Portal to the Pages

A quick glimpse into my thoughts on various fiction

A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

on October 13, 2012
Photo of book cover of "A Game of Thrones" by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones

I was initially apprehensive about reviewing as popular a book as A Game of Thrones, not only because its popularity means that many people have different opinions about it, but also because it is difficult to discuss the book without some level of reference to the HBO TV show, Game of Thrones. I came to the book as a result of watching the TV series, so I found it difficult to separate the show and the book in my mind as I was reading. As such, I will review this book from the point of view of one who has already seen the TV show, however I will clearly identify any spoilers that I may mention.

(A little background for those of you unsure of the crossovers between the book and the TV show; A Game of Thrones [the book] is the first book in George R. R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire. Game of Thrones [the TV show] is based on A Song of Ice and Fire, focusing on one book per series, i.e. series one features the events of A Game of Thrones, series two features the events of the second book and so forth.)

Naturally, I did not approach this book from an unbiased, neutral point of view. I already followed the TV show, loved the characters and was captivated by the storyline. Therefore, my approach to this book was actually to delve deeper into the characters’ inner thoughts and motivations; aspects that would be difficult or impossible to convey via the TV show. I will now outline some of my thoughts on the differences between the two media.

Upon starting the book, I was surprised to find that well-known characters were a little different than expected as many of the characters had been made older for the TV show. For example, Daenerys Targaryen is portrayed in the TV show as in her late teens (approximately seventeen), whereas she is only thirteen years old in the book. I found this to be initially jarring, but I could appreciate both the author’s choice to portray the characters as younger children and HBO’s decision to increase their ages. As the world of A Game of Thrones is loosely similar to our own Middle Ages, it makes sense that children would have been married earlier and involved in more dangerous activities, which may not lend themselves well to television. Once I got past this shock, I found the book to be extremely involving and almost impossible to put down, despite already knowing what would happen.

Most of the events in the book happen almost identically to how they were portrayed in the TV show; a point I had often heard mentioned in praise of the show and was delighted to experience for myself. The few scenes that were either different or excluded from the TV show were of less importance or communicated elsewhere. The one exception to this was [SPOILER ALERT] a scene between Daenerys and Viserys, towards the later part of the book, as Daenerys began to accept and utilise her power as Khaleesi. Daenerys had invited Viserys for dinner and prepared a number of presents to help his integration with the Dothraki people. Viserys, in typical fashion, rejected her hospitality and verbally degraded her. However, in a break with previous behaviour, Daenerys lashed out violently at her brother and hit him across the face with a nearby object. I would have liked this scene to have been included in the TV show, as I thought it helped to round out the development of Daenerys’ character to the point where she could coolly watch her brother die [END OF SPOILERS].

Throughout the book, I found many insights into the various characters’ deeper motivations. To those of you who have seen the TV show and are contemplating whether or not to read the book, I would strongly urge it. The revelations are not game-changing but they do explain the finer details, especially with regards to the politics of Game of Thrones.

As always, that’s just my opinion and I would love to hear from any of you who have either read the book or watched the TV show – or both!

Sinead

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4 responses to “A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

  1. bfreeman0 says:

    I did it the other way round. It helps explain a lot about what is going on. You going to be following the series by both medias?

    • sineadfoy23 says:

      I enjoyed it too much not to read the rest of them! I think I’ll continue to watch them first though as no matter how good the adaptation is, I always seem to enjoy the live action version less when I’ve read it beforehand. I think it’s because it can’t possibly convey the same amount of depth (while remaining good TV).

  2. NunianVonFuch says:

    “to the point where she could coolly watch her brother die” – this is the character in the book right? Don’t need to start watching my back? :-O

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