Monday, January 9, 2012

A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE: A GAME OF THRONES


Throughout last year #GameOfThrones dominated my timeline on Twitter. As the show had not aired in South Africa at that time, I had no idea what it was about, but one thing was clear: the people love it! I also noticed that people were quite shocked and outraged by the series’ penultimate episode and the season finale, and I made a mental note to watch the show once it aired in South Africa. A few months later the series started so I watched the first episode not knowing what to expect, and didn’t quite know what to make of it at first. I sat through the first episode connecting the dots, figuring out who’s who, where they’re from, what it is that they do and who is related to whom. The first episode ended with quite a shocker, grabbing you by the throat and making you realize that these guys don’t play around - they mean business. This was sure to be a very unpredictable series. During the TV series’ opening sequence of the second episode I actually paid attention, and realized that the TV series is based on a series of books. That was all it took.




I have now finished the first book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire series, entitled A Game Of Thrones. Each book in the series will equal one season of the television series produced by HBO (although there is talk that some of the books may be split into two seasons per book in order to remain true to the story). I loved every single of it’s somewhat 800 pages. A Game Of Thrones was first published in 1996. As I got into the series I couldn’t help but wonder how it is possible that I’d never heard of this series prior to 2011?! It is epic, it is huge, and it is absolutely amazing! Somehow A Song Of Ice And Fire has managed to remain the best kept secret of the literary world… for me and many of my friends, anyway.

The setting and scale of A Game Of Thrones is massive. George R.R Martin has created a world in which to set his great tale, reminding me somewhat of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings. This new world has maps, myths and legends, mystical creatures and deadly monsters. There are three known continents: Essos, Sothoros, and Westeros. To the very North of Westeros we find the Great Wall, a huge wall of ice manned by a brotherhood called The Night’s Watch, protecting the realm from dangers known and unknown, natural and supernatural, North of the Wall.



A Game Of Thrones is set mainly in Westeros, also known as the Seven Kingdoms; one nation comprised of seven formerly independent kingdoms now ruled by one King (King Robert Baratheon at the start of the series). The Seven Kingdoms are:



•The North - ruled from Winterfell House Stark.
•The Iron Islands - ruled from Pyke by House Greyjoy.
•The Vale - ruled from the Eyrie by House Arryn.
•The Westerlands - ruled from Casterly Rock by House Lannister.
•The Reach - ruled from Highgarden by House Tyrell.
•The Stormlands - ruled from Storm's End by House Baratheon.
•The Dorne - ruled from Sunspear by House Martell.



The Seven Kingdoms were consolidated by the great dragon king, Aegon of House Targaryen, who conquered six of the Kingdoms, and secured the seventh through a marriage pact. Ever since the Seven Kingdoms have been ruled by one King, the King who rules from the Iron Throne. House Targaryen was defeated in battle by Robert Baratheon, all the Targaryens murdered, including infants, save for two. A pregnant Queen Rhaella Targaryen escaped murder and fled to Dragonstone with her son, Viserys. Rhaella died giving birth to Daenerys during a vicious storm (therefore Dany is also known as Daenerys Stormborn). Dragonstone fell to the rebel forces soon thereafter, and Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen, the rightful heirs to the Iron Throne, were smuggled to the Free City, Braavos, and now live in exile in Essos.



The continent of Essos is comprised of:
•The Free Cities
•The Dothraki Sea
•Slaver’s Bay
•Valyria
•Qarth



The continent Sothoros is uncharted, and not of much significance in the first book.



A Game Of Thrones focuses mainly on the clash between the honourable House Stark and the scheming, power hungry House Lannister, and the aspirations of Daenerys Targaryen to reclaim her rightful throne. Ned Stark, liege lord of the North and patriarch of House Stark, is chosen by his childhood friend, King Robert Baratheon, to succeed their common mentor, the late Jon Arryn, as The Hand of The King – the most powerful man in the Seven Kingdoms after the King. At first reluctant to accept, Ned agrees as a result of the pleas of his wife when they begin to suspect that Jon Arryn had been murdered, and that it is somehow connected to a freak accident that left one of their sons in a coma. Ned leaves his home, his wife and his sons behind and makes the journey to the capital city to investigate. In Kings Landing Ned must navigate his way through lies and deceit to uncover the secret Jon Arryn had died for, and care for and protect his two very different daughters while ruling the Kingdom in the stead of a disinterested, drunken King whose only interest is getting rid of the last Targaryens. Ned ultimately uncovers truths more far reaching than he had ever imagined, placing his life and the lives of his family in grave danger.



The A Song Of Ice And Fire series is one of extremes: You either adore characters or you loathe them. George R.R Martin is not afraid to kill off important characters (in the first book alone three of my favourites die along with countless others), ensuring a roller coaster ride for the reader. Let’s face it, there is nothing more boring and frustrating than a predictable book – and there is no way I can even begin to predict what will happen next.



A Game Of Thrones starts with one ruler, but concludes with no less than five people who will actively vie for the Iron Throne (and I am sure even more will surface):



King Joffrey Baratheon (Not King Robert’s legitimate son or rightful heir)
King Renly Baratheon (Crowned, supported by House Tyrell, no rightful claim to the throne)
King Robb Stark (Crowned King of the North, as the Stark Kings of old)
Stannis Baratheon (Robert Baratheon’s rightful heir)
Queen Daenerys Targaryen (Self proclaimed, rightful heir to the Iron Throne)



No wonder the second book in the series is titled Clash Of Kings.



As far as the television series goes, I have to say that the first season of the series did the book perfect justice. The storyline is carried out perfectly, omitting very few scenes and mostly using dialogue directly from the book. The characters are brought to life beautifully by a very talented and committed cast, and the settings are also very true to descirptions in the book, realistically and beautifully done.




In comparing the book and the TV series’ first season, my only complaint regarding the series is the inclusion of a lot of nude scenes and sex scenes. Although mention is made of nudity and sex in the book, it is done very subtly and minimally, and there are nowhere near as many scenes in the book as they have brought into the series. These scenes are totally unnecessary in the great scheme of things, especially the homosexual relationship between Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell. A relationship between the two might come into play later in the series, I don’t know yet, but as for the first book no mention is made of a relationship between the them. I therefore feel that the inclusion of a lovers' scene between the two is, again, unnecessary. Furthermore a red haired prostitute named Ros is a character nowhere to be found in the books, a character specifically created for the TV series, with the express purpose of bringing more sex scenes into the TV series. I have a huge problem with this. This character (and all of her scenes) is completely unnecessary as she doesn't promote the storlyline at all. I use the word unnecessary a lot here, but it really kept screaming at me how very unnecessary all these scenes are, and I can't express it enough! In my opinion they greatly cheapen the series.



Filming of season 2 of the Game Of Thrones television series wrapped last week, and season 2 is scheduled to air in April 2012. Special mention must be made of the awesome production diary the producers are posting online to keep fans in the loop. While giving fans new information on a regular basis, they are also very careful not to drop any spoilers. You can follow the Game Of Thrones production diary here.



There are currently five, and will ultimately be seven titles in the A Song Of Ice And Fire series:



1. A Game of Thrones
2. A Clash of Kings
3. A Storm of Swords
4. A Feast for Crows
5. A Dance with Dragons
6. The Winds of Winter
- Publication date not known

7. A Dream of Spring - Publication date not known



When an author sits down and creates a whole new world complete with maps, myths, legends and monsters, you can be sure you’re going to have an enjoyable read on your hands. Throw in secrets, schemes, murder plots and battles, and A Game Of Thrones becomes a wonderfully thrilling, exciting book filled with unexpected twists and turns around every corner, making this one of the most unpredictable stories I’ve come across in a very long time.



If you haven’t thrown yourself into A Song Of Ice And Fire yet, I strongly recommend that you do.

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