Game of Thrones: Books 1, 2 and 3

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

This is not going to be a typical review and there will be SPOILERS, so I would recommend skipping it if you haven't read the books. The bottom line is that I loved them and if you're a fan of massive epic stories with huge casts of characters and complicated plots, you should definitely read them!

I put off reading these books for such a long time. Then I marathoned the first two seasons of the TV show and watched the third season as each episode came out. I was hooked!  So in December after completing all of my reading challenges I decided to try the first book. I couldn't put it down! I found myself plowing through the first three books without pausing. I was surprised by how close the books stayed to the show. There are some differences, but I thought they did an incredible job recreating this complicated world.

Game of Thrones follows a huge cast of characters as alliances are made and broken in the fictional world of Westeros. Families fight for the crown and watch as those around them rise and fall with the favor of those in power.

Martin's characters are wonderfully complex. He makes someone as clever and sarcastic as Tyrion become defensive and vulnerable around his father. Someone as strong as Daenerys can struggle with loneliness. Catelyn Stark is strong and cunning, but she's also flawed and cruel when it comes to her husband's bastard son, John Snow. I can't imagine how hard it would be to see evidence of your husband's infidelity in front of you every day. 

I have a special love for the Stark family. From the first pages we meet the tight knit siblings who are so very different and yet so alike. Tomboy Arya and the prim Sansa; Robb and John, so similar and treated so differently. Then there's wild Bran, who must struggle to come to terms with his new life as a cripple while desperately missing his parents.

The Lannister family is a twisted mess, but like a train wreck, you can't look away. Led by their cold patriarch, Tywin Lannister, the siblings (Tyrion, Jaime and Cersei) each have issues. They are fierce and often cruel, but there's a lot of irony among their ranks. Tywin hates Tyrion because he is a dwarf and his birth caused his mother's death, yet he is the most like his father. Cersei is the most ruthless leader of the three, yet she can't even rule her own fate because she's a woman. Jaime is known for both his skill as a knight and his betrayal of the old king, yet he has the most compassion and loyalty of the bunch. Tywin himself is spoken of throughout the first book, but isn't introduced until near the end. He's the puppetmaster behind so much of the book's action, pulling the strings of so many characters.

A Few Random Thoughts: 
One thing that surprised me was the age of the main characters. Many of them are much younger than they are on the show. Daenerys is only 13 in the first book and Robb Stark is only 14. By the time Robb turns 15 he is commanding 18,000 men while grieving for his father. Daenerys becomes a widow and the leader of a maurading people as a young teen. It is similar to real history, where people married young and often died in battle.

There such an epic rich cast of characters I started taking notes on each family their sigils, lands and complicated lines. Having seen the show was actually a little easier than it might've been to follow the different plot lines cause I had a face to put with so many names.

Thoughts on my favorite characters:  

- I love Tyrion! He is by far my favorite character in the whole series. He has the best lines, but he's also a troubled soul with a lot of hurt in his past.

- My tough girls: Arya and Daenerys are both incredible. Dany's transformation is one of my favorite in the book. She so we can afraid at the beginning but she finds her strength. She becomes a leader despite dozens of obstacles.

- Jaqen H’ghar, who helps Arya and repays her favor with three deaths, is fascinating. I'm hoping that he returns in future books. I also loved her "dance master." 

- Orlenna, the Queen of Thorns and Margaery’s grandmother, is such a spitfire. She rivals Tyrion for the best lines. For example: "No, don't blush, with your hair make you look like a pomegranate." and this gem about her husband: "A kind man, and not unskilled in the bedchamber, but an appalling oaf all the same." 

- The direwovlves: Grey Wind, Ghost, Lady, Nymeria, Summer and Shaggydog, they are part of the Stark family. They protect them and become so essential to the story. I haven't wished to own an animal so badly since the first time I saw Aladdin and decided I wanted a tiger.

There are, of course, things to dislike. Martin is famous for killing off his beloved characters. I think seeing the show first actually helped me deal with some of the hardest blows when it comes to loss of characters. I knew the fate of certain characters when I started the books and so I wasn't shocked by any until the second half of the third book. Some people complain about the convoluted cast of characters, but I loved that. It felt a lot like Lord of the Rings or an actual history of the Middle Ages. Each chapter is told from one characters' point-of-view, so some stories are more interesting than others, but you know you'll eventually get back to your favorites.

Honestly, I haven't even scratched the surface of the first three books. I've taken a break before starting the fourth, but I truly hope it's as good as the ones I've already read. 


Arenel said...

Wooo-ho! A new fan! Welcome to the club! :) I'm also 3 books into the series, and I love the world, the characters and the complexity!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Ack! I KNOW I would love these. I haven't seen the shows but my kids have both watched all of them, and are urging me to read. But the thing is, I'd have to put aside like A YEAR to get through them! But after the Triple Dog Dare, I might just give the first one a go...

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Ekaterina Egorova - I've heard mixed things about the 4th so I'm nervous!

Sandy - That's what I thought too, but I couldn't put them down!

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Tyrion is everyone's favorite and well deserved! It was Jaime that surprised me. His character development had me hanging to the edge of my seat.

Brooke said...

You've reminded me how much I need to read A Feast for Crows! I'm going to try and squeeze it in sometime during March. I've heard the series is going to spoil things from the 4th and 5th books so I need to get on that if I'm going to watch along this season.

Kailana said...

I hate that I am in the minority in that this series doesn't knock my socks off like other people... Maybe if I got around to reading beyond book 1...

Andi said...

LALALALALA! This will be the year I read Game of Thrones. Because it's been on my TBR for 12 YEARS!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Alex - I was surprised by Jaime as well!

Brooke - I'm taking a break because that was a lot of GOT, but I really want to read 4 and 5 still.

Kailana - Honestly, I'm not sure I would recommend trying book 2 if you didn't love book 1.

Andi - I put them off for a long time, but I'm glad I finally got to them!