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A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
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An Opinionated Look at:

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

By Eric Allen

I wrote reviews of this entire series last year, but at the time I was working for a bunch of assholes who wanted exclusive rights to it amongst other unreasonable things that ultimately resulted in our parting ways. Well, my contract with them officially expires yesterday, so I figure I'll dust these off and post them here if anyone cares to read them.

There are probably very few people in the civilized world that have not heard of the HBO series Game of Thrones. It has exploded into one of the most popular things on TV over the last few years, and shows that Network and Cable TV still have a lot to offer in an age of everything being online... that is, of course, assuming you didn't just pirate the series and stream it online. But where did it come from? Where did it really begin? Many people are aware that it's based off of a series of books by George R. R. Martin, but a lot of people I've talked to who are fans of the TV series haven't bothered to pick up the books. Many of them are a little daunted by the sheer size and scope of these books, and really, they are all HUGE books. But, you know what, they're worth reading, because so much is left out of the TV series that you're really not getting the full picture by skipping the books. So, let's take an in depth look at George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, starting, of course, at the beginning, with book 1: A Game of Thrones.

For the sake of brevity I will not be explaining all of the relations between the different houses, because this review would end up being about as long as the book if I did.

The Hand of the King, the king's most trusted adviser, has died, and his wife suspects murder. She sends word to her sister at Winterfell to beware the Lanisters, who she believes to be at fault just as the king and his procession, including several of said Lanisters, arrive. The king and Ned Stark are old war buddies who grew up together, and he wants Ned as his new Hand of the King. And so, the Starks pack up and move to King's Landing where plots and intrigue fester and spread like plague.

Meanwhile, across the sea, the only heirs to the previous king who was overthrown set about gathering an army to retake the throne, and at the great Wall to the north, ice zombies start doing what it is that ice zombies do, because it wasn't as if zombies haven't been crammed into every single other genre before now, they had to be crammed into my Epic Fantasy too.

The Good? George R. R. Martin is probably one of the better writers alive today. He has a way with words that I find rather poetic and entrancing. The sheer quality of the writing is enough to coast me through the boring patches, because it really is expertly put together. There are literally hundreds of named characters in this series, and they are all woven together in such a complex way that I challenge anyone who complains about the wait between books to do half as well with half as many characters and plotlines.

This book does an excellent job of setting up for the series to come. It lays an extremely firm foundation for the story to stand upon. It goes into back story without it feeling like it's lecturing us, and really sets up who hates whom and why, and why that's important. Without these relations between the many, MANY characters, and houses, and histories and so on, this book, and the world it takes place in, would be nowhere near as good, or interesting. Most of the characters have very distinctive personalities, and I really have to say that it's a miracle that the author can keep them all straight. He must have notes like you wouldn't believe.

The world in which this series takes place is so beautifully put together, with mystery and intrigue, and a deep and rich history that is woven expertly into the story. Martin describes places in this world so vividly and beautifully that I have no trouble at all picturing it as I read.

The Bad? Until about the last hundred pages or so, there really isn't much to this book except setup for the rest of the series. When this book first came out I was much younger and much stupider. I found all of the setup without really anything else to it to be pretty boring. It's only now that I'm older, and have the perspective of four more volumes that I can look back on it now and see it for the masterpiece of storytelling that it is. And at least it knows how to kill Sean Bean properly, which is more than I can say for the Silent Hill movies... I mean, seriously, WTF on that?

It probably comes as no surprise that there is a lot of sex in these books. The HBO series is pretty steamy, with quite a bit of graphic nudity and sexual acts. The HBO series has NOTHING on the books. If you are offended by such things, or made uncomfortable by them in any way, these books are probably not for you. There is also quite a bit of rape, threat of rape, violence against women, sexual and otherwise, and some very crude and crass dialog. Again, if these are things that make you uncomfortable, this series probably isn't for you. I know several people who have tried to read these books, and just couldn't get past the language or the sheer amount of rape that takes place or is alluded to. And really, there's nothing to be ashamed of in having morals and standards.

This is really kind of one of those books that you need to read twice to get the full impact of it. The first time through to learn who everyone is, and all the history and customs and layout of the world and the conflicts in it. And the second to really pay attention to what's actually going on, because there's a lot of information, back story, and exposition being tossed at you, and there's just so much of it that it's really easy to get lost and miss the wonderful characters, and the set up for epic events to come.

All in all, this is a pretty good book, but I think it would have been a much better book if there was a little less setup for the books to come, and a little more anything else. There really isn't much that goes on in this book that isn't setting up something else that comes later, rather than being a complete and self-contained story in itself. There is quite a bit of sex, rape, violence against women, and crude language, and if these are things you have problems with, you'll probably want to pass this one by. But despite any small, and minor flaws the book may have, it is still one of the absolute best that the Epic Fantasy genre has to offer.

Check out my other reviews.
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Reading Progress

September 13, 2013 – Started Reading
September 13, 2013 – Shelved
August 26, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Nicko (new) - added it

Nicko Moknu Yey! \:D/ Reviews ^_^

Jessi Yay!! Awesome review, I've been looking forward to this!! :) You summed up the first book perfectly. I needed a bit of a memory jog on the story since it's been a while since I read this one. Lol... Yep we need more awesome ways to kill off Sean Bean... :=)

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