Novel vs TV series: A Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones TV PosterOK, so I am one of those fans. One of the fans who picked up the A Song of Fire and Ice series after watching the HBO series based on the books, Game of Thrones (hereafter known as HBO!GoT). Yep, I’m one of those.
And so instead of giving you your standard “OMG, this book is amazing” review (this book has been out for 15 years, there are a lot of them out there), I am doing something absolutely dreadful instead… I am comparing the show with the book!
Horrified? I know – but I’m dastardly that way.

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

HBO!GoT / Librarything /Goodreads

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

Game of Thrones by George R R MartinThree things I preferred the HBO interpretation of:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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:

  1. 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.

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 29th 2011
Pages: 448
Genres: Paranormal YA, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Rating:

There once was a young artist called Karou who drew tales of monsters and demons that delighted and enthralled those around her. But she has a secret, a secret that ties her to a dusty subterranean chamber, where her beloved guardian brokers dark deals in a place that is not here. A place that is Elsewhere. Living with one foot in each world, Karou has never really known which one is her true home.

Now the doors to Elsewhere closing . . .

Thoughts: I was expecting great things from Laini Taylor, and I got them. I got them in spades. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is probably the most unique paranormal Young Adult novel I’ve ever read. Absolutely everything took me by surprise: the characters, the universe and – amazingly – even the romance.

US cover

Daughter of Smoke and Bone starts off in Prague, narrated by multi-lingual, blue-haired, and tattooed Karou. In between trips to gothic cafes and studying at an art school, she tries to keep up a secret life in a magical world. And before you start imagining Diagon Alley, let me clarify. Karou’s other world is filled with body parts and bizarre creatures, it is rough around the edges and dark in the centre… dark but not evil, per-say.

While there are plenty of more detailed reviews out there, you really should not know more than that. Because past the introduction? Everything goes haywire. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a book about angels and demons, but it is also not about angels and demons. It is about forbidden love, but it is about so much more than forbidden love. It is a book that takes every stereotype you’ve ever loathed and turns them into something magical and utterly unique. I was stunned by how Laini Taylor could make me accept things that – only ten pages before – I would have thought utterly implausible or unjustifiable. It turns out, all I needed was a stellar author guiding me!

The only thing that keeps me from giving this a full five stars – and there really is only one thing, this novel is almost perfection in writing – is the central romantic relationship. While I loved both characters individually, I wasn’t completely sold on them together. I think I just need some more time to become enamoured with the two of them together… something the next novel should accomplish!

One final note: Brimstone. Brimstone, Brimstone, Brimstone. He was the one and only character that made me tear up in this book, and just thinking about him gives me a lump in my throat. Apparently I have a thing for tender-hearted father figures who show little-to-no emotion – and if you do too, you’ll love him just as much as I did. ♥

Bottom line? Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a book about wishes and monsters, hope and betrayal, love lost and love found, teeth and smoke. Read it.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is out today in the UK. Go get a copy!

Review: Heat Stroke by Rachel Caine

Review: Heat Stroke by Rachel CaineHeat Stroke by Rachel Caine
Series: Weather Warden #2
Published by Ace/Roc, Allison & Busby
Pages: 335
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Rating:
Also in this series: Ill Wind

Review is spoiler-free - the summary is not!

Accused of murder, Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin was chased across the country—and killed—by a team charged with hunting down rogue Wardens. Five days later, Joanne had a lovely funeral and was posthumously cleared of all charges. Her human life was over, but she had been reborn in Djinnhood. Now, until she masters her enhanced powers, Joanne must try to avoid being "claimed" by a human. But when a hazard that only a Djinn could sense infiltrates Earth's atmosphere, Joanne must somehow convince someone to do something about it—or the forecast will be deadly. So who said being all-powerful was going to be easy?

Thoughts: When I started Heat Stroke, it had been over a year since I read Ill Wind, the first book in Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series. And while I had geniunely enjoyed Ill Wind, and I could remember as much, I couldn’t remember anything that had happened in it. I vaguely recalled the ending, I remembered the main character had a thing for fast cars, and… that was it.

So, needless to say, this book started off a bit rough. There were a lot of characters dealing with the emotional fall-out of the last book – and that really meant nothing at all to me. But soon enough, Caine ramped up the action and I no longer had to worry about what I didn’t remember. There were are new problems to worry about!

Heat Stroke reminded me of what I adored about the first 6 books of the Morganville Vampire Series: the out-of-nowhere twists and turns. Rachel Caine is not an author to stick with the status quo. She’ll set you up in one direction and then – BAM – she’ll move you into another. Heat Stroke was filled with twists and turns – all of them utterly realistic.

UK Cover

And now that I write that, I realise that that is exactly it. I’ve read 10+ Caine books and now I’ve finally worked out why she is such a joy to read! It’s not just that she puts in great twists into her books, it’s that the twists feel completely natural. A lot of excellent fantasy novelists put in mind-blowing twists into their books (Rachel Vincent and Richelle Mead, I’m looking at the two of you), but they always feel like twists. Your reaction to them will always be “Wow, I can’t believe that author did that!”. But with Caine, you don’t even feel it. She creates characters and universes so complete within themselves that they can drive the show all on their own. It’s fantastic.

I can officially say that Heat Stroke took me from just being a Rachel Caine fan to being a Weather Warden fan. Apparently, Rachel Caine can write a main character in love with more than one leading man without turning the novel into a migraine inducing disaster. She can writes 3D villains who you can both pity and wish dead. She’s also one of the few authors I’ve read who “abuses” her male characters just as much as her female ones. In short, she’s fab – there is a reason she has so many fans!

Bottom line? Read the Weather Warden series! It is extremely enjoyable, highly realistic, kick-ass urban fantasy filled with fast cars and physics.

Review: Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

Review: Throne of Jade by Naomi NovikThrone of Jade by Naomi Novik
Series: Temeraire #2
Published by Harper Voyager
Genres: High Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Rating:
Also in this series: Temeraire

When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo–an unhatched dragon’s egg–Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain’s Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte’s invading forces.

Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands–and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East–a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.

Thoughts: I don’t usually start a sequel straight after reading the first book – especially if I adored said first book.  I like to savour the series I love by spreading them across months, and sticking mediocre books in between the gems. So, that I started Throne of Jade right after reading Temeraire is a tribute to the awesomeness of Naomi Novik.

However.

Yep, there’s a big fat “however”. You see, Throne of Jade? It’s just nowhere near as amazing as Temeraire.  For starters, the novel is bizarrely balanced.  I’d say about 3/4 of the novel is spent getting to China – and then the rest is a huge mishmash of action set in Beijing. While this is realistic timescale-wise, it did not make for the most entertaining of books. That said, it’s not as if the novel would have been better if it had been set entirely in China. I didn’t enjoy a minute of the time spent in Beijing – someone scratch Imperial China off my time-travel holiday list.

On top of that, I had some rather serious issues with the relationship between Temeraire and Laurence. For all his supposed genius, Temeraire acted like such a spoiled child in this book. And Laurence? He spent the entire book desperately pandering to Temeraire’s whims. I could forgive Laurence, but Temeraire… just… guh! *strangles dragon* He could get so bloody self-involved! I really do hope that he matures by the next book.

Throne of Jade also lacked the brilliant aerial fleet. We get only a few brief scenes with the gang at the start of the novel, and then they are left behind in Europe. They are some of the best characters in the verse (especially pseudo-love interest and kick-ass dragon rider extraordinaire Jane) and their absence was keenly felt. I’m hoping for a lot more of them in the next book.

Bottom line? A mediocre episode in an excellent series. Nevertheless, Naomi Novik novels = The Bee’s Knees.

Review: Pride by Rachel Vincent

Review: Pride by Rachel VincentPride by Rachel Vincent
Series: Shifters #3
Published by MIRA
Pages: 432
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Rating:
Also in this series: Stray, Rogue

I'm on trial for my life. Falsely accused of infecting my human ex-boyfriend—and killing him to cover up the crime. Infecting a human is one of three capital offenses recognized by the Pride—along with murder and disclosure of our existence to a human.

I'm two for three. A goner.

Now we've discovered a rogue stray terrorizing the mountainside, hunting a wild teenage tabbycat. It's up to us to find and stop him before a human discovers us. With my lover Marc's help, I think I can protect the vulnerable girl from both the ambitious rogue and the scheming of the territorial council.

If I survive my own trial…

Thoughts: I am SO friggin’ glad I stuck with this series! Because Faythe? The character who I have consistently used as the poster girl for “everything I hate in a narrator”?  The character whose name I’d use as a synonym for “OMG she needs to die”?

Well, I kinda like her now.

People have been telling me for years (literally – I realised I started this series back in 2009) that Faythe gets better and grows up with every book. And they’re right – she does grow up. She’s not yet at the point where I actually would spend more than a half-a-minute with her, but she’s getting there. Because all the things I hated about her – her rudeness, her temper, her impulsiveness, her insistence that it is her-way-or-the-highway – they are becoming the things I love about her. Why? Because Kaci – the tabbycat in the summary – needs these qualities in Faythe in order to keep her protected.  Turns out Faythe can be totally awesome while she’s protecting someone…

Moving on.  The plot is as tight as always. Even though there is a tonne of werecat-political intrigue, there is also a whole bunch of action. All the bloods-and-guts scenes that I felt were missing from Rogue are back in full force. Not to mention Vincent gives us not-one-but-two excellent villains to hate. It’s fantastic…

And then there’s the wonderful-as-always Marc. He’s such a cat in some ways – violent and temperamental – but he’s also so bloody noble that I just want to squeeze him to death.  Love this guy! Ooh, I also adored Elias Keller, the were-bear introduced within the first few chapters. I was intrigued to find out the verse had more were-species, and that Keller turned out be a welcome voice of reason among the pride of kitties made me even happier.

Bottom line?  Pride made me a believer in this series. If you gave up on Faythe during Stray, well, you should stick it out. She may be frustrating, but the series is well worth the effort.

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