Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones (A Review)

I don't read popular books or fad books. Yes, I read Dan Brown's Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, but I also read Brown's Digital Fortress and Deception Point and I'm not sure many people can make that claim. I'm kind of like Dr. House when it comes to what I read. If it looks interesting (if only so much as the cover looks interesting and I know little or nothing of the plot) then I'll keep an eye on it. If it still looks interesting when I come back to it then I'll pick it up. I admit that I'm very easy to please, but also very picky. 

I picked up George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones on a whim because I thought the cover of the book was neat. It shows Sean Bean sitting on an Iron Throne with a sword between his hands, looking thoughtfully at the ground. Up top I read something about HBO and a new series, but I didn't care about that. I don't have HBO nor the money to afford a huge DVD box set. If I did there would be other shows I'd want to get first. 

I wanted to know why the cover was such a stark gray and why the character looked so depressed. I read the cover and it described the plot in typical fantasy fashion by listing words like "bastards" and "sorcerers" and proclaiming how grand and sweeping the book was without saying anything more about it. Other than the family of the Starks there isn't a single name mentioned on the back of the book.

I prefer my fantasy described like that. I don't want to know anything going into a fantasy novel because I want to experience everything without being told what I'll experience. Well, I experienced a lot in A Game of Thrones and it was very satisfying. Now an 800 page tome is not the best way to begin a fantasy series unless you are sure as hell that it is a zinger. Something of that length gets a little more leeway if it is further along in a series because people will already be hooked by then and you won't have to worry about winning over new fans because chances are fans who didn't like it will be long gone before the second book, but for the first book? It's risky. That is not to say that it doesn't happen all the time anyway, but it just shouldn't happen as much as it does. 

Well, George R.R. Martin's first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series is excellent and completely worth the 808 pages it takes up. I've already got the second book on my bed and I'll probably start on that one later today or tomorrow when I get home from work. 

A Game of Thrones is Martin's sixth novel and it was released in 1996. I don't know how much fanfare it got then, but it seems that everyone I know seems to be talking about. I guess that is what making a TV show will do for a book. Anyway, please allow me to give a brief description of the plot and the principal players.

The novel is about a large tract of land called the Seven Kingdoms. There are castles and knights and free cities and rebels and much more to arouse the curiosity of any fantasy fan. The Seven Kingdoms is ruled from a place called King's Landing where the king sits in this large uncomfortable iron throne. 

Winterfell, home of the Starks, is located up north, far away from King's Landing, but the Starks gradually find their way south when intrigue and conspiracy rear their ugly heads. 

North of Winterfell is the Wall and the land beyond the Wall. Something supernatural is happening up there while chaos begins in the South and suddenly a war on both sides threatens Winterfell and all of the Seven Kingdoms, too. Allegiances are made and pacts are broken and the only rule is that you cannot trust anyone. 

The chapters alternate the point of view from character to character. The prologue follows a minor character named Will, but everything else is from the point of view of a main character. Lord Eddard Stark, Lady Catelyn Stark, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, Bran Stark, Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and Princess Daenerys Targaryen are the characters we spend time with on our journey. We sit on their shoulders and see what they see. With the exception of one I think all of the characters I just mentioned are very likable. The one I don't like will become obvious to you if you read it or have already read it. The character does sort of redeem his or herself by the end, but then it is too little and too late for me to change how I feel about the character right now. 

Bottom line: read it. 

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