This started out as a facebook post in reaction to this but quickly grew into a rambling mess which I spent the next half hour editing into something coherent.
***Spoilers below for the all five books and all five seasons ***
I started watching Game of Thrones before I even knew there was a book series it was based on. I caught up to the second season and when that ended I knew that I needed more. So I went out and bought the first two books having read online that each season of the books corresponds with the show. I loved reading the books as much as I loved watching the show, the narrative in GRRM’s novels filled in the gaps for me as I went along. Some of the major events that rocked my world on the screen hit me just as hard when I absorbed George’s prose and I eagerly awaited what was to come. Due to time constraints, a student’s budget and the enjoyment I got from watching the show with friends I decided to adopt a “watch a season – read a book routine” so that I would keep pace with (and not annoy) my friends who weren’t reading the books.
Then season 3 happened and we were left hanging after the Red Wedding.
Waiting for season four was agony. I found myself spending what little money I had on the next three books in the series and I took them home completely ready to devour them over a week. I’m not sure what stopped me (probably school obligations) but I found myself waiting for the next season of the show with more anticipation than I thought I could ever contain. I watched all of the promotional material over and over again but at the same time I avoided dreaded spoilers like a plague. I formed my own theories in my head. I was obsessed.
The fourth season began and I was not disappointed. The action and the intrigue were just as good as they had ever been but for some reason it wasn’t enough. I needed more. I turned back to the books and read them at a pace that I hadn’t been able to reach since the Harry Potter series. Reading A Feast For Crows in tandem with watching the fourth season of ‘Game of Thrones’ was an interesting experience. The level of detail in the novels far surpasses what we receive on the television screen (which is really saying something because HBO spares almost no expense in Game of Thrones‘ production values) but the basic plot is the same. So when a character was introduced in the novels but never appeared in the show, or when two characters were combined together or one character or event was never seen or mentioned you didn’t so much get the sense that something is being left out or that this is an alternate universe (as I have seen some fans use to explain the differences between the media) but rather you are truly getting an adaptation from a loving fan. Similarly, Tolkien’s novels and Jackson’s films are vastly different but tell the same story and all are excellent (I’m not counting The Hobbit ‘trilogy’).
I finished reading A Dance With Dragons well ahead of season five of Game of Thrones. Now that I was all caught up I poured myself into fan theories and speculation. I read through the lore on the Game of Thrones Wiki and I would have tracked down Martin’s other works such as The Hedge Knight and A World of Ice and Fire if I had the extra time or money. With the knowledge of the plot from all five novels and some extra background info on the world of the story I finally watched the show from the perspective of someone who knew what was coming.
And to be honest, the books are better. The foreknowledge in some ways ruined what was coming for me. Not to say that Game of Thrones is not worth watching. ‘Hardhome’ (Season Five, Episode Eight) had me holding my breath for its entirety and that was completely different from anything the novels presented. I couldn’t watch the death of Shireen Baratheon and I couldn’t even listen to it. I had to turn the volume down lest I be sick. Cersei’s walk played out on the screen exactly as I saw it in my head. The actors and showrunners continue to deserve every Emmy that they win.
But some things were not handled particularly well. Dorne was a mess. The Greyjoys have not been heard from in almost a whole season. Why is Jaime Lannister not in the Riverlands where his redemptive arc is more satisfying and makes more sense? (although he and Bronn work almost as well together as Bronn and Tyrion. Actually everybody works well with Bronn. We need more Bronn).
This is definitely the result of the show’s budget and the minor changes which were introduced earlier in the series. And that’s okay. GRRM has said before that the show and the novel are different animals and I could not agree more. The novels were not perfect either (what was the point of sending Doran Martell to Dorne other than to fuck up, release Dany’s dragons and die?) but they are consistently good, daresay, incredible. Watching Game of Thrones and reading ‘A Song of Ice and
Fire’ are two very different yet very enjoyable experiences that complement one another.
Now George is saying that the next book, The Winds of Winter, is not going to be finished in time for Season Six. To me that’s a little disappointing but also a little exciting. Now I’m practically back to where I was when I startedmy adventure through Westeros and Essos; I know nothing about what’s next but I cannot wait to find out. And when this season has ended and I have gotten a good taste I will go back for my second portion of this feast and truly appreciate the nuances of each flavor and texture which GRRM is using to tell his story.
Furthermore, as an aspiring author I truly understand and appreciate when GRRM says “sometimes the writing goes well and sometimes it doesn’t.” Writing is hard. Writing a good story is really hard. Writing a cohesive story incorporating hundreds of characters, spanning two continents and hundreds (or even thousands) of years of backstory and making it a best-selling page-turner is hard as shit.
Godspeed George R. R. Martin, your fans eagerly await what’s coming next. For now we will be happy with HBO’s excellent adaptation of your work.
But please, can you write just a little bit faster?