January 15, 2012

The Best Series Ever

I've covered a few areas so far in this blog, including & mostly books and reading. This is another entry in that tradition. This time, I'm going to tell you about my favorite series. Ever.

As far back as I can remember, I've been a fan of medieval & fantasy stories. Perhaps it began in my diaper days watching some Disney films such as Sword in the Stone, Sleeping Beauty, Robin Hood and others.
I also began reading some books in school. In elementary school, we read all seven of the Narnia books, in the order they were published (the first one written was The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe). And to top it all off, most of the LEGO sets (and pieces and figures..) were castle themed. I'd say about 70-80% of them.

So that's the foundation of my love of fantasy & medieval tales right there, as far as I can recall anyway; from when I was young. Fast forward to about....2007. I was talking to a friend of mine about books and fantasy series; and how I enjoy Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Wheel of Time. There may have been another one or two, but you get the idea. Anyway, she mentioned George R.R. Martin and his Song of Ice and Fire series. On her recommendation, I got the four that were out then (luckily the national bookstore, Chapters, was having a sale so I got one of the books free I believe). I had always intended to read them, but due to the size of my reading pile, and the odd book or two along the way, I got sidetracked from reading them. I regret prolonging my read.

As some of you may know, HBO adapted the series for TV. They're using the name of the first book, Game of Thrones, for the one on TV. Once I heard about that, I thought "Cool! I own some of the books already!" and was looking forward to reading them even more (or at least the first book) by the time the series debuted.

And so I read Book 1. Wow. Words cannot describe how good a read it was. I'll do my best, and not spoil anything as I go (as with this book series, it can be easy).

So there's no 'single hero'. No Frodo. None of that. And there's no 'quest'. The series focuses on many characters, but a few 'major' ones at a time. And of course the characters are out to achieve something, their own goals.
The chapters aren't laid out as 'Chapter 1, Chapter 2' etc.. but told from rotating character's view points. Instead, we get a chapter called 'Eddard' and focuses on him. Then right after, we jump to Tyrion Lannister, and focus on him for about 15-20 pages. Then back to Eddard, or perhaps onto someone else.

Also, the series is 'real' despite being a fantasy. There's next to no magic. People have sex, drink, get killed (no one is safe from death in this series), injured, etc...Anything can happen at anytime.

But what's the story? Well, I'll try again here. Basically, it's set in a fictional land, featuring many houses and families. So you've got House Stark, House Lannister, etc.. The characters are primarily noble or high born. Some of them are fighting for control of all the world, which is the Iron Throne.
Some beleive they are the rightful king, others don't like the King and want to get rid of them and become king themselves, or place someone they like as king (or queen). Think of it as like a mix between The Tudors (for focusing on the noble and royal) and Gladiator (for the grittiness & brutalness of it). Or Lord of the Rings without orcs, hobbits, dwarves or elves.

Another thing that's great about the series is continuity. From book to book, you're drawn in. In Book 2, Clash of Kings, for example, it kind of reminds me of the second part of Lord of the Rings. In that, some of the characters shift from minor to major, we get some new ones, as well as new locations. And of course, our existing, surviving characters, continue with their journey (or attempt to). Also, the story flows from book to book to book. you can't jump in mid series, and well, the actual ending hasn't happened yet. Think of the ending of the books as a season finale, not a series finale on TV. Also, on a side note, I hope that the cover design introduced with Book 5 (Dance With Dragons) is the last style, and Books 6 and 7 will feature the same style & design for their covers. The earlier books also got re-issued featuring this new cover style.

As of now, I'm reading Book 4 (Feast For Crows), out of seven. Book 5 (Dance With Dragons came out in July of this year; and the author has yet to write Book 6 (Winds of Winter) and Book 7 (Dream of Spring).
On top of that, he's also written 3 prequel novellas, with as many as up to nine. Once the fourth is published, we'll see those collected in an anthology. Those will help with the wait between the remaining novels.

I'm enjoying and savoring each and every page. I'm reading this series at a nice leisurely pace. I don't want too long, nor speed through too fast. It's close to a year since I began reading Book 1.

However, there's also the HBO series. I definitely prefer reading the books (through no fault of the show, HBO or anything like that, I just love reading!) but the adaption is (so far) nearly flawlessly. I'm trying to think of scenes that were removed, changed, or added, and can't think of any. I hope HBO does the remaining books justice, and ends the tv series at the point where the story in the books end (such as not canceling it.) In order to keep it going, I encourage you to watch it on HBO, or get the DVDs. Normally I don't mind the whole downloading thing, but when it comes to seeing something to the end, I'd like to see it end, as opposed to being canceled.

In short, despite my long winded-ness, I've run out of things to say about this awesome (book & HBO) series. It's very real, authentic, burtual, honest, & well written. And the characters are terrific too! Many fans are a bit impatient with the author, but I think we're on the right track for the final two books. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping he doesn't get hit by a bus, have a heart attack or befall any misfortune. An author of another series I like already passed away before his series was completed, so I'm hoping the same thing won't happen here. Let's all take a moment to cross our fingers together....there. Let's hope that helped!

Bottom line - if you like history & medieval stuff where anything can happen to anyone at anytime, with flawed characters, as opposed to a 'hero or group on a quest to go somewhere or do something', give this series a shot.

PS: I should mention some sites worth visiting.

http://grrm.livejournal.com/ George RR Martin's blog. He keeps us updated with his writing (due to the size of the manuscript, he referred to Book 5 as "Kong", so keep an eye out for Book 6 to be referred to as "Son of Kong". ), football, and other things. Worth visiting once a week.

http://georgerrmartin.com/ George's site. His blog is his journal, and this is where he posts things. Such as an excerpt from Book 6. He'll mention updates and postings in his blog.

http://winteriscoming.net/ Primarily reports news and happenings with the HBO series (filming, casting, premiere / finale dates, etc..) From time to time they'll post major book related news. I think they made a post in regards to when Book 5 became available for pre-order, and was completed, cover art, etc..

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