“When you play a game of thrones you win or you die.”
It’s been so long since I actually read A Game of Thrones and I feel like the TV show has taken over most of my memory by now. Luckily, I thought with this reread it would be the perfect time to actually give this series a proper review. This review may have a few mild spoilers laced throughout, so please use caution while reading.
I was much more emotional than I thought I would be. I mean, I’ve read this before, I’ve seen most of this played out before my eyes, but my heart still wasn’t prepared. If anything I think it made it worse or me even more emotional, because I know the outcome of most these characters I’ve came to love.
“The things we love destroy us every time, lad. Remember that.”
Ned, my too honorable Ned. I completely forget he was only thirty-five years old. I mean, I know that’s considered old in this world, but rereading this series in my late twenties makes me appreciate his age even more. If only he listened to Renly. Hell, if only he listened to Little Finger things would have been different. There wouldn’t even be a game of thrones; the Starks would have just won.
All my empathy must have ran out with Ned and his children, because this reread really made me very upset at Catelyn. I used to think that Catelyn’s motives were because of House Tully’s motto: “Family, Duty, Honor”, AKA: family is greater than everything, but she’s actually pretty selfish or at least shows an incredible amount of partiality towards certain children of hers. As much as her actions and words towards Jon made me sick, my heart bled the most for poor Rickon. He was only three years old when his mother completely neglected him for weeks, only to then leave him completely. Then, when she has the opportunity to go back to Winterfell, when she meets up with Rob, she decided to stay and help guide him, instead of going back to her cripple child and toddler who both desperately need their mother while all of their family has abandoned them. I mean, I can only imagine the abandonment issues that Rickon is going to developed when we finally find out what he has been up to.
Bran is the character I feel like I gained the most knowledge about while rereading this book. I was a little blown away when I realized the first chapter was in his point of view. I feel like that has substantial meaning in and of itself. I’m not sure if George R.R. Martin has ever said before, but I have a sneaking suspicion that maybe Bran is one of his favorite characters. I also wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if Bran makes it to the very end and maybe even have the last chapter in his point of view.
My feelings on Sansa remained the same: annoyed. Yet, I know it’s not her fault, well, I mean, it is, but it’s her age and her hormones, too. She grew up dreaming of fairytales and wanted more than anything to one day be living one. Then, all of a sudden, she has a handsome prince dangled before her, with dreams of being queen one day. I completely can understand why Sansa does and says the things she does, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them or that I’m immune to being annoyed by them.
My feelings for Arya, also, remained the same: in awe. Arya will always be my favorite Stark. I hope if I have a daughter one day that she is strong, brave, and not afraid to be different like Arya. Her chapters may not be my favorite, but Arya has always felt like the character I care the most about. Like, I care more about her safety than all the rest. In contrast, Rob is the character I care the least about in this book, because he is just so damn boring. It’s no wonder why he doesn’t get his own points of view.
Jon’s way more angsty than I remember and dramatically more angsty than the show ever portrayed him. I mean, I understand he’s only fourteen in the book, I had just forgotten I suppose. And, my goodness, the R+L=J theory is thrown in your face left and right during this book. I am not sure how George R.R. Martin will be able to not have that be end game, because of all the foreshadowing in this book. I could fill this whole review with just me gushing over Jon, but I’ll save you and your eyes and just say I have a lot of love for this bastard.
“And I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples and bastards and broken things.”
If you would have asked me who my favorite character was in A Game of Thrones before this reread I would have probably said Jon. If not Jon, I would have picked Daenerys or Arya. But no, my favorite character in A Game of Thrones is without a doubt, hands down, no questions asked, Tyrion. Maybe this is also where my dislike for Catelyn comes in, because she acts pretty rash and treats him pretty badly, too. Tyrion is so kind, and his struggle to not be like his father is so admirable. His story line is so rich and rewarding, yet so heartbreaking. I found myself craving his chapters, becoming absolutely addicted to everything he said, all while using my highlighter like a crazy person because he has the best quotes, too.
“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
I love Drogo and Daenerys’ relationship and being able to see them overcome language barriers, cultural differences, hierarchy shifts, and fall in love is maybe the best thing in this book. I know a lot of people probably won’t romanticize their relationship, but I always found it heartwarming and endearing. Similar to my problems with Catelyn, I did find myself disliking Daenerys a little. I’m not going to say Mirri Maz Duur is innocent, she ends up doing some terrible things, but after this reread I totally think Drogo’s fate was his own fault, not Mirri’s. She made him a poultice, and he took it off to pack his cut with mud, which totally led to his infection. Then, when Mirri is pretty much given the options “heal Drogo or die” she forewarns Daenerys that she is going to use blood magic and a sacrifice must be made, and Daenerys gave her a confirmation without a lot of questions asked. Looking at it from her perspective, she was going to die if she didn’t try something. I don’t know, maybe I’m just older and more empathetic now, but that whole blame-game didn’t sit well with me this read-through. Yet, that didn’t stop me from crying like a baby at Daenerys and Drogo’s ending in this book.
The other thing I kept being unable to not notice with Daenerys was her constantly referral to home being that red door in Dragonstone. I know she could rule the seven kingdoms from Dragonstone instead of King’s Landing, but maybe she would also find peace and solace bringing honor to the House Targaryen and becoming Lady of Dragonstone until the end of her days. I mean, I’m probably thinking way too much into this and I know it’s a huge stretch, but would George R.R. Martin really make it as simple as Daenerys winning the game of thrones? I feel like the entirety of the series is set up for that, and George R.R. Martin likes twists far too much for that. In before Varys.
I loved the cameos from some overlooked characters that I tend to forget about. I loved seeing Osha being brought into the story, especially since George R.R. Martin does such a wonderful job hiding how important she will end up being. I enjoyed reading about Beric immensely. I mean, his fire sword is incredibly badass, and knowing his completely different story arc on the TV show makes me enjoy reading about how vastly different his path will leads in the book. Jeor was also a very enjoyable side character, and I loved seeing angsty Jon attempting to be his personal steward.
I know this book can seem overwhelming just from the size alone. I also know reading it is a little less appealing because of the HBO’s genius of making it the best TV show on air as of now. Yet, I have to advocate that you will gain a lot of missing information from actually reading this book. Honestly, this book never felt like 800 pages for me. The multiple perspectives are amazing, and I love being in certain protagonist’s heads, while seeing how another protagonist feels as an outsider looking in on the situation. George R.R. Martin is a wonderful story teller, and this world he has created is unlike anything else. This book does have some pretty dark themes, so please use caution if you are uncomfortable reading about rape, highly explicit sex scenes, and just overall a lot of violence.
Overall, I’m so happy I did this reread. I’m so sorry if I’m theory crafting too much, I blame my love for it on Reddit completely. I feel very satisfied with picking up themes I feel like I didn’t see before. As I said before, I think I’m a much more empathetic reader now and I think that is the reason I changed my views on many characters. I’m so excited to see what else I find, and figure out how else I feel, while rereading the rest of these books. This reread also reinforced that my love for A Song of Ice and Fire knows no bounds.
“We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.”