I’m sure there are people out there that might need a bit of persuading to give a rich fantasy story like Game of Thrones a chance, which is why I’ve compiled this brief, spoiler-free list to entice you into watching the HBO series. Admitting that my appreciation for fantasy doesn’t typically extend far beyond the Harry Potter books may discredit me somewhat among hardcore fans of the genre. I’m ok with that as that’s really not who I’m trying to reach here. After all, if you love the fantasy genre, you probably don’t need any other reason to tune in to HBO this Sunday night. But fantasy's not for everyone. It's certainly a matter of preference. Having read the book, I think the story transcends the genre enough that people who don't consider themselves fans of fantasy can still get on board with this one if they're willing to give it a chance.
Maybe you’re planning to watch Game of Thrones begrudgingly because your significant other swears you’ll like it. Perhaps you’re intrigued by a new HBO show but aren’t sure this series is your cup of tea. If you need a little more persuading than what the trailers have offered, here are a few reasons why I loved the book and expect to enjoy HBO’s adaptation. If you’re looking for a review of the show check out Steve’s take on the first few episodes here.
Characters with character.
It was more a mixture of hype and wanting to know what the show was going to be about that prompted me to finally read A Game of Thrones than it was a genuine interest in the story. As I said, Harry Potter is about as close to fantasy as I usually get when it comes to books. What I found, after finally managing to get past the first few chapters, is that when you strip away the make-believe world with the mysterious wall, the fight for the crown, the armor, weapons, castles and everything else, Game of Thrones is a story about people.
If I’m going to get invested in a story, I need there to be relatable characters with realistic, human qualities. They don’t need to be perfect. In fact, the closer to perfect they get, the less interesting I tend to find them. Game of Thrones works because it’s a story about interesting people with realistic personalities, motives, flaws and reactions to the circumstances they find themselves in. Pave the roads, exchange the castles for skyscrapers, the metal armor for Kevlar, the horses for cars, etc, and I’m willing to bet that all of the characters are still just as interesting as they are in the context we see them in. Eddard Stark is still a good, brave husband and father who wants to do the right thing. Robert is still a leader who’s let himself go. As for the women, that brings me to my next point…
Women, Girls, and Queens
One of my favorite aspects of Game of Thrones is that there are plenty of female characters and they aren’t all painted one particular way. Each girl or woman in the book has their own unique way of approaching the world and responding to certain situations. The King’s wife Cersei and Eddard Stark’s wife Catelyn, for example, share a similar protective instinct toward their children, yet are very different in just about every other respect. The eldest Stark daughter Sansa embraces her femininity and has a romantic (somewhat naïve) way of seeing things, while her younger sister Arya takes after her father and prefers to spend time with boys, doing boy-things like archery and sword-fighting. She’s also a bit more practical than her older sister, if not the most well mannered. Arya may be my favorite character next to Daenerys, whose story involves being sold to a brutish Dothraki warlord. How she handles her situation gets more and more interesting as the story progresses.
Underdogs and Direwolves
Who doesn’t love a great underdog story? Game of Thrones has two. Jon Snow is Eddard Stark’s bastard son. He’s treated like an outsider by his family and society because of this. Meanwhile, Tyrion Lannister is treated similarly because he’s a dwarf. Both compensate for their lot in life with sharp wit and leadership abilities. Tyrion’s often a step ahead of everyone else and Jon proves to have inherited his father’s sense of nobility, if not the title.
On the subject of direwolves. Each of the Stark children is paired with their own direwolf early on in the story. As this canine breed is the Stark family symbol, it’s fitting, but what I find even more interesting is the strong, loyal bond that forms between the wolves and the Stark kids. I want a direwolf. Unfortunately they’re extinct and it’s just as well as they tend to get cranky when they think their masters’ lives are in danger.
The Things They Do For Love
This could be the subtitle of the whole story as so much of what happens in the book stems back to love. Alright, power-hunger and greed play their part too, but love is all over the place. Whether it’s romantic love, brotherly love, the love between parent and child, or in one case, a very unorthodox kind of love, there’s plenty to go around and the emotion is often a driving force in the story. The absence of love also takes its toll on some of the characters.
A Really Big Wall
There’s a huge wall set up to the north that’s meant to protect people from some mythical threatening force beyond. In a way, the Wall is also sort of metaphorical to how the story is broken up. The bulk of the story takes place to the south, where humans rule and life is more or less a medieval-esque version of our own reality, plus or minus a few mystical elements. North of the Wall lies threats of a potentially supernatural nature. The story takes place almost entirely south of the Wall (and occasionally on it), but the threat of what lies beyond the Wall casts a shadow over everything, which almost makes the wars being fought and struggles for power seem trivial by comparison.
Maybe the Wall is too fantasy-oriented for non-fantasy fans to appreciate but considering how grounded to natural reality most of the rest of the story is, I think the contrast between the two different sides of the Wall is one of the most fascinating parts of the story.
I can appreciate that fantasy and period stories aren’t for everyone, however the above mentioned elements are things I believe can be appreciated by anyone who loves a good story. They’re the things that made the book hard for me to put down at times, and the things I'm really excited to see brought to life in HBO’s series.
Game of Thrones premieres Sunday, April 17 at 9:00 PM ET on HBO.
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Kelly joined CinemaBlend as a freelance TV news writer in 2006 and went on to serve as the site’s TV Editor before moving over to other roles on the site. At present, she’s an Assistant Managing Editor who spends much of her time brainstorming and editing feature content on the site.