A.K.A. Rhiannon’s opinion piece on why both are great in very different ways.
I’m going to mark up a whole section that says SPOILERS at the bottom, so you can read at least part of my blog spoiler free.
I started reading Game of Thrones before I started watching the show. My Brother-In-Law was reading it on our plane ride to India almost five years ago, which was the first I had heard of it. I picked up reading the books a short time after that, but because they are so dense and I was not prepared for that kind of reading, I dropped it after the first few chapters. I couldn’t figure out who anyone was and why the hell there were so many names and nicknames for that same person – who are we talking about now? Is this a different Ed? Ned? Neddard? Eddard? Who. The hell. Is this?
I gave it another shot when I found a job that had a commute. Being on a train for a total of 3 hours a day is enough to get some solid reading in, and that is where I did a majority of it. Shortly thereafter I happened into a commute that was only a half-hour on the train, which was much better for my morale and still allowed me to read about 3 full chapters a day, instead of a whole book in 2 weeks.
In the first month I managed to read the first two full Game of Thrones novels, and I told my husband since the first book correlated to the first season, we could start watching the show. He wasn’t interested in reading the books, nor did he have the same type of time to dedicate to them as I did, so I gave in and said okay. At this point it was starting to get tougher to avoid spoilers online, since I started knowing who the characters were.
The show is beautiful. Every last detail, the outfits, the character casting, the locations – perfect. The kind of magic you see going from words on paper to real places where people are walking around and interacting has only been really nailed for me one other time, and that was walking into Diagon Alley/Hogsmeade at Universal Orlando. There is nothing like that feeling of walking through everything you’ve imagined over the course of several books.
My favorite part is when you get to see “The Wall” for the first time. What’s described to you in the books is so grandiose and can inspire fear into those who are on the wrong side of it, but I wasn’t expecting the height, the thickness, and the pure cold you can see from this location in the show. I was floored. It was exactly what I wanted and more.
If I watch the show, should I read the books?
I’d first respond with a question – if you’ve read any of JRR Tolkien’s books and managed to get through them unscathed, then I say of course, no problem. If you’ve read War and Peace and not fallen asleep, then you’re probably even overqualified. If you can manage to concentrate for long periods of time and follow immense (mostly excessive, but sometimes still warranted) detail, then yes!
If however, you don’t read often, have trouble keeping characters straight, and don’t like reading about sometimes extremely offensive and excessively detailed war and rape scenes, maybe skip it. These books are dense and take a lot of time to read. The devil is very much in the details, or rather, slipped in between the paragraph descriptions of clothing, family histories you’ll forget almost immediately, and how conniving that grin really was.
They’re tough, but they’re so worth reading if you have a passion for the show. They also offer enough difference from the show that they’re worth reading for another perspective with the same characters.
So if I’ve read the books, should I watch the show?
Yes. But now I have to go to my spoilers section.
Wait! What if I’ve never watched or read either?
Sit down with a friend who has. While I was watching with my husband, there were enough characters that were randomly introduced that if you weren’t familiar with the books in some way, could get very confusing. Who is Oberyn Martell and why is he so feisty all the time? It will all make sense in time, my friend.
Just make sure that the person you’re watching with doesn’t have a big mouth like mine and every five minutes says “that’s not how it happened in the books.” I’m pretty sure my husband was ready to kill me by Season 5.
***LIGHT SPOILERS*** (for both GoT and Harry Potter – it’ll make sense I promise)
Now – if you’re familiar with the changes that some shows make in adaptations, or comparatively some movies make from books, there will be specific things that you as the reader latch onto that may not make it into your film or TV show. Adaptations aren’t perfect, and will cut out some things that you find super important or heart wrenching.
Example: In “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” there was a scene where Neville was found by our favorite companions visiting his parents in the hospital. My heart absolutely broke into 1000 pieces and even now I’m tearing up thinking about this short, but crucial to me, scene. It didn’t make it into the movie. I understand why it didn’t, for extra casting and another full blown location that may have been too much extra to shoot for, the time that it would get in the movie wouldn’t be worth the amount of emotion it is supposed to evoke – any of those reasons, fine. But for me, I had to put the book down and walk away.
*deep breath* okay. it’s over.
Between the first season and the first book of GoT, you might feel ripped off. One of my biggest issues, and again I totally understand why they cut everything out, was when Lady Catelyn traveled from Winterfell to King’s Landing with her imperative news, it went from probably 5 or 6 chapters worth of preparation & travel time on boats and horses with companions and other locations, to an episode break. Where she received this letter, and what seemed like almost overnight, was magically at King’s Landing. I had to have my husband pause the show so I could share my grief of reading how many chapters of a seasick companion and boat rides with these nonsensical conspiring conversations that didn’t end up meaning much of anything once they had reached King’s Landing.
As I said earlier, if you’ve read the books, it’s amazing to see them come to life. They had the budget to make everything look as it should, the right characters cast for the right parts, and the locations are just unreal. Except they’re real.
Both the book and the show are 100% worth your free and precious fantasy nerd time. There are enough characters and character development in the books that doesn’t happen anywhere near close to in the show, and some of the characters that don’t have as much chapter time in the books seem to get more airtime on the show, Sansa in particular. Bran’s story is a better watch than it is a read, because after 10 chapters of being carted through the woods, you’re pretty done with Bran.
The show seems to have a better handle on fan theories, but the fan theories are super backed by the crazy amount of detail in the book. The whole “Jon Snow is a Targaryen” bit just flew right over my head.
I really could’ve done without the 3 page bloodied description of Victarion’s hand wound, and Victarion isn’t even in the show. Jon Connington and Aegon Targaryen also not in the series (as of yet), but it would be crazy interesting if they did introduce him. Quentyn Martell doesn’t even make an appearance, and is burnt to a crisp in the book after releasing Dany’s dragons. The super roundabout way that Tyrion Lannister and Jorah are making their way (back) to Daenerys is way different in the show. Princess Myrcella is only maimed in the book, not dead (yet). Lyanna Mormont is feisty as hell, but hasn’t been mentioned in the books, and Alysane Mormont who seems equally feisty had Asha Greyjoy captured – and then Asha gets Theon back, and Sansa too! Brienne isn’t even close!
Basically, what it comes down to at this point, is the show has to take it it’s own way, and the books will now be able to stand on their own as a different adaptation. The series basically just became writer’s real fan fiction coming to life, with some suggestions from the author. I like the fact that there will still be a pretty different story told in the books as opposed to the TV show, and I hope that George can finally get this next book out soon.
Have you watched both? Have you only done one thing? Does it even matter, because Arya is the best character in both the book and the show? Leave your comments below and I’ll see if I can channel my commenting direwolf to get back to you.