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Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R. R. Martin

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.

Released: January 1st 1996       Pages: 835
Publisher: Bantam                    Source: Library
Sorry, I just had to.*

First Look: ***** It was probably only a matter of time before I read this.  It was going to happen, sooner or later.  I kept putting it off, because lately it seems that high fantasy novels have been more misses than hits with me (even though it's my favorite genre).  I guess I'm a bit unhappy with recent YA high fantasy debuts like Defiance or Throne of Glass, since I didn't really care for either.  Also, older stuff like the Dragonlance Chronicles looked as if they had all the ingredients to be awesome, but fell short.  (And then there's The Cup of the World, which isn't recent but it's just...I can't even begin to describe how it made me want to pound my head against a nice brick wall.)

And still, I gave this a shot.  (Sort of because I just wanted to see what the hype was all about.)  After all, it's high fantasy with plenty of intrigue.  I'm glad I tried it. 

Setting: ***** I love the setting. I really do.  Possibly because, unlike some people, I'm rather fond of the standard European-based fantasy setting, providing it's got enough unique elements to keep me interested.  And this one definitely did.  I like the weird seasons aspect, and I'm curious as to whether or not this will be explained in the rest of the series.  Or maybe it's just a thing that happens in this place just because they rotate around the sun differently or something.  I don't know. 

But, apart from the interestingly illogical weather, I still liked it.  The setting itself is so full of backstory, which makes it interesting.  Yay.

Characters: ***** I actually can't stand half of these people.  Um, I mean, there was some great character development going on here.  Even the people I didn't like *coughJoffreycough* were realistic and had distinct personalities and motivations (but no one likes Joffrey, anyway.  Do they?  How could you like someone who *spoiler alert-highlight to read* ordered Ned Stark's head chopped off? *end spoiler*).  And yes, a good portion of the people do drive me crazy, but I suppose that's the point.  You can't like everyone in a kingdom full of schemers and manipulators. 

And then I went ahead and made the mistake of picking out my favorite characters.  Arya Stark, Jon Snow, Bran Stark (I suppose I'm rather fond of all the Stark kids except Sansa), Tyrion Lannister, etc. (and I've got my eye on Theon Greyjoy, because I have a feeling he'll be up to something in the next few books).  Guess what happened to one of my favorites...he fell from a tower.  I've been told not to get attached to anyone in this series because George R. R. Martin is notorious for killing off major characters, but I couldn't help it. 

Plot: ***** It was a little slow, in places. Other than that, I really enjoyed it. The plot was compelling, probably because the characters were compelling, so I wanted to know what would happen to them.  It was very complex, too, which I enjoyed.  Sometimes it's just plain fun to sit down and immerse yourself in an 800+ page tangle of plots and schemes. 

Uniqueness: *****
I've heard some complaints that this series borrows too much from other fantasy series.  I could see some similarities, but...*shrug*  They didn't really bother me. 

Writing: ***** This story is actually told in about eight different POVs. (I didn't count--I just threw a number out there. If someone knows, please let me know!) While these confused me a bit at first, I ended up liking it. I got to experience the story from so many different angles, which I really enjoyed. Also, I never lost track of who was narrating.

Likes: Dragons!  At the end!  Yay!  Also, I really like this book's title.

Not-so-great: Nothing worth noting.

Other: (And once again, my image links have gone weird.  Oh well.  Anyway...)
Also, I'm wondering if I'd be a more successful fantasy author if I changed my middle initials to R. R.  Tolkein did it and became a bestseller, and so did George R. R. Martin.  (And for the longest time I was convinced Tolkein's full name was John Robert Robert Tolkein.  I don't know what made me think that.)

Overall: This book is well worth the time it takes to read all 800+ pages.  I grew attached to some of the characters, and wanted to know what would happen to them and what everyone would do.  It was so easy to sit down and immerse myself in the story.  It's wonderfully complex, and has so many different sides to it.  I'm glad I finally read it.

Similar Books: Eragon, the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Possibly Dragons of Autum Twilight?  aGoT is much more political than Eragon, and much less quest-y than LotR.  Its only similarities to DoAT are that they're both high fantasy and they both have this gigantic epic tome feel to them. 
*On second thought, no, I'm not sorry at all.
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  1. After reading your epic Loki post I just thought I'd see what else your blog offers ;)

    I have this book on my shelf. I haven't read it yet but I'm really looking forward to it. Usually I'm a firm believer that books should be read before their adaptations but I ended up caving in and watching Game of Thrones seasons 1 & 2 first. It took me a few episodes to get into but then something just clicked and I fell in love with it. My favourite characters so far are Arya, Daenerys, Jon Snow and Robb. I wouldn't say that Sansa is one of my favourite characters but I like her more then you do. She grated on me in S1 but I warmed to her a lot more in S2. What's your opinion of the TV show if you've seen it?

    1. I haven't seen the TV show yet, despite my frequent use of GIFs from it (I try to only use GIFs from things I've seen, but since I know what's happening and the context of GoT GIFs, I use them anyway). My guess is that reading the books is a different experience from watching the show, since there's just so much that can't be included in even an entire season of episodes. The books are probably more of a challenge than the show, but they'll also give you little tidbits and pieces that you'd miss otherwise. I've grown to respect Sansa a little more in the later books of the series, and I still love all the other characters you mentioned, Dany especially. Not only is she an incredibly strong character--based on the pictures I've seen from the show, it looks like she gets to have awesome hair and wear gorgeous dresses.

    2. Oh, I'm really looking forward to getting to know the characters and the overall story better. I have a few friends who are perfectly content to watch adaptations without bothering to read the books that they're based from at all - but I just can't understand that attitude! My brain can't process it :D And, yes, you're right. Dany gets some gorgeous outfits in the show although Emilia Clarke could probably wear nothing but a bin liner and still look stunning.

      Thanks for the reply BTW. It really bothers me when I leave comments on someone else's blog - sometimes long and detailed comments - and the blogger never responds to any of them. As a blogger myself I always try to respond to every comment that I receive. I guess that for bloggers with very large followers it's not always practical or easy to do this but it still frustrates me somewhat.

    3. I hope you enjoy reading the books as much as you enjoy the show! I can't understand the attitude of not needing to read the books, either. If I know a book is being adapted into a movie and it's something I might be interested in, I make a point of reading the book before I see the movie. In my mind, it just seems like the "right" way to do it.

      That is true, about Emilia Clarke. I will shamelessly admit to googling "Daenerys hair tutorial".

      You're welcome for the reply--and thanks for the comment! From the other end of the blogger-commenter spectrum, I really appreciate readers who take the time to write a thoughtful comment, something more than "I loved this book too!", and it seems only fair to respond if possible. Though I can understand not being able to reply to everything if you get hundreds of comments a day.


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