Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R. R. Martin
Review: 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.
Ever since my entry into the heady and wonderful peaks of fantasy literature following the release of the Fellowship of the Ring movie in 2001, I have been hard pressed to find an author greater than the inimitable J.R.R. Tolkien. Robin Hobb’s ‘Realm of the Elderlings’ story tops it in terms of pure enjoyment for me, and Terry Pratchett writes with such skill he too edges out Tolkien. But both authors have fallen short of the sheer scope that Tolkien envisioned and, successfully, created.
Since then, I have only come across two authors who have come close to envisioning and successfully carrying out their literary creations to match Tolkien; Steven Erikson and George R. R. Martin.
Martin’s epic fantasy series, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ has managed to – in both scope and creativity, not to mention simple writing ability – capture and recreate the story that started in Martin’s head. Some authors try, and fail miserably. Some capture and recreate perfectly, but the author’s scope is minimal.
For Martin though, in scope, creativity, and writing ability, A Song of Ice and Fire is everything you want in an epic fantasy tale.
The first book, ‘A Game of Thrones,’ was first released in 1996, and since then another three books have been released, with the fifth hopefully to be released this year (2009). Set in a world very akin to our own medieval history, specifically the English War of the Roses, A Game of Thrones introduces us to one of the greatest (and largest) character lists around.
The story is told from eight perspectives. Each perspective is held within a chapter which, when the characters move away from each other, allows the author to continually leave minor cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter.
While six of the characters from this first book are from the same family, the perspective is shifted around in preceding books. Death is commonplace, almost to the point of horror, but conducted in such a way that it, sadly, reminds us of our own bloody histories. Martin does not shy away from the death, rape and plunder that would have been norm for the setting and in doing so provides a much more complete story.
Mindless destruction is often the cause for character splits and confrontations, and by the end of the book characters you assumed you would be attached too for some time are left headless, gutless or simply gone.
Throughout the entire series Martin focuses almost primarily upon one continent. However there is one character, Daenerys Targaryen, who has been forced to flee to a separate continent as a young girl. At first I remember feeling disorientated and a little slighted at seemingly being provided this perspective which seemed nothing short of pointless. However as I have continued to read, she has become one of my favourite characters.
‘A Game of Thrones’ is without a doubt one of the most involved and simultaneously enjoyable books I have ever read. Dense to the point of labour, but captivating well past my bed time, Martin knows exactly where to draw the line between lots of information and tedious boredom.
If you like Tolkien, or if you like the idea of an epic fantasy series, then you must pick up ‘A Game of Thrones’ as soon as possible. Martin’s ability to create a world both entertaining and disastrously realistic is nothing short of mind numbingly brilliant.
Joshua S Hill
The novel, A Game of Thrones, begins with an encounter with supernatural beings; this may give a false impression as to what will come. As the story begins to unfold, the theme moves strongly into the area of political intrigue and this forthcoming war that will happen as a result. The fantasy element, while always there plays only a minor role in the majority of the rest of the book.
A Game of Thrones in not your usual fare, it is hard-hitting and bad things do happen to the good people. Two families take centre stage in a battle for the Throne; the Starks and the Lannisters. The Stark family live in the cold hard North, Winterfell is the seat of their domain. We are, using chapters headlined with the family names, introduced to the Stark family. Once we have familiarised ourselves with the Stark’s, King Robert and his family visit them at Winterfell. King Robert is married to a Lannister, Queen Cersei. The King’s main reason for visiting is to offer Eddard Stark the honour of becoming his Hand (most trusted advisor). Eddard unhappily accepts and he must move to King’s Landing in the South.
Eddard Stark’s young son Bran is injured during the King’s visit, whilst this is originally thought to be an accident that occurred when he was climbing it becomes apparent that the Lannisters played a part in this tragedy.
In an interesting sub-plot Jon Snow, Eddard’s bastard son, joins the “Black” or the “Night’s Watch”, a company of men who’s role is to guard a huge wall of ice in the far North. He is accompanied there by Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf. Although they do not become friends they end up with a grudging respect for each other. Once Jon has pledged himself to the “Black” he must forsake friends, family, marriage and children and his whole life will be spent in the protection of Land.
With Eddard now in place as the King’s Hand, tensions rise between himself and the Lannisters. Then, suddenly one day, the King is killed hunting wild boar and Eddard and the Lannister are drawn into a battle for the throne.
Finally, at the end, the fantasy element once again returns and we are left looking forward to the second instalment.
This is a very good novel, full of twists and turns. It leaves you wanting more and move on to A Clash of Kings.
Buy it here:
Kindle Edition: amazon.co.uk