The 'Game of Thrones' Book Club, week 2: The plot(s) thicken, and I struggle to keep up

[Note: As I get further into the book, it's going to be more and more difficult -- if not impossible -- to avoid writing spoilers. So if you haven't read at least the first two thirds of A Game of Thrones, I'd suggest you put this post aside and read it when you're all caught up.]

Wow. Where do I even begin? At this point, A Game of Thrones‘s crazily complex narrative has been split into no fewer than five major story lines, some of which are a lot more compelling than others. (Sorry, Jon Snow; wake me up when Uncle Benjen emerges from the Haunted Forest as a zombie or a White Wizard or something.) As a result, so much is happening that I can barely keep track of it all (case in point: wait, who’s Ser Jorah again?). And since more and more characters are splintering off to have their own adventures — Tyrion’s trekking away from the Eyrie, Sansa and Arya will supposedly soon be on a boat bound for Winterfell, and so on — I have a feeling the number of disparate story lines will only grow from here. Clearly, George R. R. Martin wasn’t lying when he said that he meant his series to be “unfilmable.”

So let’s focus first on the development that will probably have the greatest effect on the rest of the story: the untimely, undignified death of King Robert. Though I’m all for forward momentum, I found the king’s sudden passing to be more than a little convenient, especially since it came mere pages after Ned confronted Cersei about her dark family secret. (That meeting also irked me — why, exactly, was she so quick to admit to adulterous incest? Also: Eww.) I did, however, admire the poetic justice of the fierce and gluttonous Baratheon meeting his end after an unfortunate incident involving a wild boar. And I can’t wait to see what’ll happen now that Ned has insisted on annointing Stannis Baratheon, the king’s true heir, instead of taking Littlefinger’s less-honorable advice. Full-fledged war will have to bring all these plot threads together, right?

On a totally different note, I’m starting to look forward to Daenerys’s sections more as I continue reading. She’s grown and changed more than any other character in the book, at least so far, and I’m really enjoying watching her transformation; the khaleesi who watched her brother burn to death in a pile of molten gold has come a long way from the scared little girl we first met in Thrones‘s third chapter. Maybe I also like Dany more now because Martin finally provided a hint as to how the hell “Daenerys” is pronounced — at one point, Khal Drogo calls her “Dan Ares.” It can’t be an accident that an alternate spelling for the Greek god of war is part of her name, right? (Another cool thing I learned while putting this post together: Jaime means “he who supplants,” making it an appropriate moniker for someone who’s looking to overthrow a king.) I’m crossing my fingers that we actually get to see her interact with people like Arya and Tyrion before the book is over.

And speaking of Tyrion — I seriously cannot wait to watch HBO’s take on the entire Eyrie sequence. The sky cells — high-altitude prison chambers with one open wall apiece — might just be Martin’s most innovative idea, and I’m sure Game of Thrones‘s production designer will take the idea and run with it. Paranoid Lady Lysa and her sickly, creepily coddled son also have a great gothic vibe to them that’s got to be amazingly disturbing onscreen. Here’s hoping Catelyn gets the hell out of her sister’s house of inappropriate breast-feeding ASAP — especially since Lysa has said a dozen times that her stronghold could never be breached. Methinks the crazy lady doth protest too much.

Shelf Lifers, how do you feel now that you’ve reached this point in A Game of Thrones? Do you think the many-layered plot is getting too complex, or do you wish Martin would pile on a few more threads, just for fun? Who do you most hope will survive the inevitable concluding bloodbath? And how awesome was Viserys’s gruesome demise: so awesome, or the most awesome? I’ll see you here next week, where we’ll discuss the last third of A Game of Thrones.

Comments (33 total) Add your comment
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  • tlw

    This is the 4th or 5th time since 1996 that I’ve read this book. I’m almost done with it and a bit past where you are now, so I won’t give any extra info. HBO just had a Making Of last week that showed part of the Eyrie, plus a couple of pictures and previews floating around the interwebs. Very cool.
    The pronunciation of some of the names does get confusing. I think Daenerys is closer to Dane-AIR-iss, but Dan Ares works too.
    These books are very dense, and each time I’ve reread this one I’ve found something new. Jon’s story is a bit slow, but I find it enjoyable and a great character build. Hope you enjoy the rest of the book and dig into the next one!

  • Michelle

    Oh Hillary, you have no idea what’s about to leap off the page…just wait till you read the last part of the novel. Winter is coming.

    And Jon Snow’s storyline will become more interesting as Daenerys especially as you continue reading the series.

    • KBT

      I’ve read all the books to date and Jon is definitely one of my favorite characters. I hate that Martin killed off certain characters but I see Jon making it the end.

    • Ronit

      I love Arya too! I can’t wait for the sreeis to come to Netflix. Maybe it’s already there? I loved the book too. WAiting on the second, but maybe it would be better to read after RIP. I’m already behind.

  • John

    “I’m crossing my fingers that we actually get to see her interact with people like Arya and Tyrion before the book is over.” LMAO

  • jodipo

    Dany (pronounced dan AIR is) is without a doubt the character who goes through the most growth in this book. Roberts death was indeed too convenient. Eddard is my favorite character by far, and Jon is not the best storyline throughout the first book. Ok, ew about the incest when your last past on the first third pointed out their scene with Bran as the part that really caught your attention? really? Lastly, I think you are maybe in for a lot of disappointment if you are already getting confused. The first book is the easiest to follow by far.

  • Ian MacNeil

    I’m almost finished with the 2nd book. But it’s fun to go back and read your posts. I’m looking forward to the series very much. I envy you guys read the 1st book for the first time. It only gets better and better.

  • John A

    Oh man, I wasn’t going to reread it before the first season was over, but reading about all of these incredible moments has me itching to start again. SO GOOD! And Jon will quickly become a much more awesome character :).

  • Steel_Wind

    I am surprised that you do not find Jon Snow’s tale very interesting. Jon is, essentially, the hero of the series and is generally regarded as the “fan favorite” of the A story lines.

    I honestly wonder if there is a bit of a gender bias in terms of how people read the books. Usually, for most readers. it’s the “Catelyn” and the “Sansa” POV chapters that most readers grimace as they turn the page to find one of their chapters next!

    If “most readers” equals “most male readers” then that may explain your reaction.

    Whatever the case, Jon’s character and the tale North of the Wall is the most classic “fantasy” story within SoIaF.

    • Merry Bear

      I’ve just finished the book (for the first time), and am happy to hear I’m not the only one who enjoys Jon’s story above all others. I like his quiet, darker nature and fierce loyalty to his family. And you’re right, his is a classic story, but well-told nonetheless.
      Sansa is probably my least favorite character thus far, but Catelyn grew on me as the story progressed. I have to admit to grimacing at the sisters’ chapters.

  • DA

    Convenient? Cersei was more than a little aware of how much danger she was in =).

    • thin

      Yeah. You have to keep in mind what Varys had to say about what was planned for Robert in the tournament. Without Ned’s intervention, he would have been days days (or weeks? the passing of time is often vague in these books) earlier.

      And I’m just going to echo what others have had to say about Jon. Some of the characters the chapters focus on have slower starts than others, but as they deepen, they all get pretty good, and Jon’s is up there with the best of them (more things are going to start happening soon). I don’t think there’s a single thread going as of the end of book four that I don’t think is interesting.

      • thin

        Bah. Robert would have been *dead* days (or weeks) earlier.

  • Gecc1

    @Steel_Wind. Jon may be the most classic character, but while true he is a fan favorite I would rank him third behind Tyrion and Arya.

    @Hillary. Too convenient indeed. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, me thinks :-)

  • Alex

    Daenerys is an interesting one. Some people love her, and some hate her.

    Anyways, don’t forget about the index in the back of the book. But Ser Jorah is the exiled and dishonoured son of Jeor Mormont, the “Old Bear” who is the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.

    • Cannae

      The scenes from the Eyrie were my favorite reads from this section of the book. This is also where I grew closer to Eddard Stark. I relate strongly to his character and that of Jon Snow.

      You’ll be reading a long time before you get to see Dany interact with anyone from present Westeros.

    • thin

      The connection between the Mormonts was one of those details I did not pick up on until much later in the story the first time I read these books. And who doesn’t love Dany?

      • Agathress

        How cool about the felmae characters! I doubt I’ll read this book, to be honest, but I’m so glad you think it’s good, and I’m glad Hobgoblin enjoyed it. He hasn’t gone on to the second one yet, but I’m sure he will at some point.

  • Martin Fan

    I disagree that the book is difficult to follow. I felt as if Martin focused on the characters he wants you to pay attention to. For example, you know Ser Jorah is around but don’t pay entirely too much attention to him. When Robert is talking to Ned about Dany being pregnant, they mentions Ser Jorah and how he wants to be pardoned. Martin made it a point to remind you who he is, so you aren’t lost in the conversation.

    The King’s death seemed convinient?!? Didn’t finding WMD’s in Iraq seem convinient? Isn’t that all part of politics, how certain things just tend to happen and someone ultimately benefits to reach their personal goals? Just sayin’, you can see his death coming a mile away. One of the few you can predict.

  • sabrina W

    jon arya tyrion & dany are my fav characters so far, bran just make sad that he has to go through so much at his age!!! personally i found jon story most interesting fantasy wise, dany is the most unexpected, arya adventurous and tyrion funniest!! about robert’s death , they had been trying to kill him for months, cersei confessing her sins/robert death just seem to be convenient, but what happens next is just **headshaking…” i remember asking eddard why the hailll did u tell her what u had discovered dummmyyyyy!!! meanwhile i was impressed at cersei cold confession she did not even protest “yes, so…!”

  • Jen J

    Just finished the book this morning. The aerie scenes were truely creepy and unforgettable. Characters keep moving up and down in my estimation, and the character chapters I used to look for, I found looking forward to less and others more as the story progressed. I found myself getting “battle fatigue” in the middle some time after the King’s death and my mind would wander as I tried to read. And then I began to suspect the book wasn’t going to end at all (I mean I knew it was a 5 book series going in, but I thought each one would have a semi-contained story). When I saw how few Arya chapters left there were, I knew it was true. Then something happned (OMG!!!!! so shocking!!!) and I was right back in the story. I couldn’t wait to see how the other characters reacted to the event. But then the characters didni’t do much at all about it. At least Sansa finally did what I expected her to do. Debating now whether to head right into book two, or wait a bit.

    • Vohdre

      It’s a 7 book series. The 5th book is (supposed) to be released 7/12.

      • Jen J

        Doesn’t matter how many books there are. The point remains the same.

      • thin

        I think he/she might just be making sure you know so that you aren’t surprised/disappointed/frustrated when you get to the end of book 5 and the story isn’t resolved yet.

  • Beth

    I think I’ve enjoyed Dany’s story more than anyone so far, also. Well, except for Tyrion, who’s just…cool. I’m actually looking forward to Robert’s plans for her demise to start to take shape, and how she and Khal Drogo respond to that. But I’ve enjoyed Jon Snow’s story, mostly because I do like the character. I find him the most moralistic character and, given his hesitation at staying at the Wall, it will be interesting to see how he gets caught up in the politics and fighting.

  • aughra2020

    Did anyone notice the Big Bang shoutout to the series? Leonard’s reading and says something about “Eddard shouldn’t let his kids play with dire wolves.” Everyone can read!

    • Raj

      The shout out was in Chuck. Chuck was reading the first book and said something like…”Oh Eddard, that’s crazy. Of course you should not allow your kids to keep direwolves.”

      (Maybe there was a very similar shout out in TBBT, but it seems unlikely. I wouldn’t know, not being a TBBT Watcher)

      • aughra2020

        You’re right, Raj. I watch both, DVRed, so I may have watched them back-to-back. It’d be completely appropriate for BBT to do it as well!

      • thin

        Yeah, it was Chuck. It was one of those things that makes me laugh and mystifies my wife.

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