People who love “Game of Thrones” but haven’t read the “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels on which they’re based often use the defense that they don’t want to spoil themselves on the events of the show. It’s a valid argument, as knowing of events like Ned Stark’s death in Season 1 or the Red Wedding in Season 3 colors one’s viewing of the show. There’s a difference between anticipating a major event and being surprised by it, and wanting the latter instead of the former is fine.
But the Red Wedding has happened, and “Game of Thrones” is reaching its series midpoint in Season 4. As the TV show quickly catches up to the books — and even passes them — now is the right time to know both parts of the story.
To every person who argues, “But I’ve watched the show and I don’t want to have to reread what I already know,” they are missing out on the big picture of “Game of Thrones.” Perhaps most importantly, the “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels aren’t a complete retread of the TV series, just like the show isn’t a complete retread of the books. Both mediums actually compliment each other quite nicely, as the novels are limited to “perspective” chapters.
The perspective element means readers only see the world through the eyes of characters like Tyrion, Arya, Daenerys, and even Ned. Later perspectives like Brienne’s, Jaime’s and Melisandre’s are introduced so the reader can understand their motivations, but those fantastic Season 1 scenes like the ones between Varys and Littlefinger, and Cersei and Robert Baratheon, are completely unique to the show. They’re also insightful looks into the minds of these complicated characters that are very true to the books, adding color for novel readers.
Like so many of the characters in “Game of Thrones” who are lacking perspective, show-only consumers don’t see all of the moving pieces at play in Westeros and beyond. Even the book readers can’t see the full scale of what’s taking place within this story, but at least reading the novels clues people off to why the reveal of that White Walker at the end of Season 4, episode 4 “Oathkeeper” was such a big deal.
There’s so much more to the world of “A Song of Ice and Fire” than the battle for the Iron Throne. There are prophecies to unfold and true allegiances to discover and historical events that have huge significance to the modern day. Right now those elements of the story only exist in the books, and knowing about them helps contextualize and explain the events taking place in the TV show.
The bottom line is that reading the “Game of Thrones” books only enhances the experience of watching the show. And with the most shocking, gut-wrenching events in the story (that we know of) already past, there’s no point in waiting any longer to see the full picture George R.R. Martin, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are trying to paint. Go read the books, and you won’t regret it.
“Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.