A Game of Thrones is the first book in George R. R. Martin’s Epic fantasy cycle A Song of Ice and Fire. Projected at seven novels, the fifth novel was published in 2012. I guess you could say I jumped on the bandwagon with this one, but I don’t feel at all guilty about it as I grew up reading Star Wars and Dragon based fiction, so I like to think I’m returning home after a long break. I’m also very excited to check out the HBO adaptation of the novel having finally read it.
I honestly didn’t think Martin would be able to draw me in as fast as he did, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for pre-modern technology worlds with knights and royalty and assassinations and intrigue. There was not a lack of action or adventure in this novel and it made it a quick read even though it clocks in at just around 675 pages. And as such a tome, it is the first novel I’ve read in the 2012 Tea & Books Challenge. It will also be tacked to my 2012 Mount TBR Challenge list as I purchased it in the last week of 2011 with birthday money, but I’m still hoping to read the other 25 novels on that list. Now on to my reaction (I’ve realized I rarely actually post reviews).
Although it took a while to fully sort out who was who and related to whom (don’t judge me if those are wrong – I just like the sound of the sentence) and to figure out what was where, the novel survives without necessarily having to know. If you’re like me and read it on a Kindle, you might want to look at a nicer map here.
There were two lines in the novel which summed up the novel very well (and happen to include the title of the novel:
When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.
…why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones?
And everything within the novel falls under these quotes. That is incredibly simplifying of the novel and does no justice to the hundreds of characters we meet, but it does aptly describe most novels based in these type of kingdoms.
I won’t go into the details of the various assassinations and battles, but suffice to say there are plenty. What I was most wary about, and ended up enjoying the most, was that each chapter was told from a different perspective (mostly through the eyes of the Starks of Winterfell, but a large portion through the eyes of Tyrion Lannister). What I suspected throughout the novel often times came through well before I thought it would be revealed keeping the novel moving at a fast-pace and constantly surprising me at how much happened. Many of the characters I assumed would play roles throughout the series wound up dead and sometimes a character would drop out of the novel for hundreds of pages to appear again just as you were wondering what happened to them. The last 75-100 pages were fascinating and set up a great scenario for the second novel in the cycle, A Clash of Kings.
I will limit myself to one rant. As with Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, there are those that love A Song of Ice and Fire and those that hate it—especially on Goodreads.com. I find that any fantasy novel that becomes a sensation is always divisive, especially in the reviews and yet however, they all have the staples of lasting stories and fantasy. I can’t say for certain but I honestly feel that those who rant and rave against these novels have 1) never been fans of fantasy/science fiction; 2) only read the ‘best sellers’ in the genre; 3) have very specific views on what constitutes good literature; or 4) are rejecting the novel based on its popularity and have found arguments that they will stick to and could be argued either way.
Bottom line, as a longtime (if not recently) fantasy reader, I enjoyed the novel and I hope I enjoy the rest of the cycle and am already dreading finishing A Dance with Dragons (Book 5) and having to wait for books 6 and 7).
Recommendation: If you have the time and the patience read it. If you’ve no desire or interest in kingdoms and epic fantasy you should pass.
Opening Line: “‘We should start back,’ Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them.”
Closing Line: “The other two pulled away from her breasts and addded their voices to the call, translucent wings unfolding, and stirring the air, and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons.” (Whited out.)