This article has been a long time coming. I meant to write this just as we (IHOGeek) were starting out but got distracted by Game of Thrones on HBO and by catching up on the last book of the series, a Feast of Crows. Then as I started a rough draft, George R.R. Martin released A Dance with Dragons, an installment fans have been waiting EIGHT whole years for. Needless to say, I devoured it in roughly two days, and was glued to my computer for any coverage of the show or book at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. Now, my life has that bittersweet empty feeling after consuming everything within reach and I have a brief moment of quiet in which to write this. Let’s delve into the realm of Westeros, shall we?
For those new to the series, A Song of Ice and Fire (hereafter referred to as ASOIAF) deals with an intricate political game and it’s many players. Dubbed the American Tolkien, George R.R. Martin has succeeded in creating an entire world, complete with a fantastic realm and beautifully described inhabitants to form one cohesive, luscious epic.
The first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, was released in 1996 and went on to win several awards before finally reaching #1 on the New York Bestseller List earlier this month. Martin does an excellent job weaving each different POV without losing you as a reader to a confusing cast. There are an easy 15+ people introduced in this first book, including the dragon blooded Targaryans, the noble Starks, and the royals: the Lannisters and Baratheons. This book deals with the death of the King and the mad scramble for the Iron Throne. It certainly is a game of sorts and the players are utterly ruthless. There is no room for honorable ideals here, as we find out in the climax of the story. No one is safe in this series as we learn by the last page of A Game of Thrones.
The second book in the series, A Clash of Kings, was released three years later in 1999 and again went on to receive several notable literature awards. This installment brought back many of the characters introduced in AGOT and introduced 10+more characters. A king was crowned at the end of AGOT and throughout the realm of Westeros, this was met with much conflict and three other kings are named. We also get to spend time across the sea with the Targaryan queen who begins her campaign across the sea and deals with unsavory locals bent only on taking her prized possessions. We also get to see the Wall in the north, a vast structure of ice meant to keep out the “wildlings” and the onset of a threat of zombie like creatures called “wights.”
Book three, A Storm of Swords, was released in 2000 and is the longest in the series to date. Everyone I’ve spoken to that has reached and completed this book admits to putting it down at a certain point in the story. This is not because of boredom, this is not because of length…this is because of heartbreak. ASOS overlaps ACOK just slightly, so we can see the other POV’s involved in the end events. A betrothal is broken in this book, a girl leaves behind all she knows, a priestess radiates malevolence, and yet another king dies. This does not even scratch the surface of all that happens in this installment but it gears it up for book number 4.
George R.R. Martin must have had trouble getting past the travesties and hurt from ASOS, so A Feast for Crows was released five whole years later. AFFC was initially one gigantic manuscript and was cut down considerably into what now makes up most of the fifth novel, A Dance with Dragons. Probably due to the lengthy wait and the growing lust for new story, AFFC debuted at #1 on the New York Bestseller list, the first in the series to do so. This is extremely notable as this achievement had only been done by Neil Gaiman (of Sandman fame) and Robert Jordan (A Wheel of Time) before in the fantasy genre. I digress :) AFFC begins as the War of the Five Kings (oh yes, there have now been FIVE kings crowned in this game of thrones) is ending and the Lannister “queen” has gone all kinds of power hungry. Several key players are now aware of the Targaryan queen, whom all had thought to be nonexistent, and her “children.”
Now, join all of us who have eagerly waited for the newest bit of story: A Dance with Dragons. This is the other half of AFFC and we finally get to hear from our lovely Targaryan queen and Stark bastard. Without spoiling anything (and I think I’ve done quite well in that aspect), this is one of the greatest entries so far. I, fortunately, didn’t have the wait SIX whole years…I only had to wait a few months but this one didn’t fail to meet my expectations. Unfortunately, this book left that hollow feeling deep in my gut over a possible loss of yet another character and with the idea of a half decade wait for the next book. This book holds many surprises, some of them red herrings, some of them completely out of left field but altogether believable. It seems like nothing stays dead in Westeros or the Free Cities.
If you have somehow not been entangled in this series, I ask of you to try it out. It is utterly magnificent and whilst these kind of fantasy epics are not for everyone, all who I have shared it with have enjoyed it, albeit getting confused in the beginning. There are a lot of characters to “meet” and I haven’t loved a series since Harry Potter ended even thought I tried many series to fill that void.
If books are not your style, how about TV? A Game of Thrones was recently adapted for cable television and it is stunning. The tv series is 90% faithful to the books and Martin is there every step of the way from casting to set development. Season one just wrapped to the sound of 13 Emmy nominations and the green light for season two. There are minor discrepancies but nothing too big to offset any hardcore fan.
Not a big TV watcher? How about playing the board game?
Upcoming video game?
Honestly, I feel this series is a definite force to be reckoned with. Like the first book’s mantra states, I feel that “when you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die.”
Tune in for the September release of the comic’s release! I will post a review here on IHOGeek :)
Game of Thrones comic preview: http://comicbookmovie.com/fansites/rorschachsrants/news/?a=43453
George R.R. Martin’s blog: http://grrm.livejournal.com/
George R.R. Martin’s website: http://georgerrmartin.com/
Game of Thrones on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GameOfThrones
My favorite Game of Thrones tumblr which had EXCELLENT coverage of the SDCC panel: http://fuckyeahgameofthrones.tumblr.com/