End of Season Notes
Reading a series as developed and layered as A Song of Ice and Fire is always a rewarding experience. I first read A Game of Thrones in 2010; perhaps a year before A Dance With Dragons was announced. I remember very clearly just how easily the story gripped me – still new to the fantasy genre, I was wondering then whether I would still see the appeal of fantasy as I left my teens. I had read series like Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl and enjoyed them very much but after a couple of forgettable experiences with series like The Inheritance Cycle and The Wheel of Time, I had begun to wonder whether my love for fantasy had died without me even realizing it. A Game of Thrones caught my attention because it was marketed as a deconstruction of the fantasy genre, and I thought at the time that I had enough of a feel for the genre to appreciate its deconstruction and furthermore, a deconstruction might resonate with my own ambivalence towards the genre.
A Game of Thrones gripped me in a way a series hasn’t since I first watched/read Berserk. It had everything that I loved in my fiction –nuanced characters, a well-developed world and most importantly, it felt like there was no plot armour. It meant that it wasn’t a guarantee from the outset that the good guys would win, just because it wasn’t clear who exactly the good guys were, outside of the Starks and even there I can imagine there being room for debate. Anyway, this post is essentially supposed to be a quick conclusion to my re-read of the book what my lasting impressions were and so on. One of the downsides to doing these over such a long period of time is that I find myself already beginning to forget events that took place earlier in this book itself. To some extent, it’s inevitable but it does mean that posts like this one will contain more of general impression rather specific observations about the book.
I think one thing that really stood during this re-read was the way in which I looked at Catelyn’s character. Catelyn Stark previous occupied a rather unenviable position on my list of most hated characters and I will defend myself by saying that without a more careful look at her character it’s all too easy to blame her for anything and everything. This is not to say that she is blameless – she has made a pretty sizable number of mistakes both big and small and but often enough, she is one of the first to recognize that she has made one. Her character is incredibly easy to empathize despite how often I know what effects her actions will have in the long term.
Apart from Catelyn, I think I was also a lot more critical of Ned this time around. The first time I read the book, I was expecting a very different kind of result – there was younger, more naïve part of me that was expecting Ned to somehow turn King’s Landing into a proper, functioning capital and that the series itself would revolve around how he would somehow force the Seven Kingdoms to get their collective shit together. It looked increasingly unlikely and I think a part of me suspected that it flat out wasn’t going to happen once Robert died. Still, Ned’s death in A Game of Thrones was the first time I had seen a character so quickly killed off and this, among other things, is what I meant by ‘plot armour’ above. It’s easy to argue that after a few books in, it’s plain that there is indeed plot armour but at this point I feel like there almost has to be; we’ve followed Tyrion’s journey for so long that killing him off in a realistic way (say from disease, before he even sees Dany) would be incredibly unsatisfying to read. I also think I liked Jon’s story in this book too – I still think that Jon’s story isn’t particularly interesting, or at least not to me anyway but re-reading allowed me to appreciate his character’s development a lot more. In fact, some of my favourite Jon moments are in this book but I would say that ADWD is where Jon really comes to the forefront of the narrative for me.
Last but not least, I remember regularly feeling that several characters didn’t feel and sound right. Early appearances of Tyrion come to mind as do some of Tywin’s personality traits. I mentioned in passing that I think a big part of this is that Martin himself was not a 100% sure on who exactly his characters were – their personalities generally stabilized a lot more by the end of the first novel and I expect in A Clash of Kings we will see more of the ‘final draft’ version of the characters. I also want to thank any and all of you who have been reading these posts and commenting. I really appreciate it. Feedback is always welcome and I do try to respond to all of it. Whether you hate it or love it, I’m always happy to hear from you, so don’t feel shy!