Thursday, 26 May 2011

Review: Game of Thrones

Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R. R. Martin
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Age restriction? R. Deals with very mature themes like incest, prostitution and other material unsuitable for young readers.
Series: A Song of Fire and Ice #1
Pages: 831
Edition: Mass Paperback
Published: August 4, 1997
Publisher: Bantam Publishing

REVIEW SUMMARY: This book is not for everyone. It is entirely character-driven, and it jumps between the P.O.V.s of a HUGE cast of characters, which can be confusing and sometimes abrupt. However, I have never read a book with more realistic characters - there is no character that is the Good Guy, no Bad Guy that doesn't also have a heap of redeeming and endearing characters.

Though not without its flaws, a compelling and highly enjoyable and provocative read with incredibly well-developed and real characters driving the story.

Please note that I haven't watched the TV series yet, so this is a review of the book alone.

DESCRIPTION:  In a world where seasons last for years or even decades at a time, at the end of the longest summer ever recorded, Winter is slowly approaching at last - and not only the season! The kingdom of Westeros is in a world of trouble, though most of them do not know it. Far to the North, beyond the Wall, strange and supernatural forces are stirring, while to the South, an exiled princess comes into her power and gathers her forces to reclaim the throne that was usurped from her family. 

REVIEW: Following a vast cast of characters, A Game of Thrones chronicles both the political and social games played for the acquisition and conservation of power and the personal lives of the various players in this game. 

The main focus is on the Stark family, Wardens of the North and descendents of the Old People, who reside in their citadel in the far North just below the Wall, Winterfell. Neddard Stark is a man of honour, integrity and loyalty, so when his boyhood friend and king asks him to come south to become his Hand after the death of the previous Hand, Ned has no choice but to agree. Leaving his sons (one of whom was grievously injured when he discovered a deadly secret while the King visited at Winterfell) and devoted wife behind, Ned and his two daughters must join the King's party at King's Landing, where feasting and tournaments drain the treasury more every day, corruption and betrayal are part of the day-to-day court mechanics and the population is becoming increasingly impoverished and desperate. Further, the courts at King's Landing is seeping with poison and no one is who they seem to be. Soon mired in politics he is ill-suited to navigate with his honesty and integrity intact, Ned finds himself fighting for his own life and the lives of his daughters while his wife must fight for those of their other children. 

Ned's bastard son, Jon Snow is sworn into the Brotherhood who guards the Wall; an oath for life where desertion leads to death but remaining to serve may lead to even worse. The undermanned and overwhelmed contingent of soldiers is made up mostly of criminals forced to take the life-long oaths as a form of community service, and most of them no longer believe in the dangers that lurk in the Northern snows - that is until Jon's uncle, Ned's Brother, who is First Ranger, leads an expedition beyond the wall to find out the whereabouts of a previous expedition... and never returns.

What I like the most about these books is the complexity of the characters. There is not one character that you can purely loathe or purely love. Everyone is doing what they think are the right thing, even though the consequences to others are devastating sometimes. Even though the cast is HUGE, each character has their own, unique personality with flaws, strengths and moments of great weakness and stupidity as well as moments of great strength and nobility.

I don't want to spoil the book too much (if I hadn't already ;p), but the complexity of these characters and their interwoven stories, told from the varying limited third person POV really makes this book and this series unique and incredible.

There are some flaws, though, no denying that. The chapters are sometimes more like paragraphs, and since each paragraph takes you into the POV of a different character, it takes a while to get used to the abruptness of the transitions and keep track of the million side-plots.

There is also a lot of brutality, injustice, gratitious sex and misogyny and other unpleasant subjects (including rape and infanticide) that are addressed in various ways throughout the story, which can become truly upsetting and triggering. It is certainly not everyone's cup of tea.

Also, if you are a believer of easy morality, moral absolutes and a "good guys are good and pure and wear untarnished white and bad guys are evil and irredeemable and rotten to the core" kind of reader, this is CERTAINLY not the series for you.

That being said, reading this book and living through these incredibly diverse and real characters and the complexities of things like morality, accountability, and power was one fantastic experience - an experience that left me a better and more empathetic and tolerant person.


  1. I love this book.. and the series is doing a great great job of portraying the book too. If you haven't seen it you need to check it out!


  2. Oh, I do look forward to the series and I've watched some previews - I really love the casting so I'm anxious (heh) to watch it.

    Thanks for stopping by!