Well, this blog has just completely escaped the original vision that I had for it. Originally, I foresaw this blog as a way for me to continue to write in a way that I enjoyed since my school work was sucking all of the joy that I had for writing away from me, while at the same time exposing me to as wide a variety of movies as humanly possible, since cinema is one of my great passions in life. However, slowly but surely, various other media have slipped inot the fray. From anime to one video game review (that I never finished cause I never finished the game) to television, and now we have our first book review. Ever since I watched the first episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, I knew that it was high time that I actually read the book the series is based on. So, without further ado, my review for the first book of George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, the masterpiece A Game of Thrones.
A Game of Thrones is a fantasy novel, but it is fantasy more in the tradition of historical fantasy such as The Once and Future King more than high fantasy like Lord of the Rings. While the supernatural exists in the novel’s world, it shows up very rarely and is used for some of the bigger shocker moments in the story. At the end of the day, this is a fantasy story where the characters and their motivations shape the plot and universe more than an epic adventure story, not to say that this story is devoid of its fair share of epic moments and is honestly more exciting for me to read than any of the Lord of the Rings books. Not since I descended into the world of Gilead and Roland Deschain in Stephen King’s magnum opus The Dark Tower, have I had so much fun escaping into a fictional universe.
A Game of Thrones is the story of the fictional nation of Westeros as well as the unruled land of the savage Dothraki across the sea. The primary protagonists of the novel are members of the Stark family which are lords of the northern stronghold of Winterfell which forms the barrier with the uncharted and dangerous North which is blocked off by an imposing ancient edifice known as The Wall. The head of the Stark family is Eddard, also known as Ned, who is the Lord of Winterfell. He has 5 legitimate children and one bastard son, Jon Snow. Ned’s life is forever changed (much for the worse) when he gets caught up in the politics, scheming, and back-stabbing of the southern Capital of the nation, when his old friend and the current king, Robert Baratheon, asks him to become his newest advisor after his last one died under mysterious circumstances. What plays out is an epic ensemble piece that sprawls across two continents where life, romance, peace, and the throne hang in the balance.
This book easily has one of the largest casts, if not the largest, of any book I’ve ever read. The main story is told from the point of view of about 10 characters, but you also have to take into account the dozens and dozens of other important characters that appear as well. By the end of the story, one of the most important heroes of the book never even had his own chapters to tell his story. I love books with giant ensemble casts because it leaves me free to choose which characters I actually like the most rather than having predetermined main characters shoved down my throat. My three favorite characters from the book are Tyrion Lannister, a man with dwarfism who is perhaps the most cunning and brilliant schemer in the book, Arya Stark, Ned’s youngest daughter and an irascible tomboy, and Jon Snow, Ned’s bastard son who has as much courage and honor as any of Ned’s natural born children.
A Game of Thrones serves as perhaps the most brutal deconstruction of the fantasy genre that I’ve ever read in my entire life. At every possible juncture, it subverts and turns on their head every single cliche of the fantasy genre. The good guys do not always win, honor and valor do not always save the day and in fact are not always the wisest approach, the beautiful people are not the heroes. One of the point of view characters is a girl who believes she is, in fact, in a fairy tale and Martin uses her part of the story to effectively cut apart such expectations and beliefs, although it leaves her so completely broken by the end of the story that it was heart-breaking. This is a dark and gritty story, and if you require neat and happy resolutions, you should probably look elsewhere.
If you enjoy fantasy novels at all, you should without a doubt check this book out. Hell, even if you aren’t a fan of fantasy, this is simply the cream of the crop of the genre and you should give it a twirl. I found myself ignoring my responsibilities to regularly update this blog in favor of reading at least 200 pages a night of this book, if not more. After, perhaps, a slower beginning, the book quickly develops a break neck pace that never lets up and I immediately jumped right into its sequel, A Clash of Kings. If you can handle a book that nearly verges on being 1000 pages long, you owe it to yourself to give this one a go. I really can’t see you being disappointed.
Final Score: A