Reflecting on A Game of Thrones, the book that spawned a global obsession
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As the final season of Game of Thrones draws to a close, it seems apt to look back on the source material of that television series. And so, we go back to the very beginning - to A Game of Thrones, book one of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy cycle A Song of Ice and Fire, first published more than two decades ago in 1996.
Image credit: Bago Games via FlickrBut first, a confession. I was late to this particular game; it was only two years ago that I caught up on the TV series from the beginning, and until now I had never read any of the books. And even now, whilst the final ever episodes of the show air, I have still only read the first volume of Martin’s series. So, I am looking at the book with fresh eyes, refracted through my (only recent) familiarity with the TV programme. Whilst the show has overtaken the books in recent years (and for some, particularly as this relates to the final series, this has proven a bitter disappointment) the earlier seasons were pretty much straight adaptations of Martin’s work (and he himself wrote episodes for the first four seasons of the show). As I was reading A Game of Thrones, hazy memories of the first series intruded upon my mind. I saw the characters as they were in the TV show, even when Martin’s descriptions of them differed to the on-screen versions. Nonetheless, one cannot help but feel that the TV series was at its best when relying heavily on the source material, for Martin’s original version of this saga of war over the Iron Throne and distant undead threats, at least as far as my experience goes, is masterful. Martin undoubtedly owes a great debt to Tolkien but, while this is valid, it is also the case that A Game of Thrones is very much anti-Tolkienian fantasy. Martin weaves history, world-building, myth, and magic into his narrative, which is never short of absorbing and easy to read despite its length and density. This is Tolkien’s legacy; where Martin differs, of course, is in the dark realism of his world.
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