A Game of Thrones: Get ready, Everybody! This is only the beginning of one long-ass, yet truly awesome, song (My thoughts on book #1 in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin)
Let me start out this review on a bit of a tangent by saying that I’m a big fan of Lewis Lovhaug’s, who’s perhaps more commonly known on the Internet as Linkara, and his video review series, History of Power Rangers. If you haven’t heard of History of Power Rangers, it’s video series where Linkara does in depth reviews of each season of Power Rangers. At the time of this review’s posting, he recently released his review of Power Rangers Megaforce and Power Rangers Super Megaforce, so he’s now finally caught up with all of the seasons of Power Rangers that have finished airing. He will do his review of Power Rangers Dino Charge and Power Rangers Dino Super Charge at some point once Power Rangers Dino Super Charge has finished airing, but that probably won’t be for a while since Power Rangers Dino Super Charge apparently won’t be premiering until the end of January. If you’re interested in checking out his History of Power Rangers videos, you can watch them here. That being said, something that I’ve been thinking about a lot for a long time now is doing an in depth review series of either a TV show or a book series, similar to Linkara’s History of Power Rangers series, but in a written format. Since I’m focusing primarily on reviewing books for my blog these days, I think it could be a lot of fun to do that with the A Song of Ice and Fire book series since there’s a lot to talk about regarding the books and there’s the show Game of Thrones to talk about as well. With that said, here are my thoughts on A Game of Thrones.
Right off the bat, I have to say that I absolutely loved A Game of Thrones. I would even go as far as saying that it’s one of the best books, if not the best book, that I’ve ever read. I really regret not having started reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series a long time ago, because this book and all of the characters, along with the world that they live in is just truly amazing, in my opinion.
This might sound like a really weird and random book to compare A Game of Thrones to since they are in two completely different genres, but as I was reading A Game of Thrones, I found myself thinking a lot about the book The Bourbon Kings by J. R. Ward and what I thought about it when I was reading it. If you’re interested in knowing what I thought about that book, you can read my review for the book here. While I really liked that book, I definitely think that book had a lot of problems. One of the biggest problems that I have with it is the fact that pretty much all of the characters were very black and white, without any shades of gray to them. They were either good and likable people, or they were bad and unlikable people. Given the fact that The Bourbon Kings is essentially a soap opera in the form of a book, I really felt like the book should have had at least some characters that people could love to hate.
When it comes to A Game of Thrones on the other hand, I feel like George R. R. Martin did a fantastic job of creating complex characters. None of the characters are truly good or truly bad. There were times when I felt that some of the characters came close to being truly bad people, but ultimately George R. R. Martin was able to maintain a sense of complexity with each of the main characters. Plus, while I suppose some people who’ve read The Bourbon Kings might not have had a problem with this, it really bothered me that Ward never indicated at the start of each chapter which character or characters that the chapter would be focusing on. When I was reading The Bourbon Kings, I was constantly feeling very confused at the start of each chapter, because it always took a paragraph or two to figure out which character and storyline the story was shifting its focus to for that chapter. The fact that I was constantly feeling kind of confused by Ward’s lack of proper transitions from one storyline to another, and occasionally the lack of transitions from events that were taking place in the present to events that took place in flashbacks to the past and then back to the present was very frustrating at times. Being reminded of my frustrations regarding The Bourbon Kings as I was reading A Game of Thrones really made me appreciate the fact that George R. R. Martin opened each chapter of the book by indicating which character that the chapter would be focusing on.
One of the things that I love the most about A Game of Thrones is the fact that it has a lot of things that I’ve always loved when it comes to TV shows, movies, or in this case a book series. I’ve always loved stories that involve magic, various other elements of fantasy, and morally ambiguous characters. This series has all of those things combined into one story, and it’s absolutely awesome!
Since I’ve only read the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series at this point in time, I obviously can’t speak for the characters that will be introduced in the books that follow A Game of Thrones, but this book is a rare example of a story where I honestly liked all of the characters that have P.O.V. chapters in the book. Sure, I definitely like all of the characters to varying degrees with Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Sansa Stark and Arya Stark being the characters whose P.O.V. chapters that I enjoyed the most. I suppose I could end up disliking Jon Snow, Daenerys, Sansa or Arya as I continue reading the series though. After all, when I first started watching The Big Bang Theory, the character Sheldon Cooper was one of the things that made me fall in love with the show, but in the past several seasons, Sheldon has become my least favorite character on the show, and I can hardly stand him now, but I digress.
If I had to pick just one of the characters as my favorite, I’d say that Jon Snow is definitely my favorite character at this particular point in time. While I think all of the main characters in the book are interesting in their own way, Jon is the most interesting character in the book, if you ask me. He was raised as a Stark, and in a lot of ways he shares their values of honor, and he tries to embrace them when he’s confronted by complicated and morally ambiguous situations. One of the things that I found the most interesting about Jon was his outlook on his status as Eddard Stark’s bastard son. As I was reading the book, I felt like there were times when Jon came across as having a “the glass is half full” attitude towards life and more specifically towards his being considered a bastard. For example, in Jon’s first P.O.V. chapter, Jon was at a banquet and in the narration, he was thinking about how unlike the other children who were also at the banquet, he was able to get away with drinking as much wine as he wanted to, while Eddard’s legitimate children were apparently only allowed to have one glass of wine at the banquet. During that part of the book, it’s established that there are a few times when Jon is actually glad that he’s a bastard, and the banquet was one of those times. Another thing that I love about Jon is that despite the fact that several of the other characters in the book don’t treat him very well, he doesn’t appear to let people treat him like he’s a complete and total doormat for them to constantly walk all over and is instead a fairly assertive person.
For example, when Jon is preparing to leave for The Wall, he goes to see Bran, but Catelyn tries to get him to leave and is rather rude to him. Despite Catelyn’s attitude towards him in that moment, he doesn’t let that completely stop him from saying goodbye to Bran. The reason why I find Jon’s attitude towards his status as Eddard’s bastard son, as well as his behavior and overall demeanor throughout the book, so interesting is because it’s just not what I would expect from somebody in Jon’s situation. Ordinarily, I would expect someone in Jon’s situation and who’s frequently treated rather poorly due their bastard status to be rather meek, insecure, and a total doormat, but he’s really not that way at all. Sure, Jon does act rather solemn at times, but I’d say that’s mostly because he’s been forced to grow up very quickly even though he’s only fourteen years old in this book.
That being said, he definitely displayed some vulnerability in the last Jon P.O.V. chapter in the book, which is chapter 70 of the book overall. In that chapter, Jon was contemplating deserting the people at the Wall and going to join his brother, Robb, in a quest for vengeance. In the end, Lord Commander Mormont helped him to realize that he’s a Mormont’s man, and Jon told him that he wouldn’t run again. Despite his actions in that chapter, I still feel like Jon has a sense of strength and confidence that I really love about the character; mainly because it’s not exactly what I would expect from somebody who has lived the kind of life that he has lived.
As much as I love the character Jon Snow, it definitely kind of sucks that he ended up being one of my favorite characters with one of my favorite storylines in the book given the fact that I already knew when I started reading A Game of Thrones that Jon Snow’s fate is very much up in air at the moment, both in the A Song of Ice and Fire series given the way A Dance With Dragons apparently ends and how season five of Game of Thrones ended for Jon Snow. I’ve heard several theories as to how Jon Snow could return in some way in the upcoming sixth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter, and on Game of Thrones. Since I haven’t read the other books in the series yet, I’m definitely not able to have a complete understanding of the theories that I’ve heard at this point in time, but suffice to say, I’ll definitely be very disappointed if Jon doesn’t come back in The Winds of Winter and on Game of Thrones in some way.
Admittedly I wasn’t all that crazy about the character Bran and subsequently his P.O.V. chapters for most of the book. However, by the end of the book Bran had really grown on me as a character. I’m definitely a lot more interested in finding out where things go with Bran as the series progresses now than I was when I started reading A Game of Thrones.
The only character in the series that I truly dislike at the moment is Hodor. The reason why I don’t like the character Hodor is because while he helps the other characters in the book, namely Bran, he adds absolutely nothing to the story itself. Aside from the fact that he does help Bran get around since Bran became paralyzed after he fell, I often felt like all Hodor ever did was go around saying, “Hodor!”, which may or may not even be his name. I get that Hodor is supposed to be very simple-minded, but I really think that George R. R. Martin could and should have added just a little bit more complexity to the character so he wouldn’t come across as being so annoying and pointless, while maintaining that Hodor is very simple-minded. Forrest Gump was mentally handicapped, and yet he was still a very complex, interesting and likable character, so why couldn’t George R. R. Martin have given the character Hodor just a tad more complexity and depth?
A Game of Thrones definitely really surprised me at times, but at the same time I thought that it was a tad predictable at times, too. While Daenerys’ storyline was one of my favorite storylines in the book, I also thought that it was rather predictable in the end. For example, I pretty much knew that Daenerys’ dragon eggs would end up hatching at some point; maybe not necessarily in this book, but at least in one of the later books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I also had a feeling that something would happen to Daenerys’ unborn baby and that it would probably either be stillborn or she would have a miscarriage at some point. Plus, I also figured that something would happen to Daenerys’ husband, Khal Drogo, relatively early on in the series. In the end, I was right about something happening to both Daenerys’ baby and Khal Drogo. Daenerys’ baby ended up being stillborn, and Khal Drogo also ended up dying.
Admittedly, a big part of what made Daenerys’ storyline kind of predictable to me is the fact that I’ve never heard anybody say anything about Daenerys having any children or anything about her ever having a husband when I’ve heard people talking about the show Game of Thrones over the years. I’d say that both Jon Snow and Daenerys are probably the characters from both the A Song of Ice and Fire series and Game of Thrones that I’ve heard people talk about the most over the years. For the record, I hadn’t even heard people mentioning anything about the character Eddard when I’ve come across people talking about Game of Thrones online over the years, and yet he’s perhaps the most prominently featured character in A Game of Thrones, even though the book is still an ensemble piece.
One thing that I love about George R. R. Martin’s writing for A Game of Thrones is the fact that he did a great job of incorporating clever phrases into the story that are very memorable due to some well-handled repetition throughout the book. Some of my favorite phrases that were periodically featured throughout the book were most prominently featured in chapters focusing on Arya Stark; these clever phrases were actually things that Syrio had taught Arya. The following quote is from a scene in chapter 50, which is a chapter focusing on Arya, where Arya is repeating everything that Syrio has taught her.
Swift as a deer. Quiet as a shadow. Quick as a snake. Calm as still water. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Strong as a bear. Fierce as a wolverine. Fear cuts deeper than swords. The man who fears losing has already lost. Fear cuts deeper than swords…
(Martin pg. 447)
While I thought that the whole book was fantastically written by George R. R. Martin, Arya’s storyline was especially well written, if you ask me, and a big part of why I think it’s so well written is because the writing for it is very memorable. It’s especially memorable when it comes to the parts of the book where Syrio is teaching Arya how to use the sword that Jon gives her, which she names Needle, after her least favorite ladylike thing to do. Arya’s storyline in A Game of Thrones is definitely one of the storylines that stands out as one of my favorites, along with Jon and Daenerys’ storylines in the book. What I love about the writing for the chapters focusing on Arya is that I feel like it’s been quite a while since I’ve read something where the writing was very memorable and really stood out to me in a good way. For a very long time a lot of the things that I’ve read and really stood out to me, stood out to me because the writing was very bad, such as Fifty Shades of Grey, which is full of one ridiculous thing after the other, but I digress.
While A Game of Thrones isn’t the longest book that I’ve ever read at this point in time (That would be Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), George R. R. Martin did a great job of writing this book in such a way that reading it never felt like a chore to me or made me feel like this book was a struggle to get through. This was a really fun book to read, and I got really sucked into the world that these characters live in and what they were doing throughout the course of the book. George R. R. Martin also did a great job of describing things in this book, so I was really able to get a very clear mental image of what was happening throughout the book. I was thrilled that I got so sucked in by this book as I was reading it, because I feel like quite a few of the books that I’ve read in the past several months were a real chore for me to get through, and they were significantly shorter compared to A Game of Thrones.
As I said at the beginning of this review, if I end up reviewing the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series, I hope to have my reviews for each of the books in the series be a bit more in depth than my book reviews usually are given the fact that there’s also the show Game of Thrones to talk about. Since I’ve only watched the first five episodes of the series at the point in time that I’m posting this review, I don’t have very much to say in regards to comparing and contrasting the book A Game of Thrones to the first season of Game of Thrones at the moment though. That being said, one of the reasons why I’d like to do somewhat of a book vs. the show discussion in these reviews is because I’m really fascinated by the fact that the creators of the show, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, have apparently been adapting a lot of material from the books on the show throughout the show’s run. From what I understand, Benoiff and Weiss appear to have a relatively close working relationship with George R. R. Martin given the fact that Martin has apparently told them how he plans to end the A Song of Ice and Fire series in the event that he dies before he’s able to finish writing it. Plus, there’s also the fact that with the exception of season five and the upcoming sixth season, Martin has written the script for an episode each season.
The reason I’m so fascinated by the fact that Benoiff and Weiss have apparently been adapting a lot of material from the A Song of Ice and Fire series for Game of Thrones and the fact that George R. R. Martin has had a fairly active role in the production of the show is because when it comes to TV shows being adapted from a book series, I’m just so used to the people that develop and work on the show just taking the overall premise of the book series and simply using the characters from the book as a basic template for the characters on the show, but quickly taking them in a very different direction compared to how they were written in the books.
For example, I’m a fan of the show Gossip Girl, which is based on a book series by Cecily von Ziegesar, which also called Gossip Girl. I’ve only read the first book (Gossip Girl) in the series, but it’s pretty obvious that the way the characters were written on the show was radically different from the way they are written in the books. Perhaps that might have bothered people who were fans of the books, but I honestly think it was to the show’s benefit that the producers of the show ended up taking the characters from the Gossip Girl book series and went in their own, very different direction with them. While I did like the book Gossip Girl, the way the characters were portrayed in the book felt rather cartoonish and ridiculous to me when it comes to how Cecily von Ziegesar wrote them vs. how they were written on the show. While it always bugged me that the writers who worked on the show basically had the characters pretty much all acting like they were twenty-something adults right from the start of the series, the characters were still three-dimensional characters that acted like real people. The reason it always really bugged me that with the exception of Jenny Humphrey, who was the youngest of the kids on the show, the kids all acted like they were twenty-something adults who went out to clubs and bought alcoholic drinks with seemingly no problems is because they were all juniors in high school when the show started, but I digress.
Much like my comparing A Game of Thrones to The Bourbon Kings is probably a really weird and random comparison to make, another thing that I found myself comparing A Game of Thrones to as I was reading the book is the first season of the science fiction TV show Babylon 5. Much like the first season of Babylon 5, which definitely had a slow burn to it in terms of the overall tone of the season, this book also had somewhat of a slow burn to it. In a lot of ways, this book felt like it was primarily focusing on introducing the main characters and storylines for the series more than anything else, but you can still tell that the story is slowly building towards bigger and more epic events. The first season of Babylon 5 was a lot like that, too. At the risk of going off on a tangent, in my opinion, seasons two through four of Babylon 5 are perhaps some of the best work of science fiction to ever air on TV. Season one was pretty good, too, but its slow burn caused it not feel as awesome and epic compared to the rest of the series. Season five was good, too, but it definitely had some problems, but I digress.
Getting back to the subject of A Game of Thrones, I suppose watching Babylon 5 taught me a lot about the importance of being patient when it comes to watching a TV show, or the case of A Song of Ice and Fire, a book series, with a long, drawn out story. If you ask me, in order for a TV show like Babylon 5 or a book series like A Song of Ice and Fire to be truly great, the story needs to begin with somewhat of a slow burn to it before the story gets into the really complex and epic aspects of the series in order for the overall story of the series in its entirety to truly have a significant impact on its audience.
In my opinion, Marianna Neal was definitely right when she said that the first book is mostly about politics and scheming, and I truly enjoyed those aspects of A Game of Thrones. That being said, I’m really excited to see what happens as the series continues and introduces various new elements into the series involving prophesies, visions, legends, and the like. Even though I’ve only read the first book in the series at the point in time that I’m posting this review, I’m definitely already in love with the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’m very excited to see how the storylines will develop and evolve as the series continues and as new characters, new storylines and various new elements are introduced.
All in all, A Games of Thrones truly is one of the best, if not the best book that I’ve ever read. It has a lot of the things that I absolutely love when it comes to storytelling all in one book: well developed plots and settings for stories to take place in, complex characters that will often times come across as being morally ambiguous, along with various elements of fantasy and magic. George R. R. Martin does a phenomenal job of introducing and establishing each of the characters and the world in which this series takes place. I’m definitely excited to read the second book in the series, A Clash of Kings. However, since it’s even longer than A Game of Thrones, and the books in this series only get progressively longer for the most part as the series continues; I definitely want to read and review at least a book or two, maybe more, before I read and review A Clash of Kings. I’d also like to mention that I’ve recently started listening to the audiobook version of Divergent by Veronica Roth, and that will be the next book that I’ll be reviewing.
That being said, my final score for A Game of Thrones is 10 out of 10.
Posted on January 1, 2016, in Book Reviews and tagged A Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire, Babylon 5, book review, Bradford Family, Bradford Family book series, Fifty Shades, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Trilogy, Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin, Gossip Girl, Impression Blend, J.R. Ward. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.