think after I’ve read one or two more books in the series.
Lest it seem all praise, there were a few things I didn’t like. Every time someone used the f-word, it took me right out of the story. It just didn’t fit with the language Martin had used. Finding good curse words is a challenge in fantasy. If you make one up you can end up with something like “by the balls of Baldur,” which just sounds silly, like something we would have said while playing D&D. I’m not sure what the solution is on that front. And some of the realism got a bit crude at times. Fine, you want to have your character go take a piss, but really, I don’t need to know that he’s shaking himself afterwards. Ick. Sometimes less is more. That goes for the sex scenes as well. I think Catelyn and Ned were the only ones with a normal, healthy relationship.
Maybe it’s just been a while since I’ve read epic fantasy, or at least a really good epic fantasy novel, but this book was a breath of fresh air to me as a fantasy author. It’s the kind of fantasy I like, very medieval, with plenty of sword fights and politics. The magic and magical creatures are subtle for now. I have a feeling the dragons and the Others are going to play a bigger role in future books, but I like the fact that there aren’t dragons on every corner and powerful wizards in every camp. I also felt the female characters were portrayed well. They were all strong in their own ways.
Tyrion Lannister: Hands down, I loved reading his chapters. He’s got to be one of the sharpest characters in the book and he has the best lines. (please please let him make it to the end of the series and get rid of the rest of his obnoxious family)
Arya Stark: I love a tomboy with a sword.
Jon Snow: I warmed up to him as the book went on and was a big fan by the end. I was going to be really disappointed if he deserted from the Wall, so I’m glad his friends brought him back. I think he belongs there.
Ned Stark: Well, I liked Ned a lot at first, but as I mentioned above, his sense of honor and duty got to be tiring after a while. I lost a lot of respect for him after he confronted Cersei because it was such a terribly stupid thing to do. People, if you know an important secret, tell someone who needs to know while you have the chance!
Robert Baratheon: He was a fun character. Pig-headed, narrow minded, all of the things a good king shouldn’t be. I kind of wished he did have the chance to give it all up and ride off to be a sellsword king.
Characters I love to hate:
Joffrey Baratheon: Sansa should have pushed him when she had the chance.
Cersei and Jamie: I can only hope they get what’s coming to them.
Viserys Targaryen: The crown he finally received was much deserved.
Sansa Stark: She was an incredibly annoying character. The constant mooning over Joffrey was too much for me. But she faced a rude awakening at the end of the book, so I’m curious to see how she might evolve in the future.
I’ve watched the first two episodes of the first season. So far so good. I think they did a good job staying true to the book, although there is so much that doesn’t make it on screen.
And now on to Clash of Kings.