A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Published by Bantam Books on May 28, 2002
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire #1
Genres: Dragons, Epic Fantasy, Fantasy
Length: 695 pages Source: Amazon
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Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie 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.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
I had a difficult time starting this book. I read the first ten pages probably a gazillion times, on different eReaders. Once I got through the first chapter, I was hooked. This is exactly the kind of book I enjoy reading.
Martin takes the reader through a variety of different characters, each with their own subplots, each indispensable to the over arching plot of the book, and the overarching plot of the series. Each character speaks with his or her own voice, and has his or her own motivations. With as many characters as there is, one would think it difficult to keep track of all the different details, but Martin’s writing was so smooth, I found it easy to follow everything – and difficult to put the book down!
His writing style was reminiscent of Tamora Pierce’s, and his crafting of characters and scenery felt even Tolkien-esque. I found myself completely emerged in the threat of winter, even though where I live, it is unmistakably summer! I cannot praise him enough.
One thing Martin does dare – and I found it successful though others have not – is write a fantasy novel without traces of common fantastical elements – all these things are lost. There is no more magic, and dragons have not been seen in a millennium. Yet in the typical medieval setting, Martin maintains the feel of fantasy without these elements, and that is no small feat. Martin also shows enough of a battle to allow the reader to experience it, but without becoming monotonous.
I have read reviews that criticize Martin’s use of sexual imagery, and the abuse of one character in particular. I acknowledge these remarks, but I do not find them to be enough to be a turn-off from the book. Any mention of a sexual encounter is brief and tasteful (unlike too many other fantasy books I have read) and it is relevant to the plot. Actually, I found it a bit refreshing to not be plunged into unnecessary erotica in the middle of a fantastic plotline! But that is my opinion, and I do not wish to belittle other people who were offended by it – their opinions are equally valid.
This is no book for children, and teens and young adult who are not advanced readers or bear a special love for works such as Tolkien will find the book tedious, I believe. For those of us with a love for fantasy and expert writing, A Game of Thrones is an absolute treat.