How I Spent My Games of Thrones Vacation

Westeros Map

No, this post isn’t about how I spent my time visiting Westeros. I wish! Actually, no, I don’t. I think I’d last half a day in Westeros before having at least one body part violently removed. I’d be lucky to survive a week. Rather, this post is about how I spent the long, grueling months between the end of HBO’s Game of Thrones season 4 and this Sunday’s premiere of season 5.

At the top of each of my season 4 recaps, I noted that while I loved the show, I had never read any of the books. A couple of commenters apparently didn’t notice that, which led to some unintentionally funny angry comments about me not being a “real fan” for resorting to nicknames instead of remembering the actual name of yet another brown bearded, scraggly haired white guy. The most common insult thrown my way was “Did you even read the books?” No, I didn’t. It said so right there at the top. I had no plans to read the books. I was really enjoying the TV show, loved the way the show presented the story and didn’t want to spoil any plot points from the story. I liked being shocked when the Red Viper had his face caved in by the Mountain. If I knew that was coming, it wouldn’t have carried the same weight.

But when season 4 ended, I was jonesing Game of Thrones bad. I needed more. I went back and watched season 1 again. It didn’t satiate. I knew I could watch the entire series again and I’d still have the hunger for more content. So I did what I said I wouldn’t. I started reading the books.

I started with the first book in The Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones. I wasn’t so much interested in what came next as I was in seeing how the TV differed from the book, which is why I didn’t start with book four, A Feast of Crows. Plus, I had heard enough complaints from fans of the book that the show was really changing things as the series went on. I know how different The Walking Dead the TV show is compared to The Walking Dead the comic book, and I didn’t want to deal with something similar. Whenever a fan of The Walking Dead TV series asks me where they should pick up the comic, I always tell them from the beginning. There’s just too much difference between the two.

Reading A Game of Thrones on the Kindle was a chore at times. I’d read multiple screens before the percentage completed would tick up another percent. I remember reading the beginning of the book for 45 minutes and realizing I was still in the opening scene of season 1, episode 1. It was a little over a month before I finished A Game of Thrones. I couldn’t immediately move on to A Clash of Kings. I wanted to, but my brain needed a break. I looked for an unread book on my Kindle that couldn’t have been further away from A Game of Thrones, and ended up reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point. It was such a joy to see the percent completed jump up with every other flick of the screen. Oh joy!

Tipping Point was a necessary read in my journey through A Song of Fire and Ice. No, Gladwell’s book didn’t inform George R. R. Martin’s writing for me in any way, but it did serve as a palette cleanser. Having finished Tipping Point, I was ready to head into the second book of A Song of Fire and Ice, A Clash of Kings.

While reading A Game of Thrones, I was amazed by how faithful Game of Thrones season one is to the book. Season one makes some changes, but they’re very minor and hardly noticeable. But once you get to season two and A Clash of Kings, the changes becomes more apparent. The changes become less cosmetic and more substantial. This continues into the third book, A Storm of Swords. The broad strokes are mostly the same, but with each book, the TV show diverges in the details more.

As for how the books line up cover to cover with the beginning and end of each season, book one, A Game of Thrones is season one of the show. Likewise, season two of show is pretty much all of book two, A Clash of Kings. When we get to book three, that’s where things change. Book three, A Storm of Swords, takes up all of season three and season four of the show, with one very notable exception at the very end of A Storm of Swords, the return of a fan favorite character who does not return at the end of season four. I remember seeing an interview with either Martin or a producer on the show saying that character will not be returning in season 5. But I guess we can only wait and see.

After I finished A Storm of Swords, I debated whether or not I wanted to continue with the series and read A Feast of Crows. I was very tempted to, and even loaded it onto my Kindle. I made it about two pages into the book before putting it down. I couldn’t do it. I just love the TV show too much and don’t want to “cheat” the show by reading ahead.

Thankfully, the show is back this Sunday, and so are my recaps of the show.