Thursday, December 6, 2012

Can a man still be brave if he is afraid?

When you have something as popular as Game of Thrones, you can’t help but go into it with expectations. Here are the things I “knew” about Game of Thrones before starting the first book:

1. It’s a fantasy so there will be lots of world building and foreign lands and people with ridiculous names
2. George R.R. Martin hates you and thus every time you get attached to a character, he offs him. The lesson is EVERYTHING YOU LOVE WILL DIE
3. Thar be dragons. But these aren’t your everyday dragons because THESE were breastfed by a lady.
4. To build off point 3, Martin has some weeeird sex things in this. They’re mostly awkward and uncomfortable.
5. Even for non-fantasy fans, the series is addictive

Having now read the first book I would like to answer these expectations

1. There's sorta world building but not Tolkien levels and the characters are names that aren't as ridiculous as I thought. It's more like every name is one letter off from a common one now (Mychal, Tyrion) OR they have names that are common now (Brandon, Jamie*)
2. Eh on this one. Or I didn't connect with the characters enough. Or I'm heartless.
3. I feel like to answer this I should say "spoiler" but given it was already an expectation I had going in, I don't really know how to handle this. So sorry, if you didn't already have that expectation. Now you do. I blame TV for telling me this detail already.
4. YUP! Not as much sexy time as the show has (so I've heard) but it's there. And it's awkward. And I think someone needs to give GRRM a lesson on female anatomy cos he makes a few errors on how lady parts work.
5. Well...

I decided to give A Game of Thrones a try cos I kept hearing good things and also I was at the airport and needed a new book to download and this was one of the cheaper ones. So I started it wanting to read it, but I also couldn't help but make a lot of sarcastic comments at it. Well in my Kindle notes.** I couldn't help but make sarcastic comments throughout the whole book, but they lessened as I got more and more into the story.

The book is about a game of thrones (get it! like the title!) in a feudal world with Kings and Lords and probably serfs, although they don't get any page time. The story is told from various points of views:
Lord Eddard (Ned) Stark, Lord of Winterfell,
his bastard son Jon Snow,
his wife Catelynn, his daughters Sansa and Arya,
his non-bastard son Bran,
Tyrion Lannister the Queen's brother who is also a dwarf and the best character, and
 Daenerys (Dany) Targaryen Queen/Khaleesi of a group outside of the whole King guy.
So yeah, there are a lot of story lines and characters to keep straight. Sometimes the stories intersect, sometimes they go off on their own. A character list and plot outline would have been helpful at times, though overall it's easier to keep up with than I anticipated.

The basic story: King Robert appoints Ned as Hand of the King so he and his daughters go to the Kings castle while his wife and their other children stay behind. Except his bastard son who gets sent to be a guard on a wall and has to give up his family. Oh and the Queen is really not to be trusted and no one does trust her so you'd think this wouldn't be a problem but yeah. No one seems to trust any of her family, the Lannisters, but they're all super powerful and there's a lot of them so I guess that's why they cause so many problems. There's also a separate story about Dany being sold to the Dothraki horse people so her brother can reclaim the throne and become king.

I wouldn't call myself a fantasy fan but I did enjoy this. There's a lot of stuff about knights and fighting and swords and armor (though I found skimming through the armor & weapons descriptions made things better) and battles and honor and all that jazz that you expect to find in a novel like this. There are less fantasy elements that I was expecting but there are still dragons and these weird Others wandering the woods. But there's also (most of the time) a very human element. Sure some of the characters I didn't really connect with and I wish they had been done better, but there were those whose chapters made it worth slogging through drawn out battle scenes.

I probably will read more of the books in the series (which I just learned while writing this is called A Song of Ice and Fire and not A Game of Thrones with this book being called Ice & Fire) but I'm  not rushing to start the next one. I do want to watch the show and I've been told Season 1 = Book 1, Season 2 = Book 2, etc so I'm safe to watch season 1 without spoilers.

*He's supposed to be really fearsome but I have some trouble taking a knight named Jamie seriously. Sorry.
** EXAMPLES: "Jon was slender where Robb was muscular, dark where Robb was fair, graceful and quick where his half brother was strong and fast" - I don't think "fast" is the opposite of "quick", sir.
"They were slaves...There was no slavery in the free city of Pentos. Nonetheless, they were slaves" - Um what? so there is no slavery but there ARE slaves? That's not...I think you're confused.
"Damn the man!" - Save the Empire!

Title quote from location 2717

Martin, George R.R. A Game of Thrones. Bantam, 2003. Kindle edition.