Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
I was late in discovering Game of Thrones, and the six dvd boxsets were already out for sale when I bought and binge watched them! So it's safe to say I was late in coming to the book party as well. Having loved the series, I wanted to read the books to get a sense of all the things that were cut from the series for TV purposes.
In the north, evil monsters of legend are rising again and only the criminals and unwanted sons of the Night's Watch guard the Wall and keep the kingdom safe. Their numbers are dwindling and the men lack the fighting skills to stop the monsters and the wild people living beyond the Wall. King Robert asks his oldest friend Ned to come to the capital to serve him when his closest advisor is murdered and Ned uncovers a possible plot against the King-by those closest to him-which puts him and his family in danger. The Queen has a dangerous secret which could stop her beloved son from taking the Iron Throne and she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. And the true heir to the throne is raising an army in a foreign land to come and take her birthright. As winter closes in, old rivalries threaten the peace in the realm and everyone is playing to win...
The first thing I want to mention are how well the author uses the switching POVs to move the story along. It's not done in the first person either, which I'm pleased about but we do get into the minds of the characters each time. It gives us an insight into what they are thinking and feeling which adds more depth to the characters in question. In this book, we get the POV of Bran, Catelyn, Dany, Ned, Jon, Arya, Tyrion and Sansa. We see the whole of the changing relationship between Dany and Drogo and Dany and Viserys through her eyes, Tyrion's adventures with Bronn on the road, Robb's coming of age and war through Catelyn's eyes, the events at King's Landing through Ned, Arya and Sansa, Bran's recovery and the events at Winterfell, and Jon joining the Night's Watch. The POVs cover all the main events in the first series.
There is more detail on the various plots as well. We spend more time with Robb's army, getting more about the battles against the Lannisters, which we also see from Tyrion's POV as he leads the vanguard and his hill tribes against Robb's men. I liked seeing what was happening in both camps as they spied on each other, planned the battles and had various skirmishes. We see more of Arya training with the wonderful Syrio and more of Tyrion and Bronn which are some of my favourite scenes. We get more of Jon's struggles in the Night's Watch and Bran coming to terms with what is happening to him and the dreams he is plagued with. It was also great to see the gradual change in Dany as she goes from scared child to confident leader.
The thing that is really different about the book is how much younger the children are. It really changes the storylines having Dany as the reluctant child bride of 13 being sold by her brother and Jon joining the Night's Watch at just 14 to try and make something of his life. Robb is trying to take control of his father's bannermen at 14 and facing issues of loyalty and obedience. The 11 year old Sansa has been betrothed to 12 year old Joffrey and his obvious cruelty at that stage is disturbing in someone that young. The most incredible story for me is 9 year old Arya and what she has to do to get out of King's Landing alive when her world collapses around her. There are not many her age who could have coped with what she was dealing with.
There is also a difference in the actual characters between the book and TV series which was interesting. I didn't like Theon in the series as he was arrogant and rude but I really hate him in the books. He has no redeeming qualities at all so it seems that they tried to soften his character slightly for the screen. The other character I really like in the series and dislike in the books is Jorah. Part of it is his love for Dany which is disturbing and part is his attitude. TV Jorah is much nicer! Catelyn is a lot harsher and her prejudices towards bastards in general and not just Jon are a lot clearer and I found her very cruel at times. However her steely determination to help Robb does redeem her character a bit. As for poor Tyrion, everyone just picks on him!
The TV series does stick closely to the book, even down to the great dialogue between the characters. You are given enough description to set each scene and build the world without it being over descriptive like some of these fantasy epics. It is the interactions between the characters which add the wonderful layers to this story and keep you gripped. I am pleased that I had watched the series first as it made it easier for me to conjure up faces for all of the cast as I read it! I'm not sure how those who read the books first will react to the changes in the series though.
I loved this book. The added detail from the wonderful plots I had watched unfold on screen just added more to each character. I screamed at the childish stupidity of Sansa, I wanted to knock some sense into Jon and to hug Tyrion over how he was treated! It is a fantasy classic, weaving the court intrigue with a feeling of mythology and War of the Roses themes. It had tragedy and humour, well developed characters and a world that you can easily see in your imagination. I'm so glad I finally got round to reading it!
NB-I'm doing this retro read as I'm about to finally write the reviews of the rest of the series which I've been putting off for months!
Read May 2017