I picked up this book when I heard about the series HBO was producing and the guy at the till said “your friends won’t see you for weeks.” Confused, I asked why. “You’ll need to catch up on the entire series.” A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin is the first in an epic fantasy series—A Song of Ice and Fire—and the fifth book will be released this summer. A Song of Ice and Fire series will have seven books in total.
Within the first chapter of A Game of Thrones, I was completely drawn in. Each chapter is from the perspective of a different character, which allows the narration to jump locations easily. The chapters left me wanting more—in a good way—yet felt complete like a scene in a play. George R.R. Martin writes tightly crafted prose that rumbles with power, emphasis and forethought.
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall.
At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys.
Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
From the publisher, Bantam (an imprint of Random House)
The novel follows plots in three different locations simultaneously through the eyes of eight charaters. This was executed so deftly; the story was engaging and constantly moving forward. Adventure, intrigue, a bit of magic and romance, but mostly epic fantasy. It reminds me very much of the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind but even more appealing due to the multiple generations the characters span. By beginning the story when a number of the characters are young, George R.R. Martin allows the story to grow with them. This tactic reminds me a little of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
The main story line of A Game of Thrones follows the characters in The Seven Kingdoms, which was once seven separate kingdoms but united by House Targaryen. In the war preceding A Game of Thrones, the Targaryens were overthrown and Robert Baratheon is now the King. The other major houses are Stark, Lannister, Tully, Arryn, Tyrell, Greyjoy, and Martell. We do not meet all of these houses in the first book which deals primarily with Targaryen, Baratheon, Stark and Lannister.
** SPOILER ALERT **
These are mostly just random thoughts / reactions to things that happened in the book.
I’d already been warned not to get too attached to any of the characters as George R.R. Martin has a propensity to kill off beloved characters. That being said, I was actually surprised when they didn’t kill off Bran, but then I suppose keeping him as a ‘loose end’ to Cersei was important. Then later, I wasn’t particularly surprised that they killed Eddard Stark although it was sad since he had such noble morals.
I really liked Jon Snow, Eddard’s bastard son. I am curious to know more about his mother, just as he is, and I admire his courage at only 14 years old. I think Jon’s story on The Wall is one of the more interesting ones, added to the fact that his background is so mysterious.
Although I’m a little hesitant to see where the story of Daenerys Targaryen goes, I took great pride in her rise to self-confidence. I love books with a strong female character, so Catelyn Stark and Arya Stark both appeal to me too, particularly Arya. I was sad to see Sansa’s direwolf killed, but not surprised to see Littlefinger’s betrayal.
I don’t know what to think about Tyrion Lannister, brother to Cersei and Jaime Lannister. He’s a dwarf, nicknamed The Imp, and relies more on humour and wit but he’s also sly and cunning like his siblings. I am drawn to him, mainly because he doesn’t fit into any archetype, and I am curious to see where his story goes.
** END SPOILERS **
The HBO series is currently in the first season (started April 17, 2011) and I was worried that it would dip into the second book so I haven’t watched it. I have reports from a friend that season one of the TV series only deals with events from the first book, so I am safe to watch it. Thank goodness! I am super excited about Sean Bean (as Eddard Stark)!!
Full disclosure: I proudly purchased this from a local bookstore, Pulp Fiction Books on Main Street in Vancouver, BC.