George R.R Martin, take a bow.
J K Rowling as much as I admire you for creating Harry Potter, move over, as the Game of Thrones has now replaced Harry Potter as my favourite fantasy series.
The way the Game of Thrones is written it manages to tug at your heart strings and leaves you wondering about the fate of the characters in the book. In fact, it goes a step further and creates this sense of attachment with each character in the novel – either you love them or hate them or just don’t mind their presence among the many pages. For instance, the one character whom I had really grown fond of was Eddard Stark. His untimely death proves to be the pivot around which the whole story line then is situated. Of course, there are certain aspects of the male characters in the novel that one can’t reconcile with – for instance, their consistent and unabashed urge to sleep with women but that is surprisingly the quintessential USP of the Game of Thrones. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t the sex; it is the fact that is is all male which is not to say that the female characters don’t have a role to play in the series. In fact, the very premise of the novel is based around the urge to seek revenge by a clan whose central female character is raped and killed by their enemies.
I like the Game of Thrones, because, for once, it has given me some strong male characters whom I appreciate and have grown fond of even. Viewed through the prism of moral lenses, their acts do seem abhorrent (for instance, Eddard Stark cheated on his own wife and fathered a bastard son) but that is the beauty of the book – You forgive them and also understand them because they are “men”. I am yet to complete reading the series but I am sure that Martin has redeemed this noble character in someway to justify his act of cheating. For every Eddard Stark, you also find a Tyrion Lannister who is hoodwinked by his family to fall in love and marry a prostitute in order to lose his virginity. Tyrion Lannister is an admirable character, much can be said about the fact that he is portrayed as an ugly dwarf who is vying for his family’s approval but this man is the brains (at least in the first two books). Martin paints him as a vulnerable yet strong character – he is seen dreaming of his wife (the prostitute) when he is wounded in battle and there are a few pages dedicated to how much he really loved her. His brother, on the other hand, Jaime Lannister – the Kingslayer invites one’s wrath and hatred as he is the arch-nemesis of the much-loved Stark family. Yet, this character too turns out to be a “man”. In his parley with Catelyn Stark (Eddard’s wife) he manages to speak the much hated truth and does so in such a fashion that you end up respecting him for his ability to be what he actually is and more so, for his bravery.
The Stark family remain my favourites. It feels as if I am attached to each member in the family, be it 4 year old Rickon Stark or Maester Luwin (the family’s guru-sorts). The other characters, unimpressive Daenrys Targaryen with her dragons, Theon Greyjoy just ebb and flow around the Starks. One even grows to admire Stannis Baratheon for his fairness though later he does lose his mind. (I don’t blame the character, he has been wronged much by his own family.)
For once, we don’t have black or white male characters – we have “men”. They are insensitive, crude, bullish, haughty, egoistic, masochistic, sadistic but they are also sensitive and have that much needed dollop of grey to smoothen the rough edges. The central male characters all have some female connection that makes them humane and much-loved, be it in their attachment to their mothers (Robb Stark-Catelyn Stark), their wives (Eddard Stark-Catelyn Stark/ Tyrion Lannister-Tysha), their lovers (Tyrion Lannister-Shae) or their sisters (Jon Snow-Arya Stark). The “men” are grey, yet, male in every sense of the word. We don’t have weepy men – Christian Grey from 50 Shades of Grey (this may be wrong example, even he was far more complex that I gave him credit for) or that drunk guy from a Bollywood movie, stone-cold men with huge egos – I can’t seem to think of an appropriate example for this kind of a character but we have men.
Thank God for Martin and to a good year of reading!