Game of Thrones mania has swept the country. The HBO series is full of wild sex, bloody violence, secret incest, and convoluted intrigue. In other words, not your average weekend at home. We hope.
Random House Audio has undertaken the Herculean task of presenting three new CD boxed sets of unabridged books; both volumes of A STORM OF SWORDS are included in the same shrink wrapped package. Theses audiobooks richly capture the sweep and intense drama of the series. Why buy the audio series when we can watch TV? The audiobooks are truer to author George R.R. Martin’s original saga titled “A Song of Ice and Fire.” They contain far more detail than the miniseries can possibly contain while still maintaining the breakneck pace necessary to keep a viewing audience enthralled. For example, direwolves are far more intriguing creatures, and their relationships with the Stark children are far more powerful, than what we see on the screen. Events in the books are experienced through the eyes of the main characters; the TV series presents an omniscient viewpoint. And let’s be honest, it’s just plain daunting to read the massive amount of print that the books themselves contain. So, audiobooks are the way to go for many who either want to stay ahead of the series, or those who don’t have time to sit down and read all seven formidable books.
Master actor Roy Dotrice has become a voice icon through his masterful reading of the series. He provides 224 voices, and manages to give each a unique sound and personality. In fact, the Guinness Book of Records has recognized Dotrice’s achievement.
The world of this medieval fantasy consists of seven warring kingdoms, each vying for the Iron Throne, and complete dominion of all who live in Westeros. The Starks of Winterfell are at the center. They live in a land where summer can last for decades, but when winter does come, it can last a lifetime. When the patriarch, Eddard, has been beheaded in King’s Landing by the sinister boy king Joffrey Lannister, it sets in motion a conflict reminiscent of the War of the Roses and the Hundred Years War.
A CLASH OF KINGS is book two of the epic series. In the far North, the men of the Night’s Watch journey north of the Wall to investigate the incursion of the savage Wildlings. In the East, Daenerys Targaryen, Dothraki queen of the dragons, is determined to take back the throne of her father, who was killed by Jamie Lannister. The psychotic Joffrey, who is both Jamie’s son and his nephew, now rules; even his mother, the ambitious Cersei, can’t handle him. The dwarf Tyrion, brother of incestuous twins Jamie and Cersei, assumes control as Hand of the King. What ensues is known as the War of the Five Kings: Robb Stark of Winterfell; the Baratheon brothers, Stannis and Renly; Balon Greyjoy, former Stark ward, and Robb’s friend; and Joffrey, who’s called a Baratheon, but who’s actually all Lannister.
A STORM OF SWORDS, the third and longest book of the cycle, and is broken down into Part One and Part Two. Civil war rages on. Catelyn Stark bargains with Jamie Lannister for the return of her daughters, Arya and Sansa, and has a horrific misadventure. Not all of the professed kings are still alive. Arya, now free of her disguise as a boy, proves resourceful and well connected, while Tyrion reveals a noble side in a forced marriage. Melisandre, the witch priestess who controls Stannis, plots great murderous mischief. Jamie Lannister is shown in a different light.
The fourth book, A FEAST FOR CROWS, finds the land ravished by war. The War of the Five Kings is finally coming to an end. Cersei regains her power, but it’s not all she assumed it would be. A potent alliance crumbles because of her cruelty and insensitivity. Jamie is no longer her lover and defender. Sansa prepares to come out of hiding; Daenerys is wooed; Arya endures many hardships.
The books are as powerful as they are absorbing, and certainly not for the faint of heart. But for those who enjoy adventure, intriguing characters, and unlimited escapism, they can’t be topped. Audiobooks are a blessing to those with a long daily commute. For the rest of us, they’re a chance to let our own imaginations run a little wild.
Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist and an avowed bibliophile. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. Michall is a voting member of National Book Critics Circle. www.michalljeffers.com