A series started this year that looks like its going to grow bigger and bigger. Game of Thrones – based on George R R Martin’s series of books “A Song of Ice and Fire”, took the first book in a (planned) series of seven and converted it into a 10 part TV miniseries – this was where I first encountered the story but I fear that the following is going to flit between the book and the TV adaption somewhat.
In starting I should say that having finished the book I’m stunned by how closely the TV adaptation has adapted the book – as I read I found many scenes appeared pretty much exactly as they were in the show – or if they were changes these were minor which seemed to add to the scene rather than detract. There were of course a couple of extra added scenes to help the whole thing hang together – but it wasn’t till I had read the book that these were noticeable and stood out from the whole. The story is the book is written in a very interesting way – told in the third person from the point of view of 9 different characters you get a multitude of different views on the different situations encountered through the novel – this adds an additional layer as your views are shifted one chapter to chapter – with the characters previously seen as the foes suddenly becoming allies etc. This style of writing keeps you on your toes, whilst at the same time being carefully used to show that each character has they’re own strengths and flaws; each of the characters you see through the eyes of seems real and rounded. These individual stories all build into the singular over-arching story which contains its own un-expected twists and turns – though be warned the story doesn’t really reach a conclusion, a couple of the arcs just finish at the end of the book/series hopefully to be picked up in the next instalment – however there is a cliff hanger which could change the game so it leaves you with something to look forward too. One thing I did find useful to start out with however was the really useful infographics provided by HauteSlides, they’re an invaluable method for keeping track of the relationships between the characters and houses which can be found online here.
From the gorgeous (clockwork) opening map showing you the main locations of the episode (and yes this does change depending on where is visited). Once past the opening titles the sets are amazing, full of detail in both the fore- and backgrounds. Like Lord of the Rings (and various other recent fantasy projects) the series adapts existing locations and landscapes to create a gorgeous landscape that feels like it belongs to another world (instead of Ireland and Malta). As with Lord of the Rings great effort seems to have gone into all the metalwork and equipment giving the show a grounded real world feel. The effects also lead to some uncomfortable viewing – with a variety of beheadings, mutilations and various other nasty things taking place throughout the series and while these are there they never get over-the-top or take the focus of the story.
The cast of the show is fantastic, though the book is a tad more open on the different moralities of the characters, this doesn’t detract from the enjoyment at all. In fact the casting is so consistently spot on you find yourself sympathising with the characters more. In the show some of the characters have been aged to how they are in the book – this is obviously a practical consideration but doesn’t harm the story – I found that the slightly older personification stuck with me better and made the characters more identifiable. The child actors who play at least two of the main characters are fantastic – it could be very easy for them to be irritating instead they take their roles, add to them and make them something special – being given some strong scenes to carry and performing this admirably. Sean Bean and Mark Addy also hit all the right notes as Northern men, one a Lord, one a King, who think of each other as brothers – they both sell the characters and are hard not to find instantly likeable. The real stand-out performance is Peter Dinklage – his character is one of the more complicated characters of the book, and he brings a certain charm to the roles, whilst at the same time a level of calculation. It’s a really good performance which should certain put Dinklage on the path for awards.
So, if you missed the show I’d strongly recommend looking it up and giving it a go – if you can get through the first episode (I’m personally very squeamish) then you won’t have a problem with the rest of the series leading to a fantastic story combining Middle-Earth with the Sopranos/West Wing. If you’ve got the time give the book a go – it’s complex and involving. To be honest I can’t wait to get started on the second chapters of these both.