I have to admit, it’s a little hard to reread these chapters without considering what’s going to happen next. I just want to mention things that, right now, are all spoilers. The only thing to do, really, is to focus on the first impressions because that’s all we really have to talk about so far.
I remember first reading these chapters and thinking that this was just another trashy fantasy series that belonged on the rack at a gas station on the interstate highway. I guess that’s unavoidable in a fantasy series. Any fantasy or science fiction author has to introduce so much in a concise way that won’t push the reader away from the broader story to tell. It’s hard to do this at all, much less well. I don’t think Martin’s first few chapters are terrible but they aren’t great either. Reading Dany’s and Eddard’s point of view I didn’t really have much of an interest in any of the characters. It wasn’t until the interaction between Jon Snow (who seems like the most cliche and boring character of the bunch we know so far) and Tyrion that I realized this series might be something different. This line got to me in particular (pg. 57 in paperback):
“Let me give you some counsel, bastard,” Lannister said. “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
That suggested to me that this was a story about people set in a medieval world rather than a story about a medieval world with people in it. That line is what also sparked my interest in Tyrion, I like how he isn’t some kind of able-bodied-hero-in-waiting with a chip on his shoulder, he’s a foul mouthed dwarf. (yeah yeah, I’ve said it before).
What’d you think about the first few chapters? Like anyone in particular? Dislike anyone?
I’m not going to add a ton to this first installation of the book club. I just noticed while reading the first few chapters how much younger all the characters are in the books than the show. I’m glad the show did this, actually. I’m not sure fourteen-year-old Jon Snow would work, or thirty-five-year-old Eddard.
That’s all from me for now. I’m excited to get back into the books. It’s been a long time.
Oh P.S. Unlike Daniel, I remember being utterly hooked after just the prologue. But after they found the dire wolves? I couldn’t set the damn thing down. For two days, which is how long it took me to finish the first book.
P.S. Let’s read the next eight chapters by next Thursday. I’m not sure what pace people want to take, but I assume everyone has their copies of the book by now. I’d give page numbers but who knows how those would line up with Kindles, Nooks, hardcovers, softcovers, trade paperbacks, etc. etc. etc.
UPDATE by Daniel 5/29/2011:
Man, I’m really loving the comments threads we’ve had so far and the story is only going to get more complex meaning (most likely) that the conversations will get even better! This comment from DonZeko stuck out to me:
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?
It’s already been noted –SPOILERS– that the apparent religious ceasefire ends as the story progresses.
Throughout the story I got the sense that the inclusion of Godswoods at most castles was part of the effort to make the northern kingdom really part of the Seven Kingdoms. Imagine how much more divided northerners would feel if they couldn’t pray to their gods in the south when they go to court. There’s already a very visible identity northerners carry that others like, say, easterners or westerners in the Seven Kingdoms, don’t.