OK, so I’m really late to the game, but lets chalk that up to college monopolizing my time with boring academic readings. But I’ve finally started to read A Game of Thrones, and I have some thought on why the A Song of Ice and Fire books have spurred so much attention.
Among the books, TV series and now recently the video game, I’ve been hard pressed to keep away from spoilers. While I haven’t gotten to the overly depressing parts of the series, I know that the book is morbid, and kills likeable characters keeping some people wondering if they really want to continue when all is left are despicable characters. That got me thinking. Why is it that death of likeable characters upset people to the point of not continuing reading the series?
People are used to happy endings, or at least the protagonists not dying until the last moments of the series. That works great with plots that revolve around saving the world, but A Song of Ice and Fire is all politics, and in politics there are casualties. That’s why this series is so different than the likes of Harry Potter, or a personal favorite The Inheritance Cycle (remember the terrible movie adaption of the first book Eragon). In either of those series, it defeats the point of the books if the main character died before the final moments of the series. Granted each had its fair share of death, but after awhile I figured out, which characters were indispensible to the main hero succeeding, leaving me not afraid for their life when in harms way. So, far in a Game of Thrones I worry about what happens to each character. If they are in danger I expect it to be their last breath. This has made me realize, why I love the book. It is complex and the character development is so rich and deep that even if my favorite character died, I’d ball my eyes out, but then get back to the politics of the book.
Never did I think I’d like a book that at its core that was about politics. In modern society politics are boring and mind numbing, but the struggle over power in a medieval setting is cutthroat. It is truly Darwinism at its finest and that is why George R.R. Martin is a visionary. He took a battering ram to the status quo fantasy titles. He didn’t follow the formula a saving a world in disrepair or overthrowing a tyrant, or murdering a killer. He took medieval politics threw it into a fantasy world full with dire wolves and other mysterious creatures and gave us this heart wrenching series.
A pet peeve of mine in video games is plot and character development. I’ve read great books that have a fabulous plot and what I thought was good character growth, but after reading a Game of Thrones it is going to be hard to find a book so well written and thought out. The book carries many different characters, but you know most of their thoughts and motives very well, which probably contributes to the depression that washes over people when the characters die.
Luckily for fans of fantasy books, whether people die unexpectedly, or your favorite character makes it through alive they are addictively entertaining.