Tower of the Hand



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Good Fortune in the Decade to Come

What does the future hold for our favorite books and offshoots? Well, I've looked into the flames and I've seen what is to come in the decade ahead. Like all seers, my interpretations of prophecies range from bold to ridiculous, and all them are likely to be proven very, very wrong. But I've enjoyed this admittedly self-indulgent exercise and I invite you to add your thoughts and predictions, too.

Will Winter come at last in 2020? When it airs a new episode this Sunday, The Simpsons will have the honor of broadcasting an original episode in five different decades: the 1980s, the 1990s, the 2000s, the 2010s, and soon the 2020s. Who knows? Maybe A Song of Ice and Fire will share a similar distinction. Assuming The Winds of Winter is published at some point during the roaring 2020s, George R. R. Martin will have delivered at least one novel to tortured fans every decade since the 1990s, with at least one more to come in the series. Could 2020 finally be the year for The Winds of Winter? Surely it will be this decade, right? Have you given up on guessing altogether and/or would rather be pleasantly surprised by the sudden coming of Winter?

In the beginning. Almost twenty years ago, I was flipping through The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Tenth Annual Collection, edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, looking for something to read on an upcoming plane trip. The anthology included a list of the top fantasy novels of 1996, in which I saw this blurb about a book I hadn't yet heard of:

The Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra). This acclaimed writer's new novel is a saga written on an epic scale and entirely delicious. It's a fat book, the first in a series, and filled with all the classic fantasy tropes: kings and courtiers, soldiers and sages, magical creatures and a cruel dragon prince—yet Martin manages to give familiar themes and characters vivid new life. I recommend this one even to readers who have sworn off multi-book series fantasy.

Thus I checked out A Game of Thrones from the library and figured this "fat book" would at the very least help me sleep while in mid-flight. I read the first chapter when I got home. Then I read another chapter and another. I was a third of the way into the book when I realized I might actually finish it before I even got to the airport. I made a quick return visit to the library to pick up A Clash of Kings, the second book, which was at the time the only other book in the series. I felt a little silly having these two massive hardcovers making up the bulk of my luggage, but it was so worth it. I carried one of the books everywhere I went during that spring break: on the plane, on the beach, at a spring training game, on a sailboat even.

Those were my very first memories of reading A Song of Ice and Fire. What made you read the books? If you started by watching Game of Thrones first, what drew you to the show?


Good Fortune in the Wars That Were

Warning! This post may discuss events from beyond your current scope. If you're fully caught up, you can remove this spoiler warning from all similar blog entries, or view this post without bypassing the warnings of other entries.

Queen or King of Love and Beauty

Who do you want to see sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of Game of Thrones? HBO has just released a set of character posters to help you visualize all the possibilities, with each of the major players perched comfortably (or otherwise) on Westeros' iconic seat of power. Admittedly, only a few of them have a legitimate claim and a viable path to the throne, but ignore all that for this discussion. Simply pick your favorite character from those pictured below and argue why she or he would be the hero that the Seven Kingdoms deserves.

Read the source material before, after, or never? It's been a dilemma ever since movie producers realized they didn't always have to come up with their own ideas. Millions of books already exist, plenty with great characters and stories just waiting to be translated into a more visual medium. Filmmakers have to be clever, though, in condensing a heavy tome into a two-hour flick for a broader audience while still following their own creative instincts, all on a budget. The end result often upsets the core fans who most wanted to see their page-turners on screen in the first place. Certainly this is one thing that A Song of Ice and Fire readers have had to grapple with as HBO's Game of Thrones deviates farther and farther away from the books. But we are not the first to face this. I can only imagine the outcry from fans of those early adaptations: "Dorothy's slippers are what color?"

Generally speaking, when there's a new adaptation that catches your eye, do you prefer to 1) read the source material before watching the adaptation, 2) read it after watching it, or 3) never read it at all? Have there been exceptions to this rule? Did you read ASOIAF before or after watching Game of Thrones, and has that influenced how you treat adaptations now?


A jaded view all over again. A day with a silly but harmless tradition has now become synonymous with a bizarre phenomenon: characters getting stuck in some kind of time loop. Don't get me wrong, I usually love this plot device. Groundhog Day is my favorite Bill Murray film, "Cause and Effect" my favorite Star Trek episode, and "Majora's Mask" my favorite Legend of Zelda game. More recently, we've seen it play out on Westworld and I'm looking forward to The Good Place's second season, to say the least.

But repetition can be tiresome, too, especially when an audience has been conditioned to expect the unexpected. There are only so many ways an author can make his story surprising before his readers wise up. If he's lucky, we'll call a repetitive storyline "thematic." More likely, we'll see the supposed twist as a variation on one of the author's favorite writing tricks. Generally speaking, what plot twist do you find to be the most tiresome? What type of twist happens in A Song of Ice and Fire a little too often?


Lords of the Seven Kingdoms, Protect Us from Them. Maegor the Cruel is considered by many to be the worst king of Westeros, but several candidates from Westeros' history could challenge him for that title: Baelor the Blessed, Aegon the Unworthy, Aerys the Mad King, to name just a few. Whether they were intentionally cruel or generally incompetent, the reigns of these bad kings proved to be detrimental to the well-being of the Seven Kingdoms and its citizens. What would you say is the worst personal attribute of a bad king? What makes the difference between a bad king and an awful one?

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Tower of the Hand is an unofficial companion to George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series and HBO's Game of Thrones, featuring chapter and episode guides, character profiles, family trees, and much more.

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