I've been re-reading A Game of Thrones. I think this is probably the sixth time I've read the novel. As I read the words, the story comes back to me as familiar as always. I'm re reading in the vain hope that Winds of Winter might actually come out in 2016. At one point I had optimistically hoped that the book would be out before the next season of the show. Of course that plan has since been scuttled due to George R.R. Martin's Not A Blog post on January 2nd. My originally aim was to read one book a month from now until I'm up to date again. (This intention went out the window quickly as real life took over). On the plus side I now have plenty of time to finish my reread. I've also found that actually I don't mind that much when Winds of Winter comes out. I know GRRM will do a great job and I can wait for that to occur. I'm also crazily thinking of trying to read A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons in tandem this time around. Amanda and Kathi did so and it worked for them. I'm going to see if I prefer the two books when they are read as one. Hope so. It might just make the story gel together a bit better and help my aversion to Tyrion and Dany. Both characters who I do think suffered in the minds of some readers in the sense their story feels like it is dragging on and on and on. At times, it felt like I needed toothpicks to hold my eyes open as I read their later chapters. Television I feel has been very kind to them. If viewers had endured the length of their wandering in the books, even they may have banged their heads against a wall. Not that this factor detracts from my overall love of the series. So let's delve into the book and see some of my thoughts and highlights for what is a wonderful series.
SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOKS OR WATCHED THE SHOW. BACK AWAY! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Where to begin?First off. It's weird reading how young the characters are. Hell, Eddard Stark is only thirty five! I once read (many moons ago) that George R.R. Martin wished he had aged the characters more than he had initially. I wish he had too! Especially as the series progresses. The thing is that in my head I've already aged them up. Especially the younger characters. It just makes more sense to me. However, I should add that's probably just my 20th century brain in action.
I've forgotten how much I loved Tyrion in the first few books. His observations of the world around him. From his brother and sister's relationship to his views on Jon are so spot on. When you are a dwarf you need some protection against the world. Plus it's his wits that keep him alive whilst in the clutches of Catelyn Stark. Who in the end has to bend to the wishes of her sister Lysa Arryn. Tyrion is like a cat with nine lives. The question is how many times can you escape the clutches of death? So far he seems to be managing quite ably. Side note, I remain impressed with how much he can drink. How can you walk with that much wine in you? Sure there have been many times I've felt like a drink or two to get me through reading some harrowing scenes. No doubt I would want some liquor in me if Tywin Lannister was my father. There is just no pleasing that man!
Jon Snow. Bastard born, yet captivating. He loves his brothers and sisters and is raised in the shadow of Winterfell. Yet he can't escape the tag given to him by birth. Bastard. His love for his family is best shown by his interactions with Arya when he gives her Needle. He knows how cherished this gift is. He also knows they may never see each other again. When the direwolves are discovered, I felt a sense of relief that there was a pup for Jon, even when initially it looked like there wouldn't be one.
The decision to go to the Wall is heart wrenching as to us he is just a boy, but once you are at the Wall you are never a boy again. You become a brother of the Night Watch. Upon The Wall Jon faces tough decisions. At the end he's faced with a tough choice. He has to decide who his "brothers" are. Are they the men on the Wall or are they the Starks?
Catelyn. She always divides readers. I have to say that while reading her first couple of chapters I'm divided as well. I feel that she urges Ned Stark to leave Winterfell, yet you get sense that this decision will have repercussions through the series. It's like the ripple effect. One small action leads to bigger ripples and as we ultimately know, Ned's death. Each step is merely pulling us along to that moment in time and beyond.
I still can never get over the aversion that Catelyn has to Jon. I think it colours a lot of my opinion of her as a character. When Bran is near dying, but persists on living, Catelyn utters those words to Jon "It should have been you." Implying that Jon should be the one near death and not Bran. That venom we hear forever tarnishes the reader's view of Catelyn. Catelyn is a mother in grief, yet she cannot open her heart to Jon. It is further clouded by the fact that Jon will go on to be a fan favourite for many over the course of the series. The reader often forgets that Catelyn would not feel this way so much if she had more information about Jon's mother. After all she has no reason not to believe that Jon isn't Ned's son. He has never denied it.
It comes back to me why I loathed Jaime Lannister for 2 and a half books. He really was a conceited fool, wrapped around his sister's finger. Little does he know he is merely dancing to her tune. He is one of those characters in this book that we constantly hear of in the background running around trying to locate his brother Tyrion. In this it could be said he has one redeeming factor. He loves his brother. However can we forgive a character who tried to kill a child for seeing something he ought not to have seen?
Poor Bran. Yet this monumental event needs to happen in order for other events to transpire. The foreshadowing by Bran just blew my mind. The true threat is in the North, yet he can see that his family face their own struggles.
"North and north and north he looked, to the curtain of light at the end of the world, and then beyond that curtain. He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks"
As I've read the whole series, events in the first book come together like a jigsaw puzzle clicking into place. Bran has a gift and a destiny. We know Rickon shares some of this gift when both boys dream of their father visiting them after he has been killed. It is a gift that you start to feel needs to be explored further. Yes, Bran has lost the use of his legs, but can this new "sight" he has developed be used in other ways?
Once Ned Stark leaves the relative safety of Winterfall he lands in a nest of vipers. Ned Stark needs to get out of dodge. Kings Landing is a dangerous place. Full of deceit and treachery. It is a place where if you aren't playing the game of thrones, you aren't going to survive very long. I felt like Littlefinger genuinely wanted to help Ned at one point. It seems strange with later events, but in that instance where he brings Ned to Catelyn, it felt like he wanted to help her for old times sake. Perhaps I've just misinterpreted the scene. He is cunning though and spins a web as good as Varys, the spider. Remember the most skillful weavers are still alive and they weave their webs with skill. Ned Stark was wrong to trust Littlefinger at all. A point Littlefinger mentions to him when Ned is betrayed. This reader learnt at this point not to trust anyone. Least of all Littlefinger who we now clearly see has his own agenda. When Varys visits Ned in prison and stated, " I serve the realm, and the realm needs peace" it felt to me like one of the first times Varys was honest. He feeds people the information he wants them to know. Thus is he serving the realm or his own self-interest. Time would tell. It seems an honest man doesn't tend to last long in the series.
Look at Joffery ordering Ned Stark to be beheaded. The vast majority at Court thought Ned Stark would be sent to The Wall. Instead his head ended up on pike. This turned the North more fully away from the King's Landing. It also meant any idea of an end to the skirmishes and a avoiding a more comprehensive war died. Who recalls that The Hound saves Loras Tyrell at the The Hand's Tournament? That one moment sets off another chain of events that wouldn't have happened had Loras died by The Mountain.
The view within Westeros is that there is no threat upon the Wall. Yet we know from the prologue that the real threat is there. For here the dead are coming back to life. It is with a sense of unease that each time the Stark motto is uttered "Winter is Coming." that the reader starts to feel a sense of dread. For much of Westeros dismisses where the real danger lies. They are too obsessed with controlling or growing their own power. Ned senses this unease, yet his honour and duty compel him to go South with his king. For the long summer is coming to an end and whilst men and women play the game of thrones, the threat lies to the north. We read the character playing at statecraft, yet we know that if the Wall falls, doom will stampede down from the North.
The direwolves are the Starks. It has always felt to me that the personality of each Stark is represented by their wolves. My heart was in my throat when Lady was killed. I originally didn't have a lot of time for Sansa in the earlier books, but once I discovered more of her story arc these earlier scenes make much more sense. We needed to see Sansa as she was. The good girl, the believer in love and beauty. Even though this all comes crashing down on her. She will rise above this. Somehow. Sansa is given a very rude awakening as to how this new world works when Ned dies. She is confrontationally brought to the realisation that life isn't all roses, gallant knights and gentle maids. Suddenly she is alone in den of lions.
I know there are plenty of characters I haven't really mentioned, but you know, for me it's all about the Starks and their survival at the end of the day. Yes, I know that dream was savagely destroyed in both A Game of Thrones and A Storm of Swords. You might also note I've barely mentioned Daenerys Targaryen. The issue is that I've always found her story a wee bit boring. I'll confess that this is probably clouded by the fact that knowing her story arc, it drags out her storyline for me. Yet it's curious I feel that way given her story is a major part of the whole series. I've never been able to make myself care for her the same way I care for other characters. Yes, even some of the despicable ones.
This is the ultimate series for me. My delight that some of my fellow Wenches have picked up the series and have enjoyed it as well, is one of the great gifts of knowing these amazing women! It's one of life's pleasures. At some point I'm going to reread A Clash of Kings and I'm sure I would love it just as much as the first time around.
Let me know below some of your favourite rereads.