This summer season, be freed from the necessity to learn Hearth & Blood

When Sport of Thrones premiered in 2011, I used to be thrilled to be a “guide reader.” As a recovering English main, I beloved having one other model of a narrative rattling round in my mind as I skilled a brand new film or TV present, and far of my pleasure for the sequence got here from the seeming impossibility of translating George R.R. Martin’s dense excessive fantasy sequence right into a mainstream HBO drama.

Over a decade later, and three years after A Track of Ice and Hearth reached its (controversial) televisual finish as one of the crucial profitable reveals of all time, HBO is relying on spinoff sequence Home of the Dragon to recapture the magic; it adapts Martin’s Targaryen household historical past, Hearth & Blood. And since I wrote about Sport of Thrones from a guide reader’s perspective for The A.V. Membership and even wrote a guide on the present, Polygon reached out to me to ask what readers ought to know concerning the supply materials heading into Home of the Dragon’s August debut.

There was only one downside: I haven’t learn Hearth & Blood. And the request made me notice one thing that I had been too afraid to place into phrases: I don’t wish to learn Hearth & Blood. And I’m formally submitting my proposal that we collectively resist the stress to learn an 800-page guide to comply with alongside when the spinoff premieres later this summer season.

Photograph: Ollie Upton/HBO

Daenerys and Tyrion sitting and talking with each other in a still from Game of Thrones

Photograph: Helen Sloan/HBO

Possibly it’s simply me, however being a “guide reader” throughout Sport of Thrones’ run was exhausting. At first, it felt each enjoyable and productive. Our information of the books helped us acclimate different viewers to the sheer quantity of characters and the depth of Martin’s world-building, and monitoring modifications to the story allowed for equal components significant evaluation of narrative changes and pedantic complaining concerning the absence of direwolves, two of my favourite pastimes. It might need appeared foolish to an outdoor observer to have totally different evaluations for “specialists” and “newbies” throughout the web, nevertheless it created a extremely fascinating perception into the difference, and I beloved each writing and studying about it.

However as time went on, and the present veered additional away from the story within the books, we had dug ourselves so deep into the Woman Stoneheart of all of it that the power to only watch and benefit from the present by itself deserves felt out of attain. And when the present handed the books, we couldn’t dig ourselves out, struggling to grapple with the phantom of Martin’s unfinished volumes and take within the closing season as one thing apart from a purple-monkey-dishwasher rendition of his supposed ending. Being a guide reader grew to become a burden, and I envied those that may simply get offended on the web concerning the finale as only a response to a TV present and never as A Complete Factor About The Books.

This was one in all a number of causes I skipped Hearth & Blood when it got here out in 2018, though I probably wasn’t alone on this; it’s written as an in-world historical past of the Targaryen household instructed by Archmaester Gyldayn of the Citadel, and Martin himself went to nice lengths to emphasise that this was “not a novel,” as an alternative accumulating varied bits of “imaginary historical past” collectively into what he jokingly dubbed the “GRRMarillion” in a nod to Tolkien’s historical past of Center-earth. This distinction meant it was straightforward to place it apart for a wet day, and even when it was introduced because the supply materials for Home of the Dragon, I didn’t really feel a powerful urge to hurry out and skim it; this wasn’t one other character-driven narrative however quite a recording of historic occasions, which gives a extra restricted perception into how the present will strategy the tales inside.

And but nonetheless my time as a “guide reader” created this sense of disgrace as Home of the Dragon has crept nearer to being a actuality, though my resistance has solely grown. As actors started to be solid in numerous roles, I watched the information alerts from Westeros.org come by my Twitter feed and realized I felt not one of the thrill of watching it and different fan websites like Winter is Coming react to the casting information like again in 2009. It was clear to me that having an opinion about whether or not Matt Smith was good casting for so-and-so was completely unappealing, and I dreaded the day I might inevitably cave and canopy the present in my e-newsletter.

A man standing on a cliff in a publicity still for House of the Dragon

Photograph: Ollie Upton/HBO

A Targaryen man sitting at a table in a still from House of the Dragon

Photograph: Ollie Upton/HBO

However why ought to any of us really feel like we have to spend our seaside days this summer season poring over what some evaluations have known as “interminable” and “a mildly fascinating, however typically tedious, piece of homework”? Frankly, I don’t know that I’d even agree with these evaluations have been I to learn the guide; the concept of an in-world historical past truly sounds nice to me within the summary. However after the discourse round Sport of Thrones grew to become so entangled with one’s relationship to the books, I’m loath to re-enter these discourses solely as a result of some mixture of the web content material machine and the innate need for wielding authority is hanging over me.

And so whereas I’ve little doubt that there will probably be explainers as to why you need to learn Hearth & Blood earlier than Home of the Dragon, I stand earlier than you suggesting that we should always collectively resist this framework. Learn it or don’t learn it, however we have to normalize eradicating ourselves from this narrative, even when that places me within the awkward place of discouraging the act of studying and advocating for the worth of ignorance.

Though, it isn’t ignorance, actually. When Sport of Thrones launched, guide readers provided a information to a dense world that almost all viewers had no understanding of. However for anybody who adopted that present for eight seasons, the world of Home of the Dragon isn’t an entire thriller. Even an informal viewer understands the fundamental ethos of Home Targaryen, and people of us who have been within the trenches of guide readership have loads of frames of reference to have the ability to decide up new names and discover our means on this older model of Westeros. In different phrases, now we have sufficient context to easily deal with this like we’d deal with any spinoff: extra of what we’re invested in, with the promise of that rigorously constructed mix of familiarity and novelty.

And albeit, Home of the Dragon already has sufficient to cope with with out bringing the guide into the equation. After a busted pilot from Jane Goldman starring Naomi Watts, that is HBO’s second crack at making a prequel to Sport of Thrones, and there’s loads using on it contemplating how that present’s closing season disrupted the momentum each on-screen with scores and off-screen with licensing and merchandising. Will better artistic continuity by director and co-showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan J. Condal assist the present recapture the essence of what made Thrones a cultural juggernaut in a means the failed pilot didn’t? Was this explicit tackle a by-product — from Condal — chosen as a result of it was one of the best, or as a result of it had the phrase “dragon” within the title and captured essentially the most recognizable bits of the franchise? The context of the present’s creation gives greater than sufficient narrative to really feel prefer it’s pointless so as to add “Does Emma D’Arcy seize the essence of *insert character identify I’ll be taught to spell in August by studying her IMDB web page*?” to the combination.

Having been one myself, I maintain no sick will towards guide readers. I gained’t begrudge anybody who shells out $10 for a mass-market paperback of Hearth & Blood and reads it on the seaside, on their commute again to the workplace, or with their Zoom digicam off whereas working from dwelling. I’ve little doubt that guide readers will write invaluable and trenchant insights that may assist new and seasoned viewers alike interact with the story being instructed, and I sincerely hope it enriches their expertise.

However I’m formally declaring that I cannot be amongst them, and that we should always give ourselves the liberty to take pleasure in — or not take pleasure in! — experiencing this story anew, with solely our present relationship to Sport of Thrones to information us. Home of the Dragon is a reset button for HBO’s largest franchise, and we must be prepared to make use of it as a reset button for our expertise getting too invested in it on the web.

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