Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Game Of Thrones - 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 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. 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 the deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

Three days, 807 pages, and I finished A Game of Thrones. It’s been quite a ride – I can’t deny that George R. R. Martin is a brilliant storyteller. He grabbed me with the simple premise of his book – the struggle of an honorable family to survive in the midst of the pitfalls of political intrigue. I got hooked because of the new HBO series (for once I started with the film and then moved on to the book) and wasn’t disappointed. Either by the book, or the adaptation – I found the photography simply beautiful, the cast is very faithful to their descriptions in the book, and from what I could glean from online chatter, the writers plan to follow the plot very closely. I couldn’t be happier.

As for the book - the characters the author creates are very compelling. One can’t help falling in love with honorable Ned Stark, Robb and Bran, little Arya who is simply a joy, and Jon Snow (my favorite, I think). I took a strong dislike from the first to Catlyn Stark (probably because I love Jon so much and she treats him so very poorly, but also because she is the cause of much grief – some of her decisions are so very, very stupid) and some of the other character we follow aren’t so easy to empathize with (I could throttle Sansa with my bare hands), but they are all extremely human – struggling with fear and duty and having to grow up in the midst of a war. It’s brilliant character development, and very good writing.

Indeed, it’s amazing how Martin manages to communicate so much with so few words – Bran, when talking about his sister says “She lost her wolf.” And that wolf was so much more than a mere puppy: it’s that, but also symbolic of a proper respect for her origins, loyalty to family, duty and honor. Sansa, in her na├»ve awe for the court and all its dazzling lights as well as a mindless adherence to courtly ways, ends up being the unwitting pawn for the destruction of a lot of good things. The author makes all that fit into just four words – and for us to immediately grasp what these four words mean, there is a whole lot of work involved in the creation of a universe and a code of behavior that we can understand and immerse ourselves in. By the time Sansa looses her way, the reader knows that the Dyrewolf is the symbol of House Stark, and most of all, we know what being a Stark means. When she stops acting like one, her wolf dies.

There is much tragedy and sadness in the book as well – what good fantasy series doesn’t? – and the consequence is that the villains are truly horrid. As the plot develops and more details of their characters are made clear, we end up absolutely hating them (I cannot say “I hope Jeoffrey dies a slow and painful death” enough times) – and yet also understanding their motives and behavior somehow, particularly when we see them through Tyrion’s eyes. He is a very interesting character – theoretically a villain, attached to his horrid family, and yet, despised and humiliated by them and more conscious of their shortcomings than anyone else. I can’t wait to see what will become of him!

As for the plot – it’s complex, but not convoluted – I guessed the great revelation about the royal children by page 200, and in the scene with Bran and Rykon in the crypt, I think I also guessed the great secret about Jon Snow’s birth that Eddard never got to tell him (since the answer was not in book one, I won’t know for sure until I finish reading the rest). So if you read carefully, the clues are all there, and you can glimpse how things will turn out. But there are so many parallel storylines, different geographical areas (have I mentioned how detailed is this universe? I love the different societies, different orders, different places) that one has to wonder how it will all come together. I have a few guesses, but since I am only a quarter of the way through what is published of the series, I guess I should carry on, and find out for sure.

So – taking a deep breath and diving into the next volume, A Clash of Kings.

And another clip, because the series is SO awesome:


  1. O.K I am definitly convinced. I will order the book on Amazon and watch the series.

    Your blog is great! Love reading it!

    1. Yes! You definitely should!!! It's probably the best fantasy series I've read in the last 10 years, and I read a lot, so I should know! You're in for a treat!

      Thanks for the comments, it's really cool to know people are reading! :D



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