A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

I was rather surprised to discover that I genuinely enjoyed this.
I'm not particularly fond of high fantasy or epic fantasy, and I tend to avoid doorstoppers and never-ending series on sight. I've always heard ASoIaF mentioned in the same breath as the Kingkiller Chronicles, and let's just say that my venture into Kvothe's world was less than successful. Plus, I'm not really a fan of rape, incest, or bloodbaths. Long story short, I'd never really intended to try this series. However, when I saw it available on audio at my library, I decided to take a stab at it.
Much to my shock, I really did enjoy it.
The audiobook narrator was enjoyable, even though he went seriously overboard with the accents. I don't think I would have made it through if I'd tried to read the book on my own. (I'd still love to know why he gave Tyrion Lannister a Welsh-ish accent, though.)

I've seen plenty of great reviews for this book over the years, both positive and negative, so I'm not going to bother to write another. Yes, it is a doorstopper; yes, there is an impressive amount of gore, yes, there is way too much rape and incest. What that means for the story is more complicated. One of the more intriguing aspects of the book, for me, was what felt like a complete absence of judgement of the characters from the narrator. 


My commentary: (spoilers will be tagged.)


Those bloody catchphrases: Pretty sure I never want to hear the phrases "blood of the dragon," "wake the dragon," "game of thrones," or "winter is coming" ever again. I think Martin might repeat them more than Butcher uses "arched an eyebrow" (but not more than "hell's bells.")

 

The worldbuilding: I loved the North part. I actually couldn't really imagine how freaking cold it is. I don't think I've ever heard the phrase, "The gentle summer snows" before. (The phrase refers to a light four feet or so.) The "winter is coming" bit makes more sense when you realise that they are referring to unpredictable and sometimes decades-long "seasons." It's been spring for nine years, and now...well, you guessed it.

On Dany: 

[What happened to Dany? That's rape. I'll pull the quote if I feel like going back and grabbing it, but it is indisputably rape.
I've always dimly heard that there was a debate over that point. As far as I can remember, here are some of the perspectives: (1) It wasn't rape and thus Drogo and Dany can have romance and Twoo Love unadulterated by a beginning in rape, (2) It was rape, and Dany grew to love her rapist, and that makes her weak, and (3) Martin was going for historical accuracy and therefore the rapine plot was necessary, and (4) It's just a book, stop taking it so seriously.
I'm somewhere in (3), I guess. I don't think it was *necessary* for the book to have so many examples of rape. I also didn't feel that Martin passed any judgement on Dany, positive or negative, for her actions before or after. The first two viewpoints disturb me. It is most definitely rape, and disputing that point is profoundly problematic. Whether the context-- that the tribe runs around raping every woman they encounter changes what that means in terms of relationships between the characters-- becomes more complex. The second is, to me, infuriating. Dany is a survivor. Part of coping with her circumstances, for her, is to embrace them.]

(show spoiler)



On the Dothraki: 

[For me, the most problematic aspect of Dany's story is the characterization of the Dothraki. The xenophobic "dark-skinned savage rapist horsemen" trope is trite and exhausted and does not need to be repeated.

Why did Dany need to be the whitest white person ever, with her whiteness accentuated by her white hair? Why did the "savage" tribes need to be dark-skinned and have what sounds like Turkish architecture? Why couldn't Martin break himself out of the White Man's Burden trope?]

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On characters: Tyrion is my favourite, bar none. The daddy issues, the way he both flaunts and hides his height and deformity, the sarcasm...  it all makes me want to read the Vorkosigan Saga again.

Muahaha. I love the tie-in with the opening scene. The stag does indeed end up killing the direwolf--the adult, at least. And the death of Sansa's pup is the death of her affiliation to her house.

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My Guesses

 (If they're dumb or obvious, please remember that I've only made it through the first book, and I wasn't necessarily paying close attention.)

I know how this series will end (and so do you): 

It's clear from this book that everyone is going to play their game of thrones, dividing and devastating the country. More wild guessing: Dany will probably end up facing off against (probably, as last men standing) Bran and Tyrion, who will probably join forces to face her. Just as they're in the middle of the epic last battle, they'll finally pick up on the fact that they are being invaded by The Others, and the humans will join forces to cast them out again, at which point Dany and the fire bit will actually face off against the ice. But it will take a few thousand pages to get there.

(show spoiler)


I think I know who Jon Snow is:

He's the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. My rationale: 
--We know that Rhaegar abducted Lyanna and raped her.
--We know that John was born at around the same time that Ned finally caught up with Lyanna, and Ned refuses to mention who John's mother is. When asked by Catlyn, he replies that Jon is his blood -- but not his son -- and forbids her to ask any more questions.
--We know that Lyanna died under mysterious circumstances (on a bed of blood) and that she forced Ned to make some last promise to her.

My take: Lyanna's mysterious death was childbirth. This explains the odd circumstances of her death, the smell of blood and roses (rose hips are a common herb used by midwives in childbirth), and their conversation on her deathbed. She made Ned promise to take and hide her child, because she feared that Robert would not be kind to a child of Targaryen, even without the additional factor of the mother's identity.  Ned is not the type to be unfaithful, nor the type to lie in any way other than omission, nor the type to save the child and leave the mother. This origin story explains his anger whenever John's mother is insulted, and his tendency to dance around terms: he says that Jon is "named a bastard," not that he is a bastard, and, when speaking of his origins, that Jon is "his blood" rather than his son. 

Plus, it makes John Snow the rightful king, which is totally a trope that I think Martin is going to play.

 

He'll probably end up with Dany. 
Martin does love his incest.

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