Jay Reads ‘A Game of Thrones’: Day 1

And yet again we see the beginning of me attempting some sort of project. I have completely awful carry-through on things like this but I’m hoping a combination of my disgruntled pride, assiduous dog-earing, and public posting will keep me on track this time.

Before I begin, some background. I haven’t watched the HBO series – don’t know if I will ever bother. And I have a habit of contrariness that makes me react to bandwagons by – generally – running the other way. In the case of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, I had heard of it some before it became absolutely huge. Had picked up a book in a bookstore and glanced at it now and again. For whatever reason, the blurbs never convinced me to do more than that. Then, when it became big at the promise of the TV series (or whatever the impetus was), I read a few critical reviews that had some sharp things to say about various Serious Issues (i.e. sexism, race, etc.) and that combined with my contrariness cemented a resolve to not, in fact, become interested in this series.

That last a year or so, I guess. A good friend of mine ended up reading them, and is somewhat prone to drunken ramblings about the series which are actually interesting to listen to. Plus I was sort of seduced by the awesomeness that is Peter Dinklage and if I ever do watch the TV show, it will be because of him. So, having little else to do this summer, I’ve finally given in and bought the first four books. (It was a box-set that cost only $25 on Chapters-Indigo online. What can I say? Not a price to pass up!) And partially as a way to maintain my wounded pride and salve my dignity and partially as a mental exercise for the fun of it, I’ve decided to read these books – or the first one, at least – with pencil in hand.

That is, read it rather more critically and consciously – and slowly – than I usually read. My usual pace is a bit more on the ‘devour it whole in one sitting’ side. So. Change is good, yes? Plus, annotations are fun. So, with that in mind, I’ve divided the first book up into roughly 50 page segments, ending each on the nearest chapter-end. I was going to do a post after every chapter, but then I realized how short the chapters are. So without further ado… I present my reaction post to the first 48 pages of <i>A Game of Thrones</i>.

Obviously massive spoilers underneath, if you, like me, have yet to read these books. Also a bit on the long side. Hopefully future posts will be shorter. But I don’t hold my breath.

My initial reaction is one, overall, of pleasant surprise and perked interest. GRRM is, thank all the gods, an actually good writer. And the book comes accompanied by a marvelous map. Simple enough to be readable, detailed enough to be interesting. My only complaints about the map are that a) it appears to be Westeros (??) only and b) the divisions between the Seven Kingdoms don’t appear to be drawn in and I would have expected to see that.

And there is an amusing little island called ‘The Paps’, too. Which makes me think of pap tests. Lulz what even. I thought it was ‘the Pups’ at first, which would make a bit more sense, I suppose, but nope. The Paps. Right-o, then.

I think its safe to say that my favourite section out of what I’ve read – the first four chapters plus the prologue – is, in fact, the prologue. Certainly poor Will is my favourite character thus far! Though by page 4 of the 10-page prologue I had concluded that it was highly unlikely we were going to be able to keep Will. It’s some sort of unspoken rule of fantasy novels, I think – the PoV character of the prologue must never be a PoV character afterwards, either becaues unmentioned furthermore or dead. So I was most astonished when it appeared that Will might actually live – and then not at all surprised when he didn’t.

Going through my scribbled notes on the pages of the prologue, I think the following can be said:

  • Was – and am – a bit baffled by the spelling of “Sir” as “Ser”. It’s a minor thing, that seems unnecessary to change, especially as the pronunciation doesn’t change… but then, because it is a subtly minor difference, it does remind one that this isn’t Our World. Not that I really NEED that reminding. Maybe there are people who do? xP
  • I have no idea what a “garron” is and must go look that up pronto. Its obviously referring to some sort of pony – or so I gather. But I can’t figure whether its just a made-up term, an obscure term, or a not-horse altogether. Figuring on it being a term of some sort, given that he uses “destrier” for the knight’s horse, which is an actual real world term.
  • Aha! Here we are! I was right. A Scottish or Irish word for a small sort of horse/pony. Interesting.
  • Ser Waymar Royce is an irritating wanker. I had concluded this by the first page and by the sixth page I have the following scribbled in a margin: gods gared just kill the little wanker.

    This was in response to: “Wind. Trees rustling. A wolf. Which sound is it that unmans you so, Gared?” When Gared did not answer, Royce slid gracefully from his saddle. (p. 6) Eighteen-year-old snot of a lordling. -__- Fking nobility.

  • There is some absolutely STUNNING description in the prologue, as well. Most particularly, and featuring an annotation saying so, was the description of the Other when it emerged. Likewise, the writing of the Royce’s fight with the Other and then subsequent death and Will’s creeping down was also some stunning writing. I love the pacing there, and the description, and the usage of one-line paragraphs for extra oomph-factor.
  • Zombie!Other!Royce got the eloquent annotation of “O__O” above the description of his one blue eye.

I won’t continue recording every little side-comment and scribbled emote face or “lol” – I skipped over several as was – but because I did enjoy the prologue so much, I felt it should be noted in detail.

So after that, I was rather looking forward to the rest, which pleased me. I had been dreading instantly disliking the book or GRRM’s writing or something. Nice to know I didn’t! I was also expecting that we’d never hear reference to the prologue again – or at least, not until some particularly climactic point or something. Tropes of fantasy writing and all.

So when, in Bran’s chapter, GRRM immediately provided enough hints for one to conclude that the unnamed deserter was poor Gared, I was delighted. I enjoyed Bran’s chapter as well, overall but had a few small nits to pick, as it were.

One is possibly just me reading in to the book based on how the media goes on, but I can’t help but feel that part of the reason for several comments about the ages of the boys – seven and fourteen and the nineteen Greyjoy who was a bit of an arse – was some sort of attempt to “shock” people. I dunno. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe that’s just me thinking things based on how the media has gone on and on about the violence and gore and ‘extreme realism’ in these books.

‘Cause at that point I was sitting there going “… so its a seven-year-old kid watching an execution. Yeah. Okay. Am I supposed to be shrivelling up in Civilized Horror here or something? ‘Cause at least they aren’t having a picnic and a party while a dying person dances at the end of a rope.” (Jaded history geeks, oh dear. I’ve read enough historical fiction and historical fantasy to see this sort of grittiness in epic/high fantasy and go “yep cool moving”.)

That, and Bran’s chapter also featured the first snarky comment about GRRM’s writing. We’re introduced to Jon Snow and he’s called ‘the bastard brother’ which you know, makes sense. First introduction.

Then literally four paragraphs – and more like three – later it is again written “and Bran looked over at his bastard brother” (p. 15). My comment? yeah got that 4 paragraphs ago. Because really bro. That’s just awkward. Okay so I may also be suffering from latent contrary-suspicion of Jon Snow who I’ve heard so much about via various sources and I’m like yes yes I get it he’s the bastard can we move on now?

The dire wolf pups were sweet – and oddly poetic at points – and Jon then finding a shunned albino pup after “sacrificing” for his trueborn siblings to each have a pup was utterly unsurprising. Of course the bastard son – who is obviously of some importance (and I don’t just say this because of what I’ve heard but from what I’ve read thus far) – finds a special symbol-thing emphasizing or marking or echoing his theoretical estrangement. Oh fantasy. xP

Catelyn’s chapter was sadly short. I hope we get more of her in later parts as I rather liked her point of view. Not much to comment on here (well, okay, loads I could comment on but this is full of stuff that could be commented on). But I did note at this point that GRRM was doing a nice job of elaborating on things he had hinted at in previous chapters more in following chapters, despite the character switches. Saw this later with Dany’s chapter, and Ned’s.

Now Daenerys’s chapter. Whoo-ee. I could write a post just on this one chapter alone. I could write an ESSAY on it. My first reaction was “LOLMG PURPLE EYE ALERT”, my second reaction was “wtf is up with their hair colour” and my third reaction was squicked bafflement at something I couldn’t quite pin down.

And then I did pin it down. I didn’t notice this in Catelyn’s chapter, or any of the other chapters. But I found that Dany – who I was possibly on alert for because Purple Eye Alert Speshul Beautiful Girl – was written oddly… lacking in agency. Maybe it was deliberate. Maybe it wasn’t. But I found her lack of actual action kinda creepy. Like. It isn’t a COMPLETE lack. On occasion an active verb is, in fact, directly connected to her. But quite often it isn’t. Either someone (usually Viserys who gets his own paragraph the creep) is doing [x] action TO her or she is “realizing” or “becoming aware of” her own body’s responses at this weird sort of distance.

It was creepy and made my skin crawl as I read it, though less so once I figured out what was creeping me out. (Hint: what made me notice it was how when GRRM wrote about her brother twisting her nipple quite hard and painfully, nothing of how she herself responded to that physically or mentally got written. It’s all Viserys Twists Her Nipple Painfully and not She Feels Her Nipple Twisted Painfully.

Also that is a thoroughly bizarre sentence that I just wrote.

And then there was Viserys. He alternately creeps me the fuck out or sends me into minor hysterics. The annotations about him consist of “no ur a paranoid douche” (in response to “I am the last dragon”) and “so viserys is a creepy fuckwad”. But at the same time I just can’t take the repeated references to “waking the dragon” seriously. XDDD It’s just… hilarious. I can’t even explain it. Partly its because a roleplay character of mine made a joke about “rising dragon” being slang for an erection and that’s immediately what I thought of and partly because its just such a ridiculous phrase. Like. Is it supposed to be awe-inspiring, or dreadful, or poetic, or something? ‘Cause I just cackle every time I read it. Because srsly Viserys. You’re like a purple-eyed Draco Malfoy and I don’t find you at all threatening, just pathetic. And creepy. And possibly a bit unstable.

There was one section of Dany’s chapter that very much pleased me though. It was all in the paragraph where she was looking around at Drogo’s various guests. On one hand I was pleased that non-White people were actually acknowledged to exist – including not just Brown people but actual Black people from somewhere called the Summer Isles.

But GRRM almost made up for the probably-inadvertent creepiness of how he was writing Dany with this sentence: Daenerys looked at them all in wonder… and realized, with a sudden start of fear, that she was the only woman there.

That just made me go ‘omg YES’. Because of course she would notice something like that – and find it frightening. Thirteen-year-old girl in a room full of dangerous men? Of COURSE. But GRRM could so easily have not written that in or let it slide or not noticed it himself. So it is quite pleasing that that one line was in there.

Also it needs to be repeated that Viserys is a creepy fuckwad who embodies the creep-danger factor of society rather well. Yes, just threaten your 13-yr-old sister with rape by forty thousand men why don’t you. Sounds like a modern rape culture joke. Which sort of doubled the ick quotient. :/

I really hope he dies in this book. And soon. -__-

And then my first Ned Stark chapter! Not much to say here, actually, other than that I’m trying to fight my instinctive reaction of “hmph NO1CURR” to Ned and the Starks purely because they are … well, Ned and the Starks. Am also trying to fight my growing Lannister fascination – I read some of the appendix info – but with rather less resolve than I’m fighting my contrariness. Well. All that, and these few things:

  • Why do people keep being described as so frigging TALL? Is anyone even average height here?
  • Also the Stark’s have yet to have their skin colour described, so while they definitely have grey eyes – and Robb has Tully colouration and is described as “fair” and basically as White – I’m sort of holding out for a fun little headcanon of the Starks being brown or black, and not white. They are descended from the ‘First Men’ right? Whoever they were. *g* I know its really REALLY unlikely and almost definitely not canon but I happened to notice that in their case skin colour wasn’t described just operating under ‘White = Default’ assumptions.
  • Robert Baratheon’s beard makes me think of pubes.
  • “You know the saying, about the king and his Hand?” No, but I can think of several masturbation jokes to answer with! ;P Or just straight up innuendo. As it were.
  • I really hope the whole ‘Winter is coming’ thing doesn’t get repeated TOO regularly. It could get old very fast.

Next section is Jon, and as I’ve heard much about him (him and Ned Stark) I’m looking forward to it!

Nothing terribly more elaborate to say, really. The plot is only just getting started, the pieces being introduced and shuffled into place, as it were.

TL;DR Round-up

Fave Character Thus Far: Will of the Night’s Watch, ex-poacher and regretfully deceased possibly some sort of zombie-thing?

Page Reached: 48

PoV Characters Met: Bran, Catelyn, Daenerys, Eddard

General Mood After Reading: Intrigued, content, and enjoying myself.

ETA: I’m a bit displeased with WordPress’ formatting for some reason. Ergh.

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About C/J

I'm a queer university student in Atlantic Canada, studying the liberal arts with a particular interest in history, linguistics, and (physical) anthropology, as well as any language I can get my hands on and anything else that strikes my fancy. I live my life by two words: question everything. (Including that notion itself.)

Posted on July 31, 2012, in Jay Reads and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. *skims wiki quickly* Ah, it appears Daenerys is short.
    Are you doing this once daily?

  2. You’ll be a good reader for this set of books. Will enjoy reading your reactions.
    You’re getting more out of Dany’s chapter than I did at first read, too.

    • Thanks!

      I’m a bit astonished I picked up on as much as I did – I think it is from deliberately reading with pencil in hand. Usually I’d just bulldoze on through, going my merry way.

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