Seeing how we are now fast approaching the premiere of the fifth season of Game of Thrones I thought I’d keep posting a bit more about Westeros and the world of ice and fire in general. You know, to get into the right mood for when the show starts going. What follows here is therefore a discussion of which characters’ stories in which books I liked the most.
The boring one – Bran, book 3 & 5: I just have to get this out there before we go on to the good stuff, Bran’s chapters in books three and five were the ones I enjoyed the least in the whole series. I mean I get that they contain stuff important to the main story, the song of ice and fire if you will. But for some reason they were just boring, probably because what I like most in these books are the interesting character interactions and there weren’t too many of those here.
The earlier Bran chapters, in book 1 and 2 after Eddard had left, were for some reason better than the later ones, and also blended well with the Theon chapters. Unfortunately, because Bran’s storyline went the way it did in A Dance with Dragons, I fear that if he is to resurface in book six or seven things won’t be much better.
Part of the problem is also that I care more for the mundane developments in Westeros than the prophecies and three-eyed crows, more about the game than the song or however you wanna put it. Anyway, having established what I liked the least in these books, lets discuss what I liked most.
Runner up 1 – Daenerys, book 5: This one felt like a possible open ending from the start. The potential was huge, would Dany set sail for Westeros, when and how would she do it, how many Unsullied could she fit into a single ship? The storyline certainly didn’t end even close to the way I had expected it would, but after doing some thinking I quickly realized that this way will work out quite nice anyway. Maybe Daenerys can’t get to Westeros, but as we’ve seen with among others Barristan, Tyrion and Victarion, Westeros can still come to her.
Daenerys’ chapters in A Dance with Dragons transitioned beautifully into Barristans chapters towards the end of the storyline as well, I liked the duality of seeing both what she was up to and how Barristan was holding the fort in her absence at the same time.
Runner up 2 – Tyrion book 2: These chapters were, to be honest, one big buildup for the battle of the Blackwater. Besides that they also contained what may be the best of instances of people “playing the game of thrones” this side of A Storm of Swords. Tyrion really is at his best here, I like this efficient over-achieving Tyrion more than the bitter, cynical and vengeful Tyrion we get in book 5.
The more intrigue-heavy scenes are mixed with rather emotional scenes involving Cersei and Shae, making it sort of a complete experience. Of all the chapters in A Clash of Kings, these one are by far the most re-readable.
Runner up 3 – Jamie book 4: For some reason I liked these chapters more than I thought I would. Like Bran’s later chapters, the Jamie chapters in A Feast for Crows sort of also deal with a character traveling, and interacting more with himself than with other people. But because Jamie is a by far more interesting and deep character than Bran, it still works out. It’s not that surprising, seeing how Jamie is an adult and Bran a child, but I still wanna note for the record that I’d rather listen to Jamie talking to himself than Bran doing that.
Some of the best stuff takes place when Jamie gets to Riverrun, when he confronts the Blackfish and tries but fails hosting a council meeting Tywin-style. That segment also contains Clemont Piper’s short monologue on the theme “I’d rather drink a pint of piss than trust the word of any Frey”, a thoroughly enjoyable scene that I don’t mind rereading.
There are a few times in these chapters when jamie’s brooding about Cersei gets overdone, but it is usually good and mixed with other stuff so that rarely goes on for too long. Finally, I also like Jamie’s bonding with Ilyn Payne, I mean it’s no Tyrin & Bronn but it works, since Jamie is so self-absorbed he needs someone who doesn’t talk anyway.
The way this storyline later transitions into book 5 worries me. It would be highly unfortunate if the brotherhood hangs Jamie, book 6 is to early for him to die, I want to keep him around until A Dream of Spring.
Winner – Tyrion, book 3: This storyline really had it all. It involved some of the most interesting interactions in the entire series, involving Oberyn, Tywin, Cersei, Varys, Bronn, Sansa and a whole bunch of other important people. The main line of events culminating in the arrival of the Dornish, the death of Joffrey, the trial, the duel and so on is one of the most exciting parts of the entire series, and even without that going down most of these chapters would still be good.
There were some shocking moments here, from Joffrey’s, Oberyn’s and Tywin’s deaths to the revelations made to Tyrion by Jamie towards the end. The trial wasn’t a cliffhanger in the usual sense, I knew Tyrion would not actually die, but the way he got out of it was still a bit surprising. The conversations between Tyrion and Tywin, although dark, were also some of the most well written interactions in the entire series.
Most artful dialog ever written – Jamie and Roose at Harrenhall: At one point in the third book Jamie Lannister and Roose Bolton have a little sitdown. This particular sitdown is a textbook example of what I like about these books, beautifully crafted dialog between well developed characters.
Most shocking character death – Tywin Lannister: I wasn’t hit as hard by the death of Eddard Stark in the first book as some other readers. It’s not that I saw it coming or anything, it just sort of fit into the story in a way, I read it and then went on reading the rest of the book without further ado. Likewise with Robb and Cately, in that case I did have a feeling that they had to go, since they were hogging to much attention in a story that wasn’t only about them.
For some reason though, the death of Tywin got to me. I mean I recognize that Tywin was a bad guy and that to some extent he just got what was coming to him, but I didn’t think that Tyrion would pull the trigger. After reading the last sentences of that chapter I had to send the text message “HE KILLED TYWIN!” to the friend who had recommended the books to me way back when.
Tywin was one of the more abhorrent characters in the book, but his dialog was so well written that it was always interesting to read.
Most fitting put-down of a douchebag by another douchebag – Roose vs Ramsey at Winterfell: We all know that Bolton senior and Bolton junior show that sometimes the apple doesn’t fall from the tree, in that they’re both evil scum. But out of the two Ramsey is by far the most annoying one, reading the Theon chapters makes me want to slap Ramsey in the face.
The chapter when Roose returns to Winterfell and stirs some shit up in the middle of Ramsey’s party is therefore satisfying. Ramsey has made himself king of the hill by kicking at bound prisoners and making dogs chase girls and so on, trying to show that he doesn’t fear anyone or anything and that he is all out of fucks to give with regards to anyone’s opinion. When Roose tells him to jump however, he still asks ‘how high?’ just like everyone else.
Character most deserving of being fed to the dragons – Ramsey Snow: Does this one really need further explanations?
Most vile serpent walking on two legs like were it human – Euron Greyjoy: This one combines the malice and sadism of Ramsey Bolton with the cunning of Tywin Lannister. I suspect he is gonna cause some major havoc before karma catches up with him, if it ever does.