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Saturday, August 11, 2012

“A Game Of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin (Reviewed by Sabine Gueneret)

Order “A Game Of ThronesHERE (US) + HERE (UK)

INTRODUCTION: I admit it . . . I never read any of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire before seeing the HBO television series. I neglected ASOIAF for a number of reasons, one being that after Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, I wasn’t sure I had the stomach for another dense fantasy series. Don’t get me wrong; I loved The Wheel of Time, but when I read the series as a teenager I got so immersed in the books that I could spend days reading nonstop and the long wait for the last book has been so painful, that I’d rather not go through the same experience. I was also afraid to be disappointed. What if ASOIAF was not as good as The Wheel of Time, or was too similar?

For those same reasons—and also because I was away when the first season aired—I didn’t bother watching HBO’s Game of Thrones. Yet there was no escaping the show this year, and the second season came as quite a shock to me! I became so engrossed with the whole thing that I decided I had to read the series as quickly as possible.

AUTHOR INFORMATION: How does one present the great George R. R. Martin? As all of you know, GRRM is an American author and screenwriter, best known for the A Song of Ice & Fire series for which he has won many awards and distinctions. He started to write the series in the early 90s, and the first book, A Game of Thrones, was published in 1996 by HarperCollins (Voyager) in the UK and Bantam Spectra in the US. A Game of Thrones won GRRM the Locus Award for Best Novel (Fantasy), while the author received the Hugo Award for Best Novella (Blood of the Dragon) in 1997.

OVERVIEW:In the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must…and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty. The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, a vengeance-mad boy has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities beyond the sea. Heir of the mad Dragon King deposed by Robert, he claims the Iron Throne…

ANALYSIS: With more than 300 characters, eight POVs and three storylines, A Game of Thrones requires a lot of concentration from the reader and could have been very hard to follow. Yet thanks to GRRM’s careful details and informative introductions of the characters, A Game of Thrones works perfectly well and it’s easy to quickly get your head around everyone in the book. It is true that many characters are single-minded and stay that way throughout the novel—such as Lord Stark and his inalienable sense of justice, Sansa’s persistence in her love toward the despicable heir to the Iron Throne, or Jaime Lannister’s boldness & arrogance—but these are offset by characters who either splendidly evolve (Daenerys) or are wonderfully complex. I particularly found Tyrion really interesting with his sharp wits, which is the only comical element in the whole book.

Of the plot, there are three main storylines—the Starks ensnared in the Game of Thrones in Westeros, the Night Watch and the threat beyond the Wall in the North, and the trials and tribulations of Daenerys Targaryen in the East—which alternate well thanks to the multiple POVs, while providing a good dynamic to the story. For now, the storylines in the North and East are overshadowed by the central one in Westeros, but in each storyline there are many plot twists, the atmosphere is dark and gritty, and morality is always much more complicated than it seems. For that reason, the fate of Westeros seems embedded in blood, alliances and treason.

As for the world of Westeros, A Game of Thrones offers a fairly typical medieval set up, populated by several religions similar to pagan cults, classical knights and highborn people. However, I found the Free Cities and the barbarian Dothraki original and interesting, which gave a fresh tone to the book, while the world as a whole stays credible. For me, world-building is the most important part of a Fantasy novel, for without a strong and credible environment, Fantasy just doesn’t work.

Overall, A Game of Thrones is a great piece, and I can’t wait to read the following books!


Spaz said...

Very nice! I've yet to read it, and I'm on my first read-thru of The Wheel of Time. So ASOIAF will wait a while. Perhaps until the next volume is published.

Chris said...

The first three books are great, but just warning you now that the fourth 'A Feast for Crows' book is largely regarded as the weakest of the series. :)

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

This is one of my favorites! I wasn't as in love with the second book, but I've heard #3 will make up for that. Have fun!

Wild and whirling words said...

My review of the first five novels - take a look:

Neha Shayar said...

Game of Thrones presents an amazing plot for d readers. With it's many twists an turns it makes for a addicting read. The quality of d paper and cover is also very good. I would recommend this book for 16 and above as d book has some intimate scenes in it bt d story line is really intriguing.


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