[Note: As I get further into the book, it’s going to be more and more difficult — if not impossible — to avoid writing spoilers. So if you haven’t read at least the first two thirds of A Game of Thrones, I’d suggest you put this post aside and read it when you’re all caught up.]

Wow. Where do I even begin? At this point, A Game of Thrones‘s crazily complex narrative has been split into no fewer than five major story lines, some of which are a lot more compelling than others. (Sorry, Jon Snow; wake me up when Uncle Benjen emerges from the Haunted Forest as a zombie or a White Wizard or something.) As a result, so much is happening that I can barely keep track of it all (case in point: wait, who’s Ser Jorah again?). And since more and more characters are splintering off to have their own adventures — Tyrion’s trekking away from the Eyrie, Sansa and Arya will supposedly soon be on a boat bound for Winterfell, and so on — I have a feeling the number of disparate story lines will only grow from here. Clearly, George R. R. Martin wasn’t lying when he said that he meant his series to be “unfilmable.”

So let’s focus first on the development that will probably have the greatest effect on the rest of the story: the untimely, undignified death of King Robert. Though I’m all for forward momentum, I found the king’s sudden passing to be more than a little convenient, especially since it came mere pages after Ned confronted Cersei about her dark family secret. (That meeting also irked me — why, exactly, was she so quick to admit to adulterous incest? Also: Eww.) I did, however, admire the poetic justice of the fierce and gluttonous Baratheon meeting his end after an unfortunate incident involving a wild boar. And I can’t wait to see what’ll happen now that Ned has insisted on annointing Stannis Baratheon, the king’s true heir, instead of taking Littlefinger’s less-honorable advice. Full-fledged war will have to bring all these plot threads together, right?

On a totally different note, I’m starting to look forward to Daenerys’s sections more as I continue reading. She’s grown and changed more than any other character in the book, at least so far, and I’m really enjoying watching her transformation; the khaleesi who watched her brother burn to death in a pile of molten gold has come a long way from the scared little girl we first met in Thrones‘s third chapter. Maybe I also like Dany more now because Martin finally provided a hint as to how the hell “Daenerys” is pronounced — at one point, Khal Drogo calls her “Dan Ares.” It can’t be an accident that an alternate spelling for the Greek god of war is part of her name, right? (Another cool thing I learned while putting this post together: Jaime means “he who supplants,” making it an appropriate moniker for someone who’s looking to overthrow a king.) I’m crossing my fingers that we actually get to see her interact with people like Arya and Tyrion before the book is over.

And speaking of Tyrion — I seriously cannot wait to watch HBO’s take on the entire Eyrie sequence. The sky cells — high-altitude prison chambers with one open wall apiece — might just be Martin’s most innovative idea, and I’m sure Game of Thrones‘s production designer will take the idea and run with it. Paranoid Lady Lysa and her sickly, creepily coddled son also have a great gothic vibe to them that’s got to be amazingly disturbing onscreen. Here’s hoping Catelyn gets the hell out of her sister’s house of inappropriate breast-feeding ASAP — especially since Lysa has said a dozen times that her stronghold could never be breached. Methinks the crazy lady doth protest too much.

Shelf Lifers, how do you feel now that you’ve reached this point in A Game of Thrones? Do you think the many-layered plot is getting too complex, or do you wish Martin would pile on a few more threads, just for fun? Who do you most hope will survive the inevitable concluding bloodbath? And how awesome was Viserys’s gruesome demise: so awesome, or the most awesome? I’ll see you here next week, where we’ll discuss the last third of A Game of Thrones.

Episode Recaps

Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.

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