This will probably wreck my street cred (do I have any street cred?) but I don’t much care for Game of Thrones. I watched the first TV episode way back when and my main impression was, eh, maybe it gets better once you get into it. Also, boobs – which I don’t object to exactly but not a thrilling prospect for me.
Then I kept hearing so much love for it and it sounded like the kind of thing I ought to like. (I love books with maps at the front!) So when the librarians went on strike and I saw the book at the drugstore I went for it and … meh. There are things I liked but every time I picked up that book it seemed like work.
I had a hard time putting my finger on why, but I think at least partly it’s the unrelenting grimness. I like a little fun in my books and it seems if you ever manage that in Game of Thrones you’d better shape up because someone’s about to kill you and/or your family and/or your wolf. What kind of game is that? I fold.
Anyway, I was looking for a train ride paperback recently and picked up The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay, which it turns out is a lot like I wanted Game of Thrones to be. My book report days are behind me so I’m not going to sum up the plot but it’s got schemes, divided loyalties, honour, betrayals, battles, gruesome deaths, sad deaths. But there are breaks where characters get to tell some jokes and no one dies for a few pages. Sometimes lives are saved. Sometimes people are happy, if only temporarily. And take a look at the map at the front – I do love fantasy with a setting inspired by somewhere other than Middle Earth.
So I’m not sure if I should recommend The Lions of Al-Rassan to Game of Thrones fans or not. But maybe give it a try if George R. R. Martin is getting you down. And it all fits in one book.