Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones
Author: George R. R. Martin
Bantam, 2011 (reprint)
694 pages

It seems as if everyone I know is either reading this book or has watched the HBO series upon which it's based -- or both. Truth is, although I'd heard of the Song of Ice and Fire series (A Game of Thrones is the first book) long before the captivating TV series, I'd never read any of the books. And I didn't plan to, until my nephew (aged 20 and serious fantasy fan) read the verrrrrry long A Game of Thrones in two days and told me I just had to read it.
Thing is, I so loved the TV series, that I really wasn't sure I wanted to read the book -- but I did, for my nephew. I quickly found that the book is indeed much like the series in terms of both plot and characters. You would think this would have made it easy for me to read, right? Wrong. For some reason I plodded through the first 50 pages or so. Fortunately, things picked up thereabouts, and I decided to fully commit to the book.

And I'm glad I did, because the book is helping me to understand the complexities of the TV series and its characters. I'm no longer stomping mad that [a certain character whose name I won't reveal] was killed because I now see that it had to happen for the storyline to move forward. I have increased respect for at least three of the characters (Tyrion, Jon Snow, and Daenerys) and a greater dislike of others. In fact, I may just have to watch Season 1 again on On Demand because I think I may view it differently after having read the book.

Here's the basic storyline. In a fictional land that often (hmm) resembles the island of Britain, in a time that for some reason reminds me of a blend of Arthurian and 13th/14th centuries C.E., several families joust (sometimes literally) for power. Currently Robert is king, but about ten years ago, he and his buddy Ned Stark, along with several other key characters, overthrew the previous king. That king and his son were assassinated; the next generation (children at the time) were taken to exile. Those children have now grown up and want their kingdom back, and are plotting from foreign lands. In the meantime, the current queen has secrets that she'll keep at all costs - and she'll do anything (and I do mean anything) to see her son ascend to the throne.

If that's not enough drama, to the north of this land there is a wall (hmm, Hadrian's wall?) that separates 'civilization' from a place of legendary, scary creatures (e.g., skinwalkers) that seem to be most active in cold weather. In this land no one can predict how long the seasons will last. Winter can last for decades. The older folk remember winter as a horrible time when people starve and freeze and die all sorts of gruesome deaths, but the kids just don't understand. It's late summer in A Game of Thrones, and. . . well, um, Winter is coming.

The question now is, do I read A Clash of Kings (the next book in the series) before or after next season of Game of Thrones (TV version)? That's a tough one. I'm glad I don't have to decide today.