Pages read: 255 out of 674
Right after I posted my last update, I started having some substantive things to say about Game of Thrones. Some of these ideas came from reader comments (thank you!), and others came naturally as I read more. I am enjoying this book, although I remain mystified by its relentless lack of humor and can’t quite imagine how I will tolerate so much grimness for another four and a half books. The plot is certainly moving forward: Ned Stark has taken over as the king’s “Hand” and is discovering that his old friend Robert has let his newfound royal status turn him into a bit of an ass; Jon Snow has settled into life as a member of the Night’s Watch, where he is known for his arrogance but is starting to earn some respect as someone who protests weaker people from bullies; Bran has regained consciousness after his fall, which seems to have had some kind of mystical effect on him, though the full implications are not yet clear. Tyrion Lannister, who is implicated (at best) in an attempt on Bran’s life, roams around with an uncanny knack for avoiding people who know that he is behind the attack on Bran; mostly all he does is have conversations with people about the fact that he is a dwarf. (Is this a thing? I have known a few “little people” over the years, and they have always had lots of other things to talk about besides their own small statures. Not Tyrion, though – he’s got a bit of a one-track mind.) Sansa and Arya are bitter enemies by this point: after the altercation between Arya’s friend Mycah (and her direwolf) and Sansa’s snotty future husband Prince Joffrey, Ned finds himself forced to order the killing of both Mycah and Sansa’s direwolf Lady (the rationale is that even though Arya’s direwolf ‘ran away’ after the incident – though Arya knows where her wolf is – Sansa’s wolf needed to be killed too because the entire species puts the royal family in danger) and Sansa now hates her sister, mourns the loss of her wolf, and is hurt by the fact that Prince Joffrey is not paying much attention to her. Ned navigates his strained relationships with both of his daughters reasonably well, even as he burrows deeper into his job as the King’s Hand, embarrassed by the expensive tournament the King insists on staging in his honor, mortified when he learns of the kingdom’s debt, and consumed by the promise he made to his wife to find out the truth about how, why, and by whom his predecessor Jon Arryn was killed. We seem to be on the verge of getting some answers to these questions soon.
I’m curious about whether Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is meant in part as a parody of Game of Thrones. There are all kinds of layers to this question – and Stardust is certainly a wonderful book in its own right whether it’s a parody or not, but the whole dynamic between the dying king of Stormhold and his decree that his sons (Primus, Secundus, Tertius, and so forth) must kill each other off before one of them – the lone survivor – can inherit his throne seems like an exaggerated version of the sort of thing that goes on in Game of Thrones. The place name “Stormhold” seems to come straight from Game of Thrones too, and then there are the walls in both novels that separate the known from the unknown – and so forth. Of course, it’s also true that I have read very few books in the fantasy genre, and it may be that both Martin and Gaiman are working with tropes that pre-date both novels. While it’s probably too soon to judge, in general I think Gaiman is a better writer than Martin, and I certainly don’t mean to insult Gaiman by suggesting that his novel is derivative (which it’s not), but I do want to revisit Stardust to see what other connections I might find between the two works.
Almost universally, my friends who have commented on my last review of this book have told me that the TV series Game of Thrones is better than the books. When I started the book, I had no real intention of ever watching the series, but I have a feeling I’ll relent on that. Maybe when I finish the first book, I’ll watch the first season of the series. It will give me an excuse for a knitting marathon.