(Cover picture courtesy of Eat, Run, Read.)
In A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin has created a genuine masterpiece, bringing together the best the genre has to offer. Mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill the pages of the first volume in an epic series sure to delight fantasy fans everywhere.
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. 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.
So, here we are again: I’m about to tackle another incredibly famous book. Only this time there’s now an even more popular television series based on it. And I’ve already watched up to the most current episode of the show while reading A Game of Thrones. This will be interesting, won’t it? As always, one must ask if the book is as good as its hype.
In a way it is, and in a way it isn’t.
I say that in a way A Game of Thrones doesn’t live up to its hype is because for an avid fantasy reader like me there is no way it could ever live up to such ridiculous hype. Not even Harry Potter could live up to all of that hype. And that’s perfectly okay. It’s still a good book and I’ll try to look at it objectively, disregarding the fact that I’ve watched the television series as well.
George R. R. Martin jumps between quite a few points of view during the course of his epic novel, but I wouldn’t say that it got confusing at any point. Mostly the characters don’t retell the same thing another character covered and it does move events along quite quickly for a fantasy novel. The tales of the Starks and the Lannisters are fascinating and I love how we get to see both sides of the story, as well as the great subplot with Daenerys Targaryen, one of two remaining descendants of the last king. Daenerys is a personal favourite, but Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark are close runners up.
The thing I love about A Game of Thrones is that we get to see what drives pretty much every character. Not all characters are sympathetic in the traditional sense (Joffrey), but some of them like Cersei are oddly sympathetic. It might just be me but I feel sorry for her being forced into a marriage with a man who would always love a dead girl even though she loved him in the beginning. Robert never even gave her a chance. Characters like Sansa who seem annoying in the beginning actually acquire depth throughout the story and even minor characters are well fleshed out. There are the sort of girl power characters like Arya, but I like Sansa more because she’s a product of the culture she was raised in. In short, she was raised to be the definition of a ‘lady’ and that’s who she is in the beginning.
Westeros isn’t exactly the most unique fantasy world I’ve ever encountered because it’s based on Britain yet again. You can easily draw comparisons between Hadrian’s Wall and the Wall, the barbaric tribes, the brutal ruling classes, etc. However, I wouldn’t say it’s completely cliché partly because the concept of ever changing seasons like summers or winters that last for years is intriguing. The different lands in Westeros are interesting as well as the lands across the Narrow Sea.
So would I recommend A Game of Thrones? Absolutely! Would I call it the greatest fantasy novel I’ve ever read or ever will read? No.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.