Lauren: For our last book club, Heather and I read the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, marking the start of my mission to read the first three books (and rewatch the first two seasons of the show) before season three comes back at the end of March. On with book two!
[Caution, this contain spoilers!]
This write up will be structured similarly to our previous Game of Thrones Book Club write up. First, I will compare the two tellings of this story. I realize that this isn’t quite a book review, but honestly it’s hard for me to hold this as a separate entity in my mind, making it pretty difficult to judge the novel without being influenced by the show. After I speak my peace, Heather will give her perspective on the book alone because she has not yet watched season 2 of the series. Without further ado, then, here are my differences of note:
- Daenerys – considering the ending of her story in book/season 1, you’d think that her story would have started back up much sooner in book 2. Granted not a whole lot happens with her character until the end, as opposed to how she was littered throughout the season on the show to keep reminding the viewer of the dragons and her struggle in the desert.. One of my favorite moments of season two’s finale is when the dragons free Dany from her chains and kill those bald guys, followed by her locking Xaro Xhoan Daxos in his own vault for betraying her. Pretty powerful step for her as a character that wasn’t felt in the novel since a ship just fell into her lap in the end.
- Magic – Magic plays a much larger part in the book as Bran struggles with his dreams of being a wolf. It will be interesting to see where this leads next since it is a lovely idea that he is given back his legs, I just hope he doesn’t forget who he really is by losing himself to the wolf.
- Robb – he really disappears from the book once his mother leaves his side, whereas he is given a love interest in the show that should cause tension down the line considered he was just promised to someone else’s daughter for his help in the war. Granted, this wouldn’t have worked so well in the book considering he is still practically a child.
- Ser Dontos – Ser Dontos makes a brief appearance in the show as Sansa saves him from Joffrey’s cruelty, but it was a relief to see that he is lost to those more important when transitioning to television. I never trusted his character in the book because he just came off as such a drunken pedophile as he continuously promises to rescue Sansa. Next to him, The Hound seem positively knightly when he was around this little lady. If only Sansa had gone with him during the battle at King’s Landing; that I a buddy road-trip story I’d love to see.
- Stannis – In all honesty I was a little confused with what was going on the first few times we see Stannis in the show because we hadn’t spent any time with him before; for a while his was nothing more than a strange face to me with a name heard previously, but forgotten over the course of the long hiatus (Don’t judge me for not using Google!). Plus his storyline was just weird, which thankfully wasn’t quite as strange in the book. In other words, the red woman didn’t birth Stannis’s smoke monster baby from her lady bits as she did in the show; or if she did, the reading was vague enough to not be scarred for life. Now that I’ve read and seen his story once more, I’ve come to enjoy the added complexity he adds to the story as he too vies for the throne, and am intrigued to see what the Red Woman has in store for him next. Not only that, but where did the smoke monster go?
- Theon – I wish there had been more of a struggle in Theon’s mind about turning on the Starks when he returns to the Iron Isles in the novel, but apparently he never felt like family to them. At least that’s what he realizes rather abruptly at some point. Goodness I hated reading his chapters. Not because they were poorly written or boring or anything, he just made me feel so dirty. And he is a dirty traitor!
- Tywin Lannister – Already having spent more time with Renly to build his character (so sad to see him go), it was nice to get a deeper look into Tywin in the show as well to understand all pieces on the board. His time with Arya as his cupbearer makes him less of an evil force at the head of the Lannister family, and more of an understandable man with just as much right to fight as any other side of the battle.
- Wildfire – There was something so spectacular about seeing this because I was able to see the full effect of just how powerful this weapon is, as opposed to dedicating my energy to keeping track of which ship was what and which side it fought for.
- Ygritte – She is another character I can’t wait to spend more time with simply because of the hard time she gives Jon in the show, constantly making him uncomfortable because she knows that he never really has the upper hand as soon as he let her live.
Even while writing all that out I felt like a bad person for choosing to commend the show more often than the book based on how it handled certain material, but as I said for the first book/season, the show could not have been what it was without the strong cache of characters, storylines, and ideas to pull from.
Heather: I was immediately sucked into the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, but A Clash of Kings just did not do it for me. Maybe it was because I had no expectations for the first book, but after being pleasantly surprised by how awesome it was, I held impossibly high standards for the follow up? I don’t really know. What I do know if that there were just too many storylines I acutely DISLIKED this time around. It was kind of like how when people read Gone with the Wind, they kind of skim through those boring descriptions of the war to get to the juicy romance bits. Okay, so maybe that’s not how you personally read Gone with the Wind, but lets face it… nobody really reads Gone with the Wind for the action – they read it for a the romance! Anyway, I digress; my point was that I found myself trying to speed read through all the lackluster chapters this time around just trying to get to my favorites: Arya, Bran, and John.
Lets start with Stannis. Maybe Lauren didn’t realize who in the heck he was at first in the show, but I sort of felt the same way in the book. His storyline came so out of left field for me (after all, the book begins with his story), and I couldn’t have cared any less about it. I feel like it would have been better to begin this novel with some characters we actually cared about from the first book, and then sort of eased in to his story. Not a strong start.
I didn’t really have as negative of a reaction to Ser Dontos as Lauren did apparently. In my mind he wasn’t so much pedophilic as he was some drunk guy filling Sansa’s mind with false hope. I never had any inkling of faith that he would be able to follow through on the promises he was making to Sansa. Not that I cared. You made your bed Sansa, when you lusted after the biggest dirty armpit in the entire world. I can’t even say his name without wanting to projectile vomit all over his face. Anyway, you wanted to get into bed with the Lannister scum, now deal with it sweetheart. Good riddance.
I also agree about Theon. I really hated his chapters. They were disgusting to the point of crossing into terrain where I did NOT want to go. I mean, if you are gonna talk about women and sex and what not, at least do it with some class. Like Tyrion! It must be bad if I think Tyrion is a classy, upstanding dude compared to Theon. Although I thought of Jamie and Cersei’s incestual relationship more than a little revolting, Theon trying to unknowingly seduce his sister was downright repugnant. Bleck.
And those are just the characters that got little more than fleeting attention in book one. However, even the character’s I loved in the first book were disappointing this time around. I previously loved Dany’s chapters, but this time found myself dredging through them. I couldn’t really keep track of who was who in whatever city she holed herself up in for the time being. This didn’t trouble me too much, since her story hardly ever came up anyway, but it was sort of annoying whenever we did turn our focus back to her. I too, was expecting her to play a more central role in this book considering the birth of her dragons at the end of the first. She needs to get back to kicking a** and taking names! Maybe now that she has her ship, she can do that? I hope so.
Even John’s story was not as riveting for me. It picked up closer to the end, but I was sort of ambivalent throughout most of it. The same goes for Bran. Things turned around for him once he started having his wolf dreams (although I really could have done without the entire chapter devoted to roaming the woods in his wolf-state). The only character I consistently connected with was Arya (or should I say Arry /Weasel). I’m pretty sure she grows up to be Xena, Warrior Princess.
Despite the action and the stories improving towards the end of the book, I still think that if I would have entertained such mixed thoughts about the first book as I did for the second, I wouldn’t have even considered finishing the series. Of course I will now, because I witnessed firsthand how great the writing can be. I just hope that the remaining novels can recapture some of the former glory that was thoroughly present in book one.
Lauren’s Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Follow @BewareOfTrees
Heather’s Final Rating: 2 ½ to 3 stars out of 5