Be warned, there are significant spoilers ahead! If you have either read the book or seen the show, you’ll be fine. If you’ve done neither, then just get to it already!
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Show Summary: You win or you die.
Book Summary: Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective wall. To the south, the King’s powers are failing, and his enemies are emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the King’s new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but also the kingdom itself.
Three things a HBO!GoT fan should know before starting the book:
- You will love it, because it is pretty much exactly the same as the show: I was stunned by how closely HBO stuck to the novels. I knew that all of the main plot elements had been included, but it is so much more than that. I’d say about 90% of the dialogue that is in the show is also in the book.
- All of the main characters are about 10 years younger in the novel. Yup, that’s right. A Game of Thrones is a lot more risque than its HBO counterpart. Dany is only 13 when her brother hands her off to the Dothraki. While it works in the book and is historically realistic, I really don’t think I could have watched that.
- The book is over 1000 pages long. I don’t want you to be put off by that, but it’s the truth. I don’t want anyone to think that A Game of Thrones is a short read – it’s not. It really really is not!
Three things I preferred the HBO interpretation of:
- Catelyn Stark. I had genuinely liked Catelyn in HBO!GoT. She wasn’t my favourite character, but she clearly had Stark qualities to her that made me warm to her. She didn’t sit to the sidelines, but neither did she try to jump in the driver’s seat. But book!Catelyn I very nearly loathe. How can I put it in a way fans will understand… there’s just not much of the North in that woman. She treats Jon 100 times worse than she does on the show, not to mention her inability to understand honour, justice and those other fantastic Stark qualities.
- The scenery. While I realise television has the clear advantage in this field, I found myself missing the beautiful landscapes and the gorgeous castles. George R.R. Martin isn’t all that big on descriptive writing about scenery, so while some places were extremely well described (the Wall and the Dothraki plains, for example), others had almost no description at all (King’s Landing).
- The Lannisters. HBO!GoT gives the Lannisters a bit more context – they aren’t necessarily my favourite group of people (*strangles Joffery*) but there were times when I genuinely felt for Cersei and Jamie. But in the books? They are the very definition of evil. Evil. Evil. Evil. And while I am certainly Team Stark, I would have liked to have seen a bit more Lannister in the book.
Three things I loved from the book which didn’t really translate onto the screen:
- Bran and the three-eyed crow. While HBO!GoT really did try to bring these scenes to life on the screen, they really didn’t make much sense. Mostly because, in the book, the crow actually speaks to Bran. And the truth of the matter is that talking animals never really work on TV.
- Jon Snow. While I certainly liked Jon in the television show, he did seem rather whiney. If anything, the younger novel version of him seemed much more adult than the actual adult that played him!
- How genuinely sweet Joffery was to Sansa. Even though Joffery is the anti-christ, there were times in the book when he seemed to actually like Sansa… none of that came through in HBO!GoT. It’s a real shame since it makes Sansa’s obsession with the evil blonde twit understandable.
One thing I really wish the show had included:
- How utterly unimportant Theon Grey is to Robb Stark. HBO!GoT turns Theon into Robb’s best friend and, considering how loathsome I find him, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was not the case in the books. Maybe their relationship develops further in the later novels, but in A Game of Thrones they are most certainly not BFFs. *shakes fist*
Bottom line? There is a reason this book has so many fans: it’s brilliant. Go forth and purchase.