Disclaimer: This isn’t a review. This is a rant, complaint, and a debate. This will contain spoilers of the first two books of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin. You’ve been warned.
Earlier this year, I’ve been convinced by many people (friends, classmates, professor, and bloggers) to start George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The Game of Thrones television series is insanely popular. And of course, like the book nerd I am, I want to read the books before watching the show.
So I borrowed A Game of Thrones from the ebook collection of the New York Public Library. I read it. It was really long. I do like historical fantasy novels but you know I don’t read a lot of Adult novels, save for the occasional romance. I liked the first book. I liked the alternating perspectives told from the point of view of different characters. There were some characters that I immediately rooted for, some that I didn’t like at all. I knew I couldn’t feel too connected to anyone because based on what I’ve been told: everybody dies.
But after finishing the first book, I never felt a sense of exhilaration. I never had that Oh my god, give me book two right now!!!! feeling. I thought it was okay. It was a good book, but I couldn’t understand why everyone was so addicted to the series.
I told myself I would wait a while before picking up Book 2. I think I waited 2 weeks in between and I got a lot of other reading done. I picked up romance, middle grade, and YA in between and it was so refreshing.
But then my friend Jack started reading Book 2 and I decided that I might as well put myself on the hold list for A Clash of Kings. I got the ebook a week later.
… And this is where my problem begins. This book felt a little bit like torture. And let me explain why:
The Excessive Whoring and Wenching
I read romance novels. I’m used to sexy scenes in my books. But the gratuitous sex scenes in A Game of Thrones aren’t sexy at all – far from it. There are excessive amounts of rape, incest, and sex and to be honest I’m really sick of it. I didn’t mind it so much in the first book. Shit happens, right? Gah, but by book two, Tyrion gets a lot more chapters than any other character and all he can think about is his Tower of the Hand. Massive sigh.
Hey! No discrimination. It’s not that he’s a dwarf, half-man, or whatever derogatory term you can think of to describe him. It’s just… he’s not sexy. I don’t want to read about sexy times about a not sexy guy. Tyrion is cool and cunning but I don’t want to read about him without clothes on.
I liked Tyrion. I liked that he was a reader. But I hated his excessive whoring. He admits it. But yuck, I can’t stand any of his scenes with Shae. They do the nasty every single chapter. Just pure sex. Um, like okay. Tyrion, if you’re going to have sex every night, by all means go ahead, but it’s really annoying that you always refer to Shae as a whore. It’s kind of degrading that the woman who’s been in your bed the last year is still labeled as such. I know that’s what she is, but can’t you at least refer to her by her name?!
As my friend Jack says, this book is just full of misogynists. One chapter after the other.
I know all my blogger friends love this book for the most part. I see lots of 4 and 5 star ratings within my GoodReads friends, and it bothers me a bit that it seems that I’m the only one having a problem with the way women are treated in these novels.
Let’s Dissect the Portrayal of Women!
I’m not usually such a feminist. And you know the reason why I’m not an English major is that I hate cricitically attacking novels and such to find the “deeper meaning” behind them. But I couldn’t help it. I had to attack A Clash of Kings because at this point, I hate how all the women are treated as sex objects. For the most part they are weak. They really can’t do anything about their destinies.
Cersei – Yeah, she’s a royal bitch. She’s powerful and cunning but only because she sleeps with everyone – including every blond relative she has.
Catelyn – Do you remember how whiny she was in the beginning of A Game of Thrones? Oh my God. She’s gotten a lot better. She actually grew a backbone. But no matter how much more influence she has, she still has to follow the orders of the men of the household.
Arya – Okay, Arya is probably the best representation of the female sex in the entire series, but she’s not really a woman yet. She’s a little girl. Who wants to be a boy. Gender crisis.
Sansa – I like to defend Sansa because she’s been excessively brainwashed and manipulated, but at the end of the day, she’s just seen as a sex object / bargaining chip by the Lannister men. Sexual harassment much?
Brienne – I love that Brienne is a strong character. She fought for Renly! But of course they had to point out the fact that she’s ugly. It seems that a girl can’t be pretty and kick-ass in this series…
Daenerys – Well she’s a pretty influential character, but she’s also such a sex object. Why did Khal Drogo marry her? For her body. There is so much emphasis on her body and breasts in all her chapters. I DON’T NEED TO KNOW THE STATE OF HER NIPPLES, ‘kay thanks.
So if I were to look at the series from the eyes of a scholar, the first thing I would ask myself is: What is the author’s intent? Is the author himself a misogynist or is he trying to portray historical accuracy on the treatment of women? I know George RR Martin is married, but that doesn’t really say enough about his character…
The argument that everyone gives me about this series is that it’s historically accurate. That I just need to accept the negative portrayal of women as sex objects because “back then” during the medieval era that’s just how things were. Men rape and pillage. It’s a purely patriarchal society. I know this; I’m not an idiot.
But it doesn’t mean that I have to accept it. This is historical fantasy. Surely there’s leeway to have a strong, kickass character that can be quite easy on the eyes as well. I want to see a strong, independent female. Maybe Arya will grow up to be as such a woman, but she’s got a long way to go.
But the Show is Great…
… Or at least from what I’ve seen so far. My friends and I have just started watching the first season. I got through the first episode and I did like how the people at HBO adapted the book to screen. It’s a lot easier to follow the different storylines on screen rather than through the book.
Quit While I’m Ahead?
Or not? Should I give this series another chance?
But do I really want to invest my time in another 1000+ paged book when I could be reading something more happy?
Because let’s face it, at this rate, there won’t be a happy ending. Why on earth will I keep reading the series when I know that everyone is going to die? There is no happily ever after in this series. It’s so obvious.
And everyone tells me that Book 3 is going to be epic. It’s everyone’s favorite of the series. But after the torture of Book 2, I don’t know if I can take it.
I’m being pretty negative overall, but I do admit there are some good elements in the series. I like the writing, the world-building is fantastic… but there are also other elements I’m not a fan of.
You’ve heard my rant. I want to know what you guys think. Is this series really worth it? Should I keep reading? Or shall I quit while I’m ahead? There are lots of people who are big fans of the series. And I’d love to hear your input.
… And since there isn’t a bright side to the series. Here’s a little comic I found on Tumblr that will be happier and funnier than the series will ever be.