Tag Archives: dragons

Winter is Coming

For those of you that didn’t tune into HBO last night or watch it online later, as soon as you get home from work today watch Game of Thrones. Trust me.

Game of Thrones is the first book of an epic fantasy series called The Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, and it’s one of my personal favorites. Now you might be aware of my constant disappointment in adaptations of my favorite books, but I think you’ll be surprised to know that I loved the first episode that aired at 9 PM last night. It covered roughly the first 85 pages of the first novel, and although I was surprised by how far it got, I believe it did a good job of keeping all the crucial introductory material. We were introduced to the Night’s Watch, a band of fierce rangers that guard the Wall and patrol the wild lands on the North; the House of Stark, the main good guys throughout the series; King Robert Baratheon, a drunkard king with a good temper and a slightly sick sense of humor; the Lannisters, Queen Cersei Lannister, her devilishly handsome twin brother Jaime, and their dwarf brother Tyrion who is better known as “The Imp;” and the surviving  Targaryen siblings.  Even though we meet a huge group of people in the first episode, we’re still confined to Winterfell, the castle home of the Starks far to the North where they aid the Night’s Watch in keeping the wilds of the North away from the prosperous South. Once the show moves to the capital at King’s Landing, we’ll get to meet a far more colorful bunch.

The first episode did a fantastic job of setting up the main conflicts, introducing us to the world and the main characters, and setting the gory mood for the rest of the series. Now it’s HBO so one has to expect a certain amount of blood and boobs, and Game of Thrones does not disappoint. There are 3 beheadings, 1 scene of gore, 2 creepy White Walkers with ice cold eyes, at least 8 pairs of bare breasts, a few butts, and 4ish sets of people having sex (if you watch it, you’ll understand the “ish”). You don’t have to guess which characters are the good guys and which will make your skin crawl, although you may be surprised by one man later. (I’m trying so hard not to give spoilers here but still stir up some anticipation, guys. I think my boyfriend hated watching it with me because I kept having long sighs or hiding my face before scenes, giving away spoilers through body language.)

The one part that surprised me was the time allotment between stories. You see, there are two continents, and the Stark/Lannister storyline takes place on one while the Targaryen storyline takes place on the other. When reading the books, the story stays on the main continent the majority of the time, probably since there are more characters involved in that plotline. The story shifts to Daenerys and her vile brother every few chapters for glimpses of their life. From what I remember (it’s been a few years since I’ve read the books), it always annoyed me when we shifted over to Daenerys just because the other plotline is so good and her brother creeps and annoys the crap out of me. I expected maybe one scene with them per episode, but they were given a fair amount of time. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just something that I didn’t expect.

While all the actors did a fantastic job portraying their characters, my favorite part of the adaptation so far might just be the scenery. The characters have already come to life for me through the books, so watching the storyline doesn’t bring that much surprise. But I usually skip details about scenery when reading. I mean yes, they describe the Wall as very large and covered in ice, but it’s hard for me to really imagine and grasp images about settings. I just thought of the Wall as a big, frosty Great Wall of China when reading. But ooooooh, that long shot of the 3 Night’s Watchmen coming out of the Wall and riding into the North was absolutely stunning, breathtaking, and overall epic. All of the scenes were beautifully done, paying attention to the smallest of details. I loved it.

In short, if you can manage it, watch the first episode of Game of Thrones as soon as possible. You’ll be hooked, I promise.

In which you should always be polite to dragons

Recently, I re-read one of my favorite intermediate series: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. The first book is Dealing With Dragons, and explores the life of Cimorene, a princess who is very tired of being lectured on “proper” princess behavior. She runs away to be a dragon’s princess because she can’t take dancing, sewing, or etiquette lessons any longer. Throughout the books we meet a peculiar cast of characters including Kazul the dragon, Telemain the magician, Morwen the witch, and Morwen’s nine cats. Honestly, the cats might be my favorite characters.

There are several reasons why I love these children’s books so much and keep reading them, but I won’t go into full detail in just one blog post–it would be more like a 20 page paper! One of the reasons is that it’s very to the point. There’s no unnecessary details or fluff, but at the same time we still get rich backstory and characters. In just one chapter, we quickly realize how uncommon Cimorene is, how dreadfully common and proper her parents are, and that something must be done or else she’ll end up having to marry a silly prince who only wants to talk about tourneys. By the second chapter, Cimorene’s journey has begun. And the pace keeps up thoroughout the books. Each chapter has a similar problem/solution set up that leads one after another. Now this may sound very simple and boring, but it’s actually quite genius how Wrede pulls it off. The extraordinary humor and wit on each page helps as well.

All of the characters are very likable as well (er, the ones you’re supposed to like at least). Morwen is my favorite. She’s a tart little witch with nine cats and a sign that says “None of this Nonsense, please” above the door of her tidy little house. And she’s very much a no nonsense character which is where most of her humor comes from–that and the one-sided conversations with her cats. Kazul is a very practical dragon with a dry sense of humor. Cimorene is a princess who is extremely bored with proper princess skills and wants to learn things like fencing, magic, Latin, and how to make cherries jubilee. She’s always pointing out people’s faulty logic, especially when they’re doing things just because it’s “proper,” and she’s very helpful to everyone she meets even when she doens’t mean to be–except wizards, of course.

I also adore that all the characters use correct grammar. They say “to whom” when appropriate and “may” instead of “can.” I believe that it’s especially important to get these details right in children’s lit, that way correct English comes more naturally to a younger generation.

And then there are all the quirky things that stick in your head once you’ve read the books. Every chapter title begins “In Which” and then describes it–a trait I often use in blogging and emails now. Soapy water with a hint of lemon melts wizards; not only is it good for cleaning, but it protects you from your enemies! Because of these books, I’ve always thought that a kitchen was cleanest when using lemon scented products. I know, I’m impressionable, but the smell really does just smell cleaner! And whoever heard of a dragon who’s favorite dessert was cherries jubilee?! Also, almost all of the famous fairy tales/nursery rhymes have a cameo in the quartet with a quirky spin on them. McDonald is branching out and growing magic hay for the magic animals that he wants to add to his farm to make things more exotic. Riponzelle really let down a chair, not her hair to haul guests up her tower with no door. And the list just goes on.

Basically, these books are just wonderful in every way imaginable and should be a required bed-time read for all parents and children. Oh, and the most important lesson in the whole series: ALWAYS be polite to dragons.