Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first half of the novel A Game of Thrones.
This is the post where I show my ignorance with "predictions" about what's going to happen in A Song of Ice and Fire (better known by the title of the first book, A Game of Thrones) by George R. R. Martin. As I write, am a little more than halfway through the first book. I stopped to write this right after Jon Snow attacked one of the Others in the Commander's quarters. It's after the Lannisters' coup d'état. Sensa Stark had been coerced to write her family. Arya Stark seems about to escape. Tyrion had made a deal to hand over the Vale of Arryn. That's where I am.
My "predictions" are certain to be hilarious, but maybe it could help you reexperience the state of unknowing just a bit. I plan to do this every half-book.
Note: I have never seen the HBO show, and have no intention to do so until after I finish the novels.
What I already knew
Before starting on the books, there were basically three things I knew about A Game of Thrones:
- Lots and lots of people are killed, including some of your favorite characters. I went into this ready to accept that anyone I liked was going down. (In fact, I figured that Martin would "pull a Clarence" as a matter of routine; basically he'd build up sympathy a character for the express purpose of killing them later. However, having read half the first novel I don't think that's necessarily going to be "routine", but I'm sure it's going to happen at least once.)
- Winter and summer last for years. This is common knowledge, really. Since winter has not come yet (at least not literally) I still don't know how this is going to play out, or what really happens when winter comes. (I assume everyone starves and that add impetus to everything.)
- There's a big wall made of ice that's too big for humans to build, and may be held up with magic.
Numbers 2 and 3 were established early in the narrative so there's really no spoiler there.
This is from most certain to least certain.
- Jon Snow's mother is a Targaryen. (This is kind of a case of "Who else would it be?"—apart from Cersei Lannister, there is no other person that we know of that Ned would need to so secret about.)
- Side theory: I don't think this is necessarily true, but I wonder if Daenerys is also Ned Stark's child. It would explain why Ned is so loath to have her assassinated. The problem is that Daenerys has silver blonde hair, and Mendelian genetics has already been established. Then again there are those pesky recessive genes.... If it is true, then Jon Snow and Daenerys could even be brother and sister.)
- Sensa will be the first Stark child to die. I am thinking that the children die in the same order as the direwolves.
- Daenerys is the Big Bad (or, more likely, will be later in later books). It's clear that her true nature is not the timid girl she appears to be on the surface—I mean, she has bedroom dominance over the Ghenkis Khan of that universe.
- Arya will fight Daenerys, physically, for the whole thing: the Iron Throne of Westeros. Arya will win. But Daenerys's baby is still to be reckoned with. (That's if Arya isn't killed first, which she probably will be because I like her.)
- Theon Greyjoy has been given attention disproportionate to the role he's played so far, so I expect him to become important later. Perhaps as a destabilizing factor in the Stark house.
- Retroprediction: The Small Council was actually on Ned's side (if you call it that) at first, hoping he would be effective enough to stabilize things, because they didn't really like the Lannisters any more than anyone else. But once it became clear that he was going to blow it, they allied themselves with the Lannisters since they would still rather be on the winning side.
Characters I like and dislike
When talking about liking and disliking characters, there are really three questions for me: whether I sympathize with the character, whether I agree that the character is effective, and whether the character is interesting. These don't always overlap. I'll handle them separately.
In general, I think George R. R. Martin has done a good job building sympathy for the characters he wants you to sympathize with, and vice versa. I doubt there are any characters that I sympathize with, or not, in spite of GRRM.
As for character effectiveness: I personally don't like ineffective characters at all. If a character is ineffective I tend to dislike them even if I sympathize with them. What characters might those be? Let's see...
- Catelyn Stark
- Ned Stark
- In fact, all the Starks in general, except Arya. I mean, are they dumb or what? Some of them (Ned especially) were intelligent, but stupid, if you know what I mean. Ned often knew the right thing to do, but always decided to do something else.
On the other hand, I think certain characters are presented as ineffective that really are very smart:
- Renly Baratheon. He saw the danger presented by the Lannisters, proposed to act decisively in a way that probably would have staved of the Lannister coup, and then when Ned Stark stupidly ignored his proposal, was smart enough to leave town.
- Sandor Clegane: He is presented as a fierce warrior, but I think he's also cunning beneath. I also have a feeling he might switch sides.
- Daenerys, at first. But it has already become clear that she is way more formidable than she looks.
Finally, how interesting are the characters. Again I feel like Martin has done a great job. With the exception of the Lannisters (other than Tyrion) and Robert Baratheon, all of the main characters are well-written and interesting to some degree.
The Lannisters are an evil family stereotype played completely straight so far—even Tyrion fits the stereotype since most evil families have the "black sheep" who is not so evil. I wonder if there isn't more to them, though, either at a meta level (Martin has yet to reveal some underlying secret that would explain it, a la JK Rowling with Snape) or an in-universe level (the Lannisters themselves are deliberately playing the stereotype).
Robert Baratheon is just a lout and I think he was as simple and straightforward as he was portrayed. Since he was one of the first major characters to die, I think we can overlook it: his role was to be an uninteresting foil for more interesting people to play off.
The characters I find most interesting:
- Arya Stark
- Tyrion Lannister
- Daenerys Targaryen
- Viserys Targaryen (Yes. He was a fool who was all talk and no bite, but was so amusingly oblivious that I liked having him around.)
The characters I find least interesting:
- Cersei Lannister
- Robert Baratheon
- Robb Stark
- All of the Small Council (It was presented as if it were a colorful group of misfits, but I kind of think they are really just petty sycophants, though they have interesting personalities.)
- I need to pay more attention to people's hair and eye color. (I should've known better: in a book where there's obviously going to be succession crisis, and lots of illegitimate children, you almost certainly know this will come into play, and Mendelian genetics is certain to be a clue. If I had been paying attention, I would have figured out the one great mystery that's been revealed, that Robert's children are not his.)
- I started pulling for the Lannisters some chapters before their coup d'état, when it was clear that neither Ned or Robert knew what they were doing. Despite being murderous powermongers, at least the Lannisters would bring stability. (Of course they were starting down the inbreeding path the Targaryens took.)
- George R. R. Martin is a good writer, not just a good fantasy writer. (Which is not exactly the same thing. I think there are better fantasy writers, but the only fantasy writer that I've read that is a better writer is J. R. R. Tolkien.) I suspect that if he wrote about weightier matters he'd be Pulitzer Prize material.