Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review - A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R. R. Martin
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 crowned stags

I read this book with my girlfriend, Heather, over a few months. We thought it only fitting to do a cooperative review. Below is my review, predominantly featuring the characters of the book. Head over to The Maiden's Court to learn more about the story!

Author George R. R. Martin is undoubtedly most famous for his epic Song of Ice and Fire series. The first book in this seven (or possibly eight) book series is entitled A Game of Thrones. Thrones follows several powerful families that inhabit a land called Westeros, which is much like medieval Europe. Although technically of the fantasy genre, this novel reads more like a historical fiction novel. With the caveat, of course, that Thrones is completely fictionalized. In fact, there are no magic or fanciful creatures in this novel before the last 20 or so pages. Westeros feels like a world that is past its prime; all of the magic has left its mountains and forests, and now all that is left is the hard judgment of humanity. This brings us to the heart of the novel: the characters.

There are countless characters in A Game of Thrones. Some are “good” and others are “evil”, but none are what they appear to be.
Heather says: Good and evil are relative terms in this series – when you think someone is purely one way, they go and surprise you by doing something entirely opposite. I also feel that over the course of the series, the characters will change and evolve.
To help you make sense of it all, here is a quick breakdown of the three major families (or “houses”) of Thrones:

House Stark – The Starks used to be kings of Northern Westeros. However, because of events that happened long ago, they now swear fealty to the one King. They are a stern and often humorless people, who hold no delusions about how difficult life can be. Their ruler, Lord Eddard Stark, is a friend of the current king of the realm, Robert Baratheon. Loyalty is one of the biggest virtues of the Starks which, in a world full of intrigue, scandal, and backstabbing, usually is more of a curse than it is a blessing. Eddard is married to Lady Catelyn, and they have two daughters and three sons. There is also another, Jon Snow, who is the bastard son of Eddard Stark.
Heather says: I want a shirt that says “Team Stark”!
House Baratheon – The current king, Robert, is of house Baratheon. With the assistance of Eddard Stark, Robert was able to take the throne by force about a decade ago. This has left the power balance of the realm very unsteady. He is married to the shrewd Cersei Lannister, and they have two sons and a daughter. Young Joffrey Baratheon is in position to inherit the throne. Robert also has two brothers. Renly, the popular and attractive lord, and Stannis, the mysterious older brother who lives on a harsh island off of Westeros.

House Lannister – The Lannisters are directly connected to the throne of Westeros thanks to the marriage of Cersei to Robert Baratheon. Cersei has two brothers. The eldest, Jaime, is a strikingly handsome man whose beauty belies his wrathful soul. The disfigured Tyrion Lannister, on the other hand, is crafty and devious. The Lannisters have always had a shady past when it came for their desire for power.

So now that you know some of the back story to the main characters of A Game of Thrones, it’s time to talk about how it measures up as a novel. To be sure, Martin has created a true masterpiece of fantasy in this series. Every aspect of the land and the characters’ lives is beautifully detailed, and the author does not leave anything out. Thrones is at times humorous, thought provoking, and heart-breaking. You will inevitably find yourself connected with the characters of the novel, and putting down the book to do anything else will not be an option.

However, as with any first novel, Thrones serves primarily as an introduction to what will be happening later on in the series. After reading A Game of Thrones, it is very easy to think that nothing really happened (which is odd, for an 800 page book). This is not to say that Thrones is boring. However, by the end of the novel, you realize that all of the events that occurred were simply leading up to the rest of the series. Not that this took anything away from the enjoyment of reading the novel.
Heather says: I think if you are looking at this in a traditional sense – this is the exposition to the story, and the characters are the most important. So much happens in the first book that serves to grow the characters and prepare the reader for what is to happen in the rest of the series.
The most exciting aspect of the entire Song of Ice and Fire universe is that HBO is turning the entire set of novels into a television series starring Sean Bean as Eddard Stark! This is great news for a fan like me – it should be a very exciting time! You can learn more about this project at one of my favorite blogs, Winter Is Coming.

EDIT:  The Game of Thrones is now on HBO!

Sadly, I don’t have a trailer for the television show or a book trailer to give you. Instead, check out this great video of artwork inspired by the novel. I feel that it really captures the theme of the series!

A Game of Thrones is an excellent tale, and should be read and loved by all who enjoy fantasy or historical fiction.

5 out of 5 crowned stags!