With everyone excited for the new season of Game of Thrones airing, I went back and read the book where it all began – Songs of Fire and Ice: Game of Thrones by George RR Martin. As someone who hasn’t really watched the show, but is forced to be aware of it due to the popularity, I’m not too sure how I feel about the franchise. Maybe I’m just a hipster who finds it overrated, or maybe it’s just a mediocre book that seems to be overplayed.
In this book, for those that can’t remember the first season, we meet the Stark family as they deal with the corrupt and powerful Lannisters due to Ned Stark becoming the hand to King Robert. There are also sub-plots about Jon Snow at the Wall, Daenerys becoming a wife and gaining an army, and Bran Stark discovering magic, but they don’t seem to matter as much. The focus is on the Stark/Lannister feud. Unfortunately, it’s one of the common instances where the sub-plots are more impressive than the main one. I know that this changes in the next few books, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. Every book in a series needs to be good enough to stand alone.
The characters are decent. I particularly like Daenerys, Tyrion, Arya and Sansa. My main issue is that most seem to wear their heart on their sleeves. Upon meeting a character, you are instantly given an impression and it doesn’t seem to change. If there’s a bad character, they’re instantly bad and seem to have little to no redeeming qualities. It just seems very superficial and I hope Martin does reveal more to the characters later on. However, the character we’re meant to like are extremely likable. At least that’s one benefit from the system.
Another point that frustrated me while reading it was that there was so much exposition. Most of it was more interesting than the book, and it must have taken up a third of it. Some of it wasn’t even presented naturally. I wish Martin was able to present the information in more intriguing way than just him or a character explaining it for half of a chapter.
There are two main reasons that helped Game of Thrones become popular – the sex and murder. Both of these were actually pretty boring. There are character deaths that are meant to be heartbreaking, but I don’t even remember who they are, and if I do, I don’t really care. The sex scenes are written like someone who is trying to be revolutionary by including sex yet they don’t even know how to write it. If I read this before the hype, it might have been a different story.
Honestly, I can’t give it any more than 5.7/10. The characters and plot were dull and predictable, and the gimmick of sex and murder was actually disappointing. If it’s like the show, however, then maybe it’s just set up for the real action in book two. That isn’t a good excuse for mediocrity though.
Discussion Point: How excited are you for the new season of Game of Thrones?