Lost in the Wilderness – A Song of Ice and Fire Retrospective

The past few months my reading has been wholly concentrated on A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m a huge fan of the Game of Thrones tv show, and when season three ended I didn’t want to have to wait a year to find out what happened next. I considered starting the books from where the show left off, but a couple of friends who had already read them warned me that a few things had been shuffled around, so I decided to start from the beginning. Since they’re so long I figured that it would take me a while to read them all, and by the time I was done with book five it wouldn’t be too long before book six came out. Little did I know they’d be so engrossing that it only took me a couple of months to finish them all. 

You won’t find any spoilers for the tv show or the books here. I find that people are pretty good with protection the tv people from spoilers, but on a few occasions I noticed a few slip in so I have to remind myself to be careful. But here are a few reflections on my feelings about the show and the books now that I’ve read them. 

One of my problems with the show is that I find it hard to keep track of all the supporting characters. A lot of the names slip by me so sometimes I don’t get the importance of a certain character. The books really helped with this, and I actually loved that I’d seen the tv show first. Reading the first book I was able to think, ‘oh yeah, I remember that!’ and it was nice to be reminded of things I’d forgotten. 

The show has made some changes too. Some for better, some I don’t really understand. There are some made for dramatic choices that I have no problem with. But there’s at least one instance where a name has been changed and I’m not really sure why since their stories don’t intersect. 

I’ve also found that I like some characters in the book that I wasn’t too fond of in the show. In the show my favourite characters from the start (along with a lot of other people I’m sure) were Arya and Tyrion. It was only through the course of the show that my fondness for Dany and Jon grew, and I’ve only started to have sympathy for Sansa in season three. But in the books I started liking Dany, Jon and Sansa a lot earlier and I became a far more invested in their storylines. 

That doesn’t mean the books are completely better than the show though. One advantage that the show has is that it’s not done from a point of view style. I think it’s a very interesting technique in the books but I found it hard sometimes to become emotionally invested in the non-point of view characters. There are a few moments in the show that have had more impact for me than they did in the books (although in fairness that may have been because I knew they were coming, there were certainly plenty of moments in Book 3 part 2, Book 4 & 5 where I had to gasp). But even then some deaths seemed to be mentioned casually and I didn’t think they had as much impact as they should. 

I know some people complain about there being too much description in the books. I can’t fault George R. R. Martin for his worldbuilding. I love it when he goes off into a little tangent to explore some of the history. I think he’s created this amazing landscape and he’s breathed life into it in a way that I’m extremely envious of. However, I think with the food it gets a bit tiresome. But his handling of characters is amazing and I love how a character can be mentioned in a book and it just seems a throwaway name, but later on it turns out they’re actually very important. 

So far I think Book 3 is my favourite. There’s so much emotion and drama and the end is amazing. I mean, tv people, you think season three was full of surprises you haven’t seen anything yet! Game of Thrones was really interesting and really tight and focused and did a fantastic job of introducing the world. A Clash of Kings I didn’t think was as good, I thought there was a lot of characters moving around and I felt there was a lot of set up. A Storm of Swords was the peak, it had everything. A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons suffered somewhat by being split geographically. It wasn’t as much of a big deal for me because I could read them straight away, but I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been for those who read them as they came out. 

I also feel that in A Dance With Dragons there are certain chapters that aren’t really needed, and it’s almost as if the author has written them to say “I know you like these characters, so here they are just to show you I haven’t forgotten about them”. But there’s still a lot of surprising twists and turns and the ending…wow. The books are so engrossing and I can’t recommend them highly enough, especially if you’re a fan of the show. I’m so glad I decided to read them because they add so much depth. 

I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll do with the tv show. The books get so large and wide-ranging that I’m not sure 10 episodes a season will be enough. I know there have been worries that the show will catch up to the books, but I think there’s enough substance there to keep the show going for a few more years before they have to worry about that. I think the only thing that is going to be a major problem is the children aging. 

Now I’m off to go and read all the fan theories and speculations. And I don’t have to be worried about spoilers! Yay!