Books I Didn’t Review:
A Game of Thrones
by George R.R. Martin
When I began reading A Game of Thrones a couple of years or so back, I had already watched the first TV series on DVD. I loved it! It’s a great story, a kind of blend of historical fiction and fantasy that really appealed to my taste buds. How my interest in the saga waxed and waned over the following months illustrates just about everything I have to say about series fiction, and why I dislike it.
It frustrates me! Good or bad, well-written or not, and regardless of genre, it frustrates me beyond all endurance. I like my fiction wrapped up in a neat package. I don’t mind really whether the ending is ‘happy-ever-after’, ‘happy-for-now’, open, or gut-wrenchingly tragic. It just has to end.
Which means I can read sequels, and I can read trilogies. I can even read quintilogies (if there is such a thing). But I have to know the ending is in sight. And that’s the problem with A Song of Ice and Fire and other epics of the same kind. They seem to go on forever without any prospect of a conclusion.
So to recap on the book in case you haven’t read it [hasn’t EVERYONE read it?], A Game of Thrones is set in the fantasy kingdom Westeros, ruled by a king called Robert Baratheon. Robert calls on his old friend Ned Stark to be his eyes and ears – the King’s Hand – in the capital city, King’s Landing.
Ned leaves home in the north, accompanied by his two daughters, Sansa and Arya and their rather large wolflike dogs, leaving behind his wife and three sons. Immediately he becomes embroiled in the intrigue, corruption and incest of the capital. We meet Queen Cersei, a member of the Lannister family, who is doing it with her twin brother Jaime and has produced at least two children by him. Jaime has thrown Ned’s second son Bran from the top of a tower because he knows. In fact, the twins will do just about anything to conceal their secret.
When King Robert is killed, he is succeeded by Joffrey, Cersei’s son, who is a nasty piece of work. He has Ned is arrested and eventually executed, which brings his wife Catelyn to King’s Landing. We see the beginnings of yet another struggle for power, in which Sansa and Arya are likely to be among the sacrifices.
A Game of Thrones is narrated from the points of view of several of the larger than life characters who are, by the way, portrayed splendidly by actors in the TV drama, including Sean Bean as Ned Stark. Rather than a single plot, we have a series of subplots through which we follow and get to know these characters. They intertwine but never quite resolve:
In addition to the Stark and Lannister story, we have one following Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow who is sworn to protect the northernmost ice wall of the kingdom; another features Cersei’s dwarf brother Tyrion, despised – and underestimated – because he is different; a third involves Daenerys, ‘mother of dragons’, the true heir to Westeros – if it can be said to have one at all – who has been exiled to a distant island kingdom and has to find a way to recover her throne.
To date, I have watched three of the television series and read two and a half books. George R.R. Martin is a great fantasy writer, every bit the equal of another R.R., the master J.R.R. Tolkien himself, as a creator of imaginary worlds. However, he needs to stop worrying about the TV shows and concentrate on finishing his work! I might then read it all.
I’m afraid I can take no more until he does.