talked me into A Game of Thrones....and I'm glad you did. What took me so long to read it? Same hesitancy as everyone else who hasn't yet read it — I'm not normally a fan of fantasy novels. But while these novels are undeniably geeky — they include the swords and dragons and mysticism and people saying things like "on the morrow, I'll break my fast" — it's easy to see why it's crossed the nearly uncrossable barrier from the parents' basement to the mainstream. It's a really engrossing story, and really well written.
are few uncollected thoughts about the first novel (and I do plan, at
some point, to continue the series). They contain a spoiler or two, so
you may want to skip this if you haven't read them (or seen the HBO
series, which I just started watching, too).
Too obvious symbol/foreshadowing — The one thing that
drove me most nuts about the novel is the scene right at the beginning
where Eddard and his family find the dead mother direwolf and its six
pups. The mother has been killed by with the antler of a stag (the sigil
of house Baratheon). And GRR Martin even has a guy say "It is a sign." Duh.
Arya is awesome! — Of course, she (and Robb, too, I
guess) is the one character we're supposed to unreservedly root for. And
we do! She was my favorite character, as her burgeoning rivalry with
her sister adds intrigue to some of the "down" parts of the story — like
the trip from Winterfell to King's Landing, etc. I want to read the
next novel just to find out what happens with Arya.
Check your cultural absolutism at the gate — Yep,
there's a lot
of incest — some of it intentionally sinister and a fulcrum for the
story (Cersei and Jaime), other times it's just mentioned in passing.
There is also a lot of young girls doing things young girls in our
culture wouldn't (Daenerys). And my gods, is it a violent novel — you
get your head chopped off just for breaking a silly oath! As with any
literature, though, understand these are all facets of the fictional
world we're in, and so holding these details up to modern standards is
ridiculous. This should go without saying.
Apparently, there is no evolution in the Seven Kingdoms — I
thought it was funny how the culture and technology seems not to have
changed in the Seven Kingdoms in several thousand years. They're still
guarding the Wall with dudes with swords, they're still doin' it with
their sisters, and they're still hoofing it around on horses. C'mon,
it's been several thousand years! Somebody have a new idea,
already! Maybe the characters exaggerate when they say "for thousands of
years, it has been thus" or whatever, but c'mon, can't these folks
evolve a little?!
The communications ravens are the one thing that doesn't fit —
Telepathy? Okay. Underground "transporting" tunnels. Sure, I'd even buy
that. But using messenger ravens to communicate over long distances
seemed like a stretch — like kind of a sloppy solution to a plotting
problem. You're in a fantasy novel, but the "fantasy" still has to have
its own rules. And this one seemed like a stretch to me. Or am I
Steep freakin' price to cross a bridge — Close to
the end, Robb Stark and his army are trying to cross the bridge at The
Twins to outmaneuver the Lannister army. And his mother Catelyn has to
negotiate the price to be allowed to cross. And the price is that Robb
has to marry one of the keeper's daughters and Arya has to marry one of
his sons. Just to cross a freakin' bridge?! My gods, man.
You could tell when GRR Martin was hungry — One thing I really
enjoyed about the novel is the detail — of the clothing, the terrain,
and most notably (and kind of humorously), the food. A lot of people
told me, in their recommendation to read the book, that it's "literature
under the guise of fantasy," or that "it's more historical fiction than
fantasy," and it's these details that really make that accurate.
So, there you go — and now I'm off to have flagon of ale.