OT - A Song of Ice and Fire

Submitted by UMichGA on June 10th, 2012 at 3:30 PM

I've watched both seasons of Game of Thrones on HBO and really wanted to start reading the books.  I was looking to start book 3 first, since from what I heard the first 2 seasons cover the first 2 books.

I was wondering if anyone on the board could help me and tell me if book 3 is the good place to start or if I miss too much and need to start earlier.  Any help would be great, thanks.



June 10th, 2012 at 3:36 PM ^

I was informed about the series prior to season one of the show, however I waited until halfway through season one of the show to start reading them.  I would recommend beginning with book one and reading them in order.  Book one setups up the entire series and HBO differed season 2 of the show enough from book two that, in my opinion, reading book two is a necessity.  I am in fact trying to convince my wife to read the books, as she watches the show with me, and feels she doesn't need to read the books because she watches the show.  They are such good reads, that even as a non-avid reader, I finished all five books before 2011 was over.  


June 10th, 2012 at 3:41 PM ^

You really have to read all the books.  Martin writes from so many different characters' perspecitves and includes so many minute details that end up being important that you'll be totally lost if you don't read them.  Season 1 is reasonably faithful to book 1, but you'll still miss small details that end up being important in later books.


June 10th, 2012 at 3:54 PM ^

I read about half way through the first book before I watched the series and then put it on the back burner.  I think I'm going to start where I left off in the first book.  Thanks for the suggestions!


June 10th, 2012 at 4:01 PM ^

Season 1 of the show was very faithful to book 1, but you definitely miss certain character aspects that the show couldn't or didn't illustrate. Example: the last episode of season 1 had an encounter between a character and his father that, in my opinion, really did not show the level of emotion that was a) present in the book and b) very important for later events.

Season 2 started out the same way but certain things ended up deviating completely. Some characters were markedly more humanized in the show, some never showed up, and at least two appear to have been killed off by the end of the season, while they're very much still around by the end of book 5.

Book 3 is the best, but it can wait. Start at the beginning!


June 10th, 2012 at 4:15 PM ^

There are a lot of tiny details and hints that didn't make it to the show, mainly because the world of the books is so gigantic. The books seem long, but they're quick reads - you can do each one in a few weeks if you read a lot. I'm rereading them all right now so I can read ADWD, and I'm not regretting it.


June 10th, 2012 at 5:16 PM ^

and part of it's epic nature is the number of characters, locations, and historical events that can't and don't make it to the small screen.  To truly follow along with the show you should read the books.  Also, Martin won't finish the series till probably the next decade so you've got time to start at the beginning...


June 11th, 2012 at 9:51 AM ^

I'm more concerned that there is no story to be finished and that there never was an ending in sight.  Instead of a Harry Potter-like saga where every book has story progression and all of the loose ends are tied up, I think that we're getting a Lost or a Flash Forward, where the story just drags because it is being made up as they go.

I Bleed Maize N Blue

June 10th, 2012 at 5:52 PM ^

I don't know that you need to read the books to follow along with the show.  True, there's background in the books that would be worthwhile (alternatively one could go to HBO's viewer's guide), but there's also a lot more left out due to the limitations of TV, so one could end up a bit disappointed in the show.

George R.R. Martin said that the Battle of the Blackwater would have cost $100M and two months of shooting to do it like the book.


June 10th, 2012 at 5:38 PM ^

Tangentially related to the original post: I recently moved from an apartment with HBO to a house without it. Netflix, of course, doesn't cover HBO programming, and I'd like to watch the rest of the season. Any ideas on places to view or download episodes? Thank you in advance.


June 10th, 2012 at 5:53 PM ^

You don't need HBO to watch the show, you just need to know someone who does have HBO. If they have comcast, then they are able to make up to 10 email accounts with their account. Have them make you an email account, and then you can use that account to sign into hbogo.com and watch every episode of every hbo show (ever). It's how I've watched the entire series (and all of Entourage).

Also, just read the books. They are better than the show, but with less nudity (so maybe a little less entertaining). Plus, they will keep you busy for a long time, as they are all quite long.



June 10th, 2012 at 6:12 PM ^

Definitely read the first two books.  (I personally think the first book is the best, though the 3rd one is pretty damn good as well.)  There is a LOT of nuance that you'll pick up.

Books 4 & 5 (A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons) are generally considered to be much weaker; it'll be interesting to see how far HBO deviates from the source material by that time.


June 10th, 2012 at 9:20 PM ^

AFFC in particular catches a lot of undeserved shit.  That book is brilliant, it's just very, very different from A Storm of Swords in particular.  Much more slowly paced, because it's dealing with the aftermath of the War of the Five Kings.  Septon Meribald's story just before they reach Saltpans is easily my favorite passage in the whole series.

I think Dance is probably the weakest, but it's still not a bad book by any means.


June 10th, 2012 at 11:20 PM ^

The problem with Dance is he spends a ton of time on one character's story arc in one place and then essentially hits the reset button at the end. I liked the rest of it, though. The problem with both Feast and Dance is that he's lost the ability to self-edit. There's too many perspectives and extra characters that are just time wasters, it's like he lost all ability to determine what he needs to tell the story. Big reason for his ten year writers block IMO.


June 10th, 2012 at 6:14 PM ^

I have been a huge fan of the books for a few years before the show was released.  I have read each of them probably four to five times.  I woudln't say the books are necessary to understand the show, but they certainly help, and the show is certainly quite different now in season two.  

For what it's worth, A Game of Thrones is my favorite book.  I think it was just written so tightly, with all the different storylines weaving so well.  This was before a lot of the supernatural dynamics really came into play in the series and it was more a political/war power struggle book than fantasy.  I think Martin really did a tremendous job on the book, and all the books afterwards (while quite good still) never really reached the same level of coherence and consistency.


June 10th, 2012 at 6:23 PM ^

Read the first two books. Not just because Season 2 deviated dramatically from the second book, but because in the first book you get so much background on the story, and the dreams and visions that the characters have tell you a lot that just can't be covered by the show. Plus there are some subtle clues to things that lead to a lot of thoughts on theories, such as Jon Snow's parentage. There's one theory that you absolutely wouldn't even know about if you didn't read the first book.

Rather be on BA

June 10th, 2012 at 6:49 PM ^

The first two books are great, don't skip them.  Book 3 is amazing, but 4 and 5 are not as great, so you would be missing out on two of the better books in the series and jumping ahead to a great book, but also closer to the comparatively boring 4th and 5th books.  Plus, if you start on book 1 you will have slightly less down time before Winds of Winter comes out xP.

Feat of Clay

June 10th, 2012 at 7:25 PM ^

I just started reading Book One, having been watching the HBO series. It has been slow going, but in the most delicious manner, because I've been hearing all the lines (in my head) delivered by the actors from the show.

It's definitely a pleasure, reading the book, even though via HBO I already know the major plot points.

Monocle Smile

June 10th, 2012 at 7:52 PM ^

The end of season 2 conflated events in both books 2 and 3. In addition, the event sequences are pretty off throughout the second half of season 2 and they fabricate deviations to cut out characters. I'm not complaining because it works as a series, but there's much, much more in the books.


June 10th, 2012 at 7:54 PM ^

Do yourself a favor and start from the beginning.  I had been reading the series when I first tried watching the show, and frankly, even though the show is better than most on TV, it doesn't even begin to touch how great the books are.  The books are so detailed and interesting and there is so much more character development and so many more subplots that it is worth your while.  The books are very quick reads, despite their length.  It is worth it!


June 10th, 2012 at 10:33 PM ^

Also... the actress who plays Melisandre?  Total hottie.  

Without divulging further details, for the people who've watched fhe first two seasons of the show but have not read past the second book...  There will be some very critical happenings next season and you should definitely watch to see what happens.

If you read the third book (A Storm of Swords), a lof of of the TV show's next season will be necessarily spoilered.  You'll also get a lot of background insight that you won't get on the TV show, but one way or another things WILL come to a head.  It's definitely worth it to follow the story and it's your decision to read book 3 1st or watch the next season 1st*, but you will definitely spoil either the book or TV show in some fairly huge ways.  

I'm not trying to be coy but you're in for some big things next season so keep that in mind as you decide whether or not to read ASOS before next season.  Suffice it to say that people who've also read A Storm of Swords know what I'm talking about.

* Also - the current scuttlebutt is that due to length, they'll split up book 3's events over the coming season and the season after it.


June 11th, 2012 at 2:34 AM ^

I agree with the consensus, which seems to be, "read the books."  I think this is important for two reasons: 1) knowing the characters and stories from the books helps clarify what's going on with the show -- there's a lot going on that is harder to follow if you don't get it, and 2) if you read the books you can join with the internet rabble blessing or decrying the differences when you watch.

Just remember: read fast so you can get through book 3 before next season starts.  The books get longer as you go!

swan flu

June 11th, 2012 at 6:58 AM ^

Once you read the books you will be less impressed with the show. While the show is great, the books are so good that they make the show look like a kindergarten production of Hamlet.


June 11th, 2012 at 7:05 AM ^

They deviate a lot from the books on HBO, but they stick to the story line.  Start with book one.  You can see how the characters and even Martin's writing evolve throughout the story.  Also, the second season ends somewhere in the third book.  They've moved the viewpoints around quite a bit.  Jaime Lannister is freed in the third book, which happened in like episode 7, while at the end of the second book Drogon burns down the House of the Undying, which happened in the last episode.  Also there's an attempt on Dany's life at the end of the second book, which introduces two new important characters, which they left out of the mix in this season.

Start from book one.  You won't regret it.  Especially now that you know Ned Stark dies.  When he died the first time I read the books I threw it across the room, swore and stopped reading the book for a week or so.  I was angry.


June 11th, 2012 at 8:14 AM ^

Ya do yourself a favor and read the first 2 books before the 3rd. They are fantastic and there are a lot of little (and not so little) side stories that get brushed aside due to time constraints on the show.


June 11th, 2012 at 8:30 AM ^

Read through book three and then stop there.  i would say that book 2 is better than the show.  For some reason, season 2 of the show doesn't captivate me as much as the first season did.  Book three is incredible.  After that, you might want to pretend that books four and five were never written


June 11th, 2012 at 8:34 AM ^

There is still a lot of good stuff in 4 and 5. There just also happens to be a lot of filler. I generally tell people to read the first 3 and if they don't want to commit to the last 2 than they can at least skim through and read the chapters featuring characters they like.