Last year I read all five books of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, one after the other. If you know anything about the series, you will know that there are two more in the works that are still (hopefully) to come out.
I wanted to write this post because there was so much hate for the final season of Game of Thrones, and some of the later seasons in general. They fell flat, and the final one was awful. Because of this,
I decided to reread A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, and then work my way through the rest of the books. I wanted – needed – to feel positively about George R. R. Martin’s work once again. It worked.
Many viewers of the TV show who have never read the books, probably decided never to even think about the world of Westeros ever again, let alone read the books! I want to inspire you to read the books because they are incredible.
There are a lot of things to cover here, so I’ll get on with it.
Firstly – The Characters.
I am going to assume that you’ve never watched the show, because that makes things easier. The main cast of characters throughout A Song of Ice and Fire are some of the most fascinating, enthralling people to ever grace the page – in any genre. Each character is unique to the other – their point of view, their dialogue, their opinions, desires, hatreds, motivations – everything!
In A Game of Thrones, despite there being a huge world and a profusion of characters, Martin focuses the reader on a select few. This introduces us not only to the main themes and general plot of the book (and series), but to some important character who we will spend a lot of time with. This means you don’t have to worry about being overwhelmed by all the points of view – there are few enough in this book to being able to follow along quite easily.
Because of Martin’s character work, the plot is hugely character-driven, and it makes for a hell of a ride. There is nothing more spectacular than following the plot in one direction only to have it torn away and hurtled in the opposite direction because of a character’s sheer force of will. It’s incredible to read and unlike so much fantasy that is quite heavily directed by a much larger force than one individual’s motivation.
There are characters in this book you will love, some you will hate, others you will love then hate then love then hate again. No one is a hero. Not even the villains are always purely evil. If you want a book filled with characters that you’re not sure if you should like or support, then this is the perfect series for you.
Secondly – The World.
Westeros has consumed much of my life for the past year. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of videos and articles that explore, in-depth, the world that Martin has created. Even after all that, I am sure that there are some avenues of exploration that are still to be done.
Whether you’re looking at King’s Landing, Dorne, Winterfell, The Wall or North of the Wall, perhaps even Bravos or Meereen, there is just so much to explore! Each place feels different, like it has its own personality that affects the characters and cultures that reside or simple pass through.
The best part is that the books often merely touch onto the deeper history of those places, and you have to look closely as you pass through and listen carefully to the stories the characters hear about them. The history of Westeros is incredibly detailed and complex – I promise you that if you want to get lost in a fantasy world then there is no better place than Westeros.
Third and Finally –The Plot(s).
I mentioned before that the plot is driven strongly by the will and motivations of the characters. This is often the case and it makes the story intriguing, twisting, and often unexpected.
Martin’s plots throughout A Song of Ice and Fire will have you itching to turn the next page, just to see the storyline swerve in a direction you didn’t expect but it will be so satisfying once you get to the end (if it even ends!).
The main difference between the books and the TV show is that the quality of the plot does not diminish – it only increases. The stakes are raised with every book, with every introduction of a new character, a new threat. There is just so much more to the plot of the books which really surprised me when I read them – I just couldn’t imagine how such an incredible story could be whittled down and demolished in such a way.
If you loved the first few seasons and want more of the quality that the first season gave, then turn to the books because there is so much you are missing out on.
Overall, this series is one of my favourites. It’s a classic of the genre – one that will stand the test of time and will inspire generations of writers to do more of the same or take the genre to a new level entirely. I am so excited to see what comes out of the fantasy genre over the next few decades because of this series.