Songs of Ice and Fire – Game of Thrones
Well, this was pretty awesome – in some parts, downright brilliant – and I’m an idiot for putting it off for so long. Anyways, thanks to the scheduling people at HBO (April 17Th is coming) I finally got the push I apparently needed (because I didn’t want to pull another LOTR – the books should always come first) – so there you go: I read it and I loved it, and now the show will never live up to my expectations. I mean, Sean Bean seems like a pretty poor choice for Ned Stark, if you ask me. I envisioned him as more of a Aragorn-like figure, and he is only Boromir :P. A fatter Sean Bean would have been great for Robert Baratheon though. Unwanted casting notes aside, now I can’t wait to get the next 3 volumes (come on…paycheck :D).
Obviously, herein lie spoilers, so read at your own risk. Or better yet, read the book.
It’s structured into…I don’t know how many chapters (a lot, they’re pretty short and not numbered) and each is a 3rd person narration focused on one character and the goings on around him/her. Our POV characters are The Starks of Winterfell – Eddard (‘Ned’ – odd name for a lord in a medieval-inspired universe), his wife Catelyn, his children Arya, Sansa, Bran and Jon Snow (the bastard) – Tyrion Lannister (the quippy dwarf, who ended up being rather likable) and Daenerys Targaryen (an exiled princess who will be known as Dany). In over 800 pages most of what happens to them is all plotty & twisty, but I just want to say I cannot believe they killed Eddard!! (Then again, Sean Bean should have been a warning sign – he’s the one who dies in the first volume.) I was really attached to the character – naïve and annoyingly honorable as he was. And that’s one of the great things about this book: there’s no Good and Evil (not yet at least) it’s all scheming, dealing, court intrigues, fights for power and influence – and finally war. The maliciousness of men is so much more interesting than the purity of gods and heroes. It all depends through whose eyes you’re watching – for example, Dany sees the rulers of the Seven Kingdoms as usurpers, but they killed her father and deposed him of the throne after he (and his kin) apparently committed some pretty atrocious deeds and they felt entitled to their revenge, just as she now is to hers.
Back to Ned though (because this is eating me) – his death was all kinds of unfair (albeit more narratively interesting). At least if he wouldn’t have confessed to a treason he hadn’t committed… but, as Maester Aemon once asked Jon Snow ‘if the day should ever come when your lord father needs choose between honor on one hand and those he loves on the other, what would he do?’ In the end, he chose family, and died with less honor (and that’s my main reason for wishing Joffrey a death worse than Viserys’s). I really wonder if the truth (known by Varys, Littlefinger and the looming absent figure of Stannis Baratheon) will ever be publicly known.
A bunch of things bugged me though – the least of which was the fact that the title phrase (game of thrones) was repeated a few times throughout the book. It’s a cool phrase, I get it, but I don’t really like it shoved in my face all the time. Then there’s the girl problem: the female characters are nothing but clichéd cardboard cutouts. Sansa is a snotty, dreamy, princess wannabe (in a more contemporary environment she would have made a great socialite), Arya is the typical tomboy rebel, Dany…I’m on the fence about her, but at least she’s shown some growth. Sansa’s only moment of redemption comes when she’s faced with the rough awakening of that her prince really is as he orders her father’s death, but it’s too little, too late. Catelyn is slightly better, at least she’s ambiguous enough in her reactions and allegiances as to invite the assumption that there’s some kind of personality there. I resented her behavior towards Jon (who seems to me the most worthy of the Stark brood), but then again, hell hath no fury… and all that. And speaking of Jon – will we ever find out who his mother is (and is this even relevant)? The zombie-like ‘others’ and the dragons I don’t yet know how I feel about, but at least they didn’t (yet?) take center stage. Oh – and Samwell (Tarly) vs. Samwise (Gamgee): the fat & the faithful. Coincidence? I think not – and I’m too lazy to actually research).
I have the sinking feeling that the fate of the Starks & Winterfell will be sidelined in the future – and I’d be disappointed to see I’m right. Until then though, I’m left with the introduction to a really great world and a cliffhanger.