At some point I intend to write a longer bit about “Game of Thrones”, but in the midst of writing book four of The Void Chronicles, I sort of feel this need to comment on narrators.
One of the problems I had/have with Game of Thrones is how there isn’t a consistent narrator throughout the series. (I’ve read the first book, watched about three seasons of the series.) I’m not a huge fan, as you can probably glean from the preamble, and there are a few reasons for it – one of those being the way the tale is structured, vis a vis narration.
I’m already not fond of books that jump around from thread to thread, although in a long series with many tales I understand the need for some of that. I put down Peter Hamilton’s Reality Dysfunction series because of an inordinate (and I felt unnecessary) number of threads that seemed so convoluted and complicated that by the time I got back to a story line I almost needed a refresher course before proceeding with the current chapter.
I think GoT drags on in that respect too. The first book (and I suspect the others), focus on one character’s situation before the next one hops to someone else. These little time slices made reading the book a bit disjointed as there are about five or six of them in just one book, and so it seems to lack cohesion and flow. So while the world building is admirable in many respects, I sort of feel as if I’m reading a news bulletin about Bram, and Daenerys and Catelyn, etc, and not really involved in it.
Supposedly Martin was inspired in part by The Wars of the Roses, and I’ve read several books about that time. Although the lineage and allegiances can prove to be a bit confusing, a narrative style helps it all move along without feeling distanced from the events. In a way we are seeing a bit of ‘history’ of Westeros; the narrative style used doesn’t benefit the story in any way as far as I am concerned.
Related to this, I also feel as if in the initial book Ned Stark was set up as a primary narrator if anyone was, someone who was deeply involved in the story as it unfolded, so it was quite a shock when he was beheaded (apparently Martin does this in other series as well, killing off a primary character in a shocking move). It felt like a bait-and-switch because the Stark family was prominent in the book and then their Lord is killed, boom, end of book one. This despite the fact he was a very interesting character, a foil for the blood-thirsty and cutthroat people that predominantly populate the series.
Rob Stark steps up then, and he has many of the traits of his father and is a good tactician as well, then… boom once more. It’s easy to kill characters in a story – it solves problems, it causes a visceral reaction in readers (especially if they are bound/interested in the character), but it is far more difficult to walk a grey line with them whilst having their core persona stay consistent.
I’ll paraphrase Aristotle – tragedy is when a hero comes face to face with his true identity. I feel many of the characters set up as potential heroes in GoT are denied that moment. Renly, as much as I disliked his arrogance and self-serving nature, had some interesting qualities that had potential to be developed whilst also remaining clearly flawed. What if he had (briefly) seized the Iron Throne for a moment and proved himself to be as ruthless as the Targaryen kings and stubborn as his brother and was forced to flee and live with that greater understanding of himself?
There is so much blood and death that one becomes almost inured to it so it loses it’s appeal or requires greater and more destructive manifestations in order to shock. Death as a plot twist – used with a heavy hand – becomes a bit tiresome after a while.
That’s not to say there isn’t a time and place for it. Tying this frustration I have with the lack of a consistent narrator is why I am not that interested in READING the GoT books; the novels feel more like a TV show, with cuts to new scenes and little moments before moving on ,which is why I’m slowly making my way through the HBO series and not the books.
Curious what others think.