Earlier today, I finished re-reading A Game of Thrones, the first book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.
I first read A Game of Thrones when I was 13. I had just gotten into fantasy literature, having recently finished the Harry Potter series. Game of Thrones was the first ever adult fantasy book I read, and not only that, I was barely a teenager. The learning curve was steep; I didn’t understand the plot very well at the beginning, and the countless names thrown at me left me confused after each chapter.
I pushed through the books. Even through the confusion, I absorbed myself in the story. I clung to my paperbacks for hours, learning everything I could about the Starks and the Lannisters and the Targaryens. I loved how expansive Westeros and Essos were. I loved all the characters, even the not-so-nice ones. My eyes were opened to a world of fiction I would soon come to love: fantasy. These first experiences with Game of Thrones are the sole reasons I love speculative fiction so much today.
It’s been years since I first read this book and its sequels. I’m sure we’ve all felt nostalgic for the first book, when Catelyn and Ned were together and when the greatest fear for the Stark children were stories from Old Nan. Even in my first read-through, as I was nearing the end of the 5th book, A Dance with Dragons, I began feeling a twinge of nostalgia for these early pages of the series. Since then, my nostalgia for the books have only grown. Finally, I resolved the re-read the series.
It had been so long since I’d picked up A Game of Thrones, and I expected to remember very little of the plot.
And yet, every time I turned the page and dived into a new chapter, I recalled the scene almost verbatim. I remembered what was going to occur, but not only that, I remembered how I had felt when I had first read that scene. Maybe it’s because I have watched clips of those scenes from Season 1 countless times, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason for my vivid memories were because of my emotional attachment to the story.
Everyone talks about the foreshadowing that weaves through the A Song of Ice and Fire, so I expected to find foreshadowing. But the genius of Martin’s techniques surpassed my expectations. It’s not just what foreshadowing is written or how much is written, but rather where it’s written. For example, Ned almost exclusively thinks of Lyanna on the same page as Jon is mentioned. Never elsewhere. There’s one moment where Ned is in a brothel with one of Robert’s bastards, and thoughts of Lyanna keep popping up in his head. Promise me, Ned. Promise me.
My reading has matured since I first read A Game of Thrones, but I enjoyed the book just as much as I did back then, if not more. The plot . . . it’s just so organic. No plot point is forced. Every effect follows logically from every preceding cause. The characters are as real and as enthralling as they were when I was 13. I once remarked that A Song of Ice and Fire had, in my mind, the most realistic and three-dimensional characters in fantasy. I still believe that after finishing A Game of Thrones for the second time.
My finishing of this book today marks the first step in my goal of re-reading the whole series. I’ve been re-reading a lot of my favorite books over the past couple years, and it’s been more than worth it. Re-reading is a gift; re-living our favorite stories, for a second or third time (or more), it’s such a glorious experience. I urge anyone reading this to re-read one of their old favorites. Forgot your TBR for a moment and read a book you’ve read before. After all, what’s having favorite books worth if you can’t ever revisit those stories?