Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Game of Thrones Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: George R. R. Martin
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire Book One
Pages: 674

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George R.R. Martin’s opening book to his highly acclaimed A Song of Ice and Fire Series is deserving of the hype: this is the greatest fantasy series currently in existence.  Unpredictable story-lines, emotionally deep characters, large fantastical landscapes, and complex political situations and power structures help Martin not only honor  J.R.R. Tolkien before him, but also enable him to shine new light on the fantasy genre. 

Now the basis for HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones, the popularity of Martin’s fantasy series continues to grow and attract a wider audience not only for his own series but for the fantasy genre, too.  A Game of Thrones is fantasy story-telling perfection.

A Game of Thrones centers around the continent of Westeros where King Robert Baratheon rules the continent’s Seven Kingdoms.  Fifteen years prior to the start of his rule, he usurped his kingdom from the Targaryen family, the rulers of the Seven Kingdoms for over 300 years killing everyone but the two youngest children of the previous king.

When Robert’s Hand of the King (second in command) dies under mysterious circumstances he turns to his best friend Eddard Stark who helped him win the Seven Kingdoms to take his place.  The Stark’s who are the central family of this story are split up when Eddard takes the position as he takes his two daughters to the capitol, while he leaves his three sons and his wife back home.  His bastard son is sent to the Wall, a giant structure that protects the northern portion of the Seven Kingdoms from intruders.

Eddard is charged with trying to keep a crumbling kingdom united. While adhering to his political duties he also tries to discover the truth of how the previous Hand of the King died.

Across the narrow sea on the eastern continent of Essos, Viserys and Daenarys Targaryen begin to plot to take back their stolen kingdom from Robert Baratheon.

Written from multiple different 3rd person perspectives, character point of views range from an intellectual dwarf and a bastard outcast son, to a noble lord father, his wife, and his children.  Martin’s ability to get inside the heads, and more importantly the emotions of this diverse group of characters, while simultaneously constructing complex storylines, is what truly makes him a great writer.   He is also merciless and has stated numerous times that no character is safe in his books, giving a grim reality that overshadows the story and a nail-biting feeling of anxiety to his readers… which character will die next?

Westeros bares a lot of cultural similarities to medieval Europe having knights, jousting tournaments, kings and queens, and lords and ladies.  However, the people living in the east, called the Dothraki, are warriors that seem to have been inspired by the Mongolian hordes of Genghis Khan.  The various cultures in A Game of Thrones provide great depth to Martin’s world, and insure that readers will not get bored.

A Game of Thrones is a dense book and requires a good deal of concentration from the reader. There are many different characters, locations, religious deities, and historical figures all related to Westeros that are introduced, and this can be hard to keep track of.  This may seem daunting to some readers, but to others that’s part of the fun of reading.  If you are looking for an awe-inspiring fantasy series with gritty and morally ambiguous characters, A Game of Thrones is a great place to start.

Score: 10

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