A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book One
By George R.R. Martin
My Rating: 3.5 / 5
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 and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is 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; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
I like fantasy novels, and have been curious about this series for some time. I finally got around to reading this, the first book in the series.
Initially, I struggled to follow the plot because there were just so many characters introduced in the first few chapters, and I had a difficult time remembering who was who. Eventually, though, I was able to keep track of the different families and plot lines.
The main storyline centered around the Stark family of Winterfell. Lord Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark is a close friend of King Robert Baratheon, who comes to Winterfell proposing that Ned come back to his castle and carry out the duty of the Hand of the King (sort of like the second in command – he rules while the King is away). Although he would rather stay in Winterfell, Ned agrees to go. At the same time, he is curious about the fate of Jon Arryn, the King’s recently deceased Hand.
There are far too many other characters and plots in this novel for me to attempt to summarize them all here, but they weave together to form a story that spans several families and their allegiance, or opposition, depending on the character, to King Robert’s rule.
The narrative in the book alternates among different characters, told in third-person. I like this device because, although there are a number of characters, it did feel as though I got to know the characters fairly well. It also makes it difficult to decide that any one character is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – I grew to care about the outcome of the characters, particularly when it started to look as though some of them would end up opposing each other in a brewing war.
I liked this book, and I will certainly go on to read the second in the series, although at times I was put off by the violence in the story. However, if you are like me, you can skim those parts and still enjoy the rest of the novel.
I recommend this if you like fantasy novels – it took some time for me to really get into it, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down.