Molly's Reviews > A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
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's review
Apr 17, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, literary-fiction, recommended, 5-stars, i-want-to-go-to-there, read-in-2012
Read from April 18 to 28, 2012

First off – I’m mad at myself for only just now reading this book. I downloaded the (enormous!) sample on my Kindle for the first time over the summer and attempted to read it two or three times. It didn’t do much for me at the time, but I just kept going back to it. For whatever reason, I really wanted to like this book. Then a few of my students read it and started talking to me about it, and I was remembering myself at that age, thinking “Man, if Game of Thrones had existed when I was in 8th grade, I would have read it in a heartbeat.” Um…it did exist back then, though it clearly wasn’t the huge deal it is now. I imagine this is largely thanks to the TV series, which I have to admit is where I heard of it. So I ordered it online and promised myself I would at least give it one more shot. I figured it would be the kind of book I would stop and start a lot. It’s so long, I figured parts would drag and I’d get bored and pick up something else, and maybe eventually come back to it.

I was so very wrong. I could not put this book down. It is a tiny bit slow at the beginning (which is probably why I stopped and started at least 3 times with the sample), but it picked up quickly enough and then I just could not stop reading. I’ve never been a huge fan of fantasy, so this was an almost entirely new experience for me. If it’s derivative and too similar to everything else out there, I have no idea, because I’m coming at it with fresh eyes. Unlike dystopia, which I’ve been reading far too much of lately, I don’t feel like I know everything there is to know about the genre, and I was able to get completely swept away in the world Martin created. I’m not sure I want to live there, but I definitely looked forward to visiting it every time I picked up this book.

The plot would be hard to explain in a nutshell, especially without giving anything away, but at its core the novel is about a power struggle. The Stark and Lannister families’ struggle for the throne – to put the rightful King on the throne, that is – makes up the driving force of the plot. But meanwhile, terrible things are happening in the far North, by The Wall that divides the North from the rest of the continent. And also there are horse lords. I’m not entirely sure where the Dothraki fit into everything – clearly that’s being saved for future volumes. The story follows a number of characters – Eddard (Ned) Stark, who begins the novel as the Hand of the King, his wife, and four of his children share narration duties (though it’s all kept 3rd person limited) with Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf from the rival family whose loyalties are never certain, and Daenerys, a member of the house of Targaryen, who believes she is the rightful ruler. At first the plots are separate, and a bit hard to follow, but when the Lannister family arrives at Winterfell and the Stark family (mostly) journeys with them back to Casterly Rock, the stories begin to interconnect and come together. The two exceptions are Jon, Ned Stark’s illegitimate son – who has a serious chip on his shoulder – and Dany, who marries the aforementioned horse lord. Jon joins the Night’s Watch, which guards The Wall and ostensibly keeps whatever is beyond it out of the Seven Kingdoms. Sadly, the “fight,” (if you can call it that) isn’t going well, and it’s clear by the end of Jon’s portion of the story that the Night Watch will be fighting its own war very soon.

Dany, on the other hand, might as well be part of a completely different novel. Though we hear the Lannisters talk about her, and make a feeble attempt on her life, no one really seems to pay her much attention over in the East. By the end of the novel, it’s clear that this is a terrible mistake, and she may give the Starks and Lannisters a delightful new enemy to unite against…or she might destroy them. Hard to say. I actually found myself enjoying Dany’s chapters more than I expected. We get some backstory on what happened before the novel started (Martin begins in medias res, which I do love) and unlike the other two young female narrators – Ned’s daughters Sansa and Arya – I didn’t want to throttle her every time she opened her mouth. Although I will say most of her chapters grossed me out in some way or another. Too much tearing of flesh of various sorts.

Minus my dislike of Sansa and Arya (although I did feel bad for Sansa in her last segment), I loved the way Martin crafted the story. There’s a lot of action and a lot of intrigue. It’s a nice balance of strategy and battle, and it really didn’t bother me that we don’t get to see every single swipe of every single sword. Some of it happens off-page, as surely a lot of strategizing also happened off-page. The cast is huge, of course, but once I stopped trying to memorize who every single person was, it became much easier to follow. I lost track of most of the Dothraki characters because their names all sounded like caveman gibberish, and most of the lords and lordlings populating the Lannister castle. It was a little like Act V of a Shakespeare play, with new people popping out of the woodwork every few seconds. However, Martin is aware that he’s created an expansive cast, and he has a way of showing that a character is worth watching. I’m not sure how to describe it properly, but there was never a time when a character reappeared or did something important and I thought to myself “Wait, now who the hell is this guy?!” Really, there was never a point when the action slowed down or I felt like abandoning it to read something else. I have a huge stack of books waiting to be read, that I anticipated reading before I ever got beyond page 200 of this, and I’m sorely tempted to ignore all of them in favor of reading A Clash of Kings. This was really the perfect antidote to all of the lazily-written YA that I’ve been slogging through recently. This is what happens when you have an author who takes the time to craft a plot that is complex, but not incomprehensible.


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Reading Progress

04/18/2012 page 28
3.0% "I just have a feeling I'm going to stop & start a lot with this one! I really want to like it!"
04/20/2012 page 64
8.0% "I'm starting to really like this...I'm also having a terrible time keeping the characters straight. I need a flow chart."
04/20/2012 page 102
12.0% "Still a little wigged out about the airborne 7 year old."
04/21/2012 page 226
27.0% "Starting to get a better feel for who's who...still not sure who the good guys are!"
04/22/2012 page 351
42.0% "So much for stop and start, I can't put this down!"
04/24/2012 page 475
57.0% "Once again feeling in need of a road map...who's starting war with whom? Also, I hope Sansa and Arya are being set up for something important in the later books, because I'm extremely tired of their whining."
04/24/2012 page 567
68.0% "Have no idea how this is all going to wrap up...fearing a huge cliffhanger that forces me to read the next book right away!"
04/25/2012 page 627
75.0% "Ok, I take back my earlier statement; I hope a bunch of Lannisters throttle Sansa as punishment for being so insufferably idiotic! I cannot handle her inner monologue much longer."
04/27/2012 page 716
86.0% "Why do all of Dany's chapters make me queasy?"
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