Winter is coming.
No really, last Friday ushered in the Fall and right around the corner, winter will come galloping in. In the Bay Area you know this means a few weeks of sunshine and outdoor music festivals that give way to the gentle mist and rain of winter.
A certain book series sucked up months July- September.
Truth told, all realms of life not work, love or food-related just kind of blurred into the ether. And George R. R. Martin took over. It all really started with Sean Bean and one episode of Martin’s “Game of Thrones” bled into another in the best possible way. So we spent an entire weekend watching episodes in a spree that could rival a CSI or Law & Order marathon. We are not alone in our fascination with all things G.O.T. Nope, this person and this person caught the bug too. I always knew I liked Anita but my appreciation sky-rocketed after chatting through our Game of Thrones geekdom.
It’s exhilarating when a book gets under your skin completely.
To people unfamiliar with Game of Thrones, I describe it as “medieval pulp fiction.” I stuck it out through five books in three months and almost 5000 pages in those three months (Game of Thrones- 807), (Clash of Kings– 969), (Storm of Swords- 1009), (Feast for Crows– 978), (A Dance with Dragons– 1082). He has two more books coming and given that this most recent book was just released this year in hardback after 7 years, I’m guessing I will be through the TV seasons 2-5 by the time the book series is done, which is jarring because he caps off D.w.D. in a way that leaves some favorite characters in question or in a lurch. Argh.
It is something to look forward to, as would be the Song of Ice and Fire cookbook. Martin doesn’t even try to hide that he is a foodie since dinner scenes and descriptions can often take up an entire paragraph themselves. While some of the dishes made are esoteric with ingredients only found in the land of Westeros, he does boast several stew recipes that would work nicely in the land of California.
Rather than attempt to review every book from 1-5, I’m inclined to comment on the story without any* spoilers in the vantage point of a veritable family tree. Note, I am using asterisks below like candy for those who have read the series. Think of it as intermediate levels of explanation.
Starks of Winterfell
Led by the dashingly handsome and honorable Eddard “Ned” Stark (aka Sean Bean), the Starks have been the guardians of the North for many moons. Ned is married to Catelyn Tully (a woman of questionable judgement, in my humble opinion) of Riverrun in the South. Together they have sired four children: Robb, the eldest (the boy who would be … valiant like his father but thinks with his heart*), Sansa (the dreamer. eldest daughter dreams of chivalry, knights and is a romantic. She trusts* too easily and learns not fast enough), Arya (the tomboy. She has a sharp* tongue and knows how to use a sword.) Bran (the climber. He holds special* gifts that get revealed over time), Rickon (the baby. You don’t catch a lot of him other than bits of anger), and the bastard Jon Snow (the boy who would be… shares the valiance and honor of his father, but a bit hot*-headed.) Their sigil is the direwolf and perhaps one of the most interesting details in the books- each of the children has their own direwolf (a gigantic wolf) that seems to denote the fate of its Stark.
Lannisters of Casterly Rock
At the helm, unscrupulous father Tywin Lannister begets three children born to lead (or so they think anyway). This family is spectacularly wealthy, so much so that their motto is “a Lannister always pays his debts” which I will let you discern can be for good or naught. Twins Jaime (the kingslayer. A man who loves to use his sword*) and Cersei (the queen. She is conniving* and cruel and will stop at nothing to rule and get her way.) Then there’s Tyrion (the Imp. He’s clever, fond of strategy and takes after his father and grand-father in a certain* way. Peter Dinklage really breathed the right spirit into this incredibly witty character and deserved his recent Emmy’s win.) Their uncle Kevan Lannister (the brother of Tywin. He’s Tywin’s wing-man. Enough said.) Their sigil is the lion. What do lions do when they’re hungry? They wait and pounce.
Targaryens of Dragonstone
They are all *but* extinct. Brother and sister Visarys and Daenerys have been raised in exile after their father King Aerys was killed by – you guessed it – the Kingslayer Jaime Lannister. Their brother Rhaegar was killed by Robert Baratheon on the Trident before he assumed the role of king of Westeros. Rhaegar’s wife Elia of Dorne and their children Rhaenys and Aegon get killed* by the Mountain who Rides (a beast of a man and catspaw to those lovely Lannisters. Tyrion excepted.) Visarys (the vile) and Daenerys (the delicate.* she trusts too easily and must learn from her foibles even if they take almost 1000+ pages to do so. She forgets who she is and her identity crisis is a bit painful to walk through, but she is kind and good.) The Targaryen sigil is the dragon.
So here’s the thing, there are many, many other houses and characters in this series. In fact, Martin keeps adding new characters just when you think you might be getting close to closure. Oh no, he is fickle with their futures and keeps you hungering! I choose to highlight these three families as they are to me the bread and butter of the series. If he never wrote about the Iron Born again, I would not miss them. Martin creates cultural cues with simple turns of phrase that have stuck in my cerebral cortex which is one reason why I’m writing this. I can only imagine the world Martin lives in himself. He probably uses the word scabbard liberally without anyone around him thinking anything odd. I sure know it has come out of my mouth often the past few months. Just so.
And as I said in the beginning, “winter is coming” which will reveal true foes from the drama of ruling kingdoms. This requires the wall, a phenomenally high manmade structure of ice that keeps the “wildlings” (people beyond the wall who are wild because they are free to choose and rule themselves) and wights from entering Westeros. Because when winter comes, so do the wights. When you knock them down, they just keep getting back up which will not serve. And wouldn’t you know Martin’s next book is called… “The Winds of Winter.”
But words are wind, I would highly encourage you to take a long jaunt through the Song of Ice and Fire series and if you are inclined, do share your comments below on the series as a whole or an individual book.