A Game of Thrones: Book One of A Song of Fire and Ice
By George RR Martin
A Game of Thrones has been on my radar, way out there, but it was there. I thought about reading it a few times but never quite found the time. Then HBO announced it would be producing a series based on the book, and yet, I still put it off. So in December I finally got around to picking it up and what can I say other than I am completely and utter in love with this book, the world, and the characters. Without me listing, and believe me when I say it would be a long list, let’s just say everything about it is great. Yes, it’s that good.
Now for the dilemma — how do I describe this book? It’s epic fantasy, it’s long (over 700 pages on my Nook), it’s also violent at times but so fantastically told that it’s almost impossible to put the book down. I don’t want to give too much away (which is very hard for a person who loves spoilers) so my description will be short and somewhat vague. The story takes place in a medieval world that resembles England. Kings, queens, knights, court politics, and drama infuse the story with a richness that rivals any good bit of historical fiction. But there’s something more. In the world of the Seven Kingdoms, the king rules from the Iron Throne. When King Robert calls upon Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell to act as his councilor, all hell breaks loose in the realm and no matter what Stark does, there will be no way to keep a war from starting. The political struggle for the throne is the main story which all others revolve but there’s also a Wall that looms heavy in the background. What lies beyond the Wall that was built to keep the realm safe is an army of the dead and while not much is offered up on what and who they are, they add a dark overtone to the story that can only be bad. In the Seven Kingdoms, winter can last decades so when people say winter is coming it adds a foreboding to the amazing world that makes you want to dive into the next book immediately.
So, are you confused now? Maybe a little frustrated with me for not offering more? Please don’t be. I’m a person who loves spoilers but I think this a book that has to be read to understand the amazing world created by Martin. Yes, it holds true to basic fantasy (witches, spells, and dragons) but the weight added by the political drama brings the story to a new level. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a single character which I’ll add was a little daunting in the beginning because the cast of characters and references is long and complicated, and while it may take a minute to adjust, it flows smoothly from there. From Eddard Stark who is called to court to be the Hand of the King, to understanding the dreams and persistence of his daughters who came to court with him, to his wife Catelyn who suffers heartache over their young son’s injury, to his son Robb who must rule in his place, to the annoyances of the King, the lives of Queen’s brothers, to the brothers who protect and patrol the Wall, and the life of a forgotten ruler’s daughter who is poised to attack to regain a lost kingdom.
Yes, there’s a lot going on in this book but don’t let that deter you. Martin manages to walk a fine line that threatens to spill into overindulgence, but it never happens. What does happen is pure enchantment. His world building is amazing and it doesn’t take long to get sucked into it. It’s dark, violent, and bloody, but fits with the story and never feels overdone. If you’re looking for a great fantasy novel, A Game of Thrones is it.