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The Pros and Cons of Reading the 'Game of Thrones' Books

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Apr 28, 2014 | 1:29pm EDT

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With each season, fans of Game of Thrones tend to separate themselves into two camps: those that have read the book series on which the show is based, A Song of Ice and Fire, and those that have not. As someone who has labored through reading the first three installments of the series, I may be a bit biased, but I can at least admit that the gargantuan novels aren’t for everyone. However, if you’re still unsure of whether to read the books (I’ll try not to pressure you — but I still think you probably should), we’ve put together a helpful pro and con list. 

Pro: You’ll Never be Spoiled

At least, in the context of Game of Thrones (it won’t help with House of Cards or Scandal spoilers). Anyone who started reading A Song of Ice and Fire after watching Game of Thrones probably did so in order to find out what happened next without waiting for a new season — at least, that’s why I did.

Con: You Won’t Entirely Appreciate the Show’s Shock Factor

The downside of never being spoiled is that you’ll also never be shocked. Sure, seeing how the Red and Purple Weddings were portrayed on screen was interesting for book fans (and watching the reactions of other fans was entertaining as well), but those scenes didn’t have the same impact for everyone who knew they were coming. 

Pro: More Explanation of Westeros

We’ll grant you, the page-long descriptions of each house’s sigil and half-chapters dedicated to a rundown of a seven-course feast can be a bit tiresome, but with all the exposition comes a better understanding of Westeros. There’s also a map and reference section that explains the family trees so it’s a bit easier to keep track of all the characters than on the show.

Con: Some Aspects are Lost in Translation

As the recent debate over a particularly controversial scene in the third episode of Season 4 illustrates, many fans are at times disappointed (to put it lightly) with how the story is adapted. Reading the books allows viewers to better understand certain characters and scenes because there is more detail and context, but this also raises expectations for what we inevitably see onscreen.

Pro: Some Differences Are Fun 

For example: Sansa and Shae’s relationship, Bronn teaching Jamie how to swordfight with his left hand, and Ros make no appearance in the books. These differences are fun for book readers because they provide a new and different take on the characters that they didn’t already have at their disposal. 

Con: The Books Are So Long

There’s no getting around it. They’re long and dense and a serious commitment. But if you put in the time, A Song of Ice and Fire is definitely worth it.

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