Warning: Spoilers are included here, so proceed with that in mind.
Once the TV series Game of Thrones ended, I decided to read the books. The novels took me two weeks, but I also read the chapters from the next book author George R.R. Martin had released on the Web. Blood, sex, and violence run as themes through all the books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, even more so than in the TV series. Reading these books left me nearly blind from eyestrain and hoping for more because some of my favorite characters’ fates are left hanging.
By the end of the fifth book, Jon Snow is dead and not resurrected by Melisandre, Daenerys is hanging miserably with Drogon in the Dothraki ‘sea’, and another Lannister bites the dust. I think there’s a depth to perceptions of violence when you read the words compared to seeing it on screen. Maybe we’ve just become so numb to screen violence because we see it so much, but the written versions of violence disturbed me more than the TV series did.
Although there is a ‘kingsmoot’ among the Iron Island tribes, the TV finale featuring political wisdoms about the voice of the people bears no resemblance to the books. Bran is not chosen as king. In the books Sansa doesn’t marry madman Ramsay, so we’re deprived of the well-deserved death he experienced in the TV series.
The TV series rushed ahead to wrap things up for viewers, and that’s one reason I’m glad I waited to read the books. Had I read them first, I’d have been highly annoyed at the TV scripts.
One advantage in reading the books lies in keeping all the characters straight. Martin includes a section at the end of each novel in the series with lists of various lords’ houses and other characters. It served as a handy reference for me at times. Each book also includes an advance chapter from the next in the series. I was a bit miffed that the advance chapter for Winds of Winter comprises the point of view of Ser Barristan. Although that does relate to Daenerys, it still doesn’t give a hint of how she will deal with the Dothraki who find her with Drogon.
Like so many other fans, I am eager to read The Winds of Winter. The latest info I could find suggests the book will be completed in 2020. I don’t think I’ve ever anticipated a book as I have this one. For me, the closest an author can come to Martin is Barnard Cornwell whose Saxon novels are page turners. Cornwell’s books have also been taken to screen in The Last Kingdom series.
I can imagine the challenges Martin is facing, though. The wildly popular TV series and his other works have to be taking a toll on his time. In the acknowledgments section of A Dance with Dragons (book 5), Martin wrote:
“The last one was a bitch. This one was three bitches and a bastard.”
Martin does post news about his work, including the Ice and Fire novels, at his own website. He’s posted some excerpts there and he also blogs about things he’s interested in, including some of the actors in the GOT TV series.
The best we can hope for when it comes to The Winds of Winter appears to be 2020. I’m letting my eyes recover from the strain and still hoping Jon Snow gets resurrected. I think these novels are among the greatest of our age. George R.R. Martin has managed, in fantasy and fiction based in part on history, to sum up the history of the entire human race by focusing on character and the boundaries or lack thereof in mortals. I highly recommend reading those books—they’re better than the TV series.
(Kay B. Day/June 17, 2019)
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