My rating: ★★★★★
I have heard many, many wonderful things about Game of Thrones. I’ve seen glowing reviews about and oblique references to its sheer awesomeness. I’ve seen people badgering their friends to read the series and/or watch the HBO adaptation. I’ve seen a surprising abundance of men talking about how women are somehow automatically made hotter by merely enjoying the series. Some of these references are vaguely amusing, but quite condescending in their reliance on stereotypes. Others are hysterical, but only if you have at least a passing familiarity with the plot and characters. They all, however, were convincing in their prevalence: apparently, I needed to read this Game of Thrones thing.
So I did.
In a rare instance of media living up to its hype, I quite enjoyed Game of Thrones. So much so that I watched the first season of the HBO show immediately after finishing. That was great, too.
The only problem, of course, is mustering up the time and initiative to start the next book. I mean, holy crap. I want to read it. I want to devour it. But when I read, I tend to read in one sitting. With A Song of Ice and Fire, that is definitely out of the question. I read Order of the Phoenix in one sitting, but that was on release day when I was having heart palpitations out of sheer, unbridled excitement.
A Song of Ice and Fire is different. It’s interesting. It’s amusing. It’s downright awesome if you can invest some emotion in the storyline. But it’s the kind of thing that has to be read in multiple sittings, and reading in multiple sittings is usually something I only do when I’m bored with the book I’m reading.
So now I’ve had A Clash of Kings sitting on my desk for a few weeks, and I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I keep looking at it, thinking, “I’d love to read that. Wonder what happens to ______?”
Next thought? “Meh, no time for a billion page book right now. Maybe later.”
I mean, damn. I’ve already accidentally stumbled across enough spoilers to know that this shit is going to be great. I know I want to have read at least the third book by the time the third season of Game of Thrones starts up. I know that once I start reading, I’ll enjoy it even if the going’s slow. But at the moment, picking up the book is a battle with procrastination.
Lamenting aside, I’m very happy to have finally read Game of Thrones. I don’t read as much fantasy as I’d like, mostly because it’s hard for me to find series I actually enjoy, but A Song of Ice and Fire embodies everything I love in fantasy. It’s an intriguing world with intriguing characters. The history, geography, mythology, and religion are developed enough to support the plot without overtaking it. The plot isn’t focused on any one thing, running multiple entertaining story-lines simultaneously. The characters are familiar in their resemblance to archetypes, but divergent enough to stand on their own as actual people. Their relationships, backgrounds, and personalities are interesting. They don’t fall into black-and-white morality. They don’t pick firm sides. They have motives beyond “support the protagonist” or “oppose the protagonist”. Some of them are—wait for it—strong female characters and action girls. And they are all as terribly flawed as real people.
On the other hand, it’s definitely not a story for some people. This is a harsh medieval-esque world. There’s sexism. There’s racism and cultural discrimination. There’s prejudice against illegitimate children, the mentally ill or disabled, and the physically deformed or disabled. There’s crude humor and heavy snarking. There’s war, cruelty, execution, murder, and brutal torture. There’s incest and violent insanity. There’s arranged political marriage, rape, and prostitution. There’s teen sex and pregnancy. There’s a lot here to offend people who aren’t on board with reading about some of the more vulgar aspects of a culture, fantasy or otherwise. But if you’re like me… well, I love that. The society here is as flawed as its people, and it’s both fascinating and horrifying in turns.
I’m definitely looking forward to reading on with this series (as soon as I can convince myself to pick up the next massive book), as well as the adaptation. And by the time I’m finished, I hope to have a new favorite.