Game of Thrones Book Club: Meet the Starks



Daniel is a journalist.

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27 Responses

  1. Avatar North says:

    I loved the dire wolves, awesome, but I gotta agree with Daniel, I though John Snow was above and beyond the worst sort of hackneyed cliché. I took four books to warm to him and he’s still my least favorite Stark. Seriously, I just think the whole base borne child who rises above his station shtick is done to death.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      You assume he’s actually base born then…?Report

      • Avatar Daniel says:

        Oh he’s got Stark blood in him and he’s often said to be more of a Stark than many of the Stark-Tully children.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I was being lazy and probably used the term sloppily. I don’t know who his mum is and haven’t heard the theories but it’s blatant (and brutally cliche) that his mother was someone special and not just some peasant in the woods around Summerhall.Report

        • Avatar Ryan B says:

          I think it will work out to be either more or less cliché than you think (depending on how you think these sorts of clichés work…).Report

    • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

      I’ve read only the first book, but as of now, Snow’s my favorite character, or at least the character I’m most cheering for. He’s compassionate and kind, but also impulsive, self-centered, and very proud. I don’t know what Martin has in store for him, but I could see him becoming more virtuous or transforming into a cruel villain. The awareness and sensitivity that lead him to see Sam’s situation could be twisted and perverted if he allows his pride and fear to overcome his good sense. I hope he becomes a better man as he grows, but I dare say he’d make a frightful and fascinating antagonist.Report

  2. Avatar Leah says:

    I didn’t find Tyrion’s advice to be that un-cliche either. I was most interested in the threat of the prologue and (worldbuilding geek that I am) the theological differences between Eddard’s and Cat’s religions.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      The prologue is brilliant. And the religious aspect of the book doesn’t play a huge part, but I agree that it’s a very interesting part. Religion is a lot like magic in these books, which is to say largely absent.Report

      • Avatar Aaron W says:

        I don’t know if “absent” is quite the right word as “subtle”. Religion and magic always seem to be in the background, but never quite in the fore front like Harry Potter for example. There’s some pretty obviously magically influenced events, but they tend to be more special than magic just flying all over the place. For religion, it seems like later in the fourth book that it starts to play a more significant role, but we’ll see what happens with the fifth.Report

        • Avatar Don Zeko says:

          I found two things fascinating about religion in Westeros. The first is that, despite Martin’s commitment to describing a realistic medieval society and all of the unpleasantness and injustice that entails, he makes a Westeros a remarkably tolerant religiously diverse society. We have plenty of examples of marriages, political alliances, friendships and what have you that cross the divide between the Seven and the Old Gods, most castles maintain both septs and Godswoods, and there’s no indication that this has led to any kind of violence or division in hundreds of years.

          The second is that the Seven appear to be chumps. While Thoros and the Red Lady both obviously derive supernatural power from their god and the Old Gods presumably have something to do with Bran’s connection to Summer, Jojen’s Green Dreams, Coldhands, and so forth, the Seven never have any clear influence on temporal events. So I wonder: is this because that’s not how the Seven operate, or does it tell us something about the accuracy of different religious beliefs in Westeros? Or is it possible that none of these religions are actually producing miracles at all, and that the supernatural events we observe are the work of something other than the gods that appear to be responsible?Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Or perhaps the Seven (well really the one who the seven are all aspects of) is the divinity who steps in when magic ebbs in that world.

            Historically Martin alludes that the faith of the Seven was originally quite a militant and fierce one but that by dint of a great deal of imposition of secular governmental force they were reformed to a relatively peaceful faith. You’ll recall that *spoilers* those very reforms were rolled back by Cercei Lannister in the later books and the faith of the Seven appears to be undergoing a violent internal reformation that’s bringing it back to its’ dark roots. Winter is coming indeed.Report

  3. Avatar Trumwill says:


    I suppose it’s something of an advantage for me that I don’t really read fantasy, unless you count Discworld. So while the Jon Snow character is somewhat familiar, it’s not really cliche. The one that really stuck out at me as excessively familiar is/was Tyrion. And of course Eddard. Tyrion is hard not to like, though. And Eddard is there the same way that a chair is there in my room. It seems to be a difficult character to avoid.

    Again, though, this is based on my limited exposure. Discworld, Lord of the Rings (movies), and some anime. Things that are chiched to others are going to be newer to me. And perhaps some things I think of as cliched are actually less usual than I would have figured.

    I remember when watching commentary to the original episode of The Shield, Michael Chiklas said that one of the things they were most seeking to avoid was Pilotitus, which is the need to give you the rundown all at once. I wonder the extent to which that is more difficult to do in a fantasy world (where you have so much more context to give) and in the written word instead of TV.

    Notably, that one quote has been ringing in my ears for days. I’ve had a few conversations lately about slurs and whatnot, and the degree to which we let descriptors which are meant to be derogatory get under our skin. The ones I am pondering are more subjective (“racist”, “redneck”) than factual (“bastard,” “dwarf”).

    Oh, and for the record I am listening to the audiobook. So I’m going to be misspelling names right and left, most likely, and probably writing some down wrong entirely.Report

    • Avatar Daniel says:

      I think in the books “dwarf” and “imp” are both used in more subjective derogatory fashions.

      As for this sentence:

      So while the Jon Snow character is somewhat familiar, it’s not really cliche.

      You’ve got to help me out here. Snow strikes me as one of the most boring characters in fiction or storytelling at large. He’s kind, good, able, well rounded in his world but has some kind of chip on his shoulder. If this were Star Wars he’d be Luke Skywalker. If this was a Tom Clancy novel he’d be Jack Ryan. He just really seems to be a product of his environment and nothing else.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        I figured as much for “imp”, but less so for “dwarf.” But yeah, they do seem to focus on the more derogatory “imp” tag.

        As for Snow, we may be defining character differently. In terms of personality (and capability), he is pretty nondescript. But I find his story and the differing attitudes surrounding him to compensate. And to some extent, I consider the nondescript personality a product of his sort of walking on eggshells and not quite knowing where he fits in to everything. I don’t get that sort of tension from the Luke Skywalker character.

        I’m half way through the first book and no further. He hasn’t even played that much of a role yet. My views are subject to change.Report

  4. Avatar Trumwill says:

    Erik, it seems to be really common for book-to-TV transitions. Owing in part to child labor laws and owing in part to the fact that a 12 year old doing grown up things in the written word just doesn’t seem as silly as actually seeing it happen. If you are so inclined, you can just imagine them older. This may be less of an issue for this series than for a bona fide children’s series.

    According to Orson Scott Card, one of the big holdups on Ender’s Game as a movie is that the studios all want Ender to be older and he doesn’t want to budge on that. Well, I’m kind of with the movie studios on that one. I could never envision the character as being as young as he ostensibly is.Report

    • Avatar Leah says:

      I agree. An age-accurate Ender’s Game would be so jarring as to be unwatchable.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      I can’t help but imagine them older now – but I’m not complaining at all. I like them older, and I imagine if Martin could go back in time and write them older he would.

      And I didn’t know that about Card. He should budge. That’s a ridiculous reason to hold up a movie.Report

      • Avatar James K says:

        I think the younger ages fit with what I see as Martin’s vision – a desire to portray a fantasy world with authentically medieval elements. Fourteen might be a child by modern standards but in much of medieval Europe it was the age a boy became a man. It makes sense that Jon Snow is that age.

        But I agree it wouldn’t work for TV, for one thing you simply couldn’t screen Danaerys’s wedding night if the actress looked thirteen.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Word James. I think this is the main reason they are so young. They’re living in a world where wars are brutal, messy and filthy and fourty is venerable.Report

      • Avatar Kevin says:

        I seem to recall (I think it was on GRRM’s website, but I don’t have time to dig it up), that GRRM was originally planning on having a time skip of 3 years or so at some point in the series, making everyone a good deal older by the end than they will be the way things are going now, and that if he had it to do over, he would make the characters ages similar to those on the HBO serise.Report

    • Avatar Plinko says:

      The book ages seem more appropriate to me for the setting. I can understand the need to age them for a filmed version, but I keep watching them and thinking they all look too old.Report

  5. Avatar wonkie says:

    I’m not a fantasy fan except for the subcatagory of English children’s literature. My excursions into fantasy have left me with the impression that it is a genre’ where character develpment is unimportant, the bad guys exist for no reason except to be bad, the plots are predictable and the faux-Medieval settings shallow and fail to be either historically accurate or well-developed places of the imagination.

    So I never would have read Game of Thrones if the Balloon Juicers weren’t so into it.

    I’m about halfway through the first book. I like it. I do not find it absorbing but I do find it entertaining. Compared to other fantasy books I’ve tried, it is definately superior both in characters, setting, and plot.

    On the other hand if I want to read about people acting within the context of Medieval culture with motives ad relatioships difficult to understand from a modern perspective and lots of convoluted plotting and drama I can always reread Allison Weir’s book about Richard the Third. Or any of a number of of histories, really.

    Which is probably why I am lukewarm to the Game of Thrones: history has the same mxture or characters shaped by events and events shaped by character in the context of a culture that is both similar to and profoundly different than modern life. I guess I prefer history.

    I do think that I will enjoy the TV series, though. Watching is a different experience from reading and I think I will enjoying seeing the story.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      The character development kicks into overdrive as you progress. And it happens for the “villains” as wells as the “heroes”.Report

      • Avatar Ryan B says:

        Yeah, as I’ve said to E.D. on an occasion or two, one of the real strengths of the series is the way books 2-4 completely confound so much of what you learned in book 1.Report

  6. Avatar paul says:

    people in the book are much larger and stronger at an earlier age than in reality, so having younger characters makes more sense. also, people seem to age quicker, perhaps bc a “year” means something different in the book than it does in reality. as a matter of fact, my complaint about the series is that they didn’t pick actors with the physicality to portray the various characters as depicted in the book. i thought erik from true blood would have been a great jaime lannister for example.Report