The 'Game of Thrones' Book Club, week 3: Final thoughts and burning questions

[Warning: Here be spoilers. Also, dragons.]

I never thought I’d reach the last page of a book that weighs as much as a newborn baby and immediately exclaim, “Wait, that’s it?” Yet that’s exactly what I found myself doing late last night, when I finally finished A Game of Thrones. I had heard that George R. R. Martin is notorious for leaving plot strands dangling, sometimes even for the length of an entire book. Still, I was hoping that the conclusion of Thrones would be a little more, well, conclusive. I guess now I’ve got no choice but to beg, borrow, or steal a copy of A Clash of Kings as soon as possible. Well played, Martin. Well played.

But even though I was left wanting more, I thoroughly enjoyed the last third of A Game of Thrones. That’s mainly because several of the book’s final plot twists took me completely by surprise — I never thought, for instance, that Eddard would actually get beheaded. The guy’s being played by Boromir in the HBO adaptation, for Pete’s sake; knowing that, I figured that Lord Stark would continue to be a main character throughout the series. (Though maybe if I had thought a little longer about Boromir’s fate, I wouldn’t have been so shocked when Ned didn’t get a last-minute reprieve.) Evidently, Martin’s got a Whedon-esque willingness to bump off any one of his characters — in the rough and tumble realm of Westeros, nobody’s safe. And as unnerving as this death was, I appreciated its value as a catalyst for the events of the next book. It was also a nice touch that Eddard began the book by decapitating a traitor and ended it with his own head on the chopping block for the same reason. In terms of poetic justice, though, nothing can beat the incredibility of Viserys’ crowning.

I was also more affected than I thought I’d be by the decline and fall of Khal Drogo. As I said last week, Dany’s journey has been one of the arcs I’ve enjoyed most — and Drogo, obviously, was a big part of it. I’ve got to give Martin credit for making him neither an utterly bloodthirsty barbarian nor a boringly noble savage; instead, Drogo always fell somewhere between those two extremes. I wonder if he would have lived if he hadn’t removed Mirri Maz Duur’s lambskin bandage… or if the witchy woman actually sped along his death on purpose, even before she raised spirits to turn him into a vegetable. And speaking of that — everyone else also got really mad at Daenerys for not guessing what would happen once she asked the maegi for help, right? When Mirri promised that Dany wouldn’t have to die to save Drogo, I wanted to yell, “Clearly that means your unborn baby’s going to get snuffed out instead! Don’t you know how these things work?” Hopefully her new dragon-babies will soften the blow of losing both her husband and her scaly demon spawn. (Dragons can drink human milk: Good to know! Does that make humans the cows of dragons?)

Though my mind did wander during a few battle scenes and military tribunals — describe a banquet for 15 pages and I’ll be rapt; describe dudes getting injured by different weapons for 15 pages, and not so much — I thought the Robb/Catelyn sections, on the whole, were done well. It’s nice to learn that Catelyn is actually a brilliant strategist; moments like those demonstrate how this story does have interesting, well-rounded female characters, despite what a “Song of Ice and Fire” neophyte might assume. And while we’re on the subject of Stark ladies: As I move into Book 2, I think I’m most looking forward to learning what happens to Sansa and Arya. Sansa’s fate at the end of Thrones felt especially heartbreaking. Would she be in this situation if Lady were still alive?

Oh, and speaking of Lady, where’s Nymeria? And how, exactly, does one go about seceding from the union to found a new kingdom? Not to mention Tyrion’s journey to King’s Landing, and Jon’s journey into the Haunted Forest, and Arya’s journey to somewhere, and… sigh. Looks like I’ll be making a trip to the bookstore sooner rather than later. As it turns out, the biggest problem I had with Game of Thrones is that it ended. Now you can count me among the people who are hoping that Martin has it in him to actually continue the series (and maybe, one day, finish it).

If you also just finished reading A Game of Thrones, what did you think? Will you continue with the series, or was one peek at George R. R. Martin’s world enough for you? And if you’ve read the novels already, what do you remember wondering most as you finished Book 1?

It’s been a blast reading with you all. Happy Throning!

Read more:
‘Game of Thrones’ recap: Whose family is the best?

Comments (33 total) Add your comment
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  • CT

    Can you imagine waiting the year(s) in between Thrones and Kings? Yeesh! Now consider that Feast for Crows came out in freaking 2005, and we’re still waiting for the next one!! Hopefully the publishing pace will pick up significantly, he’s got 2 more after Dance to do!
    Specifically to the last chunk of Thrones: it really floored me the first time. I can’t imagine an ending being more sad and horrifying as a reader…until I read further in the series.

    • Eleanor

      “…until I read further in the series…”

      that’s the thing that gets me about this series the most…I’m always thinking ‘this is the worst it can get’, and then >>pow<< right between the eyes with something much worse. Gotta love it!

      • bob

        Having been introduced to a game of thrones I was almost like an addict in that I could not stop until I read the last book, unfortunately for me since I finished a feast for crows what, almost five years ago I was hoping ol george would stay alive at least long enough to finish this masterpiece, yes masterpiece of fantasy. Bravo, a dance with dragons is on the book shelves in July. hip hip hoorah.

  • jodipo

    Man, when Eddard lost his head I almost quit reading! Up until that point he was my favorite character.

    Next to Dany, I think Sansa is the character that goes through the most stark (no pun intended) personality change. Seeing her father killed and knowing that Joffrey is a monster are pretty big changes for a child who started the book out as an innocent dreamer with stars in her eyes.

    • thin

      I don’t know that I’d say she undergoes a personality change as much as I’d say that her world view is changed. Or, more appropriately, shattered.

  • Jen J

    I completely thought all the things you did. Totally shocked by Eddard’s beheading, totally upset by Drogo’s death (although I saw Miri’s betrayal, I was too destracted to realize the baby was going to die.) I did expect a bigger reaction to Eddard’s beheading. Things seemed to happen in slow motion afterward. Though Robb being being named King of the North was a final shocker. I debated for a day whether I wanted to wait to read the next book, but when the library didn’t have the next book, I knew I had to find it and was compelled to run to the book store and buy it. I am now 100 pages in.

    • Munir

      Definitely one of the best books i have ever read. I just finished reading Game of Thrones and I cant even explain how many times i was caught up in the twists and turns of the novel. George r.r. Martin is a true genius Clash of Kings is going on a great start.

  • Samantha

    I’ve read Fantasy/Sci-Fi my whole life. I’ve just never been drawn to these…until I started seeing clips of the HBO series. I just read them (all 4 paperbacks) over this last month. Couldn’t get away from them. I’ve never read a series where “nobody’s safe”, and the twists and turns were shocking. A must read for anyone who reads recreationaly.

    • thin

      That’s the thing for me that really sets this series apart from anything else I’ve ever read. Until you read these books, you never really understand how much you take for granted that your typical protagonist is going to make it through the story okay, even if they go through some bad times to get there. Ned’s execution changes everything about how you read these books, and you suddenly realize how much you are in unfamiliar territory in being legitimately afraid that these characters might just actually die.

      • Cannae

        It certainly makes the other books more exciting to read. It no longer becomes a question of who will live, but when will they die?

  • Jen

    I’ve been a longtime mega-fan of the series. Meaning, I’ve dissected it, discussed it, devoured it.

    One thing about Martin is that he is very subtle. CoK has a lot of information to digest and I think it moved slower than GoT. But that information is important and if you are paying attention, you can see the seeds of the intrigue being planted and unfolding.

    My best advice to you is to keep the previous books on hand as you continue reading. You are going to be in the middle of Storm of Swords and realize that some little tidbit that you dismissed in Clash of Kings is suddenly important. So you’re going to want the book handy to go back and re-read.

    Seriously though, enjoy this journey. Don’t read spoilers… and there are many of them out there. I remember when I read the jaw-dropping moments in Game of Thrones for the first time. I really enjoyed my first read of the series. So I hope you have a lot of fun on your first read.

    And for the record, there are plenty more “jaw dropping” moments to come.

    • Matt

      This was the best book I have read in a long time. Dany and Tyrion made the book for me. However, after the death of Eddard it appears that it is prudent not to become too involved with any one character. I am already half-way through the second book and loving it. I think you should continue the book club through all of the published books. It is great getting the reaction of others reading the same material.

      • thin

        Oh, I think you should absolutely become involved with the characters. They’re written to be involving, and if you’re not getting wound up in their lives, then what’s the point of reading about them?

  • Michelle

    Nymeria is running a pack of wolves in the Trident area. You’ll figure this out in the 2nd …or is it the 3rd book. Suprise that “Arry” doesn’t realize this.

  • rob

    What I feel GRRM does the best is make you feel emotional about each character. He gets you to love a character, and just when you start to get comfortable, he kills them off, then he will take a character you loathe and make you start to like them, and then Bang! he kills him/her off too! To appease you, he might bring one or two back but they aren’t the same anymore, and now you loathe the characters you once loved.

  • Charles

    the best thing about these books is how your veiws on the characters change over the course of the story. at some point you will find yourself routing for a character whom you absolutely hated

    • Zturk

      Amen to that just finished Crows and my favorite character is the one that one of the most one dimensional bad guys in the first book.

  • sabrina W

    i just started reading storm of swords and let me say shocking , queesy upsetting barely covers what one feels as they’re reading,the prologue was chilling, the wedding how could he? how could he!!!! 2 and a half books in and arya still can’t catch a break,daenerys is fun even though i’m suspecting she’s in for a treason coming her way soon!but i’m sure she’ll deal with in style after all she’s got dragon blood in her! westeros in GoT seems like a place where all hell is about to break loose from all corners/borders subsequent reading confirms this state of affair!

  • slg

    I’ll save you the next three books: You get introduced to a character, you like them, they get knocked off. That’s pretty much the whole series. I think this series should be in the “horror” section, not fantasy. Anne Rice’s vampire books are more fantasy then this series is.

  • dary patten

    as good as game of thrones is, it’s pretty clearly the least enjoyable book in the series (not because it is poorly written but because it does a lot of the hard work of setting things up). If you loved game of thrones the next book will blow you away

  • Sarah

    Love the twist and turns. Some books are so predictable but this wasn’t. And Robb named King of the North gave me chills! I planned to read something else before continuing with this series but after finishing up A Game Of Thrones last night I need to make a stop at Borders after work.

  • kia

    Just finished with Clash of Kings and oh my Lord , I knew I shouldve bought all them books when i saw them at B& N , I will not make the same mistake twice!

  • Barbara

    OMG!!! Found HBO series & got hooked. Reading on a Kindle- finished the 1st book just days before the end on TV. Just finished the 2nd this am—wow!!! Love these books. Can’t wait til Spring of ’12. Have read sci-fi all my life and had never found GRRM. Can’t wait to start #3.Keep the book club going-it’s great. So pleased that HBO had been so true to the books. Starks & Dany rock…who knew you’d come to love the Imp too!!

    • Marci

      HBO turned me onto this too and I was just about rabid when the final show ended. Wait until Spring 2012??? Never. I’m into the third book already.

  • jcb1628

    CMOM EW LET”S KEEP THE BOOK CLUB GOING!!! I’m halfway through the 2nd book and am really missing have the book club to read and combing thru the comments!

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