April 23, 2012

Game of Thrones - Who do you cheer for?

As fantasy heroes go there are the Aragorns (the stereotypical prince in waiting), the Tanis Half-Elvens (the wise leaders), the Conans (the barbarian warlords)...

But with the book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R. R. Martin and the TV show Game of Thrones (named after the first book in the series) you aren't quite sure which characters you are supposed to cheer for.

If you look at the cast of characters the following are obvious choices of characters to cheer for:

Jon Snow (the bastard son of Ned Stark, unknowingly pitted against frozen zombies and wights).
Arya Stark (on the run and pretending to be a boy).
Catelyn Stark (bent on vengence and saving her daughters).
Sansa Stark (captured and under constant watch).
Rob Stark (on the war path and engaged to a Frey daughter).
Brandon Stark (crippled and having strange dreams where he is his wolf).
Danaerys Stormborn Targaryen (the Mother of Dragons and looking for an army).

But there are other people worth cheering for if you pay attention.

#1. Tyrion Lannister

An unlikely hero since he is part of the enemy Lannisters, but unlike his sister and his father he has a sense of morality and a kinship with downtrodden.

#2. Samwell Tarly

You may think he is a minor character, but in reality Sam gets a lot of face time. Sam may be cowardly at first, but he is growing bolder and more determined.

#3. Jaime Lannister

Again, like his brother, he is part of the Lannister family and responsible for making Bran a cripple... but he has some redeeming features and being held captive seems to have made him more philosophical. It will be interesting to watch how his personality changes with time.

#4. Brienne of Tarth

She may look like a minor character right now, but expect great things from the Maid of Tarth. She is a poster child for tomboys and feminists everywhere.

#5. Hodor!

Hodor doesn't say much, but he rocks anyway. For fun I recommend shouting HODOR! every time he gets to say something.

The thing about Game of Thrones however is that in addition to being a more realistic fantasy story, its also a bit like a soap opera. (And if you read the books, very long winded.)

As novels go Game of Thrones can be quite disappointing when you consider the books are so long. Yes, the characters are interesting, but the plot is so slow it feels like they rarely accomplish anything.

In contrast books like Robert E. Howard's "The Phoenix on the Sword" (a Conan novel) or Charles Moffat's epic story "The Paladin Assassin" give way more bang for your time, effort and money. But there is a huge difference in terms of style and approach there. Both Howard and Moffat are fans of the central hero, in these examples the barbarian Conan and the assassin Wynic Doxon, and its pulp fantasy / epic fantasy.

But there is 1 major similarity between George R. R. Martin, Robert E. Howard and Charles Moffat... they all deal with world's that have low magic. Most Conan stories don't even have magic. Usually its just some big beast and some baddies to kill. Moffat's Crimson Companions Trilogy has no magic at all (with the exception of a few legendary weapons). George R. R. Martin's books actually have a decent amount of magic in comparison to the latter.

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