As big as the Game of Thrones TV series is, the books that it’s based on – George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series – are pop culture giants in their own right, according to Popmatters television critic Steven Aoun.
After the first book was released in 1996, the novel’s characters and elements became visible in the larger culture, appearing in media, merchandise as well as in fan fiction. Popular gaming portal Slingo which hosts a wide array of casual titles was one of the first to benefit from the immense popularity of the brand, releasing its very own licensed Game of Thrones 243 Ways to Win slot title based on the core elements from Martin’s magnum opus. The entire Game of Thrones franchise definitely owes the ubiquity it currently enjoys to the release of the HBO show in 2011. Now that it’s nearing its final season, however, the novels are expected to continue its legacy. After all, the saga is far from over: after two decades, it’s still two books short of its 7-slated titles.
The novels are written in chapters that focus on a single character’s perspective, allowing the reader to experience the story from shifting points of view, revealed a Bustle article. This opens the window to the experiences of different people, creating more nuance in the world that the characters move in, emphasizing that no one single character “owns” this story.
Unique as this structure may be, however, fans would argue that it wouldn’t even begin to describe the books’ achievements. If you’re haven’t read the books already and are thinking of delving into them—whether you’ve seen the show or not—here are some of the things that you’re bound to enjoy.
1. They’re realistic
As the books are commonly categorised within the “fantasy fiction” genre, hearing them described as realistic might be surprising. Yet even a quick dip into Martin’s masterpieces will allow you see to that he uses the form only to investigate genuine tendencies in relationships among people and societies.
You must have seen or heard about the violence that the show is famous for. The books have it far less frequently, and violent moments are told with far more subtlety—but they end up becoming even more engaging as they serve to illustrate more palpably, even as they exaggerate, the things that real humans in the real world do to each other everyday.
2. They’re beautifully written.
Two decades’ worth of fans (and counting) cannot be wrong, especially when we’re talking about books that are this thick: the reading experience is thoroughly rewarding. George R. R. Martin’s storytelling has been described by David Orr in the New York Times as “a nearly supernatural gift.” The thickness of the novels often intimidates potential readers, yet this soon becomes the least important thing. Readers often find themselves wanting to jump into the next chapter even after finishing one that they’ve so badly wanted to end.
3. They let you go deep into the characters.
Compared to the TV show, the novels, given their form, allows for a lot of introspection—which means readers can get really deep into how the characters experience events, and not merely witness what is happening to them. This contrast between what’s happening outside and what happens within adds immense complexity into the characters and the stories.
It alerts the reader to how stories are always more complex than comforting, and the moral ambiguity in these novels makes for a very rewarding read (and multiple re-reads).
4. They take you to another world.
Many have commented on how realistic the books are historically, despite them being both fantasy and fiction. This owes to the rigor with which Martin created the world of Westeros, which he says was somehow a response to a lot of fantasy literature after J. R. R. Tolkien, where fantasy worlds were often intricate and complex but almost impossible to figure out how they worked. Because pieces do come together in the societies that Martin imagines, they become more realistic and easier to step into.
5. They are endlessly exciting.
Despite having begun more than 20 years ago, the saga of A Song of Ice and Fire hasn’t even finished yet. Fans await the release of the sixth novel, set to be titled “Winds of Winter”—which means that starting even this late definitely doesn’t mean it’s too late. There is plenty of time to catch up, and as the experiences of long-time fans prove, there are multiple fresh readings to make out of reading the books again, and again, and again.