Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Release Date: August 4, 1997
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5
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.
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.