Monday, 26 November 2012

Kim's Review : Song of Ice & Fire - Game of Thrones

My sister had started recommending these books to me way back. I had read the sample chapter and watched an episode or 2 of the HBO mini series in Canada last year, and I did find it quite gripping. But when they started showing the series in India, somehow the story line seemed to be jumping all over the place. That was when I realised that the scenes that were being cut for Indian television had important dialogues that were essential to the flow of the story.

Reading the books seemed like a Herculean task at 800+ pages per book, so I got my hands on the unedited first season and watched it straight through across little more than a day. The story turned out to be even more gripping than I had originally thought it would be. But through this all, my sister kept telling me to read the books.

So given that I had a bit of reading time coming up, I finally started the series by George RR Martin this month and I have to agree with my sister - "The books are even more gripping than the tv series." While the tv series has been quite faithful to the story line, the books provide a much keener insight into each characters personality and what drives them.

While the prologue of "Book1 from a Song of Ice and Fire - Game of Thrones" is captivating, the next 50 or so pages are hard to get through because of the sheer number of characters being introduced. And while the index at the back is helpful, I was more comfortable drawing out my own family/relationship charts to get a grip on the characters.

If you can get through these first 50 pages, then you will be completely and thoroughly hooked.

My only problem with having watched the tv series first is that the actors playing their roles are now stuck in my mind when I visualise the characters.

In the first book, the main characters are the new King Robert Baratheon (also called the usurper) his wife Cersei Lannister. Their children Joffrey (his protector Sandor Clegane, also known as the hound), Myrcella & Tommen. Cersei's father Tywin Lannister (ex Hand of the old King Targaryen), her twin brother Jaime Lannister (called Kingslayer, for killing Aerys Targaryen and knight of the kingsguard) and her dwarf brother Tyrion.

Robert's best friend who helped him win the throne is Lord Eddard Stark, his wife Catherine Tully. Their children are Robb, Sansa (betrothed to Prince Joffrey Baratheon), Arya, Brandon & Rickon and his bastard son Jon Snow. Each of the 6 children has a pet direwolf (puppies from the same mother who was found dead in the woods). Lord Eddards Brother is Benjen Stark - a man of the Night's watch that guards the Wall.

Catherine's sister is Lysa Tully who was married to Lord Jon Arryn who had fostered Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark in their childhood and who was hand of the king (Robert Baratheon) until his death at the start of the story. Their only surviving child is Robert Arryn, a sickly boy.

The other important characters in this part of the story are the Kings brothers Stannis (Master of Ships) & Renly Baratheon (Master of Laws). And his other Council members : Grand Maester Pycelle, Lord Petyr Baelish (Master of Coin - fostered by Lord Hoster Tully - father of Catherine & Lysa Tully), Ser Barristan Selmy - Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Varys - a eunuch who is the Master of Whisperers.
Sandor Clegane.

The last king was Aerys Targaryen, who was killed along with his heir Rhaegar Targaryen and his young family. Aerys' wife died giving birth to their daughter Daenerys in exile and only their children Viserys & Daenerys survive of their line. Viserys marries off his 14 year old sister Daenerys to a Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo in hopes of using Dothraki army to win back his fathers crown.

If you think this is a complicated character list, then dont attempt to read the books. These are just the most prominent characters.The cast of important characters is about 20 pages long for this book and gets longer with each subsequent book.

This first book is narrated from the perspective of Eddard Stark, Cateyln Tully-Stark,  Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Brandon Stark, Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen.

I'm not going to reveal much of the plot of these books while reviewing them, but just enough information to put the story line in perspective.

Halfway through the book King Robert Baratheon is mudered, Prince Joffrey Baratheon comes to the throne with his mother Queen Cersei Lannister-Baratheon as regent, Lord Eddard Stark is executed as a traitor and this plunges the region of Westeros into civil war with Lords declaring themselves as kings of their own domains. So at the close of this book the claimants to the iron throne of Westeros, are King Joffrey Baratheon, King Stannis Baratheon and King Renly Baratheon. Given this confusion, Robb's bannermen declare him King Robb Stark - King of the North.

And by the end of the book, 3 dragons make an appearance, even though dragons have been extinct for thousands of years.

If you love sagas and fantasy or tales of war, I would recommend this series very heavily.

Rating : 4 / 5

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