Monday, July 23, 2012

[Book Reviews] A GAME OF THRONES by George R.R. Martin


Jason reviews A GAME OF THRONES (Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin (Bantam, 1996) 

I was inspired to read this book after watching the first two seasons of the excellent HBO series of the same name.  For those uninitiated, the series is based in a medieval fantasy realm that includes magic and dragons, but spends very little time on either (at least in the first two books) in order to focus on the human characters.  While I really enjoy magic elements in my fantasy novels, I believe this is a smart move as it makes the world that much more believable.  I anticipate magic and dragons will play a larger role as the series progresses, but we are just starting to get to know these characters and the realistic settings helps us connect with them that much easier.

The first book switches between nine points of view to tell three larger stories that could easily be separate books on their own.  The game of thrones that is the first book’s namesake is the main focus of this book and focuses on the political and military maneuvering to become the new king.  Some characters fight for greed or power, others fight for freedom and still others fight for revenge.  The second major story hasn’t made much progress yet, but it focuses on a group of young men that have dedicated their lives to protecting the large dissolving country from foreign and possibly supernatural forces.  The third major story is about a young princess in a foreign country across the sea that wishes to reclaim her throne by marrying into a barbarian like community.

If it’s not already clear, these books are dense.  The first book is around 700 pages and the most recent fifth book has reached over 1000 pages.  The print is rather small and details are jam-packed into this book, this is not a quick read.  It is a rewarding one though and although the first book doesn’t really give any kind of closure, it’s not really expected to do so.  This is a huge world with deep and varied characters; there cannot be easy resolutions to the problems that these characters face.

I highly recommend this book to those interested in deep worlds and want something a little more adult.  It combines things like Eragon’s rich and detailed world with Harry Potter’s deep and interesting characters to become something unique and incredibly interesting.  For those that have seen the show and want more before the new season airs, I would also recommend the book.  The show follows the books surprisingly well so you really won’t miss too much if you skip ahead to the next book as you will already know all the main plot points, but the book gets into a lot more detail on several interesting points that the show had to rush through.  For those that have seen the show, things like Robb’s rise to power, Zansa’s interactions with Joffery and hints at Jon Snow’s parentage are just a few of the details you would be able to get that show hasn’t provided.  Chances are if you had a question on why a character did what they did in show it’s covered in this book, so give it a read.

Jason Sharp, Whitehaven Library

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