Race for the Iron Throne is a book/tv blog dedicated to George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s adaptation, Game of Thrones. I’ve been a fan of the novels for years, but it wasn’t until the show began that I went online and started reading through Stefan’s essays on Tower of the Hand, the fermenting community of conspiracy theorists at Westeros.org, and listening to debates on All Leather Must Be Boiled or Podcast of Ice and Fire and the like. These fan sites have really fanned the sleeping embers of my fascination with the world of Westeros and the possibilities of bringing my training as a political historian to analyzing this world.
In the succeeding months, this blog will be devoted to two projects.
- Chapter-By-Chapter Analysis of A Song of Ice and Fire – starting with A Game of Thrones, I’m going to be doing a chapter-by-chapter close reading of the books, focusing on the reality of Westeros as a political system and analyzing the actions, motivations, and ideas of the major and minor political actors within it. Each chapter post will include the following sections:
- Political Analysis – in this section, I’ll analyze what this chapter tells us about how the Seven Kingdoms (and Essos) work and don’t work as political systems, and trying to figure out how the various factions and conspiracies are working to their ends and reacting to changing circumstances. When I get closer to the War of Five Kings, I’ll go in-depth into the military strategy of each of the competitors, and what they did right and wrong. As it’s been a while since I’ve read books 2-4 (I just re-read Game of Thrones and have recently read through Dance With Dragons), I may revise my thoughts here as I get further along and come across new information.
- What Ifs – as a historian, you are always reminded of the power of contingency and chance to change the course of events, upending institutions and social forces. This is especially true for A Song of Ice and Fire, where George R.R Martin bombards the reader with missed opportunities, crucial choices, and where the timing of character movements and events are of the utmost importance. In this section, I’ll hypothesize about what might have happened had Ned Stark left on time and wound up on Dragonstone, or if Catelyn Tully had stopped at Riverrun instead of the Inn at the Crossroads, among other things.
- Historical Analysis – much of the realism of George R.R Martin’s work stems from his close study of Medieval history and the warts-and-all lives of rulers, rebels, and common folk who were anything but morally black and white. In this section, when we run into characters, events, and places derived from historical events, I’ll write about what the real story was, and what Martin kept the same and what he changed.
- Book vs. Show – in this section, I’ll point out the places in which HBO’s Game of Thrones diverges from the book series. However, this isn’t a section to list mistakes or complain about the purity of vision slowly draining away – I actually think the series has made certain critical improvements over the books in particular areas – but rather to talk about the necessity of narrative and story, and how mediums change the story without us realizing it.
- Episode-By-Episode Discussion of Season 2 of Game of Thrones – beginning April 1st, I’ll be doing an in-depth discussion of Season 2, joined by my fellow culture/political junkie, Entertained Organizer and possibly some of our friends. We’ll go into our reactions, thoughts, and then go through Political and Historical Analysis and Book vs. Show.
Steven Attewell is the author of Race for the Iron Throne. In my day job, I am a recent PhD in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara where I studied political history both of the U.S and Europe, and a political and union activist. In addition to Race for the Iron Throne, I also write about public policy and politics at The Realignment Project.