Book Review

George R.R. Martin, career television writer and author, is on his way to becoming a modern-day legend in his own right with a grand epic “A Song of Ice and Fire” that starts with “A Game of Thrones”. The series is published by Bantam Books and “A Game of Thrones” was released in 1996, marking the start of this epic fantasy series.

This novel creates a world much like what we’ve seen in the past from the fantasy genre as it incorporates medieval sensibilities and technology. Martin is a writer who provides many details through his multi-layered development of a social order within the magical realms; he also uses a lot of political intrigue to draw the reader in.

The Setting

“A Game of Thrones” is written on a scale of truly epic proportions as it covers many different settings including: wealthy cities completed with high castles, scorching hot deserts, barbaric nomadic camps, and harsh landscapes north of old piney forests. One of the most noticeable overused themes of the game are that the seasons shift very slowly; it will be summer for years and winter for years. For instance, when the game begins it is stated that summer is beginning to fade, and that winter will soon arrive.

The game’s social order is made up of commoners, referred to as “smallfolk”, and nobles. Within the world, the religious power is dominated by a state church that worships what is called Seven; which superimposed a much older religion more closely connected to nature. This older religion is described as every ancient family’s castle stronghold controlling a sacred grove known as a Godswood. It is said that at one point each Godswood had a heart tree that acted as a divine presence; however, since the rise of seven almost every heart tree has been destroyed. The main noble family in the story, the Starks, still own and honor the Old Gods through their remaining heart tree.

Another important player in the social order is the Maesters, who are a scholarly order. The men that make-up the Maesters order deliver medical care, knowledgeable in many subjects, and can attain high honors if ambitious enough. In each noble household, a Maester is present; the Maester’s manage almost all communication with both messenger crows and letters.

One overshadowing force present in the book is the Wall found in the north. This Wall is ancient and very large in construction; it serves to guard the civilization from threatening supernatural dangers, and the Wildling people in the far north. This area is patrolled by members of the Night’s Watch. These men never take wives and are presumably sworn to a life of celibacy. Although some men volunteer to become a member of the Night’s Watch, also referred to as “taking the black”; however, this duty is very unattractive and the law says that ranks are to be filled from captured criminals also.

Plot and Characters

The plot of “A Game of Thrones” is far too complex for a review to attempt to convey it completely. With that said, the brief way to describe the plot is to say it follows the overthrow of the deep-rooted Targaryens dynasty by Robert Baratheon; which actually took place about a half generation before the novel begins.

The war between the Targaryens and Baratheon left many lingering feeling of resentment from the families based on who was on which side of the war. In addition, the book tells the story of two Targaryens heirs who live in exile but conspire to reclaim what they believe is rightfully theirs. The following short list will provide an overview of the main characters:

  • The Starks: This family controls much of the perspective for the novel; as it follows several members of the noble family including Catelyn, Eddard, and their kids. These are very convincing characters that draw much sympathy from the reader, especially because choices made by them tend to be tragic.
  • Jon Snow: His mother is a mystery, but he is the bastard child of Eddard Stark. When Jon realized he cannot be his father’s heir, he chose to take the black as a member of the Night’s Watch at the Wall.
  • Daenerys: She is the surviving beautiful and young daughter of the ancient Targaryen Dynasty. She is a powerful character as she is able to rekindle the potent mystical power inside of herself that made her family the strongest family in the land. Her family is referred to as the “blood of the dragon” and appropriately had dragons of old born into her care. The hatchlings used her breasts to suckle and she knew that she had much power growing at her command; soon everyone in the kingdom will feel her wrath.
  • Tyrion Lannister: Another fantasy game tradition carried on in “A Game of Thrones” is dwarves; in which is what Tyrion is; except he is not of a different race. Tyrion is actually a human dwarf who is sadly much hated by his own family. However, he finds power using wit to scheme and is an overall interesting character.

Martin’s writing strengths are evident in his characters. His entire fantasy novel is written from different character’s points of view. Each chapter name gives you a hint who the narrator will be as each is named after the character guiding that portion of the story. The story telling style found in Martin’s book is more like that of modern-day grit than old time fairy tale charm. This fantasy is not for children which has played a big role in his success with the series. In addition, he also mastered the use of a cliffhanger; he truly understands how to end a book and leave the reader wanting more.

This book shines for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is that the characters are all great in their own sense as they are each unique and quite interesting; each one having his or her story to tell. A reader favorite is Daenerys. Readers meet her as a young woman and watch her become assertive with a loving heart who gains resolution from heartbreak and love. The best part of her and her story is watching her assume her role as a Targaryen.

“A Game of Thrones” takes the reader through a wide-range of emotion only to leave them longing for more. This is a must-read book that takes readers’ imaginations on the ride of a lifetime.

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