A Song of Ice and Fire – An Introduction

When I give it a thought, it is incredible, the number of great books and authors I have been introduced to thanks to long haul flights.

Between the years 2011 – 2015 I moved back and forth between Mumbai and Manchester about 4 times. And it is not easy moving countries, let alone continents. But thick immersive books have always been my solace and companions on those crazy flights and overnight layovers.

The year was 2012, I had only just acquired my Master’s degree and here I was, back at Manchester Terminal 1, waiting for that flight back to Mumbai when my feet took me into WH Smith yet again. What happened next has practically defined the coming 7 years of my life.

It was in 1981, when George RR Martin travelled to Hadrian’s Wall. As he stood on the wall – originally built by the Romans to separate their kingdom from the barbarians – GRRM imagined a mythical land of seven kingdoms, with a wall at its northernmost border, dividing the people of the realm from ‘Whatever Lies Beyond’. And thus, began A Song of Ice and Fire.

Reading A Game of Thrones, partially on the plane and rest as I nursed a jet lag, I knew I was in for it. It is important to note that I actually DID NOT watch the HBO series until 4 years after, by which point the TV Series was already at season 5.

And I think that is what endears the books to me more than the TV series. Despite the fact that GRRM has more or less stopped writing after book 6 and also despite my love for the immensely talented Ramin Dwajdi and his iconic soundtracks. ( I saw him play live, and he is incredible)

Because you see, his 10-year gap notwithstanding, George RR Martin is a master story teller. Nay, he is a master craftsman, who has the uncanny ability to build a fabulous world, getting it right to the minutest details – gory, disgusting, spine chilling and sometimes just outright offensive (Stannis Baratheon anyone?)

George RR Martin sets the scene right from the opening lines in Book 1, Chapter 1:

The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer. They set forth at daybreak, to see a man beheaded….

And that is where the books will ALWAYS surpass the HBO series.

Because us book readers have visualised a more brutal Westeros – one where the wall was a ghastly 700 feet tall mass of ice, the Iron Throne was a Hulking Twisted Beast of a Thing and the Targaryens were majestic, regal, silver of hair and purple of eyes. (In all fairness the show did do justice to The Wall).

The Real Iron Throne
Image courtesy : grrm.livejournal.com

GRRM also went above and beyond when creating the mythical Westeros – he developed religions (The Old Gods and The New), languages – Dothraki & High Valyrian, and a number of really interesting customs and traditions – like the different approaches to weddings and funerals across the seven kingdoms.

One look at the Map of Westeros is sufficient to prove the huge amount of background research that went into making Westeros and ASOIAF a complete universe in itself.

And so, although it’s a daunting task, if you truly want to appreciate Westeros in all its glory and dive deep into George RR Martin’s genius, read A Song of Ice and Fire – the correct reading order being

  1. A Game of Thrones
  2. A Clash of Kings
  3. A Storm of Swords
  4. A Feast for Crows
  5. A Dance with Dragons
  6. The Winds of Winter (forthcoming)
  7. A Dream of Spring (forthcoming)

P.S. This post is first in the series of blog posts I am doing on Game of Thrones. After much deliberation, I thought it best to not to condense everything in a single post. This perhaps is also testimony of my immense love for GoT and ASOIAF. Happy Reading!

Further Reading

These are a collection of blogs and posts that I found really useful as I was developing this blog series:

  1. For a chapter by chapter analysis of the books, read: Race for the Iron Throne
  2. For some interesting ASOIAF facts and back stories, read Game of Thrones Stories
  3. George RR Martin’s official blog is called Not a Blog and is rather interesting to follow as he drops sneak previews of new chapters and he also loves to directly engage with his readers
  4. This blog was a surprisingly good find, it discusses the customs and rituals we see in Game of Thrones, such as the funerals for example. A good read in case you want to delve in deeper into the GoT folklore. Read ArchaeoDeath
  5. This is an interesting post that discusses the science behind the weaponry and battles of Game of Thrones. Want to know what wildfire actually is or why Valyrian Steel and Dragon Glass are so fatal? Read it here

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