Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Game of Thrones discussion

I remember the first time I read A Game of Thrones. It was years ago and I had looked at the book a few times before finally picking it up. Of course, once I started it I was hooked. The Stark kids finding the direwolves really piqued my interest. I was lucky because I could read the first three books back to back. Little did I know the long wait that would be in store for books four and five. There is something about this series though, the characters and the world they inhabit, that keeps me coming back no matter how long the books take to come out.

I read the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, when it came out and read it again last year. I've taken more than a few notes so I can keep all the intrigues and subplots fresh in my mind, since the next book isa  ways away. There are so many unresolved plotlines though, so many wheels in motion, that I've thought for a while about doing a blog post to examine some of these. With season four of the HBO series approaching it seems like a good time to discuss all things ASoIaF related.

This is going to be a little spoilery, only because it's hard to talk about book five developments without spoilers! I've tried to minimize it as much as I can, and any big spoilers from A Dance with Dragons are at the bottom of the post, so you can avoid them a little easier. I know not everyone has been through the whole series yet. So feel free to jump in and let me know what you think. I'm going to throw out a few plot points and widely discussed rumors along with a few thoughts of my own.

First, the big question. Who are Jon Snow's parents? A lot of people think it is Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Hence the Song of Ice and Fire. It's interesting that the HBO show has hardly broached this idea- this could be because it's not true, but there seems to be a lot of evidence for it. Ned's memories and flashbacks alone seem to indicate something was going on at the Tower of Joy. Why were there so many Kingsguard there if only Lyanna was present? If she was carrying Rhaegar's child, however, that would certainly explain it. I'm curious as to when the show will start to hint at this. "Promise me, Ned." What did Ned promise Lyanna? Do you think Jon is Lyanna's son?

Daenerys the stormborn is a strong character with a tragic history, has arguably the best claim to the throne- and she has the dragons. The problem is, after five books she still has not set off for Westeros. What's the holdup? Personally I thoguht it was a mistake for her to settle in Meereen- yes I know she wants to "learn to rule"- but the city os bogging her down and the whole story is dragging now. This is the famous "Meereenese knot" Martin refers to, a part of the story he has really struggled with. She needs to get to Westeros like yesterday. Or is it better that she waits until the dragons are bigger? For those who have read ADwD, what did you think of the decisions she made in that book? 

Does anyone like Stannis? He has always been problematic for me. He's hard and unyielding, honorable in his own way, but brittle and likely to break before he bends, as Donal Noye put it. His alliance Melisandre has led him to do terrible things. He probably has the best claim after Daenerys'- but do his actions disqualify him? I think they do, even though I kind of like Stannis. He seems destined for a bad end, though.

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)

What do you think of Melisandre? She seems to me to be reading the prophecies all wrong, and seems to really think Stannis is the Prince that was Promised. She is also apparently quite ruthless and we don't really know much about her, although her chapters in ADwD told us a little bit. She seems very interested in Jon at the moment... More on her below in the spoilers section.

Do you prefer the books or the show? I vastly prefer the books, partly because of things like Ned's memories referenced above. You just don't get those nuances on the show. Arya's and Jon's stories are so much deeper int he books. Jon in particular- -all the richness of his story, his relationship with Ygritte- so much more there in the books. Also I think the show gets a little carried away with the nudity and sex- yes I know the books are raw too- but HBO just seems to push it. It seems gratuitous to me. But I also think they do some things right. I thought they handled Jaqen H'ghar really well- although I missed weasel soup!


A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

Anyone else shocked by the end of ADwD? It seems to me that Melisandre may be the only one who can save Jon's life after the events of book 5. Does anyone else wish Jon had listened to Mel's warnings? He seemed very oblivious to the danger he was putting himself in by alienating so much of the Night's Watch. I like Jon a lot, but I question a lot of his decisions in the last book. Sending his allies away, holding himself apart- he didn't exactly help his cause even as he made decisions that polarized the Watch

It's striking to me how Stannis is marching on Winterfell with the mountain clans of the north, and they are determined to rescue Ned's daughter Arya. The problem is, Arya is not at Winterfell. It's Jeyne Poole, whom Theon manages to rescue with the help of Mance Rayder's spearwives. All the men dying, the snow and cold taking their toll, and Arya is not even there. Staggering.

Speaking of Arya, is anyone else alarmed by the direction her story is taking? I love her character, and my own perfect ending for this series would be if Arya and Jon meet again and are OK. At what point will she choose life and return to Westeros? I look forward to that- a lot.

Perhaps the biggest revelation in A Dance with Dragons is the return of Aegon Targaryen. Rescued from the Sack of King's Landing by Varys and sent overseas to be raised by Jon Connington, he has grown to adulthood and now is a contender for the throne. Many readers were like, where did this come from? Don't we have enough contenders already? And of course some doubt that he is really Aegon. I tend to think he is, but you never know with Martin. The Jon Connington chapters were some of my favorite parts of ADwD- I found them fascinating and enjoyed seeing the Golden Company come into the story. All these exiles from Westeros, the greatest mercenary company in the world- coming back to fight for the crown. Do you think Young Griff is really Aegon Targaryen?


This is the conundrum of the series for me. The last two books have really expanded the story, but at the same time the new plot points (in book five anyway) are really interesting. The series seems a long ways from being finished. HBO apparently intends to trim some of the subplots from books four and five, which means they will proceed even faster through the story- increasing the likelihood that they catch up to Martin before he finishes. He must be under a lot of pressure to finish The Winds of Winter. I would not be surprised if a decision is made to publish it before Martin otherwise would, just to buy himself some breathing room. That seems increasingly likely to me. Assuming, of course, that he has enough written to do that.

Who do you think should sit the Iron Throne? Who is your favorite character? Mine would have to be Arya, but I'm fond of Jon and Davos too.


  1. As you know, I haven't finished ADWD (although I'm a bit spoiled for it), so my thoughts will mainly relate to the first four books.

    I really enjoy both the books and the television show. Personally, I have been quite happy with the editing choices the producers have made so far for the show. I think they have made the story tighter. My husband argues that Martin is writing a sweeping epic that is supposed to have ten million characters, but I think it reads better as a television show with a slightly smaller cast (e.g., having Gendry get kidnapped instead of new random son of old king Robert). I should note that he hasn't read the books, so I take most of his thoughts about the books being better with a grain of salt. ;)

    I have a lot of images of what I see as the end of the series.

    1. Sansa is Queen of Westeros (I'm not sure who the King is), and Arya is the head of her Queensguard. The kicker is that Sansa doesn't know, because Arya is using a different face. I love this idea of Arya returning and anonymously protecting her sister.

    2. In a different ending, somebody wins the iron throne and the book is about the end, and then Rickon shows up with his cannibals and takes over Westeros.

    3. Recently, I've been thinking about the whitewalkers a lot. If winter comes, will the whitewalkers run amok in Westeros? Will people stop playing the game of thrones and will the story take on a more classic high fantasy plotline? I hope not.

    1. Well I hope you enjoy ADWD as you finish it- I was a little shocked by the ending (several things actually) so can't wait to see what you think. I know, I shouldn't be shocked any more by this series. :)

      I love the idea of Sansa being queen. Take that Cersei! Seriously though, that girl has suffered- yeah she's an airhead at times, but man has she been through the wringer. Her and Arya both. So I like your ending. :) Regardless, I hope she (and Arya) have a happy ending, at least.

      I'm not sure whats going on w/ rickon, but Davos going after him should be interesting.

      I too have wondered about the walkers. We keep hearing how bad they are and they're coming to the Wall, but they never seem to- at least not in force. I think like Dany's story, Martin is trying to get all his pieces in place but he's expanded ther story so much it's taking forever. Maybe they come when Dany hits Westeros- then the dragons can fight them?

      I'm glad you enjopy the show too- sometimes I think I'm too hard on it, I'm one of these "stick to the books" people. But of course they can't, the story is too big. It's ironic, like your husband said about the epic- Martin used to write for TV and said he wanted to write a book that was as big as he wanted it to be. Now they're adapting it and having to scale it down. :)

  2. I love love the older book covers for these books. When I read them those were the covers. Those days are gone I suppose. I didn't read the spoiler parts because I have only read up to book 3. This is because I am sick of Martin not writing the books and I refuse to read them till they are all written. Of course then the show will spoil the books for me but whatever. I prefer the books because there is so much more detail.. though I do think HBO has done well with the series.

    1. I love those covers too, those are the covers I think of when I think of the books. There have been so many since! Seeing those takes me back though... I'm totally with ya on Martin, the wait between books has gotten really out of hand. I'm glad this post didn't spoil too much, I was trying to avoid that! I originally had the spoilers throughout the post and was trying to mark them, but I though it better to separate them out.

      In some ways I think the first three books are the best- so maybe you're not missing too much. Book 4 was disappointing, you could read a summary of it and not miss much- book 5 is good and has some "oh wow" moments but then you hit the end and realize- we have a ways to go yet! Grrr...