Book Review: A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin [TSS]

Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
ISBN: 9780553573404
Pages: 831
Release Date: August 4, 1997
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary:

Winter is coming, and the Starks of Winterfell can sense it more than anyone else.  Ned Stark has been asked to take the position of the King’s Hand, a powerful role that would allow him to oversee the entire kingdom.  He is ready to decline until he learns that the former occupant of the position, his own brother-in-law, may have been murdered by the Queen’s family, the Lannisters.  Unsure of whom to trust, Ned descends into the viper’s nest of the royal court, trying to manage an ailing kingdom and assist his best friend, the king, who seems to have lost all common sense, while also attempting to discover the secret his brother-in-law may have died for.

Review:

It’s difficult enough to summarize the intricate plot of A Game of Thrones, but reviewing it is almost impossible.  I will do my best with this review, but please keep in mind that no matter how much it seems like I loved this book, I am in no way doing it any sort of justice.

There are three main families in A Game of Thrones – the Baratheons, who hold the throne, the Lannisters, who have an eye on the throne through the Queen, and the Starks, who want nothing more to remain in Winterfell and leave the politics and conquest to others.  Each of these families is described in intricate detail.  The reader comes to know them intimately – whether child or adult, male or female, queen or bastard son, Martin clearly cares about each of these characters and makes sure the reader knows them well.

There is no good and bad in A Game of Thrones, no black and white.  There are only shades of grey, and how far people are willing to push those limits.  Ned Stark is generally the hero of this book, but even he is forced to make difficult decisions.  These characters are realistic; they make the same hard choices real people must face.  Those the reader roots for can’t always afford to stick by their principles, not when the stakes are this high.

The opposite holds true as well though.  The Lannisters are generally the villains of this book (notice I use the world “generally” again – I am trying to simplify things down for the purposes of my review, but in the book, things are infinitely more complicated.)  Therefore, the reader might expect them to act the part, but they don’t.  One of the most interesting and enigmatic characters in the book happens to be a Lannister, and he is by no means evil. Just complicated.  And if that isn’t enough, the king himself is a usurper, and the family of the king he stole it from is alive and very much present in this novel.

Martin creates an incredibly intricate world that is completely believable.  Yes, it is set in a different place, and there is some magic, but as a whole, it is recognizable.  It’s not so foreign that it will turn people off, nor is the magic so over the top that it allows characters to get out of any difficult situation.  While it is a fantasy novel set in a fictional realm, readers will be able to identify with both the settings and the characters.  It’s incredibly well done, and there is no question in my mind why this series is so popular.

If that’s not enough, George R.R. Martin is also a very talented writer.  His dialogue is sharp and perfect and the story flows incredibly well.  Though the narrator changes with each chapter, these transitions are never jarring and it is easy to move on from one person to the next.  This makes it a pleasure to read, and while it is a very long novel, never for one second does it become a chore.

I could go on and on about A Game of Thrones because there is so much to discuss – character specifics, the elaborate plots and subplots, the mysteries to uncover, the detailed descriptions and settings – but I’ll leave off here.  I don’t read many fantasy books, but this novel has really convinced me I’m missing out by not reading more of the genre.  I’m looking forward to watching the TV series, as well as reading the next book in the series, A Clash of Kings.

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Comments

  1. Vance loves this series, but I know it’s not for me.

  2. Vance loves this series, but I know it’s not for me.

  3. I just started this last night! The BF and I have been watching the miniseries, which I’ve liked (minus a lot of the needless the graphic content). So helpful to already know the characters going into it!

  4. I just started this last night! The BF and I have been watching the miniseries, which I’ve liked (minus a lot of the needless the graphic content). So helpful to already know the characters going into it!

  5. I am going to have to bite the bullet and buy this entire series as soon as possible. I’ve been toying with doing so for at least three months, but with so many, so very many, unread books on the shelves, I’ve felt too guilty to do so. But forget it! I’m buying it. Dagnabit, I’m buying it. :)

  6. I am going to have to bite the bullet and buy this entire series as soon as possible. I’ve been toying with doing so for at least three months, but with so many, so very many, unread books on the shelves, I’ve felt too guilty to do so. But forget it! I’m buying it. Dagnabit, I’m buying it. :)

  7. I really enjoyed this book, too. I read it a while ago, though, and still haven’t tackled reviewing it…

  8. I really enjoyed this book, too. I read it a while ago, though, and still haven’t tackled reviewing it…

  9. It’s so funny how many people are reading this series now that the HBO series is out. I hope that motivates Martin to write faster. I finished the most recent book a few weeks ago, but I don’t think I’ll review it. I actually was pretty unimpressed with it- it went on for over 1,000 pages and at the end of the book, I didn’t really feel as if much was accomplished at all. I felt the same way about the fourth book. I think the first three were excellent, but somehow, the brightness has dimmed a lot for me. Still plan to read to the end, though!

  10. It’s so funny how many people are reading this series now that the HBO series is out. I hope that motivates Martin to write faster. I finished the most recent book a few weeks ago, but I don’t think I’ll review it. I actually was pretty unimpressed with it- it went on for over 1,000 pages and at the end of the book, I didn’t really feel as if much was accomplished at all. I felt the same way about the fourth book. I think the first three were excellent, but somehow, the brightness has dimmed a lot for me. Still plan to read to the end, though!

  11. I’m not sure if I would get into this series or not. I suspect I would, but the dedication required! I’d have to be bedridden for months to handle such a thing. For what you were up against, you did a really great job of summarizing the whole thing.

  12. I’m not sure if I would get into this series or not. I suspect I would, but the dedication required! I’d have to be bedridden for months to handle such a thing. For what you were up against, you did a really great job of summarizing the whole thing.

  13. I really enjoyed the series on HBO and am looking forward to season 2. I’m thinking I really should give the books a try.

  14. I really enjoyed the series on HBO and am looking forward to season 2. I’m thinking I really should give the books a try.

  15. One of my coworkers is reading this series and she LOVES it! I really want to read this at some point. I keep trying to convince myself to buy them, but I have this thing about buying full price books so I’m going to wait until I get to go back to the used book store and find it there. Reading your review has made me want to push it to the top of the priority list :]

  16. One of my coworkers is reading this series and she LOVES it! I really want to read this at some point. I keep trying to convince myself to buy them, but I have this thing about buying full price books so I’m going to wait until I get to go back to the used book store and find it there. Reading your review has made me want to push it to the top of the priority list :]

  17. I’m slowly reading the book too. There are times I like it and times I don’t.

    Great review.

  18. I’m slowly reading the book too. There are times I like it and times I don’t.

    Great review.

  19. I just bought a boxed set of the first four books for my husband and son, and am hoping that they will share them with me. I tried to read this series a few years ago, when fantasy was still alien to me, and it didn’t go well. This time around, I have a few other epic fantasy novels under my belt, and am excited about trying these again. I am so glad you liked this one, and I know what you mean about these sorts of books being tough to review. I sort of felt that way about the other epic fantasy that I read as well. Great post on this one!

  20. I just bought a boxed set of the first four books for my husband and son, and am hoping that they will share them with me. I tried to read this series a few years ago, when fantasy was still alien to me, and it didn’t go well. This time around, I have a few other epic fantasy novels under my belt, and am excited about trying these again. I am so glad you liked this one, and I know what you mean about these sorts of books being tough to review. I sort of felt that way about the other epic fantasy that I read as well. Great post on this one!

  21. I tried to listen to this one on audio, but the narrator used such a thick accent for some of the characters that I could barely understand him! I’ll have to give it a try in print at some point.

  22. I tried to listen to this one on audio, but the narrator used such a thick accent for some of the characters that I could barely understand him! I’ll have to give it a try in print at some point.

  23. Elizabeth Bass says:

    I had a friend recommend this book to me last year and I put off reading it for several months because I felt lukewarm toward the epic fantasy genre. Of course I finally read it and loved it and gulped down the other books as fast as I could. The first three books in the series, especially, are all excellent.

  24. Elizabeth Bass says:

    I had a friend recommend this book to me last year and I put off reading it for several months because I felt lukewarm toward the epic fantasy genre. Of course I finally read it and loved it and gulped down the other books as fast as I could. The first three books in the series, especially, are all excellent.

  25. I think I’m going to have to jump on this bandwagon! It sounds so intricately wonderful, but I only worry I’ll want to wait until I can devote enough time to devour the series.

  26. I think I’m going to have to jump on this bandwagon! It sounds so intricately wonderful, but I only worry I’ll want to wait until I can devote enough time to devour the series.

  27. I love this series and read through the first 3 manically, thinking there was only 4. Now I know there’s actually 7 (to date).

    Hope the HBO series does the books justice.

  28. I love this series and read through the first 3 manically, thinking there was only 4. Now I know there’s actually 7 (to date).

    Hope the HBO series does the books justice.

  29. Hey Swapna, thanks for the review! I just linked to it in our latest blogpost. I hope this finds you well…

  30. Hey Swapna, thanks for the review! I just linked to it in our latest blogpost. I hope this finds you well…

Trackbacks

  1. […] A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.  Check out this review by S. Krishna’s Books. […]

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