Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire #1)

PAPERBACK; 807 P.
HARPERVOYAGER 2003/1996
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

In the game of thrones, you win or you die.

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.

The first book in the Song of Fire and Ice series, A Game of Thrones stands only 800 pages long. It took me roughly two months to gather enough will to begin and about ten days to read. It must be the longest book that I’ve read this year and considering the length I read it fairly quickly. Martin’s style of writing is engaging which meant that I could read about 20 pages in a hour and still be able to follow the story line and remember what I’d read.

The story follows the Stark family along with several other characters at the end of summer. In the world of Seven Kingdoms seasons can last for several years and this particular summer has been going for 9 years. Winter is coming, and the peace in the country is shattering: both the young and the old have their own battles to fight. The world that George R.R. Martin has created resembles that of Middle Ages with kings, knights, squires, tourneys, and such but with a mixture of the supernatural – dragons, direwolves, the Others. All I can do is bow in front of the magnificent world building and detail that has gone to the story. The book features dozens of characters, all with a background history and realistic motivations. The plethora of characters is also the weakness of the book – with so many characters and the first person narrative jumping from one story to another, it is hard to keep track of everything. The first person narratives, however, helps the reader to connect with the individual characters and at the same time it provides different points of view to the ongoing story.

George R.R. Martin has understandably been compared to J.R.R. Tolkien and I must admit that the world building and the feel of the book at the beginning is rather similar to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, I do think that Martin’s style is more brutal than Tolkien’s – the book features cruelty, gore, and explicit nudity. I wouldn’t say that Martin surpasses Tolkien with his book but we have to bear in mind that A Game of Thrones is only the first book in the series – there is still more to come. What lifted the rating from a solid 4 was the ending and how it was built up; the last 100 pages were intense and left me craving for more. Also the fact that Martin has not only one but several strong female characters in his books. It is refreshing because too often the female characters in high fantasy novels are the weakest characters.

I don’t think I’ll be reading the second book anytime soon, as I’m currently working on my bachelor’s thesis, but I do plan on watching the first episode of the HBO series in the near future.

4.5/5

Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live.

“Why?” Bran said, not understanding, falling, falling.

Because winter is coming.

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