I must admit, I have watched the HBO tv show for years but only recently was I intrigued enough to read A game of thrones, book one of a song of fire and ice, by George R.R. Martin. What finally convinced me was my desire to know how the show differed from the novels, especially since the more recent seasons have taken liberties and are veering further away from the original storylines.
Growing up, fantasy was my favorite genre yet it is not one that I really read these days. A game of thrones certainly fits within that genre, however, it pushes beyond any of the novels that I have read. Martin obsessives over the little details of all parts of the story, including politics, appearances versus reality, and above all represents each main characters perspective within how they see the world and know its history. He isn’t just telling a story, he is crafting a living, breathing world like no other writer than I’ve known (thus far).
While there is a plethora of characters, several in this first book are main characters, with each chapter switching between them, even parents and children which gives the story much more depth than other novels. There are no dichotomies and no one is all good or evil. Each one makes choices and decisions, whether guided by emotions or rationality or a mix, and this allows them to become some of the most complex characters in fantasy. Even though this is his first book of the series, it is obvious that Martin has spent many, many hours dreaming up the world of Westeros, Essos, and Sothoryos, which is to the delight of the reader.
Like most fantasy novels, the plot propels itself through action, making it a compelling quick read, though it may take a while to finish. Now, having seen the tv show, that may certainly affect my view on this novel and its readability. The story and characters are not new to me, as they otherwise would be. Instead, reading the book after watching the show does fill-in gaps that I didn’t realize that I had, such as the fact that Jorah is a Mormont. Yes, I know that they saw he is in the show but it got lost in the wave of everything else so it didn’t click until I read it on the page. Also, there is a lot of plot that I had forgotten over the seasons.
I wish that I have read the novels first although my husband finds that knowing the broader story and characters already help him delve more deeply into the novels and keep everything straight. For me, though, I find myself waiting for the plot points that I do remember to come along, many of which are clearly in the succeeding books. It is interesting to be revisiting the story despite this being my first read, however, it spoils it for me since I know what happens eventually to which characters. Very odd to know their fate way before I should as a reader. Having either always read the story/book a movie/show was based on or never intending to read it (The notebook, etc.), this is a first for me and I am not enjoying the experience. Now I want to complete all of the other books before the next season is released, which my timing works out well because the latest season ended recently. Although, I better get reading if I’m going to accomplish that feat!
Recommended?: Yes, especially for fantasy fans. Compared to the to show, it isn’t as graphic with the sex and violence but there is some; visual mediums beg for their full use and these days special effects and CGI are particularly good. Likely best enjoyed by adults, though some high schoolers might enjoy it as well, to better understand the motivations and reasons behind the characters. I feel that being older and reading this lets me reflect on it more fully than I would have growing up.
Fun and informative resources:
Interactive map of Westeros, Essos, and Sothoryos that shows where certain main character are and when: http://quartermaester.info
Fansite for novels and tv show: http://www.westeros.org