≡ Menu

To Read or Not to Read: ‘Game of Thrones’

To Read or Not to Read: ‘Game of Thrones’ post image

While you’d be hard-pressed to know it by reading this blog, I used to be an avid epic fantasy and science fiction reader. When I was a kid, my mom took us to the library about once every three weeks — the length of the lending cycle at our local library. As my reading speed increased, I started choosing books based on how long they were: I needed a lot of pages to fill the time between visits.

That’s how I managed to pick up Michael Crichton (CongoSphere, and Jurassic Park), Carl Sagan (Contact), Diana Wynn Jones (too many to even mention), Brian Jacques (the entire Redwall canon) and Melanie Rawn (the Dragon Prince Trilogy, the Dragon Star Trilogy, The Golden Key, and the Exiles Trilogy). I also loved mysteries, and read almost the entire Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. And of course there was Harry Potter. I never managed to read the Lord of the Rings series, which seems odd on reflection. I think I was put off from the books in middle school when I tried to read The Hobbit and truly hated it.

I loved books that were long, and I loved long books in a series — it made it so much easier to pick my next read when I knew there was another book coming with my favorite characters. I think that may be why I love watching television series so much. There’s just so much time to delve into characters, to feel like you really know them and their world and the things they love and hate.

I honestly not sure why my reading took such a drastic turn. Part of it was probably running out of stories — Melanie Rawn hasn’t written much in the last several years, leaving my favorite of her series, Exiles, unfinished. I caught up with Elizabeth Peters and Brian Jacques, then just lost track of the series waiting for new books to come out. I also started college, which opened my eyes up to a lot of literature I’d be missing, and I discovered creative nonfiction for the first time.

With the last Harry Potter movie out in theaters a couple weeks ago, I think I’ve been getting nostalgic for some epic fantasy. And of course the series that everyone seems to be talking about is George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books. I’ve been thinking long and hard about giving it a try, but I’m somehow nervous about the investment and in the repeated warnings from friends that the books are extremely dark. I love serious things, but my heart is wrenched when characters that I love die. I’m a huge baby about it.

I did buy the first book, A Game of Thrones, for my Nook, and I’ve been giving it the college try while on the elliptical at the gym. I’m about 50 pages in (which is not much at all considering the book is like 800 pages long). The writing is just meh — very epic fantasy in the oddly antiquated speech and discussion of “loins” and “her nakedness” — but I’ll admit I’m intrigued. That’ll happen when you start a book out with a grisly murder by weird ghostly people of some sort or another and stories about incestuous banished royalty. Am I intrigued enough to continue? I’m honestly not sure!

I ask you, dear readers: To read or not to read? Is A Song of Fire and Ice worth the massive investment? How does it compare to other epic fantasy or sci fi? Any other book recommendations to deal with my current cravings?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Falaise July 27, 2011, 10:46 am

    I’m in a similar place to you. I like fantasy (actual did love the Hobbit as a kid) but am a bit put off by the Game of Thrones plot, length and the time it seems to take him to write each volume. I really can’t make my mind up whether to invest or not.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:39 pm

      Length and time are huge. Ever since I got way into a Melanie Rawn trilogy that’s been unfinished for more than a decade, I get worried investing in series that might never finish.

  • Stephanie July 27, 2011, 10:49 am

    My reading habits have changed drastically over time too. Sci fi and fantasy has never been my thing though, and I can’t imagine ever reading these books, although my husband is now on book #3 and has been tearing through the series.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:41 pm

      I think I loved sci fi/fantasy for the sheer length of it (and the twisting plots and lots of characters). I suspect that impulse has switched to tv now. My boyfriend started the first on audiobook, so I’m tempted to keep reading so we can talk about them.

  • Kailana July 27, 2011, 10:54 am

    I just read the first book in this series, but I am not sure if it is going to be my favourite series ever… It’s really good, though. I personally am more drawn to Robin Hobb, Sara Douglass, etc. I will have to see what I think of book 2. I just wanted to put some time in-between.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:41 pm

      Not every series has to be a favorite — sometimes really good is good enough 🙂

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) July 27, 2011, 11:03 am

    Well, I’d say if you’re not enjoying it, don’t read it. My son loves this series, but I know it’s not for me.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:42 pm

      It’s not that I’m not enjoying it, I’m just not sure if I’m enjoying it enough to invest in a series that is just so long!

  • Amy July 27, 2011, 11:04 am

    I read and moderately enjoyed the first book and am slowly working my way through book 2. I’m still a bigger fan of The Wheel of Time though 😉 I like it as a long sprawling epic though it does have it’s issues and isn’t perfect, still an enjoyable way to spend time.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:42 pm

      I’ve never read The Wheel of Time, but some friend has recommended it a couple of times.

  • Hans July 27, 2011, 12:09 pm

    @Amy, I started the series a bigger WoT fan, but ASoIaF trumped it for me around Book 3. WoT’s cast grew to a place where many of the side characters became little more then caricatures, which subtracted from the ‘epic-ness’ of the story.

    @Kim – there has been a lot of “Tolkien of our Time” language being thrown around regarding Martin. I think that is possibly a fair comparison, but we have to see how he (or if he) wraps things up. I’d say you should read the first book, then decide if you want to continue based on that…

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:47 pm

      That’s what I was thinking — read the first one and then see what happens. I think it’s probably prudent to wait how everything wraps up before making Tolkien comparisons, but maybe on sheer length it’s already apt 🙂

  • Steph July 27, 2011, 12:37 pm

    Apart from the Harry Potter books, I’ve never been one for reading series or delving into Fantasy, but like you, I’ve been thinking about giving this series a try just because everyone seems to love it so much. Also, Tony read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy back in the day, so I think this could be something we both might enjoy. I often say that I’m scared of big thick books, but I think that as long as they’re page-turners that are packed full of action, I wouldn’t mind a book being so very long (though 800+ page books certainly seem more appealing on the e-reader, don’t they?). I have too many reading choices on my plate at the moment, but I am still leaving the door open for these books in the future.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:49 pm

      I do love having it on my Nook. I’ve never loved carrying around giant books, even when they were all I read. Reading it at the gym is nice because there isn’t something else I “should” be reading — all my review copies are physical books, and I read on the Nook at the gym.

  • Fyrefly July 27, 2011, 1:33 pm

    I love it, and think yes you should read it. Just be prepared for terrible things to happen to everyone all the time, and you should be all set. 🙂

    The best part about Martin’s books are the complex characters (I agree that the writing is not anything spectacular, particularly if you’re not used to medieval fantasy), so I’d at least give it long enough that you’ve had more than one chapter from everyone’s POV. Personally, it’s one of those series where I find myself wondering what the characters are doing when I’m not reading, which is one of the things I love about long epic series with good character development.

    I’ve got lots of other recommendations for long and semi-long SFF series, but my current love is Lois McMaster Bujold. Almost all of her Vorkosigan Saga books (sci-fi/space opera – i.e. about the people, not the spaceships) are available as free downloads from Baen, and they’re funny as hell and full of wonderful characters and overall just great.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:50 pm

      I was reading at the gym tonight and got reminded not to get attached — a little kid got thrown off a tower! Yikes! Another friend recommended Lois McMaster Bujold, so I will have to check her out too (especially if they’re free 🙂 )

  • nomadreader (Carrie) July 27, 2011, 2:07 pm

    I haven’t felt compelled to pick this one up yet, but I am willing to be convinced if you end up loving it:-)

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:51 pm

      No pressure or anything! I’ll be sure to post about what I think when I finish the book a million years from now.

  • Greg Zimmerman July 27, 2011, 3:21 pm

    I’ll be interested to hear what you decide, and if you decide it’s a go, what you think. I’m not a fantasy fan at all – in fact, you could probably describe me best as anti-fantasy. I read one Harry Potter and quit, never read The Lord of the Rings (or even seen the movies) and generally enjoying poking fun at the nerds who proclaim The Hunger Games to be the best thing since Bilbo Baggins.


    Several people whose literary opinions I respect have read and loved these books, and seen and loved the series on HBO. And like you, I love long series of novels. So, I’m intrigued…

    On a related note, I just read the story about G.R.R. Martin in this week’s Entertainment Weekly (which I can’t seem to find online) and part of the point of the story is that one of the things that makes this series unique and intriguing for readers is that Martin isn’t afraid to kill of main characters. So, take that for what it’s worth…

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:52 pm

      That’s part of the intrigue for me too — many, many people who I trust to point out great literature love these books. That strikes me as a pretty good reason to give at least the first book a try.

  • Teresa July 27, 2011, 5:42 pm

    I’ve been on the fence about these books for ages but have pretty much decided not to read them. I’m like you in that I used to be really into fantasy, but my recent forays into some highly regarded high fantasy that had been on my TBR list for ages left me completely nonplussed. I tried a few chapters of the first of these books and decided the writing was too much of a turn-off (though I’ll never say never). I do love good long books, but maybe not these.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:53 pm

      I think if I were reading somewhere that wasn’t the gym, the writing might annoy me, but on the elliptical I’m too busy huffing and puffing to do much more than roll my eyes 🙂

  • Jenny July 27, 2011, 5:45 pm

    >>>I never managed to read the Lord of the Rings series, which seems odd on reflection. I think I was put off from the books in middle school when I tried to read The Hobbit and truly hated it.

    Like, never at all, you still haven’t read them? Because I hated The Hobbit too, and then I triple hated Fellowship of the Ring, so I didn’t read the series until after the first movie had come out. And then I wanted to know what would happen, so I skipped Fellowship and read The Two Towers and Return of the King, and I loved them. And have since loved Fellowship (though not really The Hobbit still). Just in case that story sways you. I think Lord of the Rings are worth a little bit of struggle.

    As for Game of Thrones, I am on the exact same page as you as regards the language (loins and child-woman and all that business), and I decided it was worth continuing. The plot is really intricate and really very good indeed, if you are like me and enjoy reading about political machinations. But you must just resign yourself to the fact that people are going to die. Don’t get attached to anyone. On the other hand, if you really hate a character, odds aren’t bad that character will die too! It’s a double-edged sword.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:54 pm

      I do love political machinations, and so far that parts been intriguing… in between the incest and murdering children parts. At least evil people will get their comeuppance, eventually.

  • Ben Wheeler-Floyd July 28, 2011, 10:45 am

    Okay. Full disclosure. I’ve read the first four books twice, and I’m waist-deep in the fifth right now. They were recommended to me by a friend of mine, but I balked because I didn’t think I liked fantasy (even though I hadn’t, admittedly, read much). ‘A Game of Thrones’ is difficult to become attached to in the early going, partly because there is so much going on. A continent of geography, a list of important characters, politics. But there is a point in that book at which the world has been sketched in enough for you to get a footing, you start to get a feel for who these characters are, you start to get a sense of the truly staggering amount of history and consequence contained in this world….and somewhere along the line it becomes pretty much the best thing ever. I love these books with a passion that cannot be accurately textually rendered. Martin has an amazing knack for making every chapter count, making every interaction have weight, and every character death (of which, sure, there are a few) feel not only earned but logical. It is dark, yea. But it’s also incredibly refreshing because it’s not dark for the sake of being dark. The world is a gray world, with no clear protagonists or antagonists. What you have are people fighting for power, and in the game of thrones, you either win or you die. That said, just because I love them doesn’t mean that they’re for everyone. But give yourself the whole first book. If you can put down the series after finishing that one, fine. But I’ll bet you won’t be able to.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:55 pm

      This comment made me smile a huge smile. And your advice is well-taken, I think that’s the path I’m headed on — read book one and see what happens next.

  • Carly July 28, 2011, 10:50 am

    I listened to the first book on audio and although it took quite a while, I really enjoyed the experience. I would recommend the audio version; the language flows well when being read and acted out in a way it might not on the page. I am not a big fan of fantasy but I responded to the quasi medieval political intrigue and the strong female characters and feel that book was worth sticking with it for those reasons.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 8:56 pm

      That’s a good idea — maybe I will try one of the books on audio. That’s how my boyfriend is “reading” the book, but he has a lot of time to listen. I haven’t seen to many strong females yet, but I’m on the lookout.

  • Katy July 28, 2011, 4:25 pm

    I LOVE the Song of Ice & Fire series and thoroughly recommend it.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 9:05 pm

      Thanks for the endorsement!

  • Aarti July 28, 2011, 8:52 pm

    If I had gone through only the first three books in this series, I would say, unreservedly “YES!” to reading it. But I didn’t enjoy the fourth book at all and while the fifth was somewhat entertaining, NOTHING HAPPENED (like seriously- I don’t feel that the plot was advanced much at all, for 1000+ pages) and considering how long it took for the book to come out, I am getting a bit put off by the series. I would just wait until the rest of the series has been written and read it then.

    If you want to dig your teeth into quality epic fantasy, though, there are lots of options for you! Steven Erikson is super-popular as is Daniel Abraham (never read either of them). I like the somewhat more YA but equally fabulous Megan Whalen Turner, too. She is excellent.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 9:05 pm

      Hmm, interesting. I HATE series books where nothing happens (book three in the Eragon series, anyone?). Thanks for the recommendations!

  • Marg July 28, 2011, 10:29 pm

    I haven’t really been tempted to start reading this series before, but I just started watching the series and now I am considering it! The whole huge books, long series thing is a factor in me not just jumping into it feet first. I have far too many series on the go already.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 9:06 pm

      I’m really curious to read one of the books then see the HBO series and compare. I love books that make it to TV shows.

  • Jeanne July 29, 2011, 1:47 pm

    I read all these comments with interest, because I’m about halfway through the first one, like you, and haven’t been captivated.

    Also I agree with what Jenny says about reading LOTR. Not everyone who loves it began with The Hobbit.

    The best new fantasy I’ve read has been Lev Grossman’s follow-up to The Magicians, which you helped get me interested in. The Magician King is even better than the first one. It comes out August 9 (my review comes out next week).

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 9:07 pm

      I am so looking forward to The Magician King, but will probably have to wait to get it after the move or from the library. I’m glad it’s better than the first!

  • Aths July 30, 2011, 12:17 pm

    What a coincidence because after watching the last HP movie, I was also pining for more and decided it was finally time to check out this series by Martin. I haven’t got the book yet, but I’m planning to. I’ve also loved epic fantasies growing up but haven’t read much of it lately.

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 9:07 pm

      Funny coincidence indeed!

  • Kathleen July 31, 2011, 10:57 pm

    I’ve not read any of the series yet but I also downloaded the first one on my Nook. It was one of the first books I downloaded so I really hope I like it!

    • Kim August 1, 2011, 9:07 pm

      I hope so too!

  • Mome Rath August 2, 2011, 1:12 am

    I wasn’t going to comment, but since Aarti gave the recommendation for Megan Whalen Turner’s books, I have to second it.
    As for “Game of Thrones”, I’m really tempted to read it, too, but I wonder how much will be spoiled since I know what has happened on TV. I also need a bit of a breather between long books, so it might have to wait until later this year (so many other books I want to read beforehand!).

    • Kim August 7, 2011, 8:58 am

      I haven’t seen the tv show yet. We don’t have cable, and I don’t think it’s on Netflix yet, so I hope I can finish the book before we watch the show.

  • Meghan August 2, 2011, 3:11 pm

    I adored this series when I read it back in high school and I’ve unfortunately never managed to read it again since – like Aarti I wasn’t particularly fond of book 4. But I so adored the first three and I have high hopes that the fifth brings back the characters I loved – so I’m going to embark on a reread and hope things change.

    I do think it’s very worth a try. As many of the commenters have said above, it’s an intricate, incredibly detailed world with really gray politics and characters. People die, but it all feels so real – and that’s despite the language. I look forward to seeing what you think.

    • Kim August 7, 2011, 8:59 am

      Thanks for the comment Meghan! I’m leaning towards reading it — after the first few chapters, I am really intrigued by the politics, and it’s nice as a book that I don’t have to think too much about while I read (especially since my brain is so shut off with the stress from trying to move!).

  • Laurie C August 8, 2011, 8:41 am

    Read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss instead! 🙂

    • Kim August 9, 2011, 8:48 am

      Thanks for the recommendation 🙂

  • Natalie~the Coffee and a Book Chick August 22, 2011, 8:09 am

    I read A Game of Thrones (review coming soon) and absolutely loved it. I just started on the second in the series – well worth it and thoroughly engaging!

    • Kim August 24, 2011, 6:11 pm

      Yes, it’s very engaging. I had an epic personal read-a-thon with A Game of Thrones this past weekend and really got into the book.