Lauren and Lu review A Game of Thrones

Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Published: 1996
Genre: fantasy, epic fantasy

Please note: the following discussion is intended for those who have already read the book and contains numerous SPOILERS

General Impressions

Lauren: This is actually an odd book to start our feature with, because rather than having a major difference of opinion, we both loved it

Lu: So true Lauren, but with out initial discussions it sounds like we have some conflicting character views!

Lauren: As I said in my own review, I tore through this baby in three or four days, despite its length. It’s simply one of the best reads I’ve come across in a long time – entertaining, intriguing, emotionally engaging. It has everything I love in a book – good writing, interesting characters, an amazing world and a riveting story. The only reason it lost one rating point with me is that this medieval England setting is a huge cliche in epic fantasy. Nevertheless, it’s the kind of book I got completely immersed in – it just feels so real, and I cared about the characters, whether I loved them and was worrying about them and cheering for them, or hated them and wanted them to to be eaten by ice zombies.

Lu: I knew this was going to be good because everyone I know who read it raved about it. But I never expected it to be a masterpiece. I have only given one other book a 10 out of 10 – Pillars of the Earth – but this epic novel joins its ranks, if not trumps it.

The characters are so rich, so detailed, and the twists and turns make you gasp!

I could go on and on about how fantastic, amazing, brilliant and satisfying this book was, but you will only understand if you read it yourself.

Favourite Characters

Lauren: Dany. Arya and Tryion.

Arya is my feminist rebel hero. She doesn’t want to practice her sewing, she wants to play outside with the boys, go riding and learn to use a sword. She’s smart and bold, and although her feisty spirit sometimes causes trouble, I understand where she’s coming from and I’m always on her side. She’s also a class hero; while others observe the social boundaries between nobility and servants, Arya will make friends with anyone.

Dany too is a wonderful feminist figure, but unlike Arya she’s incredibly regal. She goes from being this timid young girl who has learnt to live with the loneliness of exile and accepts her brother’s cruelty, to being this otherworldly leader who will one day raise an army and cross the ocean to wage war for her throne.

As  a hideous, crippled dwarf, Tyrion is a complete underdog. However, since he’s not good looking, physically fit and thus not destined to be a great warrior or anything, he’s not the stereotypical underdog (that role goes to Jon Snow). Instead he gets by on his wits, so he won me over by being funny and smart. Unlike the other Lannisters, he’s kind and good, but he’s cunning too. Because of his looks he’s had to endure a lot of torment during his life, (and still does), even from his own family. He’s dealt with it admirably, but he still has some emotional vulnerabilities that serve to soften his character and make him more endearing.

Lu: My favorite was Dany because she showed such heart and courage and is utterly fascinating! I also love how she accepts her fate and then tries to make the best of it.

And at first I was worried that Khal Drogo would abuse her, but he turned out to such a nice character who I think really loved her. I think he would have given her the world if he’d lived.

But I also like Catelyn Stark. She’s ballsy and has real fight in her! She might not like Jon so much, but hey if my husband had a child with someone else I wouldn’t be happy about it either.

I disliked Arya however, and sort of liked Sansa a bit more than her. Don’t shoot me now 😛

Lauren:  Dany’s adaptation to Dothraki culture is incredible, yet another sign of her strength and endurance. However, I feel that the way she simply accepts what is imposed on her is characteristic of the early, weak Dany; she has to rise above that to become a leader and a potential queen.

I can’t believe you didn’t like Arya! it’s just bizarre! However, since I’m sure you’re one of very few people who will take Sansa’s side over Arya’s, you’ve got an interesting point of view…

Arya Stark

Lu: I found Arya very annoying and opinionated. I also got really mad over the Joffrey situation, where the butcher boy and Lady ended up getting killed.

Lauren: For me, Arya being opinionated is very good, not bad. If she were well-behaved, she’d just be like her sister Sansa, and she wouldn’t be interesting. I was very surprised that you didn’t take Arya’s side in the incident with Joffrey and the butcher’s boy. There are so many things in that scene that make Arya heroic. She’s not like her silly sister, sitting around waiting for a gallant prince to sweep her off her feet like girls are supposed to do. She wants to learn to fight, so she takes the initiative of befriending the butcher’s boy and getting him to help her. Arya steps in to defend her friend when Joffrey threatens him, even though Joffrey’s got a real sword and can hurt her.

Lu: I fully agree with you about her being a boring character if she was like her sister, but she’s still a bit over-the-top for me. As to the incident with Joffrey, these aren’tt modern times; she lives in an age where royalty must be obeyed. I understand she has a mind of her own and doesn’t bow to anybody, but she needs to realise that things might not go the way she wanted. Sure she protected the butcher’s boy, but I think there was a more diplomatic way to do it. And what happens? The butcher’s boy and Lady get killed. About her not being a dreamer and waiting for a prince to sweep her of her feet – I understand where Sansa is coming from here. She was brought up with stories of princes and castles, and there is nothing wrong with wanting that.

Lauren: I actually do think there’s a problem with what Sansa wants, but more on that later. If you are willing to to blame Sansa’s point of view on her upbringing, then you also have to acknowledge the fact that Arya has grown up in the Stark home, where Ned is a kind, just patriarch and Catelyn is a good mother. When the Barantheons come to Winterfell, the Stark children get their first taste of noblity as cruel and irresponsible people. Joffrey’s behaviour isn’t typical of royalty either; he’s a bully, and he’s always been allowed if not encouraged to be a bully. Arya’s outrage is justified.

I think it’s also unfair to ask her to be more diplomatic. Firstly, she’s just a child. Secondly, she’s a better person for acting passionately – if your friend was being attacked it makes sense for you to act boldly out of a sense of loyalty. The injustice of Joffrey’s actions should also evoke anger. And finally, if Arya tried being diplomatic, do you think Joffrey would have paid any attention to her? Sansa begs him to stop, but even though she’s his future wife he ignores her.

Yes, Arya’s actions have terrible consequences, but you can’t blame her for them. Sansa lies to protect Joffrey (in my opinion, one of the worst betrayals in the book, which made me hate Sansa even more than Joffrey), Cersei is especially cruel in demanding blood, and both Robert and Ned are totally spineless. Robert, lazy drunkard, just wants the whole thing to be over. Ned, true to his character, is so focussed on being honourable and diplomatic that he won’t stand up to Robert and Cersei. In fact, based on that I’d say hats off to Arya for doing what was right instead of doing what was diplomatic. It’s more than her father could do, and look where all his honour and diplomacy got him.

Lu: I get what you’re saying, and I understand why she did what she did; I’m just upset about Lady and I don’t think Arya should be surprised at the outcome of her actions. Sure it was unjust, but I think here we can see she is really like Sansa, as she is a dreamer too. She thinks justice will prevail.

Sansa shouldn’t have lied. But I think she was just so mad at her sister. She just wanted Arya to play nice and visit Cersei with her. Sure Arya wants to do what she wants, but I think it’s selfish she didn’t help her sister. And then the Joffrey thing happens. Sansa is trying so hard to hold onto this dream and all she sees is her sister taking it away from her.

I in no way think Sansa is right though. I can just see why she acts like she does. To be honest, I think they are both annoying and I would rather read from someone else’s perspective.

Oh, and I fully agree about it being the parents’ fault. They’re awful role models.

Lauren: Ok, I concede that Arya could have been a little nicer and tried to help Sansa (although it would have been dead-boring), and I also found Lady’s death very upsetting. However, I would say that Arya is still being more realistic – unlike Sansa she can see what horrible people Joffrey and Cersei are. That’s why she runs away, and why she chases Nymeria away – she knows they would harm or kill her direwolf. So she doesn’t expect justice to prevail, but she can’t anticipate that Cersei will be even crueler than expected.

And if Arya should support her sister’s dreams, why shouldn’t Sansa show some support for Arya’s ambitions?

Lu: Well because Arya’s only ambitions seem to bring shame to their house. It is uncharacteristic for the time they are in. Sansa probably thinks Arya is only there to cause trouble, and she can’t see that Arya really wants to break free and be her own person. Its sad because they are sisters and should really support each other.

Lauren: Arya doesn’t bring shame! She’s unusual, but that’s what makes her so wonderful. At least she doesn’t betray Sansa; she would have told the truth about Joffrey, or leapt in to protect Sansa if she were attacked. Meanwhile, in the chaos after Ned’s arrest, Sansa completely forgets about Arya until much later.

Lu: I have at agree with you. How the hell did Sansa forget about her sister after the Ned thing?

Sansa Stark

Lauren: So it seems like we can both understand why Arya and Sansa act the way they do, but you can’t forgive Arya while I can’t forgive Sansa. Yes, her upbringing has made her look at the world in a delusional way, but what I can’t stand about her is that she won’t think for herself and see that the real world is not romantic. Arya turned out differently, and Catelyn is nothing like Sansa.

She tries so hard to make everything fit the delusion she believes in that she even hurts her family. I love Arya’s intelligence, sense of justice and fighting spirit; Sansa is the opposite – she’s naive, stupid and her sense of morality is distorted. And if it can be said that Arya got Lady and the butcher’s boy killed, then it could also be said that Sansa gets their father killed. She betrays him by telling Cersei his plans because she wants so badly for the Queen to like her, and because in her romantic world, Cersei is the beautiful, kind queen. Then Sansa convinces Ned to falsely confess to treason because, again, she trusts that Cersei and Joffrey will be as noble, but Joffrey has Ned beheaded.

Lu: I agree she is naive and stupid at times. But remember she did try very hard to get Cersei to save her father’s life. It was Joffrey the idiot who just killed him anyway (I hope he dies painfully). Anyway I still feel sorry for her, she is thrust into this untrusting gray world and all she wants is her fairytale ending. I have high hopes for her though, I think she’ll see the light and bring them all down! Just like I think Catelyn will take revenge on them all for killing Ned. I think she is probably my second favorite character.

What did you think of Catelyn?

Lauren: Hmph, it’s Sansa who gets Ned imprisoned in the first place. Arya argued that Lady shouldn’t be killed either. If you can give Sansa credit for trying to save her father, why not the same for Arya and Lady? And everybody wants a fairytale ending but I hate Sansa for thinking it’s actually going to happen and for being so mean to Arya because she’s not a fairytale girl.

I think Sansa will eventually change and I might even come to like her, but by then I think she’s going to be a very damaged person.

Lu: True Arya tried to save Lady, but once again she didn’t do it Arya style. She sort of went too quiet in my opinion. I agree Sansa has some rough times ahead!

Catelyn Stark

Lauren: I agree with you: Catelyn is ballsy, and I admire her courage and practicality. She’s not just a glorified housewife but is adept at politics and not afraid to get her hands dirty. However, I can’t help holding a grudge against her for the way she treats Jon. She has every right to be angry that Ned fathered a bastard, but Jon himself has done nothing wrong. He loves his family very much, and bears his status as a bastard well.

Catelyn can also be extreme. After Bran’s fall she’s hysterical with worry and refuses to leave his side, even though little Rickon needs her. She keeps Bran’s direwolf away not realising how good he is for Bran, and she’s lucky he managed to get into the tower to save them from the assassin. She’s so clingy that it’s destructive. Then, after she recovers from the assassin’s attack, she’s suddenly very business-like again and heads out on a quest without being too concerned about Bran and Rickon. Later, for all her good intentions, she creates trouble when she falsely accuses and kidnaps Tyrion, a character I like very much.

So, while I empathise with and even admire her, I don’t really like her much, and in general she’s not exactly heart-warming.

Lu: Yeah, I agree she should be mad at Ned and not Jon. I think she just hates the fact that he is there to remind her of the betrayal. I think she wants to feel like a strong woman that a man would love to love, but Jon reminds her that she couldn’t be enough for Ned.

Lol, yeah, Catelyn went a bit psycho when Bran fell. I was actually mad at her for letting her crazy sister take over too. I would have taken my prisoner and left.

But despite all of this I still like her a lot!

In closing?

Lauren: The ending was one of the best I’ve read in a long, long time, but even before that there was absolutely no question of going on to the next book in the series A Clash of Kings. I finished that and enjoyed it just as much as A Game of Thrones, even though things are getting rather bleak and there are so many characters I can’t keep track. And now it’s on to the third, A Storm of Swords. I should pace myself though – I don’t want to run out of books and then have to wait for the next one to be published!

Lu: Wow the ending! I was really sad about Khal Drogo and Ned! But I can’t wait to see what Dany does and how she tries to reclaim her throne.

Lauren: I think it would be totally awesome if Dany flew into King’s Landing on the back of a dragon. And hopefully the dragon will burn Joffrey to a crisp.

Lu: Yes that would be brilliant!!!

Lu and I are very different readers. She’s easygoing, I’m demanding. She loves YA and paranormal romance, I don’t. I love sci fi and dark fantasy, she just dabbles. I want good writing and interesting ideas, while Lu is happy with a great story, interesting characters and a few twists. Together we’ll argue our conflicting points of view in joint reviews and you get the benefit of two perspectives instead of just one.