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.
Oh gosh, that comic is GOLD!
I haven’t read the books (I have the first book on my shelf but I haven’t started it!) but I LOVEEEE the show! I can’t really help you, I’m afraid But I totally get what you mean when there are no strong females not used for their bodies and such. I kinda don’t know if I want to read these now… :\
I don’t know… I guess I still don’t get what the hype is all about. I guess the world-building is good but I don’t even understand how the show is addicting. Maybe I need to continue watching to find out?
I skimmed through this post because I haven’t read book 2 yet. Same reason I just didn’t have the ~I need to read the next book nao!~ feeling. But I agree with the excessive whoring, I just found the writing style so…not my cup of tea. So many teats, nipples and cocks it was ridiculous. (And to talk about double standards see how many people mock romance novel writers just because they have equally ridiculous writing styles, this shows the real reason for mocking is just that they are women writing literature for women /end rant)
It bothers me to compare romance novels to something like this because at least there’s romance and chemistry in the sex. Here it’s just such a dirty act.
Everyone keeps telling me to read this series, but…. they sound so dull lol. Like, I liked the TV series a lot, but I don’t really want to sit down and read a 1000+ page book. A lot of people have admitted the style of writing is a little dry. I read romance and a hot sexy scene in a book. But not 1000 pages of it – especially when, as you say it’s not between two characters who have insane chemistry but is often just women being abused by men.
LOL at the dull part. It IS a very slow moving book. I can definitely read a hot sexy scene in romances, but here it’s just kinda gross. No chemistry at all. I think I would just stick to watching the show if you enjoy it.
I actually haven’t started on the books but I love the TV series! I’m planning to buy the books already so I could get started on them while I wait for the 2nd season. Yeah, there’s a lot of whoring and what-not, and I may hate it but I couldn’t say anything just yet.
And the comic strip! LOL!
Hi. Sounds like this series was never going to be your cup of tea so even though I am a fan and disagree with most of what you’ve written, I won’t try to convince you to change your opinion.
I just want to point out though that complaining about the sex scenes not being sexy seems an odd thing to do, because they aren’t supposed to be. Tyrion’s scenes, for instance, are meant to emphasize his loneliness and isolation because of his dwarfism. He keeps reminding himself that Shae is a whore (meaning a prostitute, it’s not meant as an insult) because he feels that no woman would sleep with him if she weren’t paid to do so.
And I have to disagree about the portrayal of the female characters. I’ve read my fair share of misogynistic fantasy, and this is not it.
I know this is an old article, but I was doing a search for opinions on the amount of sex in the TV series and came across this. I watched the first season before reading the first book, and enjoyed both. I’ve not yet read book 2 but have seen the first three episodes of season 2, and my initial thoughts are that the series is like what I imagine The Lord of The Rings movies would have been like if, instead of showing the battles, the main characters stand around talking about the battles they’ve had and then suddenly all have sex for no apparent reason but to shock the viewer.
I am a fan of GRRM’s writings. I prefer it to things like Harry Potter or even Lord of the Rings, both of which I like.
What I can tell you is that you seem to only be focusing on parts of the characters but not all of the Characters. Though most of the Characters you describe become more detailed later on.
Cersei is a Schemer. She uses her mind not a blade. Just like Dany & Sansa. Also Dany does love Drogo and they do have chemistry it just isn’t expanded on in detail.
Spoilers avoided as much as possible…:
Brienne of Tarth is Ugly and that lead her to the path she now walks. It is similar to what Tyrion tells Jon on The Wall. “Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
Quitting after the Second Book and you miss major developments. Numerous new additions come in and older characters really come into their own. Arya especially becomes unique. You also miss a lot of the Strong Females that get introduced via the Wildlings.
Also where is Asha/Yara(T.V.) on your list? She seems to be the Beautiful but Kickass. And if you read A Clash of Kings then she is there in Chapters 24 & 56. She becomes a POV Character later on as well.
Heck the 3rd Book, A Storm of Swords, is enough to start seeing the female Characters coming into their strengths.
Also remember you are dealing with Nobles in these stories. The Small Folk are different. As are the Wildlings. Oh and the Crannogmen.