Cole's Reviews > A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
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's review
Jun 13, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy
Read from June 13 to July 29, 2011

My thoughts on this book are quite complex, which may be a good thing or may not. This book held my interest, no question. But how much did I enjoy it? That is harder to say.

The things done right in this book are many.

Martin's world is believable, for one thing. That means barbaric, violent, cold, and unflinching. Where so many authors write a 21st century version of medieval life, Martin does his best to portray life as it was over 1,000 years ago.

The plot is intriguing (and full of intrigue, go figure), gripping, and fast-paced (after the first few chapters). There are unexpected twists and new developments that kept me guessing, and made me want to know what happened next.

The story is well written. Very well written. Martin knows all the tricks of Scheherazade and then some, it would seem. He does an expert job of getting you into each characters' head, shaping your sympathies, without giving away too much. The world unfolds through the eyes of different characters with their own personalities, desires, and ambitions. Which viewpoints he does NOT portray are as important as which he does. It was a pleasure to read his work simply for the CRAFT of it.

He does break the traditional fantasy mold. There is no small band of heroes. I am not even certain there are main characters in this series. It is as much a story about a place, a world and its history, as it is about any people.

And then, there are things I did not enjoy.

While being believable, it is almost too realistic. I read fantasy for a reason, and this book had little enough fantasy in it (although I withhold judgement until I have read the next few books).

People die all over the place. This is not bad in itself, and does lend an edge to the book that most fantasy lacks. On the other hand, I do not like authors who make it a point to punish their readers for getting attached to characters they write. Martins comes up just shy of that line, but he pushes it a little farther than I would like. I cannot enjoy a book if I am afraid to empathize with the characters in it, for fear they will get offed in some hideous manner.

George Martin may break the mold too much. If I wanted to read stories about honorable men dying and petty squabbles among deceitful noblemen, I would just read history and be more enriched by it. I am afraid that Martin has forgotten why people read fantasy novels. There has to be some form of triumph for the people the story follows most closely, or it begins to feel like the author is using your empathy as a punching bag. "Game of Thrones" ends well, so I can give it that.

In the end, I feel that I am trying to review a whole series from the first book - and that does not feel quite fair. "Game of Thrones" is good enough that I will read "Clash of Kings", and maybe that's the most important thing.
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