August 2, 2013

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.
-from A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1
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A Game of Thrones, the first book in the series titled A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin has been haunting me for quite some time now. I have friends who have been pressuring me to read it and friends who have been pressuring me to watch the series on HBO. I can't watch something and then read it (I learned that lesson with The Princess Bride) so I needed to read it. But at 864 pages, it was hard to carve out the time and dedication for this monstrous book, not to mention its sequels. Additionally, I kept hearing about how confusing it is to keep up with the huge cast of characters which only made me more apt to push the book off longer. I'm very proud to report that I have finished A Game of Thrones, and if you have been pushing this book off as much as I was, I'm going to help encourage you to tackle and enjoy it as much as I did! 

The fantasy series A Song of Fire and Ice series takes place long ago in a faraway land where seasons can last lifetimes and supernatural creatures dwell outside The Wall of the Seven Kingdoms. Confused yet? Well, let me break down the cast of characters to help you understand better than the publisher's synopsis. In A Game of Thrones there are mainly 4 families or "houses" with which you need to concern yourself:
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  • House Stark: Eddard "Ned" Stark is the head of this house and he is the Warden of the North. Ned governs with a strong adherence to honor, duty and integrity and doesn't like to play games when it comes to getting things done. 
  • House Baratheon: The house of King Robert, one of Ned's best friends from his youth (Ned helped him win the crown). King Robert has become a lush as he has gotten older, prioritizing wine and women over governing the Seven Kingdoms.
  • House Lannister: This is the house the Queen comes from, along with her twin brother, the Kingslayer, who (as his name implies) killed the previous king. This is also the richest house in the entire Seven Kingdoms, and, as you can only imagine, he who holds money holds power.
  • House Targaryen: The house of the previous monarchy. Only two descendents from the king remain: Viserys and Daenerys, the son and daughter of the slain king. Throughout his entire life, Viserys has been plotting to win back the throne and he uses his naive, sweet sister to help make this happen. 
When Ned Stark is approached by King Robert Baratheon to be the Hand of the King, Stark is honored but doesn't really want the job. The previous Hand of the King, one of Stark's best friends and brother-in-law by marriage, is suspected of being murdered. Driven by honor and duty, Stark takes the job and begins to uncover secrets at the capitol, King's Landing, that complicate his job and friendship with the King. At the same time outside The Seven Kingdoms, Viserys Targaryen is arranging a marriage between his sister and a savage Dothraki leader so that he may gain military power to take back his father's throne. Finally, on the other side of The Wall, the looming danger of wildlings and White Walkers breaking through into Westeros is more present than ever. Ned Stark's level headed leadership may be the only thing that can strengthen the kingdom enough so that it can defend itself from whatever threatens them beyond their borders; unless, of course, the most dangerous enemies are already within the castle walls.

First of all, I was more stressed out than I needed to be about the huge cast of characters in this book. YES, there are a ton of characters, but one of the many talents Martin has as a writer is structuring his books in a way that gives the reader ample time and information about major characters so that you remember them. And you will remember them; the characters, whether "good guys" or "bad guys" are colorful, memorable and multi-dimensional. I did have a little trouble with minor characters, but I read this on my Kindle and was able to simply search the book for the first time a character in question was mentioned to refresh who they are (I highly recommend this!). I also googled images of the characters as I read to better imagine them (at least the way HBO imagines them).

Each chapter alternates between the points of view of different characters which gives the reader insight into experiences happening all over the realm and beyond. After reading the first book I can't begin to imagine the effort it must take Martin to craft together this masterpiece of a story. Each character has their own experience, truly unique to them and through these experiences a world is developed by stringing them together and mixing them with each other. Martin's way of storytelling is incredibly impressive once you've really immersed yourself into his story.

Some major topics this book examines is the importance of family, honor, duty and power. Ned Stark's children alone are worth writing about and examining their relationships with each other and their parents, most notably Ned's bastard, Jon Snow. A Game of Thrones is another book I wish I could have read in college because many papers could have been written about the themes and motifs in this story. I also found the role of women in this time to be very interesting, especially looking at Arya Stark, a tomboy. When most women are either ladies or prostitutes, I enjoy seeing Arya forge a new way for women.

I could probably write for days about all the arcs and themes I loved in this book, but since this is a review and not a thesis, just believe me when I say that there's something for everyone: adventure, mythology, romance, deceit, mystery, politics, murder, monsters, and everything in between.

Bottom Line: If you like complex but salacious very long stories, I highly recommend this! I know it isn't for everybody, but if you think you'll like it, you probably will! I advise carving out a good amount of time to dedicate to the entire series since there are 5 books averaging 1000 pages each and 2 more to be published in the future! 5/5 stars!

Have you read A Game of Thrones? Who are your favorite characters? 

Mine are Dany and Arya -- girl power! {HAHA} But I also find The Lannister trio dangerously intriguing!

The first season of HBO's Game of Thrones encompasses the first book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. Here is the trailer for that season:

Next Week's Review: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin


  1. you know how i'm obsessed with this series already. personally i think most of films that are based from the books are less than the books. but i'm making exception for the lord of the rings series and yes, game of thrones. even though the characters are way more than what it seems can be housed by my brain, i do recognise them. i think it's the way Martin delivered the characters. he engaged them in an event so we remember. my favorite characters are : john snow, arya stark, sandor clegane haha.

  2. Don't throw rocks at me when I say this, but I've never read the books, nor have I seen the show! But I just wanted to come by and thank you for leaving a comment at Turning Pages!

    Sign up for the End of Summer Read-A-Thon!

  3. I LOVE the show and I really really need to read the books someday :)


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