Over the last two years Game of Thrones has truly become an empire, with a hugely successful TV show which just finished its fourth season (with record numbers of illegal downloads in Australia…. if content creators want people to pay they better give cheaper and more convenient ways of watching said content, but that’s a discussion for another time) and there are five (or seven if you count the two splits) books of seven (or maybe it’s 9-11 depending on what happens with the next two) in this series. Despite some saying George R.R. Martin may die before he finishes the series (he’s given the finger to said critics), I don’t think we’re in that great a danger of that, besides it gives me time to catch up on my new addiction!
I actually have managed to go spoiler free for the entire series. I knew nothing about the show really, just it was mediaeval, and, a wonderful Foxtel ad showed, that there were dragons involved (those ads now have greater danger because I know who people are, and if they are being shown it means they still live). I’m quite impressed with my spoiler aversion [just going to say don’t be that person who goes ahead and comments a spoiler, I won’t be in the least bit amused], because the entire series has been watched in my house, and there have been a number of conversations, this year mainly, of the show I’ve been close to. My brother kept suggesting that I should watch the show, and I always told him I wanted to read the books first. I said the same thing to a number of other people who have seen the show, and some of them have even made the claim that the TV show is better than the books! You don’t hear that too often. Regardless, I’ve stuck true and read the books (well the first one) before watching the show.
And watch the show I have (the first season that is). I actually did it more or less concurrently with the reading, a risky move given that sometimes shows portrays things in advance and spoils things, but, that was no issue. I have to say that the show is strikingly faithful (at this stage) to the text, which is quite admirable, you certainly don’t get that in a movie. Of course there are stylistic deviations like timing, but I don’t care, it doesn’t have to be the book on screen word-for-word. It’s quite enjoyable so I’m unsurprised at its popularity, so I’m really interested to see where it goes. The only thing I thought was a little meh was the final battle sequences, there basically weren’t any, it was like they couldn’t be bothered with it at all, they took two very easy ways out to avoid showing it. Sure, it’d be tricky and probably expensive, but, disappointing, hopefully in the future they don’t go down the same path.
As for the book itself, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Yes, it is a large book, 800 pages or so, but I’m not fazed by it I have read large tomes like it before, the more detail the better. The only thing which is so frustrating is that we have multiple viewpoints, which means we constantly go away from the action only to return pages and pages later! This frustration is of course more about my desire to find out what happens next, and if I weren’t frustrated that would be a lot more telling. But having multiple viewpoints is wonderful also because we get to see so much more, and I honestly think this tale wouldn’t work without it, it’s too grand, because there is SO much going on and people are spread out across the lands. There are so many plot threads, it’s great, and so many mysteries to be solved. No wonder there’s thousands of pages to go in my reading!
I don’t really have any complaints about the book, nothing really grates on me, I can easily sit for a good hour or more reading it, it’s not too grandiose, the vocabulary isn’t mind-boggling, the fantasy elements aren’t confusing, and to great credit despite all the transitions and characters, I haven’t been that lost. Yes, I do forget who on earth some of the characters are and why they are important, but that’s fine with such a large world, and is going to happen. And it’s wonderful to not really know who to root for, obviously the Starks have our main focus, but Tyrion is a very interesting man, and seems to be more ‘good’ than ‘bad’, but perhaps not. And Daenerys, I’m not sure, she’s obviously going to have a huge role in the future, but do I want her to win. Where do my loyalties lie? Which family do I want to ‘win’ it all? It’s a tough question, and I love that that is how it is.
Actually my one complaint is the fact that I go to look on the map quite often to orientate myself, and not everywhere is labelled, so I don’t know where I am. Like Daenerys’ entire journey went unmapped, and I have no idea how far she actually is from Westeros. Maybe future books will illuminate me. Also perhaps a character guide at the back of the book may be handy, there is one which largely has people I never heard of as it lists the major houses, but it is tricky to think of how to organise it, and what to say about the characters, because you wouldn’t want to spoil something, like their death.
I do think that this sort of story is another of my loves. I do like tales set in ‘mediaeval’ times (that is not modern times, I think Obernewtyn also fits this description, as does a number of other books I have read, though I think I may read more now) with kings and knights and battles, and of course dragons and magic. And I do love to enter a massive world where I have much to learn about what works, who people are, and what the history is. I most certainly look forward to the rest of the series, and highly recommend it to everyone else.