Tag Archives: game of thrones

The Shannara Chronicles Ruined the Book

ShannaraНавес из дерева своими руками

Well, not everyone thinks so. But the split seems to be that readers of the book hate it, and those who haven’t read it don’t mind it. Just like Legend of the Seeker.

Not like Game of Thrones. With Game of Thrones, not only do readers and non-readers alike love it, but a great many readers like the TV series better. So what’s the difference?

Staying true to the story. Although Game of Thrones has been embellished, at the heart of it, it remains true to GRRM’s plot. It is an excellent adaptation of the books.

The Shannara Chronicles is more… ‘inspired by’ The Elfstones of Shannara than it is an on-screen adaptation.

Oh, how can I list the ways in which this TV show just ‘makes shit up’? (that’s technical jargon by the way—oh, also, spoiler alert if you haven’t read the book and intend to do so, or haven’t watched the series and intend to):

Dagda Mor

I only made it to the fifth episode before I got over the ‘just making stuff up’ thing, but I persevered out of some weird obligatory feeling.

So what did I like?

Well, they changed Amberle. She was a bit whiny and pathetic in the books, so I’m totally on board with empowering her and making her more interesting. Her motivations didn’t really stack up all that well in the book.

The Dagda Mor. I loved the way they made him look. I am not sure how I would have imagined it, but it will now always be just like this.

Allanon was commercially acceptable, if not exactly as described.

Yeah, that’s pretty much it.


And the thing I absolutely, absolutely hated? This is the one that broke the show for me too.

The Reaper. In the TV show, it’s more like the Horseman of War from Sleepy Hollow, or even bit like the Balrog in Lord of the Rings. That’s kind of cool and impressive and visually exciting, but it’s not right.

You know what the Reaper should have been? More like Predator.

This thing is a natural-born killer. You don’t see it, not ever. People just die. One minute they are there, and then they are gone. You don’t see it, but you know it’s there. You know it is stalking you. You know it is coming for you.

And you know you can’t stop it.

It was the scariest and creepiest thing in the whole book, and they ruined it.

Game of Thrones has shown us how it should be done, so why are people still breaking good fantasy books???

P.S. As a side note, there are scenes where you can see that the weapon props clearly don’t have anything resembling an edge on them! You couldn’t cut a loaf of bread with Eretria’s knife, much less someone’s throat.

Game of Thrones Exhibition: Sydney

I made it to the Game of Thrones Exhibition – but damn was it some trek!

A bare two weeks ago I discovered the exhibition was coming to Sydney. Yeah! Woot! Three cheers. No date yet, but I figured that based on the listed schedule which had the exhibit in New York in August it would probably get here in September.

A week later I discovered it was going to be arriving the first week in July. That’s last week, now, if you’re chronologically challenged. It would be at the Museum of Contemporary Art from Tuesday July 1 through to Saturday July 5. Waaah! I work full-time, which left only the Saturday available, and with a family of four including two kids under 4, it was unlikely I would make it on such short notice.

Brainwave – I work with my cover artist, Lydia Kurnia. Maybe we could duck down in our lunch hour! Yeah! Woot! We decided we would go Wednesday.

The morning of the appointed day we discovered to our horror that the exhibition was free and that queues on the opening day were six hours. SIX HOURS! No way we’d be ‘ducking out’ in our lunch break!

After some hurried consultation we decided to go Friday. Lydia doesn’t work, and volunteered to queue up for us while I worked, and I would dash down to meet her. We later found out that queues on the Wednesday had been four hours!

Friday morning, Lydia arrives at the museum at 7:40am, which is 20 minutes before opening. The queue is already two hours long. I work like a fiend to allow for the fact I may be out of the office for an unspecified period of time.

9:30am I check in with Lydia – the queue hasn’t moved! So much for two hours.

At 10am Lydia moves forward to the 1 hour wait mark. Progress at last. And then, at 11:30am, comes the message I’ve been waiting for all day: ‘Half hour mark. Come now.’

I got a taxi to make sure I could get there in time, with Lydia messaging me the whole way. Hurry. Almost at the door. Call me.

The taxi drops me at the wrong side of the museum and I have to run the long way around, passing most of the queue on my way, on the phone to Lydia as I go. A woman asks what the queue is for as I run past.

‘Game of Thrones Exhibition!’ I shout, and round the corner, with Lydia probably wondering what the hell is going on.

I made it with about twenty minutes to spare, which seems a lot, but when they finally let us in, it was all in a rush. Lydia had been working on the cover art for Stalking the Demon while she waited, so I ogled that in the queue. It’s beautiful, by the way, but we’ll do a cover reveal when it’s complete.

The exhibit was fantastic, and featured separate sections for each of the major groups of characters. The King’s Landing group contained costumes for Cersei, Joffrey Baratheon, Margaery Tyrell, Oberyn Martell, Sansa Stark, and Tyrion Lannister. There were also displays for Danaerys and her dragons, Arya and the Hound, Jon and Ygritte, Bran Stark and Hodor, Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre, and Jamie Lannister and Brienne of Tarth. In true Game of Thrones style, one quarter of them are now dead. Displays primarily included clothing and weapons, but there were some pretty cool dragons.

The exhibit also included artist scene sketches used before filming a scene, concept art, and models.

The highlights, of course, were the Iron Throne, which you were permitted to sit on. There was an orderly queue for this experience and staff on hand to take your photo. Most civilised.

The longer queue was for the virtual reality experience of climbing the Wall. This was incredible, to the point where the visuals combined with the shaking will have you holding on to the bars (that you cannot see) for support. The moment the visuals seem to scoot you out off the edge of the Wall is a little heart-stopping. I admit I was a little distracted during the climb itself by the wind, as I was concerned it had blown my top askew and I was having a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ in full view of the waiting crowd with no ability to look!

All in all, it was a worthwhile exhibit, although I’m not sure if in other circumstances I’d wait four hours. Still, climbing the W
all was pretty neat! Check out some of the displays in the slideshow below.

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U – Unusual Things I’ve Researched for Fantasy Books

Until my latest WIP, the only thing I had ever really researched for a book was how to kill a man with one blow.

Um… OK. That is weird, I concede. I don’t want to kill anyone, honest. My protagonist was just an assassin with Japanese jujutsu skills. No really. I mean it…

Moving right along…

That was until I got to In the Company of the Dead. 

First I had to research castle floor plans. That was kind of cool, and even involved buying some from a royal historical society to use as inspiration for my castle. Nearly the whole book is inside the castle, so I needed a very clear idea of where everything was. You can check out the floor plans in this post – Floor Plans of Caisteal Aingeal an Bhais: The Castle from In the Company of the Dead.

The castle is under siege, so there’s lots of catapults and burning oil and stuff. This led me to Greek fire, which was a terrible scourge in ancient times, as it was very difficult to put out. The Byzantines had a frightening way of squirting it from their ships onto enemy boats and it would burn on water. In fact, water could not be used to extinguish it, and only sand, strong vinegar and old urine would put it out. But what was it?

We don’t know! We know neither the chemical compound to make Greek fire nor the mechanism used to project it from ships. Thought the secret has been lost, modern scholars suspect it was based on petroleum and may resemble modern napalm. It is probably the inspiration for the wildfire used in the Battle of Blackwater in Game of Thrones when King’s Landing comes under attack by Stannis Baratheon and also Quegan Fire in Raymond E Feist’s Midkemia books.

Depiction of Greek fire in the late 11th century Madrid Skylitzes manuscript.
Then I unexpectedly needed to research how to pull an arrow out. The short answer was – you don’t really want to have to do this because there’s a good chance the victim will die. That wasn’t a very good outcome for the book, so I had to find the long answer.

A plot twist suddenly had me wondering how you know sappers are tunnelling under your castle walls, how you find them once you know you’re there, and then what you do about it when you locate them. This is not an easy thing to learn, although fortunately I found enough to get me by.

Since the conventional approach of dealing with siege engineers wasn’t really an option for my beleaguered heroes (on account of available resources and the like) I had to think of another option. Perhaps some sort of explosive?

Hmmmm. More questions. What kind of explosives might be believable in a high fantasy novel with a roughly medieval feel?

More research…

Turns out the Ancient Chinese had crude explosives from close to the beginning of the AD calendar. Who knew? They even had crude grenades in clay pots and soft-case grenades too – presumably made from something akin to papermache. They definitely had gunpowder (which I now know is made from saltpetre, sulphur and carbon) and saltpetre was even called Chinese Snow. Saltpetre is white, where I had always thought it was black. It’s the carbon added to make gunpowder that makes it ‘black’ powder. I even know where saltpetre can be obtained!

Suenaga facing Mongol arrows and gunpowder bombs during the Mongol invasions of Japan in 1281 AD, painting dated to 1293 AD.

It’s amazing the stuff you can learn while writing a genre often dismissed as ‘fairy tales for adults’. 

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Humour In Epic Fantasy: A Look at Game of Thrones

With Season 3 of Game of Thrones just begun, I took advantage of my maternity leave to sit down and watch the whole of Season 2 over the last few days. As I did, I had cause to ask myself a question.

Why am I watching this?

Let’s face it, Game of Thrones is marvellously well done, but the story is downright depressing. I’ve read the books as well as watched the TV series, and I remember being desperately angry when I discovered I had to wait for Dance of Dragons. I bought it as soon as it was released, and 18 months later I’ve not read it.

Why not?

I remember almost nothing of the books, except that everyone dies. It’s as bad as a Shakespeare tragedy. Most of the characters are rotten, and there’s slim pickings when it comes to admirable characters. Every time you actually do decide whose side you should be on, that person gets the sword. I’m reduced to rooting for Tyrion Lannister who, despite being a Lannister, appears to be one of the nicer characters. He’s been hard done by as a child, unloved by his family, not to mention unvalued for the skills he actually does have, and appears to have a decent stab at being a good Hand of the King. He’s not perfect, he’s definitely self-interested, and he plays politics for the sake of it, but he has the basic decency to be revolted by the notion of killing babies.

And on top of that, he’s funny.

In fact, without the humour injected by Tyrion, I wonder would I watch the series? Without him, there is precious little uplifting about the story. A throne under contention. Good men, like Ned Stark, dying. Monsters like Joffrey in command. Babes torn from their mothers’ arms and murdered. Rape, and pillage, and greed, and dead men walking south from the Wall, and there’s no one I can point to who can save the day. No hero.

Epic fantasy does tend to run to grim, with worlds under threat, and lives in the balance. Most aren’t as grim as Game of Thrones. More usually the hopes of everyone, including the reader, are pinned on the likes of Rand al’Thor or Richard Rahl. With heroes to light the way, to give hope, there’s something to keep us reading past all the horror and fear. In fact, it’s the assurance that someone will save the day that entices many readers of fantasy; an assurance not present in the real world.

Even then, I sometimes find myself taking a break from the doom and gloom of a world under threat to read another genre, or to lose myself in the light-hearted comic relief of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

Humour can be important in epic fantasy. A moment of levity can be used to highlight the horrors or to offer the reader relief from them. It’s not a necessary element of every fantasy, and Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth has been successful without much in the way of humour, but it can be a useful part of the fantasy writer’s toolkit to avoid depressing the reader to the point where they don’t see the point in reading on.

When writing a story as depressing as Game of Thrones, I’d argue it may be downright critical.

Do you watch Game of Thrones? Do you like Tyrion? How many of the other characters did you like – and how many of them are now dead?

How important do you think the humour is in Game of Thrones?

Arya Stark – one of the few other likeable characters

What Game of Thrones Got Right But Legend of the Seeker Got Horribly Wrong

In the last few years, two epic fantasy series have been adapted for TV – The Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, screening under the name of the first book, Game of Thrones, and Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth, screening under the name Legend of the Seeker.

Of the two sets of books, I love The Sword of Truth more. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, don’t hate me, I do like A Song of Ice and Fire, but consider checking out The Sword of Truth if you haven’t already (except book 5 and 7, in my humble opinion…). Same goes if you like Legend of the Seeker – I really cannot emphasise how much better the books are than the TV series. 

Why are the books better than the TV series? Although the books are good I wouldn’t describe them as brilliant, but in my opinion Legend of the Seeker was as much an unmitigated disaster as Game of Thrones is a success. 

One has to wonder why? I have two theories, the second of which feeds out of the first:
  1. Legend of the Seeker was significantly adapted from the books, until it only bore a passing resemblance to the original story. Now I know changes may be necessary to adapt a book for screen, but these changes were so extreme they almost wrote a whole new story – in fact, for season two, it’s arguable they did, because Darken Rahl bit the dust in Wizard’s First Rule (the first book in The Sword of Truth) and that was pretty much endgame for him.

    By contrast,
    Game of Thrones has been very true to the books. In fact, you could almost go so far as to say they’ve essentially made a movie out of the book, and then chopped it into TV show length bites and screened it in succession. Legend of the Seeker instead made an effort to have individualised episodes with a connecting theme or story arc.

    Legend of the Seeker
    failed, but Game of Thrones has been a raging success – at least, Legend of the Seeker was axed after two seasons, and I’ll be very surprised if the same happens to Game of Thrones – and I think deviations from the main plot is a large part of the reason.  There is nothing wrong with the story in Wizard’s First Rule or Stone of Tears (the second book in The Sword of Truth) and either could have been done in the same way as Game of Thrones, instead of mangling the story beyond recognition to try and turn it into 22 connected short stories.
  2. As a result of the significant rewriting that occurred in order to film Legend of the Seeker, the violence and dark themes of The Sword of Truth series were significantly dialled back, and it screened as suitable for children with parental guidance (PG rating in Australia). If it had been filmed true to the books, it would have been suitable only for a mature audience – virtually the same audience currently watching Game of Thrones.

    On the other hand, Game of Thrones
    has been more or less true to the violence and sexual themes of the books. OK, maybe toned down a fraction, but it’s still clearly an adult themed show. I’m not suggesting so much that viewers want graphic violence and sex (I don’t know – maybe they do!) but changing this can very much change the nature of the setting. Would Game of Thrones be the same ugly, real world it is without the violence and sex? Probably not. To some degree you can control the way in which you portray it, but it must still be present.

    It wasn’t present in
    Legend of the Seeker, depriving that world of much of the true atmosphere of fear, horror and danger permeating the books, and without that backdrop the effect of the story on the viewer is significantly diluted.
I am enjoying Game of Thrones immensely, but almost the only thing I can think of that was right about Legend of the Seeker is the casting! Definitely no arguments about Craig Horner as Richard…

Have you seen both Game of Thrones and Legend of the Seeker? Which do you prefer, and why? Have you read the books? And if so, which do you prefer and why? Did you find Legend of the Seeker disappointing as compared to Game of Thrones or The Sword of Truth?

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