Synopsis: Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. To the south, the king’s powers are failing—his most trusted adviser dead under mysterious circumstances and his enemies emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the king’s new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but the kingdom itself.
Sweeping from a harsh land of cold to a summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, A Game of Thrones tells a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; a child is lost in the twilight between life and death; and a determined woman undertakes a treacherous journey to protect all she holds dear. Amid plots and counter-plots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, allies and enemies, the fate of the Starks hangs perilously in the balance, as each side endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
Unparalleled in scope and execution, A Game of Thrones is one of those rare reading experiences that catch you up from the opening pages, won’t let you go until the end, and leave you yearning for more.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I haven’t read a fantasy book of this caliber in a while. When the HBO show Game of Thrones was first advertised, I knew that I had to dust off this book and read it. I had heard different things about the books, varying from a range of descriptions: long, epic, intriguing, bloody, etc. Did any of these previous reviews steer me away from reading this book? Of course not.
Martin starts the book off with a tale of death. What a way to start a book, right? And it’s not your simple death either. It was full of detail and gore. Instantly, I knew that I was going to enjoy the book.
The first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series begins to describe the major houses of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. It begins in the North, and introduces us to the Starks. Lord Eddard Stark is the patriarch of the House Stark. He is approached by the King of the Seven Kingdoms, King Robert Baratheon, to become the Hand of the King, an advisor to the King. King Baratheon brings his whole family along with him and from there, it begins this detailed tale of honor, loyalty, deceit, and death. We are introduced to several characters of the three principlal story lines that A Song of Ice and Fire will follow.
The story of the Seven Kingdoms is about Lord Eddard travelling to King’s Landing, the capital, and becoming the Hand of the King, after the King’s previous Hand died. There is a suspicion of murder, and while Lord Eddard is there, he aims to find out. Lord Eddard’s main character is that of duty and justice, and investigates the rumors that the King’s Queen, Cersei from the family, the Lannisters, is the one behind the plotted murder.
Through the story of the Seven Kingdoms, there is an introduction to the story of the Wall. The Northern border of the Seven Kingdoms is fortified by a Wall. It is large, epic, and massive. It is protected and manned by the Brotherhood of the Night’s Watch. Jon Snow’s character is detailed in this storyline, and Martins spares no words in describing Jon’s personality, character, and morals. He has learned well from his father, and despite the truths about him, he breaks down any prejudices and shows who he really is.
Another storyline that is told in this book is that of the East. The Targaryen family lives in exile after the takeover of the throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Prince Viserys and his sister Daenerys are the only surviving descendents of King Aerys II. Viserys plots to obtain an army, and will stop at no expense to do so, even if it means to sell his sister to the warlord of Dothraki warriors.
The book is formatted that every chapter concentrates on the third person point of view of a single character. Martin writes each chapter with detail that shapes and describes each character. In this first book, we get a glimpse of this large story through Lord Eddard Stark, his family, King Robert Baratheon, and his family, as well as the Lannisters and the Targaryens.
To be honest, the first 200-300 pages are hard to get through. It is filled with so much detail, that I wanted to stop. After that epic preview of death, I was expecting the story to follow suit. Just hang on. I promise that this story brings action, death, sex, and love. You will also be attached to a few of the characters, be sympathetic to some, loyal to others, and truly despise a handful. The brilliance of Martin is that his writing style shapes your perception and when you least expect it, changes that perception entirely.
If you watch HBO’s Game of Thrones, it shouldn’t spoil anything too much. So far, the show is staying true to the first book, with a few minor changes. But don’t worry, nothing to cause alarm. To me personally, the show has helped me get even more engrossed in this book.
If you haven’t read A Game of Thrones already, I think you should. Like I’ve said before, it is really an epic fantasy.