Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Discussion: A Game of Thrones

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. I can't discuss this series with you because I have neither watched the show or read the books (actually I read perhaps 25% of the first one). I love things in fantasy worlds that somewhat reflect "Olde World" settings, such as The Lord of the Rings, but I am not one to stomach gratuitous violence and constant molesting of women :(

    My grown niece reads and watches this series, and just loves it. She told me to overlook that stuff because it is fiction, and very well done. I am not putting it down at all, or I would have to duck and cover from Martin fans :) Just giving my lil opinion that I wish I could join in, but I don't think I will be reading it. To each his own, but I am a bit envious of being left out of this fandom.

    Enjoy your discussions with other fans!

  2. Thanks for the spoiler warning. I have not read ADWD yet. Not sure why I am waiting. While I enjoy watching the series, I love the books. Arya and Jon are my favorites too, but I am afraid to love them too much ;). It would not surprise me if TWoW is released in two parts.