Book Review(s): A Song of Ice and Fire

(Image via Game Informer)

I have never been a fan of fantasy tales, or medieval epics, or swordfighting and war stories, or any of that jazz. But, last year, when I was still traveling for work, I’d find myself hanging out in hotels quite a bit. And the beauty of (good) hotels is that they have HBO for free, and you can watch all the awesome shows that you’re too cheap to pay for. And that, my friends, is how I got hooked on Game of Thrones.

I’m generally one of those “you should always read the book before you see the movie (or TV show)” people. So, after watching Season 1, I decided I needed to read the books (there are five of them, currently, with two more on the way). I started with book one last August, and I read it and book two fairly quickly (or, as quickly as one can read an 800 or 900-page novel). Then I started book three, and I started school along with it, and my pace slowed considerably. Then, I got to book four sometime around October, and it took me until this April to finish it. And, this week, I finished book five.

Basically, this series became my Mt. Everest of books. The books are not particularly challenging to read (although there are a TON of characters to keep track of), but I guess life and school and other things just got in the way. So, almost a year after I began reading it, I thought I’d talk about the whole series. Five books is a lot to cover, so rather than writing out long paragraphs, here are some scattered thoughts:

  • Book Three (A Storm of Swords) was my favorite, by far. Without spoiling things (because, trust me, you don’t want to know in advance), this book is crazy. Off the top of my head, I can think of five major characters who die. I mean, shit just goes bananas so quickly. Often, when I watch TV shows or read books, I feel like certain characters are “safe” (for instance – Harry, Hermione, and Ron were never going to die). But with Game of Thrones, you seriously don’t know, and book three is emblematic of that.
  • I briefly mentioned this in my intro, but I had a hard time with the ever-expanding cast of characters, particularly in book four. I don’t know if it’s because I read that one over the span of many months or if it’s because so many random Martells and Greyjoys pop up, but that book was a struggle-fest. I had to flip back and forth to the maps and character charts so frequently.
  • There are certain point of view characters who I love, and others who I simply have to suffer through. For example – Bran. Seriously, wake me up when his chapter is over. (Oddly enough, though, I love Bran on the TV series – the little kid they have playing him is awesome). I also tend to find Dany’s chapters tedious. I mean, she’s been wandering in the desert forever. Come on over to Westeros, girlfriend!
  • I don’t really like the one-off prologues and epilogues – maybe I’m missing something, but they never add that much to the story for me. Mostly, they add another layer of confusion, as I’m always trying to figure out who the heck the people in them are.
  • It’s interesting to see how the TV show changes your perception of the books, and vice versa. For example, in the books, the character of Robb didn’t make much of an impact on me, probably because he doesn’t get his own POV chapters (also: why is this the case? It has always bothered me). But, in the TV show, I root for him a lot. He has much more of a presence in the show (and, let’s face it, the actor who plays him is awfully nice to look at).
  • The character I find most fascinating (though I don’t necessarily like him the best) is Theon Greyjoy. He’s done some terrible stuff, but mostly I feel bad for him. I feel like he just wants somebody – anybody! – to love him. I mean, he knows he doesn’t really fit in with the Iron Islanders anymore, but at the same time, he will never be a Stark. He’s just lost, and I find that sad.
  • These books always start slowly, and then around page 700 (seriously), they become riveting. It sounds like a lot of reading to do, I know, but I find the payoff worth it (perhaps with the exception of book four, which didn’t really go anywhere, in my opinion).

I could probably go on for a lot longer (this series is incredibly intricate), but those were my main takeaways from this very long reading odyssey. Overall, I’m surprised that I enjoy the books so much, given that I have never particularly cared for the genre. But, to me, they simply represent good writing and good storytelling – and they transcend any preconceived notions of the fantasy genre you may have.

Have you read the series, or do you just watch the show? And when the heck is Winds of Winter going to be released?

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