A Game Of Thrones

So today’s topic in my random and disordered blog is…well I expect you’ve guessed from the title. This will be part review part dissection part lecture . I’ll try to avoid spoilers but read with caution just in case, but I won’t give any big plots away or anything. 🙂

I was a little late on the whole ‘Game Of Thrones : A Song Of Ice and Fire’ bandwagon. Unlike a lot of people I didn’t watch the T.V series first. I don’t quite remember how I became aware of the books, partly through people talking on twitter and partly though amazon when browsing for books. Even though I haven’t read much fantasy – not that I’m opposed to the genre I just haven’t found many with a synopsis that really grabbed me – I decided to give ‘A Game of Thrones’ a go.

So on my birthday last year I got a brand new Kindle touch. Hurrah, the perfect opportunity, now I could read the entire series of huge books without worrying about where to put them and read them I did. I’ve just finished ‘A Dance with Dragons,’ the latest release in the series. Now I’m sat here impatiently possible for a couple of years waiting for ‘The Winds Of Winter’ to be finished. For those who haven’t read the books yet but intend to, be warned, George R.R Martin hasn’t written 5 nicely wrapped up books in a series, oh no this is one continuous story across, what is set to be at this stage, seven books!

You could describe it as one massive novel,  but that would be something of an understatement. If you like history and mythology but up until now you’ve been uncertain about fantasy then these are the books for you.

George R.R Martin has clearly tipped the world upside-down (metaphorically,) shaken out all the history and gone ‘ooh that’s good I’ll have that.’ There are so many elements that a history fan can pick up on. I often find myself thinking that, this reminds me of this king or that king. Of course it is always possible that I’m seeing references in there that were completely unintentional and coincidental. The author is so well researched though that I doubt it.

As if plundering history wasn’t enough he’s helped himself to mythology too. I’d like to  discuss some of the references I’ve spotted (or think I have ;))

  1. Winters than can last for years on end: very much reminiscent  of the Norse Fimbulwinter which is connected with the myth of Ragnarok, the twilight of the Gods. Fimbulwinter is a harsh winter which lasts for three years with no summer in between. It marks the end of the world and the beginning of Ragnarok when the Gods will go to war and many will die.
  2. The often referred to children of the forest: Mysterious people closely allied with nature who were driven to live in the forests once the invading first men came.  To me this makes me think of the Irish Sidhe who retreated to live in the hills once they lost their battles with the invading Milesians.
  3. Dire wolves: Again a possible reference to the Norse myth of Fenrir the giant wolf son of Loki who will play a part in Ragnarok
  4. Ragnarok: I’m not certain on this one but there are bits in the legend that could be interpreted as influencing the story. I wont mention those here though as I don’t want to stray into spoiler territory.

*Apologies if I have any of the info above wrong, I’m not an expert 🙂

It’s not a traditional or clichéd quest adventure; it’s more like the history of a land torn apart through, war, greed and corruption. More than that it’s about the individual characters and how their every action, every decision they make causes a domino effect that then effects most or all of the other characters to a greater or lesser extent. There is no black or white in ‘A Game Of Thrones.’ The characters you love to hate will suddenly do or say something which reveals more of their personal motives; you’ll find yourself starting to sympathises with them. Conversely the characters you adore, will do something so despicable, or stupid that you genuinely feel disappointed in them.  What do you do when you have several heroes  or heroines and they are all on opposing sides? There is no clear good guy versus bad guy here (although I know who I consider the bad guy to be!) and then there are some who’s motives we may never know.

Although the seven Kingdoms of Westeros and the free cities of Essos are fictional fantasy realms you sometimes have to remind yourself of this. George R.R Martin has created not just a nice story but a world so detailed in its conception and execution that it sometimes feels more real then the world we live in. 😉 He hasn’t just settled for writing his world as it is when his characters are alive, he has given his world a history, a timeline and mythology. Many elements of this history effect the characters actions, their beliefs and in some cases their destinies. He has also created different cultures and religions. Each religion having it’s good points and bad points and all of which are possibly open to corruption or even human error.

This is not a typical fantasy series (if there is such a thing) Magic is there and is mentioned but it has a pretty minor role at the start and is subtly woven in. In fact most people in the seven kingdoms of Westeros don’t believe in magic. There’s no ‘zap you’re a frog’ business, or crooked old wizards with big beards living in caves brewing magic potions. So if that sort of thing puts you off, then fear not! Yes dragons do play a role but it’s mostly the history of the dragons; it’s only as the series progresses that they start to move to the centre as you can probably infer from the title ‘A Dance With Dragons’  Although the Dragon doesn’t necessarily refer to what you think. I won’t elaborate on that point as I don’t want to spoil anything.

I wont say it’s perfect all the way through ‘A Feast For Crows’ was distinctly saggy in the middle, but don’t give up, there are some worthwhile bits in there and by the time you reach the midway point of ‘A Dance With Dragons’ it’s well and truly back on track. Even if you do find yourself wishing for things to progress a bit faster. Besides once you’ve got that far why stop? The introduction of some new characters also livens things up. Just when you thought you knew who to back. boom! He throws something else into the mix.

so if you

  • love books
  • love history
  • love mythology
  • or all of the above

Then I recommend giving it a go.

I’ve just started watching the TV show on DVD (we don’t have HBO) and so far I like it. Not as much as the books as the actors are never quite as good as the version in your head lol. So if you are one of those who hates reading or just doesn’t have time, there is an alternative. Though the show is slightly different in places it’s basically faithful.

WARNING: A disclaimer, If you are under 16 then I’m not going to encouraged you to read ‘A Game of Thrones’ There is  a lot of sexual content in it. It is also very, very violent, sometimes stomach churningly so. As for the T.V show refer to the rating on the box. As books don’t come with an age rating I’m saying it myself.

This is not a pretty book, it’s gritty and dirty and violent so you have been warned.

So for those of you who have read the books, who do you think should win the game of thrones?

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