I sense a shadow creeping across the land; neither man nor king shall ‘scape its long tenure. Blue forty-two! Blue forty-two! Hut-hut, hike! -Ser Dru Breesus, Gameday of Thrones
Gameday of Thrones, the latest novel by acclaimed author George R. R. R. Artin, is not the first literary work to attempt to combine the fantasy and professional football genres. But it might be the best. This sixteen-thousand-page sprawling epic deftly weaves a seemingly endless array of characters, storylines, and playbooks from across the league. Also there are dragons, and then a steamy romance scene.
The main character of GdoT is known only as the Rookie of Verdant Bay, a young wide receiver pledged to the Brotherhood of the Pack, one of many teams intent on taking possession of the ultimate prize: the Bowl of Superiority. Led by the noble Ser Aeryn Rodgers, the Brotherhood of the Pack have long hoped (for three seasons, at least) to regain control of the championship. An upset immediately shakes the status quo during the first game of the season, however, when a pack of firejaguars unleashed by the team the Firejaguars overruns Verdant Bay, and Ser Rodgers is captured and beheaded. That’s followed by a couple more steamy romance scenes.
The Rookie is traded, because the whole everybody-being-mauled-by-firejaguars thing sorta forces the team into rebuilding mode. Paced beautifully by R. R. R. Artin, the Rookie moves from team to team as he faces the many powers of the League of Enefell, such as the Manling brothers, a pair of snarling half-man half-orcs from competing factions whose deadly accuracy is brilliantly contrasted by their Neanderthal-like demeanors and slurred speech patterns (I’m not sure why the author didn’t take any artistic liberties to differentiate them from their obvious real-life counterparts).
R. R. R. Artin then takes the character through several more sex scenes, all lavishly described and absolutely superfluous, before the Rookie must face his greatest challenge in the Grand Winter Playoffs presented by Lord Ennbessy.
One of the best sequences involves a fourth and long with twenty-six seconds left in the fourth quarter as a fleet of dragons controlled by the religious zealots of the Brotherhood of Sun and Touchdowns bears down on Candlewick Park. It may be a cliched scenario, but R. R. R. Artin makes it feel as if it’s nothing we’ve ever read before, and the concurrent romance scene chock full of steamy steaminess doesn’t distract from the action one bit.
Supporting the compelling story is a world rich with detail. One of the best characters in the well-drawn supporting cast is the hobbled Ser Robbert Griff the Third, a young man whose legs are snapped at the knees when he’s pushed out a window after witnessing the Manling brothers participating in a shockingly intimate and compromising position (again, not sure why the author didn’t take any artistic license to make them different from the real life versions). Readers will love to hate the boyishly good looking yet smug Ser Taum Braede (pronounced “Tom Brady”) with his every success, be it his marriage to the beautiful Lady G’selle or his many Most Valuable Personage awards.
And while every character possesses a unique voice, the dialogue truly crackles between physically stunted yet cunning Ser Russ and his likable but crudely outspoken right hand man, Cherman Rishard. As Rishard tells Ser Russ, “You’d throw fer a thousand yards were it not fer yer own “shortcomigs” LOL #GoHawks #RishardAllPro #MageLife.” It was almost as much as pleasure to type that as it was to read it.
R. R. R. Artin’s vivid descriptions of locations such as the dark twisted Realm of North Florida only lend further life to the complicated tapestry. And while at times the fantasy world seems so removed from our real world of the professional football, small elements of realism ground it in relatability, such as the following passage: “They were bereft of hope, for not even the mightiest of magicks could save the Arizona Redbirds from sucking hardcore.”
As one of the Manling orcs says to the other before another of R. R. R. Artin’s marathon romance scenes, “My thumb stuck in my ear, gimme smooches.” I think that we’d all like to give smooches to George R. R. R. Artin for providing the world with such a wonderful, compelling work of fiction. All fictional except for the Manling stuff, because again, I don’t get why the author didn’t take more artistic license with those guys.
Photo of George R. R. R. Artin