TV | Game of Thrones

The 'Game of Thrones' Book Club, week 1: First impressions, and when I got hooked

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I’m going to level with you, Shelf Lifers: I wasn’t immediately sucked into A Game of Thrones. I found the prologue perplexing, the shifting perspectives  difficult to follow, and – though I know this is a tiny quibble – the names a tiny bit irritating. (Why, George R.R. Martin, do you give your characters monikers that are thisclose to being regular, like “Eddard” and “Tommen”and “Joffrey”? Why not just call them “Edward” and “Thomas” and “Jeffrey,” especially since other characters are named things like “Robert” and “Jon”? Arrrg.)

I know that many people admire Martin’s prose for the way it zips along, managing to keep a huge, thick book relatively fast-paced. But for me, at the beginning, things were moving too fast. While I respected the fact that Martin’s sophisticated storytelling wasn’t trying to hold anybody’s hand, I would have appreciated a little more exposition. Alas, I found out too late that there’s an extremely helpful appendix in the back of the book that lists all the characters and their relationships to one another. If only I had read the comments you left on my first post more carefully!

Despite my initial ambivalence, I plodded onward, assuming (and hoping) that things would get better. And boy, am I glad I did.

The turning point for me came about 70 pages in, when young Bran Stark [SPOILER ALERT] accidentally spies Queen Cersei and her brother Jaime having an, uh, intimate moment in a remote tower. The twist was lurid and shocking, exactly what I needed to jolt me awake and make me start paying closer attention.[/SPOILER] By the end of the chapter – “The things I do for love” – I was totally hooked on Thrones.

When a book is populated by a cast of dozens, it can be difficult to seize upon a favorite character. Even so, I’ve found that I especially look forward to the chapters that focus on Arya Stark. Sure, she’s a stock type – these days, what work set in a pre-feminist era doesn’t feature a highborn girl who doesn’t want to be a lady? – but even so, I’m loving her spirit and her playfulness. She also reminds me a little of Alanna, the heroine of Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series, which I devoured in middle school. I look forward to the moment where she hurtles into battle and proves herself handy with a sword… though since she’s only nine years old, it may be a book or two before that happens. Then again, seven-year-old Bran is apparently “almost a man grown,” so maybe Arya will be thrust into the fray sooner rather than later.

I’m a huge fan of Tyrion Lannister as well, partly because I’m drawn to witty misfits and partly because I can’t wait to see what Peter Dinklage does with the part – although now that I’ve read as far as I have, I’m wondering if they’re going to uglify Dinklage so that he fits Martin’s description a little better. This man is way too handsome to play someone who looks “for all the world like a gargoyle.” Oh, and I’m also getting a real kick out of smarmy, devious Petyr Baelish, a.k.a. Littlefinger. These two characters prove best how A Game of Thrones has what books like The Lord of the Rings are sorely lacking – a sense of humor.

Well, a sense of humor and a surprising amount of sex. The spoiler-tastic aforementioned scene, as well as Daenerys’ wedding night, were a lot more graphic than I would have expected; for some reason, frank writing about carnal relations and olde-tymey epics don’t seem to go together in my mind. I assume that I’ll become disabused of this notion the more I read. [Edited to add: Oops, I forgot to tell you how far to read for next week! We’ll be reading through p. 429 in the Bantam trade paperback; the last sentence of the last chapter in that section says, “Smiling, he plucked up the dagger and offered it to Ned, hilt first.”]

For the rest of you who also just read the first part of the book: What did you think? Are you, like me, wondering what that prologue has to do with anything? (My colleague Darren Franich tells me it’s going to be awhile before I find out; Martin, you dog!) Who’s your favorite character so far? And when did you realized A Game of Thrones had totally sucked you in?

Originally posted April 4 2011 — 4:32 PM EDT

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