Ranking the 3 Ways to Enjoy Game of Thrones as a Show and a Book

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With the final episode of Game of Thrones having come and gone with mixed reception, even some of the slowest to come around on the phenomenon are considering getting on board. If you’re ready to dive into the sprawling world of Westeros, it can be an overwhelming task.

Between five large novels and 73 episodes of television, it’s hard to know where to start. Things only get more confusing when you start weighing the pros and cons of starting with the show or with the novels. If you’re unsure about the most enjoyable way to follow the saga, have no fear as we have the definitive ranking of the three ways to take in George R. R. Martin’s epic story.

3. Watching Episodes After A Dance With Dragons

Although the show may be finished, the series of novels which serve as the basis for HBO’s effort, A Song of Ice and Fire, are still continuing. Martin’s sixth book was expected to be published in 2015, fans are still waiting, which means showrunners were left to stick the landing for the show on their own, operating off of just an outline from Martin.

The general consensus among fans has not been positive. While the larger plot points were often appreciated, the show made a decision to close out with abbreviated seasons of seven and six episodes, and the haste showed. Arcs which were slowly built up over the course of seasons saw their finales rushed, leaving fans disappointed. It’s hoped that when Martin finishes the final two novels they will fix the pacing problems.

2. Reading the Novels

Normally when fans are debating the book vs. the movie or show, the former has already been completed. With Game of Thrones this is not the case,  so it offers a unique situation of there being two types of episodes, and the reading experience falls squarely in between the two of them.

Although the novels are excellent in their own right, and already had a devoted following before being optioned for television, there are still times where Martin’s obsession with detail along with his tendency to let his characters develop their own stories cause the text to drag on in tangents the reader doesn’t need. While reading the books is enjoyable and offers increased depth of detail, it’s not the premier Thronesexperience.

1. Watching Episodes Based on the Novels

The show undoubtedly hits its peak in the opening seasons when the creators had detailed novels to base every scene and character arc on. Throughout these episodes, you get the best of both worlds.

The excellent plots and deep justifications for characters’ actions still carry over from the book, but you also get the benefit of the faster pace of the show. While this speed was taken too far during the show’s run-in, it is absolutely nailed in the five seasons which track with Martin’s already-published works.

Superfluous characters and plots are trimmed while the excellent performances of the show’s actors breathe life into Martin’s work. These are the episodes which made Game of Thrones an international hit.