Books are something of a gamble for me. Growing up I was never exactly that kid who was all, “YAY BOOKS!” Instead I was more of the “so-engrossed-in-television-that-my-parents-could-literally-be-yelling-at-me-from-mere-feet-away-and-I-would-not-hear-them” kid. Sure, once in awhile I’d find a book or series that I really liked, but rarely was I ever truly engrossed in a book. I’m looking at you Harry Potter; you weren’t that great. Seriously though, Dobby killed the Harry Potter series for me and look how things turned out for him. Karmic justice people.
That all being said, I somehow ended up wanting to be a writer. My hero is Ernest Hemingway, for better or for worse. I have short stories and poems a plenty saved to my computer. I even, with the help of my roommate, have a filled bookshelf. Why? Not because we plan on ever really rereading those books, but because it looks classy. That being said, the one series that has absolutely engrossed me the last couple months is George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and fire series, more commonly known as Game of Thrones.
For the sake of not rewriting the confusing and long title, A Song of Ice and Fire, the rest of the article shall address the books as Game of Thrones. Only the first book in the series is actually titled Game of Thrones. The series is so far divided into five books with two more on the way. They generally average around a thousand pages and while that seemed daunting at first, soon I was plowing through them. The stories are incredibly well told and immediately immerse the reader in a brand new world of man, monster, and masquerades.
The way in which the story is told is particularly interesting to me because each chapter is a different character’s first person perspective. Within that, some major characters don’t get to have their own chapters. We only know what they’re up to through the mind and narration of other characters in the book, thus creating this unreliable and biased picture of certain people. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say of the roughly 10,000 characters about a fifteen get their own chapters throughout the series.
The thing that truly draws me into any book is how deeply I come to care about the characters. Their actions and concerns seem so real they stress me out too. The thing that makes me truly appreciate great character writing is how easily an author can kill a loved character. It is that soul crushing that lets me know a book is great and, Jesus, does Martin like to kill of characters. Some of my favorites are dead (vague spoilers?)but if I’m truly saddened by a book, I know I enjoyed it. Ms. Barkley in A Farewell to Arms or Simon in Lord of the Flies, their deaths add this whole deeper level of emotional connection to the story. In fact, if I could make one major change to Harry Potter, Ron would have died. Sorry Ron-nothing personal (unlike Dobby). If a character does happen to survive the slaughter that is Game of Thrones, you can sure as hell bet there were times they had wished they were dead. No really, half of them straight up tell you that.
Beyond the characters, Martin creates an insanely intricate and interwoven world where history is presented from different perspectives and major characters trace themselves back to ancient myths. There are tons of major and minor houses all vying for the throne and the backhanded politics, murder, and sex are merely tools to ascend to the Iron Throne. Seriously, so much murder and sex. Some of the major houses include the Baratheons, Lannisters, Greyjoys, Targaryans, Arryns, and Starks. Starks are FAR and away my favorites but I’ve always had an inclination towards honor, snow, and wolves. Each house has its own motto, sigil, and general philosophy on life. There is also this thing called the “Night’s Watch” and it is probably my favorite portion of the series. Think of them as a punk monastic SWAT team with an inclination for very tall walls.
I’ve realized it is incredibly hard to talk about the series without giving away spoilers so be sure to read the books and we will have a real discussion. I just hope I can convey the way in which these stories grasp hold of the reader and pummel them with so much action, drama, imagery, and mythology that once you put down the book you are almost in a daze. In the immortal words of Ygritte (you will meet her), “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”