Sunday 16 December 2012
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
But now I've given in and read the first book, I'm annoyed that I waited so long! Yes, the book is long and it does contain a lot of characters, but it completely sucks you in. It's a "just one more chapter book" and I whizzed through it in under a week. The story centers around Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, who has just been appointed as Hand (first advisor) to King Robert Baratheon. The King's power is waning and his wife's family, the Lannisters, are attempting to seize the throne for themselves. The heir to the throne, Prince Joffrey, isn't all that he seems and there are no depths the Lannisters will not plunge to in order to gain power. As a backdrop to this main clash, we also have the story of Ned's bastard son, Jon Snow, who becomes part of a defensive group of men in the North that struggle to contain the wildness that exists beyond the fringe of civilisation. Daenerys Targaryen, the last remaining descendent of former Kings, is in exile in the East and gaining strength of her own.
These are the main storylines but the plot is panoramic; Martin has created a complete, fully functioning world and I get the impression that we only skimmed the surface in this, the first book. His world feels so real that I had no trouble keeping the different Houses and relations between them distinct in my mind, something I normally struggle with in books containing many characters. I could picture the ice of Northern wall, the endless plains of the Dothraki sea and the mountain climb of Eyrie. In short, every time I loaded up this book in my kindle, I left the real world completely behind me for Martin's world and it was a wonderful feeling. In addition to this, the story never felt cluttered with too many fantasy elements, with the main focus being on the intrigue and political drama.
A Game of Thrones is all about the plot. It's not the most fantastically well written book I've ever read, but the plot and world building are so impressive that it's a very engrossing read. I continued to read past my bedtime each night, purely because I really wanted to know what would happen next. Martin doesn't shy away from using cliffhangers and none of his characters are safe. Although I predicted some of the events, I got nowhere near guessing them all and it's always lovely to be surprised by events in a book.
On the whole, I was completely and utterly hooked and will be a) watching the HBO series as soon as possible and b) reading A Clash of Kings soon. Don't let the length of this book or the fact that it is fantasy put you off, this is honestly one of the most engaging plot-driven novels I've read all year.
Source: Personal copy (kindle)
First Published: 1996
Score: 5 out of 5