Ok, I know I’m late to the game. But then again it is a book. Books are for eternity and yadda yadda alla that. Didn’t you wonder already why no book-review has happened on this blog so far? You better have, cause here comes one.
A Game of Thrones is the first book of a series by George R.R. Martin called “Song of Ice and Fire.” It was published in 1996 and by now the whole series consists of four novels, though at least three more are to follow. Apparently, fans are kind of disgruntled for George R.R. Martin taking so long to finish manuscripts. They seem to fear that he might “pull a Robert Jordan” on them, and if you happen to love The Wheel of Time, you know what that means. And yes, in time we will get to The Wheel of Time. Don’t worry.
My overall impression of Game of Thrones is mixed. I was very underwhelmed in the beginning but the novel kept surprising me in good ways, so that I’m now able to firmly state: I’m going to read on!
SPOILER ALERT: This is not a review that is intended to make you interested. Well it is, but you have to stop reading here, then. Because from here on I tell you why I loved it and it involves some spoilers. The first section – The Minuses – are practically spoiler free, but if you haven’t read it yet, please do so first and skip The Pluses for now.
It’s predictability in parts – owing to some cookie cutter characterizations.
Some of the characters in this book are just so very fantasy book characters that it hurts. Sansa the naïve princess. Even a worse item out of the cliché-box: Arya, with her being all non-lady-like and tangled hair and stuff and therefore supposed to be earning our sympathies all along. Jon Snow with his torn heart between filial piety and bonds of brotherhood, or whatever. Some of them feel like I’ve encountered them a gazillion times before, and while they were already pretty stale the last few hundred times around they are just too effing predictable this time.
Speaking of clichéd characters, here is one. Pretty, sort of stupid, but a heart of gold. Needs all her dreams to be shattered in order to see how people really are. Urgh. Not only is it uncomfortably sexist to only have a female character be like that, but it’s also so been-done-before and uninspiring that at the beginning of all of her chapters I wish it would just go away. I asked myself: isn’t it good writing when one character gets you on edge like that? It would be if it’d be the character and not the clichéd assumptions and tropes that inform the creation of that character. Sansa is a definite fail, but I guess I have to put up with her until the end, when she becomes all good queen or something. Please not.
The “can’t my father love me” trope.
I’ve read tons of little observations of sons discovering who their father really is and how they can form a bond despite all distance between them lately, but still, the “oh my father rejects me and I want to prove myself to him for his love” trope makes my toenails curl. Because it usually is so horribly oversimplified and downright foreseeable that it makes me cringe, and Game of Thrones unfortunately is no exception. Jon Snow being the prime example. Urgh, no.
Weak princess becoming strong queen. Sort of.
Daenerys, oh, Daenerys. Oh my, barbarians, and then, oh yes, love and sex, and then, oh look, how powerful I am because I am all strong inside now. This reads like something that happened lots of times before and leaves me with the distinct impression that there needs to be a twist to not make me hate that whole storyline. Luckily, Martin came up with one, so see below.
Props for having somebody paralyzed but I hope hope hope he will not be recovering, and that’ll be the externalisation of his inner journey. Cause then I’ll hate him even more than I already do, cause honestly, the wide eyed curios boy getting in trouble but eventually overcoming all fears and obstacles thing gets on my nerves.
I’m so young, but I gotta rule. Oh my, poor you. Get a cookie and cry some. Don’t get me wrong, responsibility is a burden to bear, but, well, does he have to bear it like that? Is there no other way to make him a likeable and responsible character but having him be the wise warlord? Thanks no.
Oh, why, hello! You are like undead zombies and eventually you’ll set out to kill practically everyone populating these novels? That sounds intriguing. Where do you come from, why do you want to do it, how come you are undead? The Others make me ask so many questions with giddy excitement, I so want to know more about them. Sweet, creepy action when they appear. More!
The Wall is super interesting because of what it represents, and what it represents is a) anything beyond, including the Others, the peoples living beyond the wall, the haunted forests and the like and b) it’s own history that dates back thousands of years. Who built it? Why? How? As with the Others, it’s the mystery that makes me want to read more about it, and more Jon Snow chapters, although I am not his biggest fan.
See the Others and the Wall. Who were they? What’s the secret of the Godswoods and alla that? Interesting for being so deep down in the mists.
His own kind of cliché it is nevertheless very refreshing to read about a character that is considered by basically everyone else to be disabled and therefore useless while he turns out to be one of the most able and clever characters around. I applaud that for its breaking-up of standard-hero-stereotyping.
The same goes for Sam. Yep, he is a done-before kind of character as well, but my sympathies are always with those overweight who have no interest in picking up the sword and admit to being afraid of the dark. Theses characters rock in their own sort of way, and Sam sure does.
Daenerys’ “book of Job”-like journey.
Ok, so while parts of Daenerys storyline annoy me, there are other parts that are so far on the plus side that it becomes actually interesting. So her brother dies, and a storyline that I though would be with us for like ever, just dies with him. Ace. Then her son who is prophesised to be the Chosen One (yeah, another one of these stereotypical fantasy tropes) never gets to be born. Another annoying storyline perfectly avoided. Her husband who turns out to be cruel but somewhat honorable (or whatever) wants to take her to her homelands and what feels to become a storyline for the next three books just gets burnt down on the grass plains beneath the stars when she sets his body to flames, after having suffocated him. That is some seriously storybending shit at every corner, not to forget her own myth-birth with the three dragons that by now I actually look forward to read more about Daenerys. Well done!
Main characters dying.
You might be able to tell by reading the paragraph before this one: I like it when main or at least important characters die. And whoa, we get a lot of that. King Robert, Viserys, Khal Drogo and most importantly: Eddard. All of that came pretty surprisingly, especially since I saw storylines unfolding that I feared to be around for the next three novels, and now, they never come to be. Creating their own new storylines just like that. Clever twist, and I appreciate it.
I’m curious to see if the next novel can keep the good impression up.
I also read about there being a TV series produced by HBO, and a first trailer is online apparently, but you have to youtube it yourself if you haven’t done so yet, because of stupid regulations I am not able to view any of the online trailers from Germany. Sucks.
So, if you haven’t read A Game of Thrones yet, and still made it this far in the post, I recommend you to do so!