Game of Thrones
By George R.R. Martin (Fantasy, Drama)
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
The book begins with a simple prologue – three men walk through a forest, talking and arguing with one another. They are cold, irritable, and simply want to turn back. The wind whistles in the trees; the sound of wolves are filling the air…in the first chapter, one of these men is executed, and that’s the nature of Game of Thrones. The first chapter immediately brings you out of the classic ‘magic and fairies’ land and into George Martin’s well-crafted one instead: depressing, cold, harsh, and bleak. Only a few spots of hope are seen throughout, and they are spread sparsely. Perhaps you were expecting more of a plot synopsis from this review, but you’re not going to get it: if you want to read this book, believe me, you won’t want any spoilers.
The cover of this book (see picture, below) suggests a gritty medieval fantasy drama revolving around a battle of the throne, and that is exactly what you are going to get. Whilst other sub-plots come into play at certain times in the novel, George Martin really makes a clichéd plot exciting and gripping again, and that’s exactly what readers want. However, don’t expect an easy read. It may not be full of words that you don’t understand, but the book is large, and the paragraphs long. Even the dialogue is interspersed with lots of description. Of course, this is great for a fantasy series, but this is merely a warning that for slow readers like me, it won’t be a walk in the park.
This is the cover that is on my copy.
Martin manages to engage the reader by writing his novel without using magic or dragons (although he hints a few times at these, suggesting something more to come), and he does so quite successfully. His bleak land is stunning, and several times unexpected things happen, clearly showing that the author is not afraid to shape his world the way he wants it to be. Scenes involving the council and the king are no less than superb, and every sentence the characters say has meaning and weight, and anything they say could drastically change the course of events.And speaking of characters, they further add to the bleakness of the world; each one is fleshed out (except Sansa) and their motivations seem real. Personally, my favourite charcters are Tyrion and Bran, and I will give an extract of both to show why I like them so much. First, then, is Tyrion:“Some of us may,” Tyrion told him. “I am not fond of eating horse. Particularly my horse.”
“Meat is meat,” Bronn said with a shrug. “The Dothraki like horse more than beef or pork.”
“Do you take me for a Dothraki?” Tyrion asked sourly.
As you can see, Tyrion is a witty fellow, considering he is a dwarf who does not have any say in most matters. Many characters laugh at him, but he always comes back around with a snappy remark. I would say that he is my favourite character so far.
Bran thought about it. “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”
“That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father told him. “Do you understand why I did it?”
“He was a wildling,” Bran said. “They carry off women and sell them to the Others.”
Bran is a lot like me: young and innocent, with no idea what life is really like, and this helps me to empathise with the character. Though these are my favourite charcters, there are many others – another six, to be precise, and this is one of the negatives of this series. Eight characters is too much for one book, and it was hard to remember what certain characters did three or four chapters before. This makes it hard to understand what’s going on, and it can pull you out of the experience somtimes. Another aspect I didn’t care for was the amount of sex in the book – it was too much, and most of the time it was described in gratuitous detail. Whilst this is more of an opinion than a negative point, it does need to be said if there are people out there who do not like sex in novels (including me).
Overall, though, George R.R. Martin has created a world that is truly excellent, with characters brimming with secrets and dark pasts. It isn’t easy to write a good fantasy series these days, but Martin has managed it almost seamlessly. The way it is written intruiged me, and I look forward to reading the next title in the series and watching the first season on DVD. Bravo!
4/5 stars (a well written novel that has a truly excellent world and shady characters; pick this one up when you can!).