Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones
by George R. R. Martin

In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes of the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict like the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win the deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

First of all, I’d just like to say that it is a crime that I had held onto this book for so long without reading it. I picked it up in a used bookstore a couple of years ago for some spare change and it has just been sitting in my drawer of books to read while I’ve been off gallivanting with other novels.

A crime.

Thank god for the HBO series. I started watching it because of the enthusiasm and joy at the adaptation by various podcasters (namely Scott Johnson on The Morning Stream and Tom Merritt on Sword and Laser and Frame Rate) and it was so good that it pushed all other books out of my mind for a while.

I am thrilled that this book has exceeded my expectations. It is everything everyone has said about it and more. I’ll admit, I was leery of reading “fantasy kind of without fantasy” despite having enjoyed it on screen, but it really does work well. Take the court intrigue of pre-Camelot, pre-Arthur England with a dash of Tolkien houses, names, and basis for current day legends and a heaping helping of betrayal and bloodshed and you’ve got yourself the start of what is sure to be a brilliant series.

This is fantasy when real life gets in the way. There are tales of dragons and mythical beasts and terrifying monsters, but these things are long since past and each man must fend for himself in a world where ruling houses are barely clinging to alliances made in their younger days. War is imminent, but whose war that will be remains to be seen. And while politicians and would-be knights and heads of houses fight in the south, winter is coming and something far more terrible may be at its heels with only an ancient wall and a couple dozen thieves, rapists, cast offs, and bastards to guard it.

And here’s the part where I usually talk about scenes and characters I particularly like, but I’m finding it difficult to narrow either of these down without needing substantial explanation for the events or giving away spoilers. All I can truly say is, just like life, there are some terrible things that happen and some exciting things that happen and no character is exempt from either of these things. Everyone is fair game and the character you like best could just as easily die in the next chapter as the character you hate the most. It is refreshingly fascinating, even if that means all of the characters I like die. Usually, I would find that worrying, but even when characters I like die, the circumstances of their death and the repercussions have not failed to change the events of the story in a fascinating way.

If you have not read A Game of Thrones, you should look into it. I’m not entirely confident to whom I should recommend this book, but my instinct says that anyone who enjoys fantasy, backstabbing politics, psychology, or twisting plots should take particular interest in this series.

As the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, it is wildly successful in gaining my loyalty as a reader. I am now on the third book in the series.

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