A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.
My rating: ★★★★★
(Warning this post contains plot spoilers)
Although daunting I have committed to reading the entire Game of Thrones series. The first is an immersing introduction to the vast imagination of Martin and goes so much deeper than the hit TV series.
The sheer number of characters are at first difficult to keep up with, but soon become surprisingly easy to follow. This is largely due to the amazing depth of detail the author commits to each faction, known as Houses, but also the simple and relatable frustrations and feelings of the main characters.
Each chapter is written from the viewpoint of one of the main characters, offering readers insights into events from multiple points of view in the story.
This book is largely spilt into three plot lines. I will not outline the whole intricacies of the plots and families which make up the story but the three main stories are; the intrigues across the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, particularly the Stark and Lannister families; secondly the Night’s Watch who guard the Wall in the wintered North of Westeros against the rumoured horrors beyond it; and finally across the Narrow Sea the exile of the remnants of the deposed, former rulers of Westeros, the Targaryen family, through the 13 year old girl Daenerys Targaryen.
My personal favourite was the story at the Wall. This is a massive ice wall constructed thousands of years ago to keep out the White Walkers, essentially ice zombies, whose horrors are briefly teased at in the opening chapter and are constantly dismissed by most characters throughout this first book as mere hear say and myth. The Black Watch guard the Wall from their fort at Castle Black and this is where Ned Stark’s bastard son Jon Snow is sent to. Here he takes an oath committing his whole life to the Watch with no reprieve other than death. I very much enjoyed how the Black Watch is seen as a dumping pit for the Seven Kingdoms, be that violent criminals or unwanted bastard sons, and how even though it performs the critical role of guarding Westeros from the dangers of the North it is critically under-resourced and largely forgetton by the many Houses which indulge in their power games elsewhere. Some of this books best passages are of Jon Snow’s own battles to choose between honouring the vows he has taken for the Black Watch and his natural desire to flee to help his adopted Stark family which is duly ripped apart by intrigue, betrayal and war elsewhere in the Kingdoms.
Each chapter somehow ends with a cliffhanger, making it impossible to put down and often chapters overlap so at times the reader holds more knowledge than central characters do at crucial junctures. Set in a brutal, quasi-medieval universe Game of Thrones is a violent, sex filled tale. Characters face choices and grief almost unimaginable, often facing a difficult choice between duty and what they really want or need. It is this gritty realism which gives its fantasy real depth.
Although long, at some 790 pages, the nature of Martin’s writing, the depth of the story and the way the plot unfolds it is a book which demands to be consumed quickly, much like the TV series which so many now binge watch. I raced through this in just over two weeks and now cannot wait to get my hands on the next installment.
Best quote: “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” – Tyrion Lannister
Have you ever read the first Game of Thrones novel? What did you think of it? Who was your favorite character of House? Have you read any more of the novels and, without spoilers, are they worth reading? Please leave your comments below.