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Here's the question that was on everyone's mind when the HBO show premiered: is Ned Stark dumb? We never would have thought to ask that question, but a lot of people wondered if he could have avoided that little, uh, beheading. Is Ned too honorable for his own good? Would you still like him if he were a little less honorable and a little more ruthless? Or is it smart to be honorable and assume the best in everyone else?
Why doesn't Robb get to narrate his own chapters? He's pretty much the only major Stark who doesn't get a chapter. (His three-year-old brother Rickon doesn't get a chapter, either, but then again, Rickon isn't leading an army to war.) Why don't we get to see what Robb is thinking and feeling from the inside? How does this distance affect your reading? Do you feel less attached to Robb? Or do you think of him as somehow special?
Another narrator question: what might we find out if there were chapters narrated by other characters, like Jaime Lannister or Varys? Would it ruin the effect of this book to get a chapter from the perspective of a schemer like Varys? How does it affect your reading when you return over and over again to the same few characters? What do you think this book would be like if every chapter took a new person's POV?
There is a lot of violence and sex in this book: enough, actually, that it has led to some criticism of the work itself. Issues of sexual violence are extremely sensitive and shouldn't be treated lightly: do you think George R.R. Martin considered this when writing? Do you think his treatment of violence is sensitive or did he take advantage of his fantasy setting to brush aside the tougher stuff? What scenes in particular help you decide?
In the second chapter, a stag kills a direwolf and one of the characters says that this is a sign. After reading the book, you know that the Stark family symbol is a direwolf and the Baratheon family symbol is a stag. So does this early scene count as foreshadowing? Does it seem like this is a warning to us that Robert Baratheon will lead to the death of Eddard Stark? Or is this scene misleading since Ned Stark is actually killed by Joffrey (who is a Lannister in truth)? The first time you read this passage, were you nervous? Are there any other signs in the book that serve as foreshadowing?
What's the deal with the dragon eggs? Did you feel that the ending was satisfying? Cheesy? Random? Exciting?
Since this is the first book in a series, Martin has to teach us all about the history of this world he has created. How do you think he did? Were you confused? Did the history interrupt the action? Or was it the perfect amount of 4-1-1 for your liking? What about the history of various individuals? Did you ever want to hear more about Eddard's history with Robert or more about how Jaime Lannister joined the Kingsguard?
How does this book compare to other fantasies that you've read? Imagine what it would be like for a character from this novel to wander into a different fantasy world: how would Eddard Stark deal with the world of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe? Or how would Harry Potter deal with life in Westeros? (Our guess: not well.) How do these different books treat fantasy?
If you've seen the HBO series, what did the Hollywood execs change when they adapted this book? How did they deal with the rotating narrators of the book? Did seeing anything in the TV show change how you felt about what happened in the book?