HBO’s new series, Game of Thrones, started up this Sunday. The Beloved Husband and I have been waiting with baited breath.

Since the series is based off of George Martin’s book series A Song of Fire and Ice, I went and bought  Game of Thrones (the first book) sight unseen, hoping to finish it before the series came out. I vacillated back and forth about whether or not to buy it, since I didn’t want to spend money on something I may not enjoy, but, convinced by a 33% coupon combined with a “Buy one get one 50% off” deal on paperbacks at Borders, I finally caved and purchased it along with Gwenhyfar by Mercedes Lackey.

I have mixed feelings about this book. To be fair, it is well-written – the pacing is good, the plot interesting, and the writing such that readers find themselves emotionally invested in the characters. That emotional investment is what killed me though.

This book is rife with incest, murder, rape, child and animal abuse… lies abound, betrayal is commonplace, and the honorable characters die so that the wicked ones can prosper. Martin has a real knack for delivering swift kicks to the readers’ guts, whether it be through the killing of a child’s pet or the description of the gang rape of a young girl.

I will say that it is a testament to the quality of the writing itself that I even finished the book. In over 800 pages, I think there were only 200 or so where I felt anything remotely resembling peace and out of those pages, maybe 60 of them were actually happy or content. That leaves the other 600 pages for the constant emotional and physical abuse of weaker characters (mostly women, children, and animals), and endless betrayals and murders amidst the stronger ones.

Perhaps I just get too emotionally entangled with my media of choice. It’s happened since I was a young child that I could not tell where the movie or the book ended and real life began. As I’ve grown older, I’ve managed to curb some of that, but I still find myself reacting to my favorite characters getting hurt in the same way that I react when other children bully my younger sister.

As it is, Game of Thrones left me feeling raw, wounded, and decidedly unsafe. Good writing perhaps, since this is exactly what all the characters within the book are feeling, but still… I cannot see how this sort of thing is entertaining.

Usually, I get grouchy if TV or movie adaptations stray much from the book, but this is a case where I may welcome some artistic license. Being HBO though, I get the sinking feeling that the television version will be just as brutal as the book…

On the plus side, at least I get a book with an awesome cover featuring Sean Bean (who will always be Boromir in my mind)! Yes, in this case, I will take what I can get.