Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Characters Who Have Perished in A Song of Ice and Fire

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (an popular meme hosted by the blog, The Broke and The Bookish) theme was “The Top Ten Characters Who _____” and we are left to fill in the blank. Naturally I went with Top Ten Characters who Died Memorably in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (and its television counterpart, Game of Thrones). My ground rules for inclusion: the death is significant to the story, shocking, gruesome, or involved a main character. As far as the George R.R. Martin books vs. the HBO Series, I guess I’m using both – mostly the series, though, as it’s fresher in my mind. (They’ve become hopelessly mixed together in my brain anyway) I will say all occur before where we are in the series now, and what the series reflects up to in book three, “A Storm of Swords.” I did notice in my research too that “Access Hollywood” kind if scooped me in this area, but there’s room for everyone on the GoT bandwagon, right? And – do I even need to say it? – MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

11-13 (Honorable mentions) Beric Dondarrion
How many times has “The Lord of Light” brought him back now? Maybe this should be 11th thru 14th?

10. John Arryn (poisoned)
This is “The Death that Starts it All” and leads to the calamitous events that are still befalling the Stark family and the rest of Westeros.

9. Sansa’s direwolf, Lady (put down)
If there was any doubt at the Lannisters being “The Bad Guys” (and there shouldn’t have been at this point), Cersei’s insisting that Ned kill Sansa’s direwolf should have removed them.

8. Ser Hugh of the Vale (jousting “accident”)
Setting the standard (and I’m talking more about the series here) for an incredible run of blood gushing, opened throats that will greatly shorten broadcast times when they are removed to make the series suitable for network television.

7. Doreah and Xaro Xhoan Daxos (entombing)
We gain further evidence that Daenerys is not to be trifled with. Man, I hated to see Doreah go, though (at least in the series, where she is portrayed by actress Roxanne McKee)

6. Kraznys (incinerated)
See sentence one of the previous entry.

5. Polliver (sword through the throat)
I wanted to rank this one higher, but it bothers me that I liked this scene where young Arya Stark avenges the death of her friend Lommy by using the same words his killer did.

4. Viserys (“crowning” with molten gold)
Yep. No one was sorry when this happened. Daenerys is free to be her own person (and is now the rightful heir to the Iron Throne) when Viserys suffers a Crassus-like fate at the hands of the Parthians, er, I mean Dothraki.

3. Robb & Catelyn Stark (crossbow bolts and knife wounds)
I still wonder what people who hadn’t already read the books thought about this episode. Roose Bolton’s “The Lannisters send their regards” line as he delivers the coup de grace to Robb was one of the most memorable in the series. And Catelyn? What was I saying about opened throats earlier? We get a two-fer with her death, and though Ser Hugh’s might have been best in gruesomeness, Catelyn wins the blood spurting distance category. Did she have high blood pressure?

2. Eddard “Ned” Stark  (beheading)
This was a shocker both in the book and the TV series. Appropriately, we first meet Ned when he is beheading a deserter from the Night’s Watch. What goes around comes around?

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1. Joffrey (poisoning)
Maybe I’m ranking this number one because it “just happened” (in series broadcast time anyway) or because I hate Joffrey so much. I mean, who are viewers/readers going to focus their hate on now? As Joffrey choked and Cersei lamentingly wailed, I kept hearing Jerry Seinfeld’s “That’s a shame…” line in the back of my mind.

Are YOU a reader/watcher of these books/this series? Which are in your top ten character deaths? If you’re not, what kind of “top ten characters who ____” did you decide to do?

 

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Game of Thrones Re-Watch Marathon, Part 4 (2nd half of Season 2)

This post is Part 4 of 6.  Too see Part 5 click here.

The re-watch continues with the second half of Season 2, which cover roughly the second half of A Clash of Kings. Garrison is back to bring us up to speed.

Tyrion

This season is really Tyrion’s. I don’t think he’s the most important character (my money is still on Jon Snow and/or Daenerys) but his story arc is as compelling as anyone’s. Peter Dinklage gives amazing performances throughout and hits all his dramatic notes with the same perfection that he does his comic relief. Lena Headey also gives great performances as she struggles dealing with the monster that Joffrey is becoming.

Best Scenes

1. Anything between Tywin and Arya. I chose this one, because of Arya’s answer to Tywin asking what killed her father: “Loyalty.”

2. Jaime “bonds” with his cousin. There’s a couple great moments here, where Jaime is really humanized- and then he undoes it all.

Jaime takes time to bond with his enamored cousin, Alton, before killing him.

Jaime takes time to bond with his enamored cousin, Alton, before killing him.

3. Catelyn impugns Jaime’s honor. This scene fleshes Jaime out a little more and is a precursor to a lot we find out about him in Season 3. This was one of my favorite scenes on the rewatch, given what we now know about Jaime.

4. Much like Tywin and Arya, there are a lot of great Cersei/Sansa interactions in this season. You get the sense that she almost feels pity on Sansa. This scene is where Cersei first really acknowledges just how badly her progeny has turned out.

5. Tyrion/Cersei: More admitting Joffrey is awful… for good measure. There’s another scene with these two in episode 8 that is absolutely stellar, but unfortunately I couldn’t find the full scene on youtube.

6. The whole Wildfire sequence is just terrifically done. The best part about it (aside from the stunning visuals) is probably how clearly you can see the horror on Tyrion’s face as he hears the screams from the Bay.
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7. Tyrion owns Joffrey. Any scene that puts Joffrey in his place is a victory for us all.

Best Lines

Tyrion Lannister: We’ve had vicious kings and we’ve had idiot kings, but I don’t know if we’ve ever been cursed with a vicious idiot boy-king!
Tyrion to Joffrey during the Fleabottom riots. This whole exchange is great, really.

Robb Stark: And Theon… I want him brought to me alive. I want to look him in the eye and ask him ‘Why?’… and then I will take his head myself!

Tywin Lannister: This’ll be my last war… win or lose.
Arya Stark: Have you ever lost before?
Tywin Lannister: You think I’d be in my position if I’d lost a war?

"Have you met many stonemasons, my lord?"

“Have you met many stonemasons, my lord?”

Tywin Lannister: Hm. She’s a heroine of yours, I take it. Aren’t most girls more interested in the pretty maidens from the songs? Jonquil, with flowers in her hair?
Arya Stark: Most girls are idiots.
Again, just about any exchange between Arya and Tywin is delightful, your choice.

Theon Greyjoy: It’s better to be cruel than weak.
Well, debatable, but at least Theon is trying to be his own person?

Sansa Stark: Does it give you joy to scare people?
Sandor Clegane: No, it gives me joy to kill people.
And this is the softer, kinder version of The Hound!

Jaime Lannister: I’m not well suited for imprisonment. Shocking, I know. Some men are. Ned Stark; I imagine he made an excellent prisoner right up until the end. But me, though – my life has left me uniquely unfit for constraint.
At least he’s self aware.

Tyrion Lannister: [to Cersei] I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think you’re safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth.
Tyrion vows vengeance after Cersei takes Ros prisoner… which was vengeance for Tyrion sending Myrcella to Dorne, which was vengeance for…

Eddison Tollett: Great rangers never get old is the problem. [Bad] ones neither. It’s them in the middle that last a long time.
Not an impactful quote by a major character, but still noteworthy.

Joffrey Baratheon: If I tell the Hound to cut you in half, he’ll do it without a second thought.
Tyrion Lannister: That would make me the quarter-man. Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Basically what I’m saying is, any time Tyrion slams Joffrey, it’s going to make this list…

Bronn: I saw you kill a man with a shield, you’ll be unstoppable with an axe.
Referencing Tyrion staving off attackers back in Season 1

Tyrion Lannister: There are brave men knocking at our door. Let’s go kill them!
Believe it or not, there were *some* lines from Tyrion in Season 2 that weren’t completely awesome.

Tyrion: And I thought we were friends Varys: We are

Tyrion: And I thought we were friends
Varys: We are

Lord Varys: [to Tyrion] There are many who know that without you this city faced certain defeat. The king won’t give you any honors, the histories won’t mention you, but we will not forget.
Despite his demotion, Varys offers Tyrion the small consolation that at least some will remember his part in the Battle of Blackwater

Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish: [to Sansa Stark] Look around you, we’re all liars here, and every one of use is better than you.
Sansa is very much part of the “Game of Thrones,” but she’s still getting her feet under her.

Assorted Musings
– Theon’s turn in the TV series was totally unbelievable the first time I watched it, but only mildly unbelievable the second time. This is one area that the books do a much better job.
– Seriously, those Tywin/Arya scenes are so great. They have such great rapport with one another.
– The entirety of episode 9 is contained in King’s Landing. It’s a nice change of pace from lots of jumping around.
– When Balon Greyjoy declares himself King in the Iron Islands that gives us our fifth king in the “War of the Five Kings.” Of note, there were never actually five at the same time, as Renly had already been murdered at that point. Fun fact!
– The Hound is awesome. I’ll accept no other arguments.
– Cersei has a great arc in these episodes. She really starts to wonder how Joffrey came to be so awful. She still likes torturing Sansa, but at the same time she pities her. Cersei is the one who starts Sansa’s education in how to deal with her awful life to come.
– Varys said in season 1 that he serves only “the realm.” He backs that up in his helping Tyrion plan for the defense of King’s Landing. He does this out of no great love for the dwarf, but because he believes Stannis would make an awful king and is uncomfortable with his association with Melisandre.

*****

Full recap after the jump:

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A Game of Thrones Re-watch Marathon, Part 2 (2nd Half of Season 1)

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This post is Part 2 of 6.  For Part 3 click here.

For Part 2, we have a guest blogger

All hail His Grace, Garrison of House [Stark], First of His Name, King of the Bloggers and the First Men, Lord of Bibliophilopolis, and Protector of the Realm:

Well, maybe Jay is the true Lord of Bibliophilopolis. And maybe our familial relationship is better than that of some in Westeros, but he would still be wise to heed to advice of Queen Cersei in A Game of Thrones, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” before he so readily invites others to sit on the Iron Throne of Bibliophilopolis… In all seriousness though, as a long time reader of Bibliophilopolis (and a longer time nephew of the author), I was thrilled to be asked to help recap HBO’s Game of Thrones in advance of the fourth season, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to be the first guest poster in the history of this blog; I hope I do the author and its readers justice.

In my recap posts, I will try to do a few categories that will cover some noteworthy moments that will remind people of the general awesomeness of the episodes. If you seek a slightly more detailed blow by blow, that will follow. Before I begin, I’d like to direct you to a great website that I often use to refresh myself of what has happened in Westeros: Tower of the Hand. This website allows the reader to set the scope of what they have read or seen in the series. Say you have only read the first two books when you look up an article on Tyrion Lannister and set your scope to Clash of Kings. The article will only show you information up to the point which you have read. This will prevent being accidentally spoiled if you are trying to avoid that! It works the same way for seasons of the television series.

Without further ado…

Best Scenes

1. Ned gets the “King’s Justice.” This was when I got truly hooked on the show. The whole season was awesome. But when Ned lost his head… good, honorable, played-by-a-famous-actor, clearly-the-hero-of-our-story Ned, that’s when I knew that no one was safe and that this show would stay compelling throughout. Right until the end I expected Eddard Stark to escape somehow. Even after “Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!” I remained convinced that *something* would happen for Ned to avoid that fate… right up until the end.

(below: Joffrey changes his mind, much to the chagrin of Cersei and Sansa)

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2. Ned/Cersei. Great scene between two great actors. The scene that prompts Varys telling Stark later “your mercy killed the king.” Also includes a line to appear later…

3. Ned/Cersei II. I was profoundly sad during the throne room showdown scene on my re-watch. It was all going so well… until it wasn’t.

3. Viserys gets crowned. We were all waiting for this moment. You can admit it, it’s okay.

4. Aemon and Jon. There is more to this maester than meets the eye. Maybe not a hugely important scene (or maybe it was), but I’m a sucker for back story and this delivers.

Best Lines

Lysa Aryn: “You don’t fight with honor!”
Bronn: “No…but he did.”
After Bronn dispatches the “honorable” knight in Tyrion’s trial by combat.

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Joffrey: I’ll tell you what. I’m going to give you a present. After I raise my armies, and kill your traitor brother, I’ll give you his head as well.
Sansa: Or maybe he’ll give me yours.
One of the rare moments where Sansa isn’t being totally insufferable! Bravo, Sansa!

Cersei: When you play the game of thrones you win or you die. There is no middle ground.

Robb Stark: Tell Lord Tywin, winter is coming for him. Twenty thousand northerners marching south to find out if he really does sh*t gold.
To a captured Lannister scout.

Syrio Forel: There is only one god and his name is Death, and there is only one thing we say to Death: “Not today”.
Early frontrunner for the best line in the series.

Tyrion confesses his crimes (a mildly NSFW monologue laden with innuendo)

Tyrion: Though I would treasure your friendship, I’m mainly interested in your facility with murder. And if the day ever comes when you’re tempted to sell me out, remember this: whatever their price, I’ll beat it. I like living.
To Bronn the sellsword after the escape from The Eyrie. The way Peter Dinklage delivers “I like living” is tremendous.

Discussing their first kills…
King Robert: Your outlaw, any last words?
Jaime: I cut his head off, so, no…

Eddard Stark: What you suggest is treason.
Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish: Only if we lose.

Tywin Lanniser: A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of a sheep.

Robb Stark: If we do it your way, Kingslayer, you’d win. We’re not doing it your way.
Responding to Jaime’s offer to end the war by each championing their cause in single combat.

Mirri Maz Duur: You will not hear me screaming.
Daenerys Targaryen: I will. But it is not your screams I want. Only your life.
Before Daenerys puts the healer on the funeral pyre.

Robb Stark: I’ll kill them all.
Catelyn Stark: My boy… they have your sisters. We have to get the girls back… And *then* we will kill them all.
After Robb and Catelyn find out Ned has been killed.

Best foreshadowing you absolutely didn’t notice the first time
In the scene where we meet Tywin Lannister and he has the discussion with Jaime about the honor of their house and how they have the opportunity to become a dynasty in Westeros, what is he doing? He is skinning and gutting a stag. The stag is the sigil of House Baratheon. Terrific.

(below: anyone up for a fresh venison dinner at the Lannisters?)

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Assorted Musings
– The Targaryens have the best claim to the throne. Their family was in power for hundreds of years before Robert and Ned led the rebellion that overthrew them.
– I can’t shake the similarities between Samwell and Samwise from Lord of the Rings.
– During the aforementioned ‘stag skinning’ scene, Tywin delivers a monologue about how their legacy is really the only thing they will leave behind. This is his main motivation. Cersei’s motivation is her love for her children as well as dealing with being in a loveless marriage that was forced upon her. Jaime has his own backstory which will be discussed in season two. The only unredeemingly evil character is Joffrey. Everyone else has reasons (maybe not excuses) why they are they way that they are. Joffrey is just evil for the sake of being evil.
– By the end of the season both Mormonts put their faith in someone untested. Jeor Mormont, the lord commander of the Night’s Watch, makes Jon his steward and begins grooming him for a leadership position. Jorah Mormont, Jeor’s son who is with Daenerys, has a change of heart and saves Dany from assassination. He becomes convinced that she has the best claim to the throne and would do anything for her. It is interesting that these two characters are connected in this way… even more so when you consider the name of the Series is a “A Song of Ice (Jon: at the Wall, where it is almost perpetually winter) and Fire (Daenerys: the Mother of Dragons).”
– I found/find it really peculiar that Ned would actually father a bastard. Ned is the most honorable character in this entire show, to a fault. He diligently served his king, even though it was not something he wanted to do; he was a good father (notably to Theon and Jon Snow who were not his sons with Catelyn); he was a benevolent, just ruler of the North according to everyone that talks about him; he had the chance to seize the Iron Throne for himself during Robert’s rebellion and didn’t; he is devoted to his wife. It just seemed out of character for him to forsake his marriage. That being said, it is in perfect character for him that he would take the child as his own if that were to happen and raise him in his house.

******
A full recap follows after the jump.

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I Can’t Believe I Read the Whole Thing

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Yesterday, I finally finished “A Clash of Kings,” the second book in the George R.R. Martin series, A Song of Fire and Ice. I liked it well enough, but I can’t see myself reading any more of these. The multiple-point of view writing (and I don’t mean jumping around between two or three characters, but many, MANY more) and the cast of thousands to keep track of is just too much heavy lifting for this (perhaps lazy) reader. Particularly annoying to me was Martin’s continually throwing in so much detail that in my mind doesn’t advance the story. I imagine that it’s because he has this whole imaginary world he’s created, compete with its history, and he wants to “get it in there” so his time in creating it hasn’t been wasted. This reached a peak for me in the “climactic” battle for King’s Landing, which includes a considerable naval engagement. Early in the chapter he names a few of the ships, and I’m thinking, “please, PLEASE don’t tell me he’s going to tell me the name every ship of the hundreds in this battle!” He tries to, but probably “only” calls a few dozen by name. Enough! He also goes overboard, to my taste at least, in describing what the different characters are wearing. Well into the second book, I’m more interested in what they are doing.

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If there is one character whose story I’d really like to know the rest of, however, it would be the young Arya Stark (pictured above as played by actress Maisie Williams). She kicks butt. In fact if the story were more about her (and maybe the direwolves!) I think I would be eager to read the rest.

Also, when I was about half way through reading this book, I did buy the first season of HBO’s adaptation of the series. I enjoyed it in spite of the gratuitously high levels of gore and sex, and I look forward to watching the second season when it becomes available on DVD or iTunes. I thought the performances of Peter Dinklage (pictured below as Tyrion Lannister) and Lena Headey (as the deliciously evil Cersei Lannister) very well done. You may also remember Headey from the short-lived tv series, “The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”

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So ends my sojourn in the land of Westeros (I think). If I am to learn the rest of the story, it will likely be through the subsequent seasons of the HBO series. What about you? Have you read these books? I know they have a passionate following. Can you convince me to read on? I’m willing to listen…

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July Reading: The Month Ahead

A new month is upon us again. Already. What’s on tap in my reading for July? Let’s start with the leftovers from June:

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
In fairness, it was late June when I “re-engaged” with this chunkster. I’m almost a third of the way through it as of last night, though. Like the first book in this series, I find some of the characters more compelling than others, which makes Martin’s penchant for skipping from one (of many, many) character to another with each new chapter’s beginning somewhat vexing. I’ll get through it, though. The jury’s still out on whether I will continue on to book three… (author Martin is pictured below)

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Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox by John Waugh
I’ve stalled again on this one, with only about 150 pages to go, I haven’t opened it in more than a week now. More discipline is required from this reader. (you can tell I never would’ve made the cut as a West Point Cadet!) Below: author John Waugh

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Palm Sunday by Kurt Vonnegut

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A “required” read, this one is of course for my monthly meeting of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Book Club. I am so looking forward to reading this non-fiction work of Vonnegut’s musings. Only a couple more Vonnegut books to go for me and I’ll have read them all (I finished the last novel in May, and I think I just have this one and Armageddon in Retrospect left to go overall).

Probable reads:
Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie – a shorter, hopefully lighter read. A story with an interesting premise that I learned of via a fellow book blogger.

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Panther in the Sky by James Alexander Thom – this one’s appeared before at least once on my “the month ahead” posts. I think it’s finally time I gave Shawnee leader Tecumseh (portrait below) some attention…

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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – a local book discussion group is meeting on this one on July 10th. Though I’m familiar with the story through the movie and pop culture in general, never having read this classic is a serious gap in my cultural literacy that needs to be addressed. Not sure if I’ll be able to read it in time for that meeting though.

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Also I’ll be continuing to catch up on my 2012 short story reading project, which I’ve been enjoying doing the past few days already. 🙂

That’s about it for me. What about you? What’s on deck in your reading plans for July? I’d love to hear…

Back to Westeros

Friday, I finished my “required reading” for the month (the Vonnegut short story collection Bagombo Snuff Box – more on that later, hopefully) and looked around for what to read next. Yes I “still have going” my current non-fiction read, The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox, but I can fairly easily keep more than one book going at a time if one’s non-fiction and the other fiction. (How’s that for rationalization?) Actually, looking back on my prior “June Reading: The Month Ahead” post it seems an obvious choice to pick up George R.R. Martin’s “A Clash of Kings,” but I remain daunted by its size, AND by the fact that it’s book two of God knows how many in the series.

So, I nonetheless jumped in Friday night and Saturday morning and got about sixty-five pages in (and am about to pick it up again as soon as I finish this post). I anxious to find out the fates of Eddard Stark’s children (and their direwolves). And I confess I did have to look up the Wikipedia entry on the first book of the series, A Game of Thrones since it’s been just over a year since I read it and have forgotten much of the plot and characters (there’s that “great memory” again).

I know that this series is wildly popular, but I’m curious as to what other readers and citizens of Bibliophilopolis think of them. I’m “committed” now to read this second one, but should I go on and read them all? Or should I “cut” my losses and stop after this one? As a matter of policy, I don’t “DNF” books I’ve started, but I don’t think that rule should apply to series. Right? 🙂

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June Reading – The Month Ahead

As always, it’s hard to believe a new month is upon me “already,” but it is a fact I must deal with. 🙂

I had a likely record-breaking reading month in May, finishing ten books. True, many were shorter than my usual reads, and I had started a couple the month before, but nonetheless I consider it a good month, at least by my humble standards.

So, does this mean I can slack off in June? Hardly! I have many books I want to read this month. Two are for book club meetings so I’ll start with them:

1. The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham

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I’ve actually already started this one and passed the halfway point this morning. Is been on my TBR list for quite awhile, and since I learned that the Carmel (north Indianapolis) Library book discussion group was meeting next week on it, I finally took the plunge. Liking it a lot so far, and not sure how it will end…

2. Bagombo Snuff Box by Kurt Vonnegut

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The book club of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library will be meeting on June 28th to discuss this short story collection which was published in 1999. Most of the stories were written in the 1950s and I hear he even re-wrote or re-worked three of em for this book. Another collection of Vonnegut stories, Welcome to the Monkey House, was my favorite book of those I read in 2010, so I’m really looking forward to working my way through these.

3. Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

Yes, it’s time I picked up this series again – especially since my friend Edie is putting me to shame by tearing through the first four and a half books in just a few weeks. 🙂 In fact, it’s funny to ponder how often I have been led to read something due to “peer pressure” like this. Probably happens more than I’d initially guess… Anyway, I sometimes miss the direwolves and the compelling young characters in this series and look forward to rejoining them.

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4. The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomatox by John C. Waugh

This is a “leftover” from my 2010 Civil War Reading Project that I’ve always wanted to get back to. I read the first 25 pages or so this morning and will see it through to its finish this time.

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Other contenders: Panther in the Sky by James Alexander Thom (I admit to being a little daunted by the length of this book, BUT if I can read George R.R. Martin…); American Gods by Neil Gaiman (been on my TBR list for quite awhile now – this could be the month); A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (kind of listening to this on audio off an on at work, but can’t usually pay it enough attention that way, unless I’m doing really routine, drudgery-laden tasks, which I don’t have enough of at the office); finally, a book I just read about this morning on Jade’s blog, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (outside of my normal reading pattern, but very popular among book bloggers, and I trust Jade, who liked it. Might be one of those, “let’s see what all the fuss is about” reads)

Well, that’s about it for me. What about YOU?? Have you read any of the above books (or authors) and did you like them? Most importantly, what will you be reading in June???

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Just Finished: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

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“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Cersei Lannister

Okay, I finally made it through this thick slice of “epic” fantasy. I have to admit that I was a little bit predisposed to NOT like this book. I am distrustful of fiction where a whole, vast world has been created as a stage and the reader is counted upon to learn it and all its inhabitants. I am distrustful of a book that opens with a map of “the world” where I, a reasonably competent student of geography – or so I’d like to think, recognize nothing and am starting from scratch. I am distrustful of a book that requires a large appendix with names and relations of characters, historical lists of the rulers of various kingdoms. (does the reader really gain any insight by a list of seventeen kings of the Targaryen Succession – all of which predate the action in this novel – other than the author has let his imagination run away with him?)

There have been comparisons of the series to Tolkein which I feel are unwarranted and pretentious – though I’ve heard Martin doesn’t make them himself. And – I wonder – are the “R.R.” initials his real name, or part of a pen name? If a pen name, then I am tempted to label him Tolkein wannabe. If not, then what an incredible coincidence: J.R.R. Tolkein, George R.R. Martin, hmmm… I’m also amused by books like this and what parts of real history they decide to keep. It seems like knights, jousting, swordplay, and the concept of royalty and lines of succession always make the cut. (and yes, this is a book where the main characters frequently have names for their swords – I guess I’m distrustful of that too…)

But enough of what “bothered” me about this book. There are many things that I liked as well. At its heart, it’s full of political scheming and intrigue, lusty and graphic battle scenes, characters good and evil – sometimes loathsomely evil – many of whom are adolescents and just learning their way and the ways of this young, still magical world. In fact, come to think of it, all the best characters (for my money) with the exception of the dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, are basically youngsters.

And let’s not forget the “direwolves” (like regular wolves only bigger and, well, “direr”…). Early in the novel, the children of Eddard Stark, ruler of Winterfell, come upon a dying female direwolf, still nursing a litter of pups. The pups are all adopted by the children and figure prominently throughout the book. They become fiercely loyal to their “masters” and are not infrequently called upon to save the day. “Normal” wolves are present in Martin’s imagined world as well. Early on, upon hearing a wolf howl in the distance we get, “Something about the howling of a wolf took a man right out of his here and now and left him in a dark forest of the mind, running naked before the pack.” I liked that.

There are also the “Dothraki,” a warlike tribe, the leader of whom has the good fortune to wed Daenerys, the beautiful – and quite young – heiress to one of “the Seven Kingdoms”. It seems clear to me (a big “fan” of Genghis Khan) that these people are a transparent rip-off of the Mongolian hordes of the late Middle Ages, an irresistible mounted force spreading death and terror wherever they ride. They are fond of drinking fermented mare’s milk, and skilled bowmen in the saddle – both direct similarities with the armies Genghis Khan and his successors commanded.

I suppose I’ve written enough at this point. I guess the real question is will I continue on and read the subsequent books in the series. I am undecided at this point. I’m troubled a bit by the fact that there are several yet to be published (I think eight(?) in all are intended). Martin is going to have to pick up the pace too as he’s not exactly churning them out, either. I admit that I was also motivated by the fact that there’s an HBO series of A Game of Thrones now too – which I haven’t seen, but would like to.

What about you? Have you read this novel or series? What is your take on them, and the genre? Do you think I should “press on?” Let me know.

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