Meredith's Reviews > A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
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's review
Apr 01, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012, fantasy, mystery, mythology, magic


Originally posted on The Librarian Next Door:

Welcome to Westeros, where each season can last years and the current summer has lasted longer than anyone can remember. But winter is coming and it will not be forgiving. The death of John Arryn, Hand to the King, sets off a chain of events that few could possibly predict. Eddard Stark of Winterfell, old friend to King Robert Baratheon and the new Hand, wades into a world filled with treachery, betrayal, and secrets, all while trying to hold his own family together. While his bastard son heads to the north, to the great wall that divides and protects the kingdom from mysterious threats, Ned heads south to King’s Landing, where Robert sits on the throne, but his wife’s family, the Lannisters, control things from behind the scenes. Meanwhile, across the sea, the last remaining members of the overthrown Targaryen family, are plotting their return to power, but even the best plans can contain surprises. Winter is coming and when you play the game of thrones, only one can win.

A Game of Thrones is the first book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and, thanks to the worldwide success of the HBO television show, you’ve probably already heard of it. This first novel – and indeed the series itself – is epic in every sense of the word. Martin is a masterful world-builder; with its own mythology, religions, languages, locations and a colorful and dauntingly large cast of characters, it’s difficult not to compare Martin’s Westeros to J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle Earth. But Martin’s novel is original and with layers upon layers of intrigue and shifting truths and alliances, only Martin knows what the final end-game will be.

Martin employs the use of multiple “point of view” characters in A Game of Thrones. The story weaves back and forth between these several characters, the plot of the novel unraveling with each chapter. I can’t recall ever reading another book that juggled with many limited omniscient third-person narrators and it does take some getting used to. There were clearly some characters whose voices I preferred to the rest and it could be frustrating to have a POV chapter end, just when you wanted it to continue. There were occasions when I really wished I could “see” the events of a certain chapter from another’s perspective and sometimes, the novel returns to a POV character several chapters after his or her last chapter and it takes a moment to remember where the character was last left.

The point of view chapters work, however and that is because Martin is deliberate in his choices of who tells the story. There’s a reason why we don’t get Robert or Cersei’s point of view, just as there’s a reason for having nearly every member of the Stark family as a POV character. The pace of the novel is slow at the beginning, most likely because it’s the first book in the series and a lot of groundwork and history has to be established in order to set up storylines and payoffs for several books later (there are five books currently published and plans for at least two more). Eventually, Martin finds his rhythm and in the second half of the book, the story races towards its conclusion with alacrity.

Given the massive success of the HBO television show based on the series, it would be silly not to mention it at least briefly. I actually watched the first season of the show before reading the book and while reading, I’ve noticed that lines, dialogue and scenes from the book were taken almost word-for-word when adapting the novels for television. The writers and producers of the show have really treated the source material carefully and the result is a truly engaging television show because it started with a truly engaging novel. Though I’m usually a fan of “books first,” I actually think it helps to read and watch in tandem. The novels can feel overwhelming at first, especially in terms of keeping characters and relationships straight, and in the back-and-forth of the POV chapters. I’ve found that watching the show, being able to put actors’ faces with characters’ names, is helpful.

(And let’s be honest – as wonderful and visual a writer as Martin is, there are just some things – like sword fights – that are really more exciting on screen.)

I strongly urge any fantasy fan and certainly any fan of the television show to pick up George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Don’t be put off by the length, the detailed map of Westeros or even the ever-expanding cast of characters. A Game of Thrones is the kind of book that demands your time and attention, but it is also the kind of book that is worth every minute you put into it.
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Reading Progress

April 1, 2012 – Started Reading
April 1, 2012 – Shelved
April 6, 2012 –
page 258
30.9% "So good, but moving so slow..."
April 10, 2012 –
page 398
47.66%
April 16, 2012 –
page 654
78.32%
April 24, 2012 – Shelved as: 2012
April 24, 2012 – Shelved as: fantasy
April 24, 2012 – Shelved as: mystery
April 24, 2012 – Shelved as: magic
April 24, 2012 – Shelved as: mythology
April 24, 2012 – Finished Reading

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