Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Review: A Game of Thrones - Book vs TV

As I had a review of both A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and season one of the TV show planned out in my blog schedule, I thought I would try something a little bit different and do a comparison of the two in the same blog post.

The Book

I read A Game of Thrones back in November, a good few years after the hype had begun. I’m not sure why I avoided the series for so long, it’s probably just because fantasy isn’t normally a genre that I pick up. But having said that, there are so many fantasy books and films that I love, so it was perhaps more a case of finding the time to invest in the series.

Although it’s mostly the TV show that everyone has been shouting about, I’m one of those annoying people who will always try to read the book before its screen adaptation. Even still, I was reluctant to actually sit down and read the book until Tom started reading them (after watching the show) and said he was really enjoying them. Tom’s not much of a reader so I was immediately intrigued.

From what I’d heard about A Game of Thrones, I kind of assumed it would be quite a heavy read, given the genre, setting and basic premise of the plot, so the first thing that took me by surprise was how effortlessly I was drawn into the action and how quickly I was turning the pages. Or should I say swiping at the Kindle screen? Not quite the same effect…

Of course, there’s no denying that it’s a long read, and one that you need to put a considerable amount of time into, but it’s beautifully and clearly written in a way that makes it a pleasure to read.

Another thing that put me off a little was having heard that there were almost too many characters to keep up with. Well, that’s another thing that I didn’t find to be true. Yes, there are a lot of characters and families and castles, but it’s definitely not impossible to keep on top of what’s going on and how everyone relates to one another.

Besides the killer plot twists, it is the brilliant array of characters that really makes A Game of Thrones as successful as it is. Whether it’s the lovable Starks, the detestable Lannisters, the hilarious likes of Tyrion or frustratingly mysterious and intelligent figures such as Littlefinger, Martin’s characters are remarkably well-constructed and fleshed-out. With a character list as long as this one, you would think there would be a number of individuals who existed purely as plot devices, but every single person Martin introduces is fiercely believable. 

Although there are the obvious cases of those who are written to be loved, and those who are solely villainous, there are also a few characters who have a more complex and conflicted relationship with the reader, which creates a much more interesting reading experience.

At its core, A Game of Thrones is a book in which you can’t help but be intrinsically emotionally invested; it’s complete escapism, with a sophisticated balance of dramatic, heartfelt and witty moments. 

The TV Show

Weirdly, it took me a little longer to get hooked by the TV show than with the book; I say weirdly, because the show launches into the action much quicker, whereas the book introduces things a lot more slowly. But maybe that’s why you develop a faster and deeper connection with the characters.

The casting of the adaptation is faultless. In fact, I love Eddard and Catelyn Stark even more through Sean Bean and Michelle Fairly’s portrayals. There were moments during the book when I started to doubt the strength of Eddard Stark, and failed to understand his mentality, but everything just seems to fall into place under Bean’s composure. Michelle Fairly draws out the very best of Catelyn’s fierce and determined ways, as well as capturing her more subtle traits.

Daenerys Targaryen was probably the only character who really differed from what I had imagined whilst reading, but I found myself continually fascinated by Emilia Clarke’s performance, and she has completely transformed the character for me.

The TV adaptation also boasts stunning cinematography throughout, and some of the locations within the narrative come to life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Nothing is done by half measures, and each new place has a distinctive identity.

Besides the odd slow episode, which is somewhat inevitable when adapting a book of that length, the plot generally works well in an episodic format, with the plot twists enabling really dramatic endings to each episode. 

Much to my own surprise, I’ve actually decided to continue watching Game of Thrones as a TV show, without reading the books first, primarily for this reason. As a show that thrives off its shocking plot twists, I think I will enjoy the series a lot more not knowing what’s about to happen. Now how’s that for a plot twist?

I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on Game of Thrones in the comments, but it’s strictly a no-spoiler zone…


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