Book Review – A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (ASOIAF, #1)

13496

Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Fantasy

I’m handling this review a little differently than most. I know I’m late to the game, but I also went into the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series with a bit of trepidation and wariness. Mainly in regards to the sexism and treatment of women. And to be sure, there are many women in Game of Thrones depicted as sexual tools; women who have no rights, and a hearty share of rape and sexual assault. There IS too much rape in this series, and as someone who is a survivor of sexual assault, sometimes this is a deal breaker for me. However, Martin’s female nipple obsession aside, I do feel that there is a hidden criticism of patriarchal society, feudalism and war hidden amongst the pages. Or, if there’s not, as a reader, I am going to create that criticism.

Do you know what can be hard? Being a progressive, intersectional feminist who enjoys all varieties of science fiction and fantasy, including the older stuff. Traditionally, these genres were not designed to be read by women. They are often filled with misogyny, female objectification and racism. Game of Thrones falls into this trap. There are some really cool aspects: this is highly creative fantasy, the world-building is incredible, the court intrigues and plot mysteries are addicting, but what I don’t understand and get annoyed about is the reliance on violence against women.

So why do I still plan on continuing with the series? Because I find it highly insightful to read Game of Thrones critically, keeping in mind its firm place in popular culture. Because some of the characters are incredible. Daenerys is tough and smart, Arya is a fighter. Jon Snow is…well, Jon Snow. And the stories of male violence that dominate so much of this story is something that needs to be discussed. Additionally, I always have a penchant for stories filled with twists, turns and surprises. A part of me hopes the series ends with Daenerys unleashing her dragons on the Seven Kingdoms, burning down every idiotic man in the process.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

The next part of the discussion contains spoilers for the first book in A Song of Fire and Ice. Consider yourself forewarned!

I love digging up little details and analyzing them, and I have a feeling this first book in the series contains a boatload of foreshadowing. Here are some of my thoughts on what happened in Book 1, and what may be to come

The White Walkers. I don’t think it is a random fact that the White Walkers appear at the very beginning, in the Prologue. All of the attention right now may be on the inner turmoil and civil war in Westeros for the crown, but I have a feeling that will eventually be overshadowed by the return of the Others.

The wildlings are not as they appear. The wildlings are described as..well, as the name applies…wild people, cruel and savage. Descriptions of them are filled with superstition and myth. I would also guess we will get to know the wildlings much better in the future, for who they really are, not the mythology that surrounds them. I bet they are surprisingly normal people who are just trying to survive in a harsh landscape.

He remembered the hearth tales Old Nan told them. The wildlings were cruel men, she said, slavers and slayers and thieves. They consorted with giants and ghouls, stole girl children in the dead of night, and drank blood from polished horns. And their women lay with the Others in the Long Night to sire terrible half-human children.

The mother direwolf.The foreshadowing here felt as if it led up to the events at the end of this book. The deceased mother direwolf had an antler in her throat: the Baratheon sigil is a stag, and the Stark sigil is a direwolf. Did this scene foretell Ned Stark’s killing on Joffrey’s orders (Baratheon in name, if not DNA)? Or does it point to a future development, a downfall of the Starks at the hands of another Baratheon, such as Stannis or Renly?

A sudden silence descended over the party. The men looked at the antler uneasily, and no one dared to speak. Even Bran could sense their fear, though he did not understand.

Red Priests. The red priests are mentioned multiple times in the opening chapter for Daenerys, especially one in particular. Thoros of Myr, “a madman who shaved his head and fought with a flaming sword.” Thoros is mentioned once more towards the end of the book, when his name makes the list of traitors to the throne. It seemed out-of-place alongside Tully’s, Baratheon’s, and Tyrell’s. Who are the Red Priests?

Viserys. Boy, is he annoying! Although he may have been right about one thing, although not in the way he meant:

“When they write the history of my reign, sweet sister, they will say that it began tonight.”

Viserys says this the night that Drogo and Daenerys first meet. Except it won’t be his reign. I have a feeling that Daenerys will be the one worth writing about. And this was one character I was happy to see get the ax.

Starks. I really love the Stark’s, almost all of them – I have lukewarm feelings towards Sansa at the moment – and I am frustrated in both Catelyn and Ned Stark for trusting Littlefinger so easily and carelessly. But I really hope this quote from Ned Stark turns out true:

“The winters are hard,” Ned admitted. “But the Starks will endure. We always have.”

Tyrion. Despite his dalliances with “whores” (ugh, I hate that word which Tyrion uses ad nauseam), I have to admit to liking him. His kindness towards the Stark children shows a side of him he keeps well hidden – giving Bran a specially designed saddle, and his kindness towards Jon Snow at The Wall stand out. This is a guy that definitely plays the long game, and is not averse to playing dirty to get retribution. He’s filled with contradictions, which makes him an incredibly fascinating character.

“My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind…and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”

Okay, maybe I just like him because he reads so much.

Bran’s dream. There are many things I don’t understand about the dream Bran had right before he woke up. Are there seers in Game of Thrones? If so, Bran certainly seems like he is on his way to becoming one. In his dream he sees things that have happened while he was in a coma: the wasting away of his body into skin and bones, his mother in a cabin on a ship and the seasick Ser Rodrik, and his sisters’ grief on the Trident. The crow tells him to forget about the scene he witnessed between Jamie and Cersei, to “put it aside, put it away”, which he does forget upon awakening.

In his dream, Bran also sees shadows surrounding his family: one shadow dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. The third loomed over the others, a giant in armor made of stone, his visor filled with nothing but darkness and thick black blood.

I would put the Hound and Jamie as the first two shadows, but who is the third? Possibly Gregor Clegane, who is known as “The Mountain That Rides”. Whoever or whatever it is supposed to represent, it is bigger and scarier than the other two shadows.

Finally, the three-eyed crow – which has to mean something important – takes him beyond the curtain in the North, to look deep into the heart of winter. I can’t wait to find out more on what this means.

Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live.

“Why?” Bran said, not understanding, falling, falling.

Because winter is coming.

What Arya overheard. I’m still mulling over the conversation that Arya overheard in the dungeons of the Red Keep. It is a conversation that is full of half-secrets. One speaker has the “liquid accent of the Free Cities”; I’m guessing this is Illyrio. The second speaker is likely Varys, based on the description. So does this mean that Varys supports the Targaryens? Or is he playing a scheming game? And who are his fifty birds?

Varys. Varys is another highly complicated, intriguing character. Just whose side is he on? Can you believe anything that comes out of his mouth (the same could be said for Littlefinger)? The Master of Whisperers is an extremely cautious and calculating man. At first, I took him at his word in his conversation with Ned Stark in the dungeons, but I am starting to second-guess that decision. This is a character that is designed to be untrustworthy, but for what end purpose?

Rating: 3/5 stars.

Advertisements

Read Watch Play #10

banner1

Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, and the Sunday Post. Read, Watch, Play is a monthly round-up of bookish and non-bookish entertainment going on in my home this week. Feel free to join in and let me know what fun you have had recently!

What I’m Reading

 

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I am slowly plugging away at this one. Don’t be deceived by my slow progress…I love it! My Own Words could best be described as a compilation of Justice Ginsburg’s speeches, articles, and opinions. I love how she continually references and mentions all of the trail-blazing women that came before her, like Belva Lockwood and Florence Allen.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I’m proceeding cautiously with this one, given all the sexism and misogyny. I’m only 30 pages in, but so far I like the world-building.

What I’m Watching

nbc-this-is-us-aboutimage-1920x1080-ko

This Is Us. I binge watched the first half of the season over winter break in December, and have been watching weekly ever since. This is definitely one of my favorite TV series at the moment. I have loved every, single episode, many of which have hit SOO close to home with my life right now (Randall’s reunion with his birth father, mainly). Until the finale. What was that?! I did not like it. I wanted more Randall, Kate and Kevin!

What I’m Playing

61ddqufhuvl

Ticket to Ride. I just realized we have been so busy that gaming has not happened for a while in our house! Instead of leaving this section blank, I’m throwing in the board game that is currently at the top of my wish list!

What are you up to on this sunny, Spring Sunday? 

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin


Title: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Author: Grace Lin
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Middle-grade fantasy

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a rarity in the American children’s fantasy genre: an adventure story set in China. Inspired by various Chinese folktales, this is a story of a young girl named Minli who lives in a poor village at the base of a desolate mountain. In the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, the villagers work tirelessly just to put enough food on the table. Minli’s parents work from sunrise to sunset in the rice fields, but her father always makes time for a story or two in the evening, despite Ma’s grumbling.

One day, believing her father’s stories of an Old Man of the Moon and a jade dragon, Minli sets off an extraordinary adventure to travel to Never-Ending Mountain to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family’s fortune can be improved.

One of the things that I loved most about this book was how the folktales seamlessly scattered throughout the text really came to life during the course of Minli’s journey. The stories each connect one to the other as the book progresses, and then further tie in to what Minli experiences. I loved this approach! The accompanying illustrations were absolutely gorgeous. The story as a whole made me want to learn more about Chinese folktales and legends.

It is rare in children’s literature to find both parents alive and well. Kid lit is filled with absent parents and orphan children (Harry Potter, Boxcar Children, James and the Giant Peach, A Series of Unfortunate Events, etc) or children who have lost one parent, either through death or divorce. When a parent is present, they are often clueless or mean. It was refreshing to see some fleshed out parents in this one, and the importance placed on family and the community. In fact, family is one of the major themes of the story. This is not just a story of a young girl finding her place in the world, but it features her mother’s transformation as well. In the beginning, Minli’s mother is discontent with her lot and life, wishing for more food, a more comfortable place to live,  nicer things. During Minli’s absence, her mother’s perspective on life changes completely. As a parent reading it, it makes one think about the impact my unconscious actions – or moods – have on my daughter.

The character’s are all unique and delightful. Her dragon friend is a kind-hearted soul who has a question of his own, why can’t he fly? There is a benevolent king who offers Minli the most sumptuous meal she has ever eaten, and a fierce Green Tiger that is a malevolent force pulled straight out of the folktales. Minli herself has a generous spirit with a healthy dose of independence, and an unshakeable belief in the power of stories.

For those who, like me, want to learn more about folktales from China, here are a few resources shared in the back of the book:

Tales from China (Oxford Myths and Legends) by Cyril Birch.

The Ch’i-lin Purse: A Collection of Ancient Chinese Stories by Linda Fang.

Folk Tales of the West Lake by Various.

Auntie Tigress and Other Favorite Chinese Folk Tales by Gia-Zhen Wang.

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

29056083

Book: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Authors: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Publisher: Little, Brown UK
Genre: Plays, YA Fantasy

It took me ages and ages to build up the courage to read this one.

Okay…maybe not ages…but at least six months.

For many of the same reasons why I struggled to read Go Set A Watchman. Because sometimes the originals are best left as is. Don’t mess with them!

I love the Harry Potter Universe, and I had heard grumblings about Cursed Child, so it took me a long time to decide that I still wanted to read it. Because….how can I not read another J.K. Rowling – approved Harry Potter book?

And you know what?

l0hlaiiwxctsuibdi

I liked it.

I definitely understand how some HP fans are disappointed in this. Harry comes across as a bit of a douche (of course, he sometimes did as a teen as well). Delphini is a bit…shall we say, lackluster, as a new character. And it’s not an 8th HP book, not matter how many spells you cast trying to make it so.

That’s okay with me. I personally never wanted an 8th Harry Potter book. And Cursed Child has what I did want, some amazing cameos. I won’t say how those cameos come to be, but let’s just say it is glorious. It’s serious, yet funny, and an amazing romp back in the world of Hogwarts. Being a play, it also has some excellent snappy and witty dialogue. Stuff like this had me rolling:

Hermione: If some part of Voldemort survived, in whatever form, we need to be prepared. And I’m scared.

Ginny: I’m scared too.

Ron: Nothing scares me. Apart from Mum.

 There was one part of the book that absolutely breaks my heart. I don’t want to spoil anything or go into details, but Harry does a BIG father no-no in one scene with Albus, and it had me tearing my hair out. What were you thinking, Harry?!

Overall, The Cursed Child was good fun, but I do hope it rests here. It’s time to leave the Harry Potter world alone. As much I adore it, I adore it as it is.

10pptcqdkzikzw

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Book Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

33009320

Title: Heartless
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: YA Fantasy, Retellings, Romance

There seem to be some misconceptions floating around Goodreads, and other places, about Heartless. It is not written in the same style as The Lunar Chronicles. It is not a spin-off or side story of that world. It is set in the Victorian past, Lewis Carroll’s era, not the future. It is fantastic.

What Heartless is: a wonderful prequel story about the Queen of Hearts. Marissa Meyer does an amazing job recreating Wonderland; I felt that I was right back in Lewis Carroll’s zany, twisty-turny crazy world. I highly recommend that any reader of Heartless start out by first reading both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, if you haven’t done so already. And then revel in the creative, true to the original, back stories that Marissa Meyer created for so many beloved Wonderland characters: the Mad Hatter, the household of the Duke and Duchess, the Red and White Queen of Chess. The Mock Turtle, the silly King of Hearts, the Knave, Mr. Caterpillar…Cheshire. Cheshire! And of course…the future Queen of Hearts.

I like retellings of fairy tales and classic stories, but I am very, very picky when modern-day authors take a classic story and add on a prequel or sequel. I have barely tolerated almost every single Pride & Prejudice sequel ever written (I’m looking at you, Death Comes to Pemberley). So I went into Heartless quite cautiously.

Marissa Meyer did not disappoint.

“But hoping,” he said, “is how the impossible can be possible after all.”

Catherine, daughter of a Marquis and Marchioness, is a young woman whose only desire is to open a bakery with her close friend, house maid Mary Ann. Her parents have other plans, as she also happens to be a favorite of the King, who attempts to propose to her at the beginning of the novel. At the same Royal Ball where she runs from a possible proposal, Catherine meets Jest, the mysterious and new court Joker. Cath is determined to make her own pathway through life, with the person she chooses to love, in a world that has other plans for her.

img_0214

Of course, I had to have my own tea party while immersed in the world of Wonderland and Hatta’s Tea Party (before he goes mad)! I visited Dobra Tea Shop in Asheville on Tuesday and had a lovely green tea with a ginger and sesame cake. The only thing missing was a lemon tart or macaroon! A reader must definitely be well-stocked in delicious pastries before sitting down to read this one!

“Mind my words, Cheshire, I will have you banished from this kingdom if you tempt me.”

“An empty threat from an empty girl.”

She rounded on him, teeth flashing. “I am not empty. I am full to the brim with murder and revenge. I am overflowing and I do not think you wish for me to overflow on to you.”

“There was a time” – Cheshire yawned – “when you overflowed with whimsy and icing sugar. I liked that Catherine better.”

Heartless is heart-breaking. You know where it is going, it’s like a train wreck that you can’t derail. No matter how many times you scream NO!! DON’T DO THAT!!, there is nothing that you can do to stop Catherine from becoming the Queen of Hearts we all know and love to hate.

The journey is definitely worthy of a Lewis Carroll character.

Not only is Heartless a fantastic stand-alone novel, I also seem to notice a progression in the writing. I have read and enjoyed all of the Lunar Chronicles books, and this one seems a step above. Bravo, Marissa Meyer! She strikes just the right balance without becoming too nonsensical. I hope she continues to write more stand-alone novels!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars.

WWW Wednesday – 30 November 2016


Welcome to this week’s WWW Wednesday post, a meme hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words. Don’t forget to go take a look at what everyone else is reading! You can post your own WWW in the comment thread here

The Three W’s Are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I am spending the next two days at the historic Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina! Look at that amazing fireplace…the lobby is filled with so many perfect reading spots. I will be spending quite a lot of time cozied down with a book in front of that fireplace. Or maybe, within viewing distance of the lovely warm glow, since the weather is actually in the 7os right now!

Currently Reading:


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. For better or worse, I am finally taking the plunge and seeing for myself what The Cursed Child is like.

Just Finished:


Heartless by Marissa Meyer. I just finished this, around 11:30pm last night! For me, it definitely lived up to expectations. My review will be shortly forthcoming.

Up Next: 

Continue reading

ARC Book Review – The Blazing Star by Imani Josey

fullsizeoutput_2060

Title: The Blazing Star
Author:  Imani Josey
Publisher:  Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Release Date: 6 December, 2016
Genre: YA Fantasy

*This ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Book Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius.

But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?

She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.

Great.

Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.

As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home.

The Blazing Star contains so many incredibly awesome components: time travel to Ancient Egypt and Egyptian mythology, a diverse cast of PoC characters, strong female protagonists, and a gorgeous, breath-taking book cover. I know, I know, a book cover in no way represents the quality of writing inside of a book, but LOOK AT IT. I bow down at the feet of the artist who designed it, because I love the cover THAT much.

Much of the story revolves around the twinning, or lack of twinning, going on between Portia and Alex, as they try to find out why they were pulled back in time into ancient Egypt, and how they can get home. It’s a fun, original mash-up of fantasy, Egyptian mythology, and magic. Imani Josey truly did an amazing job of making me, the reader, feel as if I was back in Ancient Egypt with the girls. What makes the time travel plot work so well is the characters that Portia, Alex, and Selene meet. My favorites were definitely the Priestesses of the Temple of Isis: High Priestess Weret, Sikara, and Tasherit. The Prince of Egypt was exasperating.

The first half really held my attention, and did a moderately successful job of setting up the world and mythology that we learn about as the novel progresses. However, sadly, the story begins to lose its way in the second half, and in my opinion, starts to fall apart a teeny tiny bit. It became harder and harder to keep track of the timeline, and all the characters that come in and out of the story. The plot advances, but there are definitely some holes and gaps, and character’s actions that don’t make a lot of sense, which started driving me batty about 2/3 of the way through the book.

The ending is unresolved and definitely leaves room for a sequel, but also had me feeling as this was a case of lost potential. I really, really wanted to love The Blazing Star, but ultimately, it fell a bit short.

Rating: 3/5 stars.