Far Away in Westeros

If your regular life is stressing you out, what better way to forget about it all than to immerse yourself in an alternate universe? So I immersed and it's possible I may have overdone it a bit.

Apparently, even when I relax, I overdo. I'm considering therapy.

Anyway! The particular universe into which I threw myself is George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, aka the books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I've been addicted to these for years and they, along with the AmeliaPeabody novels by Elizabeth Peters, were some of the books I missed the most before Ken introduced me to audio books. Once he dd, both of these series became favorites because of their excellent narration – Barbara Rosenblat was born to read Amelia and Roy Dotrice gives a master class in audio book narration every time he picks up one of Martin's novels.

About a month ago A Dance with Dragons - book 5 in the series - was released and I was in the awkward position of being a book behind. These things are an investment – they’re long, they take over your life and A Feast for Crows (Book 4), including volume II (no, I don't know why there's a second volume) is a whopping 46+ hours and it takes a bit of girding your loins to devote a month or more to a book. On top of that, it's not narrated by Roy Dotrice. I did give it a go and that it wasn't a success. John Lee - who I’m sure is a perfectly wonderful narrator in other works - seems to be having a really bad day in this one, so I gave up. I read through some of the reviews on Audible and discovered just how inspiring it can be when you mess with a beloved book and narrator. One of the best reviews was written by somebody named Brian in Calgary, Alberta:

“The transition from Roy Dotrice's brilliant narration to this one could not be more jarring. Every character sounds the same, and it feels like every line, no matter how mundane, is delivered with the hysterical intensity of a cartoon villain describing his plot for world domination. Compounding the misery, the narrator has a bizarre sense of cadence and places emphasis on what appear to be randomly selected words in each sentence. It reminds me of the comic spoofs of William Shatner playing Captain Kirk.”

All true, by the way. However, another reviewer mentioned that the narrator seems to calm down after the third chapter, so I gave it another go, put up with Captain Kirk and now it's tolerable.

Which brings us to Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season, the HBO miniseries. Which I had compiled and saved for a really special occasion and last week was it. And it's as wonderful as everyone said. Brilliantly cast – Sean Bean as Ned Stark is wonderfully honorable and grim, just as he’s supposed to be, it was really nice to see Mark Addy as King Robert - I'm used to seeing him in comic roles, but he's perfect for this one. And then there is Peter Dinklage. I’ve had a crush on him ever since I saw him in The Station Agent and he is perfection as Tyrion Lannister. The kids are perfectly cast, the dire wolves are wonderful, the set design is out of this world and there is nothing about it I don't love. And, as many others have said before me, there is that terrible pivotal moment that I won't discuss in detail in case you haven't read the books or seen the series yet - and if you haven't, go do it asap. Suffice it to say that I knew what was coming, but I kept hoping it wouldn't.

Here's the interesting thing, though. The combination of watching Game of Thrones (Book 1) and reading A Feast for Crows is sort of overwhelming. These book take up a lot of space in your head to begin with, but to have the words in your brain and adding  what is pretty much a perfect imagining of the universe being brought to life on your TV makes it very hard to connect to your real life. It's a bit as if it becomes your real life and the other parts of your world is the dream.

Luckily, the latest book by Kathy Reichs is being released tomorrow and should be perfect for cleansing my palate and giving me an anchor in reality again.