A Game of Thrones – Prologue

Let’s get some basic facts down.

  1. I am using the Kindle editions, therefore all page references are based off it.
  2. I’m new to this series, so I would appreciate no spoilers and will in fact delete/edit any.
  3. All comments will be moderated to help with that. In addition I would appreciate it if people would create an account here to comment.
  4. However, the books have been out for a sufficient period of time such that in my readthrough, I will not avoid spoilers. If you are yourself new to the books, this blog is probably not for you.

Feel free to read on, if you’re okay with those facts.

Oooh, we have maps… useless maps. They’re a tad small, hard to read. BUT WAIT. Last year I bought The Lands of Ice and Fire, a collection of maps of Westeros. *pauses for appropriate noises of jealousy from Anna, Kayl and Siri*

…and now that my three main readers are back with me with lighter bank balances, I’ll continue with the next problem. These maps are too huge for me to comfortably spread out. …lack of maps never bothered me anyway. </frozen>

Well, what I saw of the little maps was interesting enough. On to the prologue.

I don’t like that in the first page, we are introduced to a term, ‘Ser’, without an understanding of what it means. It’s obviously a title, like Duke, given that of the three characters mentioned—Gared, Waymar and Will—only Waymar is a Ser. But I guess I like to understand what things are. So I’ve been naughty, and googled the term, and discovered that Ser is a title used by knights, knighthood being “a rank/honour given to warriors who perform exemplary service for a lord or the realm in the Seven Kingdoms”. It is not a hereditary rank.1

…and in the fifteenth/sixteenth sentence, we get a clear sense of Ser Waymar Royce’s opinion of women. Hint: the sense I get is that it’s not good. I had been warned that ASoIaF was bad at times—even ranging into outright horrible—in its treatment of women, but I had not expected it to happen on the first page. I received some writing advice once: draw your readers into your story before you set out to antagonise them. I also know that once you know the rules you can break them, but… it seems brave and reckless to risk pissing people off before they’re even a page into the story.

Onward!

…into more confusion. Ser Waymar Royce has performed, by definition, exemplary service. Yet it appears clear neither Gared or Will like him, and after two pages, I have the sense we readers aren’t meant to like him either. So what the hell did an eighteen year old, or possibly younger, do to earn a knighthood?

…and while Royce might be intelligent enough to realise that it’s not that cold, I don’t like him for his attitude. He comes off oily and smarmy… and he doesn’t want to listen to decent advice like taking a horse suited to the activity. I hope he dies.

…I really, really hope Royce dies. Will and Gared are awesome characters. Royce is just a dick.

…although. Royce has been on the Wall less than six months, Will four, and Gared… longer than Will at any rate. Is it Royce’s character that makes him unable to sense what both Gared and Will do, the length of time, or both? Something is clearly wrong, how does Royce not sense that?

…I’m tired of Royce.

If they’re searching for a camp of dead people, and the people aren’t there… but the weapons, valuable weapons are there… THAT’S BAD. No one leaves valuables behind without a choice. Already I can tell that in this world, you would likely go nowhere without weaponry.

Okay, so six pages of how creepy everything is and how Royce is an ass. That’s fine. So why—without any other mention or reference to them—are we now told on page seven that “the Others made no sound”? That seems to be a sentence out of nowhere, with no context whatsoever. And I’m not sure that it’s helped any by the appearance of an actual Other on page eight. Actually, it feels like that makes it worse.

…so… if Waymar was killed, possibly transformed into an Other (or so would be my guess) and Will was presumably strangled by Other!Waymar… what happened to Gared and the horses?

I feel lost and confused.

1. Knighthood

Comments

10 Responses to “A Game of Thrones – Prologue”

  1. Anna says:

    And off we go! 😀 Gonna try to keep my comments as spoiler-free as possible – I talk a bit in this one about stuff later in the books, but it’s mainly worldbuilding stuff and contains no character-specific or plotline-specific spoilers.

    The “Ser” thing confused me too the first time I read it – English as a second language and all – but GRRM does something throughout the books that I appreciate a whole lot in my fantasy-authors; he rarely info-dumps. He just writes the story as if everyone involved knows what’s up, and the reader is allowed to learn by observation, so to speak. I figured out pretty soon that “Ser” was just an alternative spelling of “Sir”, and used exclusively to address knights. Ergo, ser = knight.

    And yes, Waymar is a complete ass in almost every way – he’s supposed to be. Not only is he used to set up tension in the prologue, he’s also used to illustrate the class-conflicts in Westerosian society (he’s a knight, Gared and Will are definitely not – I think Will might be a chicken thief, if I recall correctly?), AND as an example of the current state of the Night’s Watch, which will become important later on in the story. And of the majority view on women, which I might not appreciate as much as the rest of it, but even though the books DO have issues with sexism, I can at least say that all viewpoint characters who are female are, or grow to become, complex human beings with varied world-views, personalities and ambitions.

    Also, Waymar’s knighthood – it’s never really outright explained to the reader later in the books (because it’s assumed all characters know this already), but Waymar’s a younger son from a noble family; he did service as a squire when he was very young, and “earned his spurs” – i.e: became a knight – at a young age as well. It’s something noble sons are expected to do. As for why he was sent to the Wall… well, the Royce’s have a lot of sons and branch houses and so on, and he was probably inconvenient to have around when it came to inheritance issues – so off to the Wall he goes, to serve the Kingdoms and remove himself from the line of inheritance. It’s mentioned later as being a somewhat common practise for all noble houses.

    And the Others, yes! The prologue is there to set them up as a threat, to make the reader aware they exist even if the in-universe characters might not. “the Others made no sound” is probably GRRM trying ye olde horror-movie trick of making the monster threatening, but vague – and therefore more creepy, as nothing he writes could ever beat your imagination filling in the details.

    And one final note on the prologue – consistently, throughout the books, the prologues use viewpoint characters that don’t have any other viewpoint-chapters in the books. They’re there to present a conflict, a setting or a certain event, but the main body of the books concern other characters. I know this threw me off with the first book, since I kept expecting it to go back to the immediate aftermath of what happened there – but it doesn’t. The *consequences* of what happened do have an impact on the story, but not until later on.

    This book hooked me with the prologue – even though it was a bit confusing and vague, I was pretty much sold on it the moment he had the guts to not only bring in snow-zombies (i.e: the Others), but to have them kill off characters we just started getting to know. No one’s safe in Westeros!

    • Dianna says:

      …I kind of really, really wanna read more today. But then I’d never get anything else done.

      I think I do appreciate the lack of info-dumps, but it’s a little early to tell. I don’t mind having to work things out myself, but I’ve noticed that I will often let a detail like “Ser” go if the surrounding work lacks any context. Oh, some people are “Ser”… nothing indicates why… meh, unimportant.

      Snow-zombies… I think I could like them too.

      • Anna says:

        Reading ASOIAF slowly is probably the way to go – there’s just so much of it, with niggling little details to keep track of, that it’s better to take it one chapter at the time and letting stuff sink in.

        The “Ser”-thing is mentioned a bit more later, where one character misuses the term for another character – the first character says “ser”, while the other one insists on NOT being a “ser”, so it might stick in your mind then.

  2. Siri Paulson says:

    *makes appropriate noises of jealousy* The difficulty of reading maps is one of the few major disadvantages I’ve found with ebooks…that, and it’s harder to flip back to check something (although you have a Search function, which can sometimes compensate). There have definitely been times when I wished I had a more legible map of Westeros, but it hasn’t detracted hugely from my reading experience.

    I’m interested in the problem you had with the unexplained introduction of terms like “Ser” and “the Others”. I think it’s a reading preference/style thing — I’m quite happy to decipher worldbuilding terms like this from context as long as there’s enough context, and I’m even okay with terms that don’t become clear immediately and with authors whose writing requires a lot of mental work to decipher because they throw you in the deep end and expect you to swim (hello, China Mieville!). I approach it like solving puzzles. But other readers, like you, prefer explanations to be more explicit. Neither method is “wrong”, just different.

    I didn’t like Waymar at all, but that didn’t bother me — I saw him as the antagonist of the scene (at least until the Others showed up). In fact, his opinion of women was probably what made me decide that.

    One thing that I like about these books, but that can make them hard to read, is that GRRM sometimes introduces things, or hints at things, and then doesn’t go back to them for ages. It’s a good reminder to me as a writer that it’s okay to let questions sit and build in readers’ minds, rather than giving in to the urge of answering them right away. (The reason this technique makes the books hard to read is because there are a lot of unanswered questions that build up, and it can be hard to remember them all, let alone your theories about the answers!)

    I hope that last paragraph doesn’t feel like a spoiler for you — if it does, let me know and I’ll refrain from making such comments in the future!

    • Dianna says:

      That last paragraph was hardly spoilerish in my opinion–it’s a discussion of his writing method. It doesn’t tell me, for example, that NED STARK DIES. *muttergrumbles about the casting of HBO’s Game of Thrones*

      It’s true about the learning from the way GRRM writes!

    • Anna says:

      Gosh, China Mieville is SO fond of the chuck em in to see if they can swim approach. It usually takes me 50-60 pages of his books for my brain to catch up. But, like you, I do like that. It gives the feeling of a complete, functioning world – we’re just getting to see it, and since the characters in-verse don’t need explanations, there ARE no explanations. Eventually, you can figure stuff out by context.

      I also really appreciate the way GRRM mentions things off hand and then just lets them sit there, waiting for you to get more details, or figure it out (or read the entire book series and start over and rediscover them and OH! THAT IS SO TOTALLY FORESHADOWING!). It’s great.

      • Dianna says:

        …fine, you two convinced me. When I work on my stories, no explanations. And I’ll use my kitty eyes to cajole you into reading.

        • Anna says:

          Explanations aren’t BAD, Di. Sometimes they’re needed – especially if there’s a complicated subject that’s being presented. I know I said I liked China Miéville’s approach (and I do!), but I can’t read too much of him in one go, or my brain starts hurting.

          Not everything has to be mysterious. There’s a balance to be struck – and sometimes, the scales need to tip over in favour of MORE explanations rather than less.

          • Siri Paulson says:

            Yeah, what Anna said. Mieville is an extreme case — to enjoy his stuff, you have to be pretty well-versed in the genre, and you have to like deciphering clues that take a lot of thinking. Most writers give more context than he does. To put it another way, other writers are more “accessible” to newer and less hard-core genre readers.

            There’s a whole spectrum of writing and reading preferences out there. It’s worth knowing how various writers do it, so you can pick the approach that’s best for you and your story (and any particular spot in your story).

            Personally, I admire Mieville’s writing, but I don’t think I’d copy it. Most of the books I read (and enjoy) give more explanation than he does. Or at least they give you longer to wade in — for example, two unfamiliar terms in the prologue isn’t too bad, IMHO, when everything else in the prologue is pretty straightforward/familiar to a fantasy reader.

            But YMMV!

  3. Kayl says:

    I am jealous of your maps. I want big pretty maps. I have the hard copies as well as kindle copies of the books, so I can go and check the maps if I need to. But I imagine the tiny images are nothing compared to what you have. They can be difficult to read sometimes, and a pain if I don’t have the hard copy with me and want to check something.

    GRRM does enjoy introducing all these terms and concepts without info-dumping. I personally enjoy it, though sometimes it leaves me going “…what did you just say?” I loved the introduction of the Others, how we’re suddenly told these things exist, here have some, but not what they actually are.

    I don’t remember enough of the prologue to say much else. I am seriously looking forward to this. And now I want to reread them myself. *proceeds to debate making her bank balance a little lighter*

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