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The Siren's Call: Henry's game of thrones

Thomas Penn's 'Winter King' presents power politics in the time of Henry VII; 'A Game of Thrones,' the graphic novel

April 01, 2012|Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times

There's a touch of sunlight to the personalities of Prince Henry and Edward IV, even though both were as tyrannical as any ruler (and worse). Still, when we think of them, there's a glow to their accomplishments that escapes the reign of Henry VII. His rule was a bleak time made even bleaker by his own ruthlessness. That's why Penn's book title is so well-chosen. No season suits Henry VII better than the winter.

"Game of Thrones"

George R.R. Martin's prose is so visual, so rooted in appealing to our senses, that it doesn't seem to leave much room for anyone interested in adapting it to another medium.

Martin's saga of Westeros was even called "unadaptable" until David Benioff and D.B. Weiss came along. The producers of "Game of Thrones," they managed with the rest of the HBO crew to find a way to adapt the story for television that's at least satisfactory to some Martin fans. Times writer Geoff Boucher, on our sister blog, Hero Complex, talked to Benioff and Weiss last year about the challenges of adapting this mammoth epic (despite sounding redundant, in Martin's case adding "mammoth" to "epic" seems justifiable) for HBO.

Now, Daniel Abraham and Tommy Patterson have taken up the challenge in another genre, "A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel — Volume One" (Bantam: $25), which appears later this month.

If you don't know the story, their visualizing of the first part of the epic's first book will be perfect. It provides a satisfying blend of characters and situations (and sex, so keep this one away from the kids) as tension builds between the frost-touched Starks and golden Lannisters.

At one point, as Eddard discusses grim matters with his wife in the godswood, his place of meditation, the haunting carved face of the heart tree looms behind them, dominating nearly every panel. It's a wise move by Abraham and Patterson. It's a clear, effective omen of bad things to come.

For anyone whose imagination has already been captured by the books, however, or if you've watched and enjoyed the HBO series, the graphic novel will pale beside them. There's something missing; it isn't that the creators of the graphic novel aren't very good. Their skill is obvious on the page. They just make "Game of Thrones" seem like any other swords-and-more fantasy that is out there. And that couldn't be further from the truth.

Martin, in a brief preface, offers that this graphic novel makes a decent introduction to his epic.

"Maybe you will even want to read the original novels when you've finished the comic. That would be cool," he suggests. "Like those old Classics Illustrated, graphic novels...this may be a gateway drug."

So if you're new to the story and eager to get up to speed before tuning in on Sunday, this is a good way to do it. But an important fyi: This volume covers only half the events of the first season. Volume 2 of the graphic novel won't be available until later this year.

Owchar is deputy book editor. The Siren's Call appears monthly at

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