Years ago, when working at a bookshop, I was encouraged by a customer to check out George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I picked it up, opened it, and read a couple of pages. I have to admit that I felt a bit lost. The book is no Les Miserables, but it is still comfortably over 700 pages and the type was very small. Even the prologue was quite dense. So I thought “not any time soon…” and set it back down.
And then came the television series. I resisted, for a while, as one sometimes does when something terribly popular crosses the radar. Eventually I gave it and sought out the first episode – and it had captured me by the second. I devoured seasons one and two. By the end of the second season I felt quite oriented in the world of George R. R. Martin, and bought myself a copy of Game of Thrones.
As you might expect, my time with the book has been quite coloured by my time with the show. It is dense, more so than I expected years ago, and I don’t think I would have lasted long reading it without the knowledge of the world that the show had given me. So many characters with similar names, the different cultures, the different places, the religions and history and however it is the seasons are meant to work… I understand the book better for having seen the show, and I’m glad I did things the wrong way around.
As can be expected, it is still better. Some of the war scenes are confused, or at least confusing, but war is like that when one is in it, I imagine. I have seen others comment on the amount of description, expressing boredom or frustration, but I must admit that I didn’t notice this at all. I did not think the description excessive; indeed I thought it flawless, that the novel read effortlessly.
Do I need to describe the plot? Lord Stark goes south with his old friend, the King, to serve as his Hand. He takes his daughters, and leaves his sons up north with his wife. But the Queen is nasty, her family rather underhanded, and many terrible things happen. It is like A Series of Unfortunate Events only with more blood and 500 extra pages.
There were typos. Once “Drogo” had been auto-corrected to “Dragon” and missed, which confused me for a moment. There were one or two stray apostrophes, lines that had jumped when they shouldn’t have. This the fault of the publisher, not the author, but they made the reading less pleasurable.
The show, it must be said, does a commendable job of translating its source material to the screen. Some lines are said by different people, some scenes take place in a different way or at a different time, but overall a very good job was done.
If you like to be emotionally maimed by your fiction, read Game of Thrones, even if fantasy isn’t usually your taste.