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I’ve been a fan of fantasy stories for years, but for some reason I never picked up GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. I knew they were popular, they just never seemed to appeal to me. But after watching the first episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, I knew I had to read them and I bought the whole series immediately.
Like a lot of fantasy series, it is set in a medieval world, revolves around a group of noble families and their battle of the crown. But this feels like the original. It steers away from the traditional fairy tale happy ending, and actions may have terrible consequences.
Although at first it feels as if this series will just include a whole bunch of clichés (evil queen, wise old man, beautiful princess) GRRM manages to subvert them or at least develop the characters so that they have valid reasons for being the way they are.
Yes there is a lot of sex and violence, and some people will never be a fan of that, but the world building of Westeros is truly extraordinary, you can tell that thousands of hours must have gone into the development of this world as well as simply writing the book.
And if you finish the first book and aren’t fully convinced, I would urge you to continue. In the later books I feel the writing, the world and the characters settle down and become even more convincing as GRRM has got to know them more and really decided their personalities and motivations for their actions.
In the very beginning there was Game of Thrones, The book. This is where it begins & where the complexity & high standard is set to probably what will be the best fantasy series ever written. Martin is a genius & is not afraid to kill off even the most popular of characters whilst letting the evil continue. I thought I despised Joffrey from the series, yet his portrayal in the book shows he a more evil & vile creature. Some brilliant and well thought out characters, particularly the two little people Arya and Tyrion. Excellent book.
A song of Ice and Fire is the most popular epic novel these days. To be honest, I didn't know anything about this, until the TV show was released. After I saw the first season, I decided to buy the books. It was too much for me to wait 7 years to learn what is going to happen. Although, I didn't like reading books at all, this book made me so excited that I just wanted to read all the time. I couldn't have my hands away from it. I bought and read all the books 3 years ago. I would like to focus on the first book only in this review, because it was the first that made me so excited about this novel.
Game of Thrones introduce us to the imaginary world of Westeros. A world where seven realms were united and loyal to the king, Robert Baratheon. We follow the story of the Stark family, called as Warden of the North. As the story advances King Baratheon convince Lord Start to be his right hand. Then the game of thrones starts for Honor, jealousy, ignorance, survival and betrayal. Also, across the sea we follow the story of the rightful heir of the Throne who seeks power in order to defeat his enemies and reclaim his crown.
'Fantasy literature has never shied away from grandeur, but the sheer mind-blogging scope of this epic has sent other fantasy writers away shaking their hands...Its ambition: to construct the Twelve Caesars of fantasy fiction, with characters so venomous as they could eat the Borgias'. The Guardian
That phrase from The Guardian just summarize everything I think. In my opinion, Game of Thrones and the epic novel itself is a masterpiece. The characters are brilliant. The power George R R Martin managed to pass through them is astonishing.
As a conclusion, I want to recommend the TV Show also because if it wasn't there, I wouldn't knew anything about the books. There are seven books in total, 2 not yet released, and it is a collection that everyone must have.
I would not consider myself much of a reader...That is until I laid my eyes upon this piece of art. One evening I found myself perching on my couch, watching the tedious adverts you get when watching daytime television. Until I was presented with an commercial for a TV show. ''Game Of Thrones''. Instantly the thought of sword play and Kings sparked my interest. I soon found myself typing in the Google search bar, ''Game of Thrones'', to my delight I found it on a rental service called LOVEFiLM. A few days later I received a DVD which held the first two episodes of the show. From that point on George R.R. Martins work has been fascination. I watched the series with my Father. Both of us loving the encapsulating story line and the treachery and hostility of Westeros. In a few days we had watched all 10 episodes and was just thrown by the detail and boldness of the show. Although I have to admit the nudity scenes and the sex scenes where a little awkward to watch. So there we were hooked. We waited each year for the show to come out and watched it religiously. Now you''re thinking "This is not a review about the book". That''s when this little Gem entered my life. It was my 18th birthday and a box awaited me on the coffee table in the living room. I opened the box to find the box set of ''A Song Of Ice And Fire''. I did not start reading it for a little while because the size of the books was a little intimidating to someone who didn''t read all that much. Then one day i gave in and decided to tackle the obstacle. I picked up the book and started reading. It was a while until I put the book down again. George truly captured my imagination and this book opened the door to a whole new future for me. I started reading about houses and their history and story of Children of the Forest. Things that were not in the TV series. I soon discover a whole new level of detail in this series, it all started to make sense. The story was so much deeper and wider the the series could ever portray. I did not put this book down until I finished. The interesting thing found about this book was it was not written in the traditional sense of chapters. Each ''Chapter'' is written in a characters point of view. Which may or may not chronologically fit in with the previous chapter, but only with the whole story line and the individual storyline of that character. You will find yourself going from the northern most point of the kingdom, ''The Knights Watch'' to the capital city ''Kings Landing''. You will find yourself not only reading a story going forward but a history going back over thousands of years. It is truly remarkable to think all this came from one man''s mind. If you are looking for a book and not seen the series dive in and you''ll never look back or if you have and you don''t know weather to read on from where you have been left at in the series, I advise reading from the beginning. learn the whole story and you''ll realise the show does this art no justice. But remember "When you play the Game Of Thrones, you either Win or you Die"
When I was still a plucky student, a friend suggested Game of Thrones. I picked up this book at my local Waterstones, it was October if I remember correctly.
Incidentally, winter was approaching. "Winter is coming." That same phrase used throughout George R. R. Martins' series. What a series it is too.
Although somewhat slow, it doesn't take long for Game of Thrones to develop into an engaging tale. The seemingly disparate chapters, written from the points of view of many of the leading characters, quickly become entangled and provide the reader with a story that's as intense as it gets.
One of the great things about Martin's writing style is how he structures his story as points of view. It gives a nice insight into characters from all "sides." Thus, the author is able to weave a story of great complexity. It's not simply a tale of good versus evil. We, the readers, quickly learn to appreciate that Martin's fantasy world is one where honour and loyalty do not guarantee success, and nothing is what it seems.
It may be a fantasy story, but the fantasy is seldom seen. This isn't Tolkien's Lord of the Rings or Moorcock's Elric, and it most certainly isn't Rowling's Harry Potter. It is more about the struggles of people, who you grow to care about. You'll become attached to them and become witness to their fates, for good or bad.
A recommended novel. The first of a series, rich in plot, intrigue and suspense.
It's strange how one seemingly innocuous decision can change your life. It can do so on a big scale or a small one - if I'd bottled going out for a date with M r Rarr, for example, things would be very different, but it is a truth that applies to anything. It does make you wonder if fate is a reality...
On a far smaller scale, one day Mr Rarr and I were devoid of something to watch. I'd heard of Game Of Thrones of course - it has been a growing cult obsession for many over the last few years - but I had never truly felt overly curious about it. A little, yes, but not vastly. But there we were, flicking through the channels and realising there wasn't really much going. At the time Himself was getting DVDs for rent via LoveFilm, so after hearing about some moral kerfuffle about the Metro paper giving out a "spoiler" about an episode, and thus with Thrones still in my mind, I suggested we try it. He duly added it to the list, and a few days later episodes one and two arrived on DVD.
That was it. I was hooked. I'm a bit of a sucker for things involving swords, fantasy and some good costume, and it became apparent very quickly that this was effectively not dissimilar to a very grown-up Lord Of The Rings. Very grown up indeed - within the first episode you have plentiful beheadings, unexplained goings on in the snowy forests, and a certain ill-advised dalliance between two characters who probably should have known better. And attempted murder. And politics, brothel visitations...you get the idea.
But I love it. Now a couple of months on, I have both series available on DVD and the third on BlinkBox, and of course being a self-certified bookworm I had to read the books. Normally I would prefer to read a book first but this is the way it played out, and I ordered the first book hoping that I wouldn't find that HBO had bastardised the original work. Here are my thoughts on the first book in the series.
***GAME OF THRONES***
No flash in the pan, Thrones is the creation of George R R Martin and the author began this now phenomenally successful series back in the 1990s - and still hasn't finished it. So here' hoping he doesn't get hit by a bus in the foreseeable...
The first book is titled A Game Of Thrones - the actual series title is A Song Of Ice And Fire, but I guess the title of the TV show has become so popular that it is the main means of reference. The first book both earned various nominations and won awards, and a novella was apparently released of the chapters of a certain character which in turn also won an award.
For those who are fans of the series I will say this right now; book one in particular is very, very close to what you have seen - indeed so much so that it seems half the script is lifted directly from the book. So fair play to HBO on their faithful adaptation.
The plot introduces us to the land of Westeros, where the King of the Seven Kingdoms, Robert Baratheon, visits his old friend and former fellow soldier, Neddard (Ned) Stark. The King and his royal party, including his beautiful wife Cersei and her brothers, twin Jaime and the dwarf Tyrion of the influential House Lannister. He has a request to make of his friend that will change their lives and those of their families, and which effectively sets in motion the chain of events that the series documents.
Prior to this we see something of the land beyond The Wall - a massive structure of stone and ice that protects the majority of Westeros from the 'Wildlings' and the other supposed creatures beyond its safe defences. Guarded by a brotherhood sworn only to their duties, the book starts here with events that indicate something dark and dangerous is gathering strength whilst the rest of the world carries on thinking they are safe.
Further into the plot we leave Nd Stark's seat of Winterfell for the Southern city of Kings Landing, where Baratheon sits on the Iron Throne that he took, earning himself the name Usurper, from the Mad King of the Targaryen line. He sees Nd as his strongest ally, seems almost regretful that in his days as a magnificent warrior he took a Throne and with it the politics of royalty and indeed those of a less-than-happy marriage. Formerly besotted with Ned's now dead sister, his and Cersei's union is clearly both frosty and dangerous from the outset, and Robert's distrusts her twin Jaime, who carries the shameful moniker of Kingslayer for being the one who thrust his war sword into the back of the Mad King. All the former warrior truly wants to do is enjoy the life he has made for himself, hunt, eat, drink and find more welcoming women away from his wife, and he wants his only trusted friend, Ned, to help him rule. But before Ned can even leave for Kings Landing an event strikes the Stark family that means they must be torn apart - Ned and his daughters in Kings Landing, his wife Catelyn Tully and her sons in Winterfell. As a gesture to unite their houses, Robert betrothes his heir and firstborn, the golden-haired prince Joffrey, to Ned's eldest daughter Sansa.
We leave Westeros to see the last surviving relatives of the Mad King, the two young Targaryen's Viserys, who believes himself to be the Dragon King and is obsessed with reclaiming his throne, and Danaerys, his beautiful young sister. Now with no wealth and reliant on the support of mercenary traders away from home, Viserys sees his sister as his main asset and we soon see the thirteen-year-old girl sold into marriage with a terrifying Dothraki war lord on the basis that he will in return be granted an army with which he can reclaim his crown across the sea.
Back in Kings Landing, now in the role he was so unwilling to take, Ned Stark realises the realities of rule as he meets the members of the Council and realises that he can trust virtually nobody in the capital - and if he has any sense, he should suspect everyone. A strong, true man, Ned also wonders about the circumstances surrounding the death of his predecessor in the role of Hand Of The King, his old friend and husband of his wife's sister. Delving deeper, he discovers a secret that he cannot act upon quickly enough before circumstances take a different turn, and the actions that will create a war in the Seven Kingdoms play out.
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Perhaps even more enjoyable for those who have seen the adaptation because this is huge on a scale that would challenge many an imagination.
First of all let me be clear; this is pretty graphic stuff. I don't want to let too many spoilers into the mix but there is murder, beheading, incest, revenge, betrayal, war, violence, and a heck of a lot of sex going on. But it is not just done to shock, but is instead a very honest, frank and realistic tale of war and politics in the time and setting. Violence and power could rule, whether it should or not. Queen Cersei is a perfect personification of the events in the book - coldly realistic of her soulless political union to the King she once loved as a girl, who she now almost openly hates, passionate about only her firstborn son's path to the throne and the strength of her family House, manipulative and ready to use her beauty as a weapon the way all the men around her do their swords and lances.
A few notes on Martin's writing style; first of all, this is certainly hefty and requires plenty of attention - my rate of reading was slowed accordingly - because there are plenty of factions, families, Sers, Lords and Houses to keep track of. However, it doesn't quite cross the line into Tolkein-esque heavy-going; I think that a lot of this is down to the way Martin mirrors some aspects of reality within his characters. Some of the war terminology is the same and his use of character names are often slight variations on one we are accustomed to - Eddard / Ned, Catelyn / Cat, Petyr instead of Peter and plain old Robert go along with the more fanciful Stannis, Sansa, Theon et al. In a world where fantasy novels are so popular, it is a refreshing change to books where every girl seems to be called some variation on Illyria and the authors all seem to have sat down and tried to think of deliberately "made up" names with a set amount of syllables and mass abuse of the letter Y.
Now his characterisation. It is as strong as his storytelling - it is a testament to how well Martin accomplished the first task in his series that the adaptation is almost word-for-word identical. You feel the strength of character of Ned from the outset; his determination in carrying out his duties whilst never becoming blasé about the power his position holds. His marriage is Cat is one that has grown into love over time, despite the presence of a bastard son he returned from war with after their first year of marriage - the one weak point in Cat's own moral strength, a child she cannot bring herself to love. Their family is clearly a close one, with all their children well-crafted and believable as they play out their parts in the grander scheme.
Joffrey's character as the young heir to the throne is one that starts to grow more slowly than others but from the outset there are signs that his progression lacks the strength of character of the well-raised Starks; but his temperament expresses itself more through cruelty than weakness with time. His mother is convincingly dangerous and manipulative, the tiredness of the King with the life he finds himself living is palpable, and the self-serving, sly tactics of many of the Council make them convincingly terrifying. Ned's position is a tenuous one and this comes across strongly in the reading.
Across the sea the young Danaerys, terrified and embarking on a marriage to a violent and lauded warrior horse lord that she cannot even talk to because of their differing languages, carries a monumental story arc, as it is within the first series of the adaptation. She is younger in the book than she is shown to be in the series, but however open-minded we are about the arts I don't think the censors are keen on letting Sky broadcast a show in which a thirteen-year-old girl is sold into a marriage with a hulking great warrior and effectively raped. But even during that early phase of the relationship between her and her husband, there are signs of the seeds that will bloom into their true union; Dany grows up and quickly, and unlike her stubborn, self-obsessed and borderline insane brother she shows early on that she has the intelligence to realise that she can either be a victim or she can make the most of her situation. Feminists would have a fit, but the ensuing storyline that documents the development of her marriage, and her development as a character and as a young woman, is mesmerising and a visceral comparison to the political chess-playing of the Seven Kingdoms, and ultimately leads us to the brilliant climax of the book, an event that could change everything in the Game Of Thrones.
So I take my hat off to the writer; he's captured it all. The anguished mother, dutiful leader, frustrated King, scared young woman, the power-crazed, the manipulative, the exploitative, mercenary and dutiful. Love, revenge, honour and treason, anger and duty, everything is convincing from start to finish, and for the true fantasy fans there is just enough allusion to powers beyond the control of humans for us to know that the ensuing story is not going to be ended on the battlefield or in the throne rooms alone.
So in conclusion this is a hefty but rewarding read, engrossing and convincing and hugely enjoyable. I went straight from the first book to the second and lugged both hefty tomes around half the country with me on a work jaunt to do so, knowing that I was about to finish one. Literally, one went down the the next was picked up. You lose nothing if you have seen the adaptation, reading the books is a pleasure of its own and if anything allows a deeper understanding of the protagonists if you indulge in both options. I can't rate this highly enough - its time Dooyoo got a sixth star.
I seemed to keep coming across this story, either through people raving about the TV series, or through reading reviews of the books. I can be a little slow to join the bandwagon of popular culture, but from what I knew about this I decided to take the leap.
I bought the books in kindle format, alongside the DVD set of the first two series of the show for my husband for Fathers Day. He had heard less favourable things about it than me so he was a bit reluctant to start reading, but once he did I found that he was sat reading late into the night, and telling me that it was indeed something that I should read soon.
Unfortunately at the time I needed all my concentration to mark 1000 GCSE chemistry papers, so it has taken me an extra few weeks to get started on the series although I am now well and truly hooked too, and chomping at the bit to see what comes next.
Because I am reviewing this as kindle format, there are a couple of points that I have noticed from reading it in this format that might make some people prefer to read this in traditional paper format. This is a fantasy novel, describing lands that are fictional and unfamiliar to the reader. At the start of this novel there are a set of seven maps which show the places being described in the text. When I have seen this technique used in other fantasy novels, like CS Lewis's Narnia, or Tolkiens Lord of the Rings saga, I have found this really handy to refer back to while reading. I find this a lot harder to do with this novel as it is not easy in kindle format to do so, but also because the text was printed so small on the maps that I just couldn't read it that easily.
Secondly, because this is a large book, another difficulty I had is that the kindle does not show you page numbers, rather a % of what you have read so far. This percentage could read the same for a few chapters due to the sheer size of the novel. The chapters were also named after characters in the story. These names were repeated at regular intervals. With a traditional book you might use a page number to link to a chapter name to find your place again, but I was relying on the kindle to do this for me, and I didn't want to get confused where I was up to. Also, there is a list of all the characters and which family they belong to, but this is at the back, so I wasn't even aware of it till I had finished reading whereas in paperback I might have spotted it while reading. Little niggles, but it might be enough to prefer paperback for this book.
Winter is coming..... Who is prepared?
We are introduced to a world that is known as the Seven Kingdoms. Firstly we get to know this world from the North of this land. Eddard Stark is Lord of his lands. He has 3 legitimate sons and two daughters. He also has an illegitimate son living under his roof.
Life is hard in the North where it can snow in Summer, though in truth, the seasons are not like our seasons. The summer has lasted almost ten years, but the Stark's know that the Winter will be upon them soon.
Several events make the Stark family nervous. Firstly, they come across a litter of Direwolves in the snow. No living person has ever seen one before, but Jon, Eddard's illegitimate son, persuades Eddard that there are 6 wolves, one for each of his children. He thinks that is an omen.
Next, King Robert decides to come to the North for a visit along with his entire Court. Eddard has been friends with Robert since they were boys, but the Robert he sees before him now is not the man he knew then. Although it may be dangerous to do so, Eddard accepts a place as the Kings Hand and go to Court with him at Kings Landing - separating the Stark family.
Although this is a fantasy novel, the nature of man is well captured and it reminds me as much of reading a historical novel of our own country, for example when King Henry VIII was on the throne. Robert may be King, but all around him are spies and usurpers. Eddard may hold a position of power within Court, but he is unsure who to trust.
First the Queen whose interests lie with the House of Lannister, then the child heirs of the Targaryens who were in power before Robert.
Then there are the added confusion of the suspected murder of Eddard's predecessor, and some mysterious sightings of strange walking dead man called the Others who walk in the land beyond the North.
The story is told from varying points throughout the novel leaving me unsure at times who it really telling the truth. By telling the story from the viewpoints of many different characters, the overview of this world is so rich you can almost believe it as a historical account.
The centre stage is definitely the view of the Stark family members. We get chance to see things as the parents Eddard and Catelyn see them, but also the children have chapters from their viewpoint too. Jon, Bran, Arya and Sansa all see things in slightly different ways to the adults. Interestingly we never see things from the point of view of the eldest or youngest Stark family members. It is understandable when the youngest is only 3, but Robb Stark starts this as a boy, and ends as a man, and his point would have been interesting though perhaps very similar to his parents.
We also get to follow the action through the eyes of Tyrion Lannister. He is the brother to the Queen, though a bit of a joke in his family as he is a dwarf - not the golden children that his brother and sister are. However, I really liked Tyrion's character as he is a man of intelligence, and I really did empathise with how he gets treated for things he has no knowledge of. My sympathy only goes so far though when he rejoins his Lannister clan and I expect to see him in a new light again in the next book in the series.
The last viewpoint is a female called Daenerys - she is the last remaining descendent of the Targaryens along with her detestable brother Viscerys. Her story is interesting but she is only a child of twelve at the start of this book, and with all the action happening back at Court, it can be hard to keep in your head why her story is important to the whole. However, by the end of this first novel in the series, I was really impressed with how she had grown in strength and knowledge, and her character is a completely different one. Another who has been forced to grow up far too quickly through the action of adults around her.
The strength of this novel is the very vivid world created by author George R.R. Martin. It has a level of detail that could bore me if not done well, but here, we are taken through so much action that my attention was held throughout and I am itching to start book two. While it took me a short while to get my head around all the different characters, I have enjoyed this tremendously and would recommend to all who like to read. I am not what I would call a fan of fantasy - I much prefer a mystery and things more true to life normally, but here I have been totally hooked.
Don't let the length of this put you off - it is worthy of the time it takes to read it.
A Game of Thrones is the first book of the Song of Ice and Fire Series, by George R. R Martin. My brother in law has been trying to get me to read the series for quite a while now. He'd given me the first book during a clear out he was having, so it went onto my to-read pile. Although it did end up going further and further down the pile as many other things were placed on top of it! I knew it was a fairly popular TV series, but I'd never seen it and it didn't particularly appeal if I'm honest!
When I went on holiday recently, I thought I'd take it along, as my logic was that taking a fairly hefty tome with me, was that I would be minimising the amount of books I'd be taking! I added it to my hand luggage and started it on the plane!
A Song of Ice and Fire is a fantasy novel series which takes place across 2 continents, Westeros and Essos. There are 7 kingdoms in Westeros which were originally united under one dynasty, but then the downfall of that family led to the events that occur in A Game of Thrones i.e. a power struggle for the Iron Throne of Westeros.
There are 3 interwoven stories which are being told through A Game of Thrones. Firstly, the power struggle for the Iron Throne. At the beginning of the book, Robert Barratheon is on the throne, assisted by the King's Hand, Eddark Stark. I won't tell you the rest of this theme as it would give too much of the plot of the first book away! But suffice to say, just bear in mind that it's a power struggle, which occurs between the different noble Houses of Westeros. Secondly, on the Northern border of Westeros, is the Wall. It's an 8000 year old wall of ice, which defends Westeros from the Others. The Others are mythical creatures which pose a threat to the inhabitants of Westeros. The Wall is defended by the Night Watch, a group of protectors who prevent the Others from causing harm. Joining the Night Watch is known as "taking the black", and once you take you vow to be a brother of the Night Watch, there is absolutely no turning back. The punishment for desertion, is death. The third story is that of Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled princess and the last of her line. During A Game of Thrones, she is sold into a tactical arranged marriage and we see the beginning of her transformation from a thirteen year old pauper.
This story is told in the third person and each chapter is told by a different character from the stories. Each chapter jumps between the three different stories, which really does keep you on your toes. At the end of the book, is an appendix containing the Houses of Westeros. Make friends with this section, as if you are anything like me, you will find yourself nipping backwards to refer to the House listings, to say "aaah, so X is a member of so and so's court. Got it, got it" and delving back into the story. Each House is named, and the head of the House is listed and all the people who form his court and staff.
I'm at a relatively early stage of the series, however, I've formed some favourite characters so far! Lady Catelyn Stark is my favourite character in A Game of Thrones. She is the wife of Eddark Stark, the King's Hand and she is the mother of Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon. She really has her hands full, yet she handles life, politics and power with what I can only describe as a sense of grace and a large dose of confidence. I like that there is a woman in a series of this nature with such an incredible sense of self. I've also been told that there are other women in the series who are pretty amazing in a similar way! I've been told I can expect much more from Daenerys, which I am really looking forward to as even through one book, you can really see her character developing.
I also find Varys, the Eunuch, to be a really fascinating character. If it happens, he knows about it. He has eyes and ears everywhere, yet no-one knows who or how! Throughout the first book, I couldn't figure out what his agenda was, or whose 'side' he was on. At times I thought he was quite slippery and conniving, at times (particularly his conversation with Eddark Stark), I thought maybe his noble side was beginning to show. One thing is for certain, he is definitely cunning, but I'm quite intrigued to find out how he turns out. I know from conversations with my brother in law, that I can expect to gradually find out more and more about different characters throughout the series, I'm certainly looking forward to it!
I found the first couple of chapters to be quite difficult going. I was unfamiliar with the style of writing and being such an epic (and I certainly don't use that word lightly!) series, I found it difficult to get my head around the many different houses and Kingdoms. However, I decided to persevere, as I wanted to know what all the fuss was about, as I'd heard a fair few people raving about the tv series. I'm glad I did, as I am completely hooked on the series so far. I've not finished the books which have been published so far (there are seven in the series at the moment and two more are to follow).
I was given my copy of A Game of Thrones for free, as it was part of a clear out (my brother in law in a kindle devotee! His large collection of books is gradually being distributed to various charity shops). This was quite clearly a bargain on my part! However, you can get hold of A Game of Thrones on amazon for £3.95 which I think is a fabulous price, particularly as the recommended retail price is £8.99! Even at that price, you get a lot of book for your buck as it's a huge 864 pages long... and that's just the first instalment.
For a while I have been hearing about the show, Game of Thrones, and how 'awesome' it is. Slightly late to the bandwagon, I have now watched all 3 seasons. But, being a bookworm, I decided that I needed to read the books. Mainly because I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything, but also because I have no patience and wanted to find out what happened next.
A Game of Thrones is the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. There are several books and novellas in the series, along with a second series being written - a fair few to keep me busy for a while! It is a lovely thick book at 804 pages long, which is part of the reason I bought it; I'm a bit of a sucker for long books! It was originally released in 1996, but has been re-released to tie in with the TV series (there is one with the lovely Sean Bean on the cover). I will try my best to be as spoiler free as possible, but do let me know if you feel one has snuck in there somewhere.
The book focuses on three main locations. The first is Westeros, made up of seven kingdoms which are overseen by Lords and ruled by King Robert Baratheon on the Iron Throne (well, the throne is made out of a lot of swords, but it is called the Iron Throne). Each Kingdom tends to be ruled by a family, with several other families answering to them; a key kingdom is the northern realm of Winterfell, overseen by Eddard Stark and his family. Ned is a close friend of King Robert, having helped him overthrow the Mad King. We begin the novel with a visit from Robert to Winterfell to 'ask' Ned to become his Hand - his primary advisor - after his previous one suddenly dies. Ned reluctantly agrees, if only to try and protect his friend, and takes his daughter Arya and Sansa with him. This leaves his sons Robb, Bran and Rickon at Winterfell with their mother Catelyn. When Ned reaches King's Landing, and his new role, he seen discovers a lot more than he wanted to, with repercussions that may spread all the way back to Winterfell. Being the Hand of the King isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern lands over the sea (they always seem to be across the sea don't they?), Viserys and his younger sister Daenerys Targaryen are setting in motion his plan to regain the Iron Throne, which had been stolen from their father (coincidentally, he was the Mad King). Daenerys is married off to a horse lord in exchange for use of his army. Unfortunately, Khal Drogo takes time with his end of the bargain, and Dany becomes used to her new role as Queen, beginning to become a stronger character, rather than the timid girl we first meet. And in possession of three fossilised dragon eggs, whose race has long been extinct...
The final setting for this book is The Wall, a 300 mile, very, VERY, high structure made of ice, rocks and if the rumours are true, a little bit of ancient magic. Its role is to stop the Wildlings from the North from invading Westeros, and is guarded by the dwindling NightsWatch. Their newest member is Jon Snow, Ned's bastard son, who has pledged his life to the NightsWatch; a pledge that means no marriage, no children, and death if you desert. However, Jon quickly finds that this once noble guard is made up of men serving time in prison for very questionable acts, or sons sent away from their families. All must be trained to be of use to the NightsWatch, as they are the first line of defence against the Wildlings, no matter where they came from. Even so, beyond the Wall something is stirring; an old wives' tale is come to life again, and Winter is Coming...
The book is told from eight characters points of view; each chapter is a character and keeps you up to date with what's going on where. The chapters are written in third person, but from the set character's point of view. This works well as it means there is a set person to focus on (and therefore a set location), but you aren't always limited to only the things they 'see' - although at times Martin does seem to do this, it ensures he has scope to elaborate a little more than I feel you could with a first person story. As the book goes on, certain characters get more time than others, but this is just to do with their story at the time - it's where the most important happenings are at the time. There's no set order to whose turn it is, which is a good thing otherwise I think it would probably become a little repetitive, and not flow as well as it does. The stories follow the same timeline (thank goodness - I don't particularly want to start jumping around in time as well as location), and as I've said before, who you are 'with' depends on what is going on at the time.
The eight storylines, and the several characters do make it hard to follow at times, although the set 'storytellers' do make it a little easier. I did find myself flicking back and forth to refresh my memory and realise the links between some characters. Luckily they have relatively different names - give or take a few - which makes life a little simpler again. I found that watching the first series of Game of Thrones really helped me follow what was going on, and a few of my fellow readers have said the same. But I do know people who have read the book without watching the TV programme, and they managed to keep up with the characters (mostly), so it's not too bad I suppose!
One thing I discovered is that despite the large cast of characters, the book was very readable. I managed to get halfway through it in about 6 hours - considering it is a large book and I was accompanied by a coach-load of children, I think that says a lot! I did slow down after that, mainly because I knew what was coming and didn't want to get to it - definitely a down-side to watching the show before reading the book! It is incredibly well written, and the detail is of a standard you would expect when one writes a fantasy novel. It was easy to imagine the world of Westeros, and see the Wall - and this has been said by people who may not have been tainted by watching the show. A heads up that I will give is that A Game of Thrones is quite graphic, both violence-wise and sexual-wise. This very much puts the book in adult fiction; I wouldn't even let a teenager read it, which is why when I saw a 12 year old reading it in school, I wasn't impressed! There are more graphic moments in later books, and some readers may not find this one overly graphic, but it needs to be said as it was a bit of a surprise - yes, I have seen the show, but I just presumed is was HBO giving it 'The Tudors' treatment, rather than being quite true to the book. It hasn't put me off reading it, but I am a little more careful where I read it!
I found that there are one or two storylines that I loved the most; the plight of little tomboy Arya to be more than just a girl, alongside the story of her sister, Sansa who is trying to be the best lady possible so she can marry Prince Joffrey, Robert's son. As with a lot of sisters, the girls are the complete opposite, but try their best to get along for their father (well, most of the time). It's so interesting how their stories develop, and even how their wants change along the way. You find them both becoming more like each other in some ways, and I love seeing this happen, and look forward to seeing how this continues. At times these aren't my favourite stories, but looking back these are the ones that stick out in my memory most - so there must have been something about them!
Graphicness and my own knowledge of what happens aside, I really loved A Game of Thrones. It is again different to some of my favourite fantasy novels; even though there is some mention of magic, there isn't really any use in this book, and it's quite refreshing. I do find a lot of fantasy novels tend to rely heavily on magic, whereas A Game of Thrones is about the people, the battles and a little bit about the bedroom. You get more of an insight into the political workings of the families struggling for power (or in some cases, not struggling), which is really interesting and done in a way not to bore the reader. There is backstabbing (sometimes literal), intrigue, murder, battles and a fair few moments where you don't want to read anymore, but dive back in because you can't help yourself! I am currently half way through the second book and still love it - it will definitely be a book I come back to, and it's a shame it has taken me until now to discover it; although it does mean that there are plenty of books for me to read now!
So, I read most of this book in my last week at university. It was absolutely captivating and exactly what I like reading. It almost sucks you into a world in which you follow the lives of many great characters, and some not so nice! I actually ended up having about a 4 week break from the book as I was moving house, but as soon as I picked up the book again I couldn't put it back down!
I have always enjoyed fantasy books, from being very young and loving the Harry Potter series, to growing up and reading books like Lord of the Rings. I can certainly say, that if those are books that you have read and enjoyed in the past, then this is most definitely for you!
I would suggest this book to a multitude of people, however, perhaps younger audiences may wish to stay away for a few more years, as there are graphic descriptions that may not be suitable for them. But, those of you that may have holidays or time to spare in the evenings, I would suggest giving it a try, simply to hope that you become as captivated as I did.
One of the greatest things about this book is that it is part of a series of books by George R. R. Martin. Allowing you to not just be captivated into the world for a single book, you can revisit the world on numerous occasions, each time with a progression in the story. Whilst still having an enjoyable read each time, without an ending that is simply unsatisfying, in order to force you to purchase the next novel.
A Game of Thrones - A Song of Ice and Fire - George R. R. Martin
Why read this one?...
The show that was based on this saga was outstanding and when the first season ended I wanted to know what was to come, the only thing being that I don't have access to Sky. It made sense to read the first book to get a feel for the writing style and I would have felt cheated if I missed out on book one and read the second straight away. So it was that the journey began as intended - in prose.
Winter is coming. Not as we know it. In these lands when the long summer ends it gives way to not just a change in weather. 'The Others' encroach into new territory when climate allows and this can only be a bad thing for the warm bloodied beings. Eddard Stark is from the North and his clan motto is 'Winter is coming' because he and all Starks are aware of what winter means. Eddard's good friend King Robert sits the throne in troubled times, his wife is of the Lannister clan and she is not all that she seems - beyond beauty is something entirely different. Further afield the Targaryon's plot amongst the barbarians to take back the throne. If you play the game of thrones be prepared to die - if you fail to win there is no other option than death.
Let the game begin...
Only a few pages in to this tome I was impressed. The descriptive style that Martin possesses is captivating and vivid. I was concerned that I may be impatient or even a little bored revisiting what I already knew from seeing the series quite recently but that was definitely not so. If at all possible this prose is more colourful and rewarding than the impressive televised offering. I was hooked on the writing style and knew the tale to be good - in a way this experience was to provide hidden insight that I had missed whilst viewing the saga.
It soon became obvious that I had an advantage having already become accustomed to the numerous names of clans and characters. I thought that I may have struggled to remember who was who if I hadn't already met them. I am undecided if seeing the portrayal of the characters was a good thing or not - I already had faces to put to names and may have missed out on conjuring up my own impression of what they looked like from the descriptions - either way it mattered not as I was enjoying this book immensely.
Martin has presented the chapters via each character/protagonist. I like this very much as it helped me to understand and keep up with what was occurring. The pace of the prose is good and it seems that there is always something happening. I cannot recall any lengthy sections of build-up and that suited me as I like to be entertained throughout rather than reading reams of description.
I like the appendix at the end of the book which details all houses - including the main ones of The Starks, The Lannisters, The Baratheons and the Targaryons. There are more but for me these were the prominent and most interesting ones. I have sat and thought for days which character I believe to be the main protagonist in this book - I am struggling as my interests initially lay with Lord Eddard Stark and I would have named him, but I am drawn to Daenerys Targaryen - the last of the dragons. She completely enthralled me and I really rooted for her. I think due to her having a marriage and subsequent relationship/romance with Khal Drogo of the Dothraki that got my attention all the more. The fact that she has three ancient dragon eggs and rides a stunning horse named Silver may have had something to do with it too - none the less she is one of the main protagonists along with Lord Eddard. I understood more when I read the book about Eddards' traits and changed my feelings towards him a little - he is very noble and honourable and wants to always do the right thing but I hadn't realised that this cost others dearly at times. This information may have changed my views of him but in the end I still held him dear. The same cannot be said about his good friend Robert Baratheon who sits on the Iron Throne as King. This once active and capable man of action has worked on developing a belly of ale and working his way through as many ladies as possible since becoming the King and is rarely in court to rule, this task he prefers to leave to his council. Martin has done a very good job with this character and he is believable, in comparison to Eddard Stark he pales into insignificance and out of the two of them Stark should be on the throne.
The prose can be rather testing of your memory as it contains numerous family members from past and present. All characters are relevant and it feels akin to reading a history book, I was fascinated with the lineages and wars that had led to the present day situation. Some of the events are horrific and barbaric - but when you play the game of thrones you have to be prepared to die and this may also cause the death of your babes.
Throughout the prose the plot weaves like a web and the more that you glean from the pages the more you want to know. Who is on whose side? Is it safe for newly appointed Hand of the King, Lord Eddard Stark, to place his trust in any council member? They seem to be working with him, but then they have fingers in lots of pies and one of those belongs to Queen Cersei of the Lannisters. The Lannister name soon became quite toxic as that is what they seem to be - they want power and have the money to get it, they will walk over anyone to get where they want to be. Either work with them as a puppet on a string or lose your head - where are your morals now, do you hold to what you know is right or do you bow to them and see wrong happening all about you? What to do? Lord Eddard Stark - what will you do? One of the Lannisters did endear himself to me in his own odd little way; he is a dwarf and his name Tyrion. He has a wonderful way with words and is clever and somewhat wise at times - this appealed but what appealed more was his element of compassion that none of his siblings or his father possess. Tyrion is different and I wait to see if he holds to those attractive traits in difficult circumstances - will blood be thicker than water I wonder. Lots to think about and lots to come. The plot thickens.
Part of the game of thrones involves Eddard's elder daughter, Sansa, wedding the Lannister boy named Joffrey. There always has to be a nasty little so and so and in this case step forward Joffrey. He is spiteful and mean, hateful and seeking power which seems to run in the family (with Tyrion the exception). Sansa is impressionable and dotes on her Prince. She fantasises and imagines herself and her Prince as in the love songs and romantic prose that she reads often. Her younger sister Arya has more substance than Sansa has in her little finger and initially I didn't like Sansa due to her silly materialistic and idealist values - then I remembered that the girl was only eleven and thought what a clever bit of observation this was by Martin. He got me to feel the way that I did by many comparisons between Sansa and Arya, along with some difficult choices that the two of them will make. Further into the book Sansa appeals to me a little and I hope to see her develop some wisdom and see the Prince for what he is - a spiteful little brute who gets others to do his dirty work and cares nothing for his bride to be. Good job there Martin, a real villain in the making.
My favourite times in the prose are spent with the young dragon known as Daenerys Stormborn - she is the last of the Targaryens and therefor the last of the dragons. I am always fascinated by dragons and as the prose unfolds I learn more about the sensations and empowerment that this young lady is developing in relation to that. She has a brother, Viserys, who bullies her constantly and has claims to the throne of his own. He is another one who is very easy to dislike as he uses his sister to bargain with the Dothraki in order to build an army of their men. He is physically and mentally abusive to Daenerys so it was refreshing to see her build confidence and courage - I like that in a female character. I could see that even though she feared her paternalistic brother she was far from weak, she had strength in her that would develop and I waited to see the outcome with great interest. I was not disappointed.
There are some shocking and sad times throughout the prose which is fitting of the genre. This is after all a game of thrones - all know the stakes. This does not make it easier for me to read when I have become attached to a character or being. Other beings in the book which definitely appeal are the dire wolves. These are larger than normal wolves and feared by men and horse, but after a litter of pups are found and rehomed amongst the Stark clan these beasts become of great interest and I loved them. One in particular, a white one named Ghost, belongs to Jon who is Eddard's bastard son. Jon is another protagonist who I followed with interest and eventually he has a place in my heart too - his traits are very appealing. He has compassion and is fiercely loyal.
Coming to the end of the book there were no surprises due to having seen the show but that didn't spoil it for me at all because the prose is stunning, absolutely stunning. If you are reading this book without having seen the show then be prepared for the unexpected in more ways than one - it will not disappoint.
www.bookbutler.com will do a full online search for the lowest price.
www.amazon.co.uk stock it and the RRP is £8.99
No matter if you have seen the show or you are a complete newbie to this saga I can highly recommend this book to you if you fancy the genre. Martin is very talented with his descriptive style and conveys the content vividly so that you are captivated by what is on each and every page. Don't worry he doesn't overdo it on the description and all is appropriate. The plot is full of twists and turns and there is double dealing and back stabbing as you would expect - but this is done exceptionally well. As opposed to the series the sexual content is kept to a minimum and sometimes only hinted at, I thought that fitting as the story needs no extra titillation. Characters are developed well and I soon became attached to my favourites, others I developed an aversion to - this was very clever writing on Martin's part and I am impressed. There are lots of house names and family members to recall but Martin is kind and helps out with that every so often, I don't think I would have had a problem if I hadn't seen the show. An absolute treat of a read, it is big at 801 pages but worth it.
Published on Ciao
© Dawnymarie 2013
My fantasy credentials are nothing beyond the 'norm' - The Hobbit, Narnia, Harry Potter etc with a little humorous fantasy thrown in, such as Robert Rankin and Douglas Adams. The point is - I'm not a hardcore fantasy fan and would never have picked up A Game of Thrones, had it not been for all the superlative reviews it gets. After all, 862 five-star reviews on Amazon can't be wrong! However, having now finished the first book, I also get why there are 32 one-star reviews. The thing is ... A Game of Thrones is, in novel terms, the start of what is supposed to be a long relationship. This, the reader knows, is never going to be a tale that's done and dusted in one sitting (or one book).
If you go into GOT with this in mind, and view this first (albeit long) book as the set up for what's to come, I think it helps. I've not read the others yet - but I do believe that this series is going to get better and better. Yes, there's a huge cast of characters and many different POVs, with chapters alternating each time (and often taking a long while to return to a particular character) - however, this is clearly an epic tale. It's not for a lazy reader or someone who wants a quick read. Dare I say it (without wishing to offend anyone who didn't like it) but it requires a certain level of intelligence to stay with it and 'get' it. That's not to say people who didn't like it aren't intelligent - but the novel does take some thought and input. Yes, you may have to flick to the end and remind yourself who certain characters are (the X-ray feature on Kindle comes in very handy for this). Yes, you might have to concentrate on the history a little. But it does pay off. This isn't a book that you can read in a semi mindless fug. You have to buy into it, engage with it and give it a bit of time and effort.
You will NOT reach the end of the book and feel satisfied in any way. It is NOT a stand-alone book. But anyone coming to it surely knows that - there are 7 books so far in the series, they're all like doorstops, so this first novel is only going to touch on what's to come.
Turning to the fantasy element ... personally, I found this to be more like an historical novel. It could almost be true. As other people have mentioned, the fantasy elements (at least in book one) are very vague and not in the forefront of the action. This reads more like a medieval tale of knights and kings and battles. There are hints of supernatural and dragons which are clearly going to become more present as the series progresses. However, don't be put off of this book if you think it's pure fantasy.
So, did I enjoy the book? Yes - to the extent that I think this is something you need to invest time in (on-going) to reap the rewards. I appreciate the sheer genius behind the plotting. To plot one novel must be hard enough - to plot seven with such a huge cast is the work of a literary giant. The writing itself is very good - excellent in parts. My slight criticism of the novel is that there's no real pace to it - it all sort of trundles along at the same speed. There are no cliff-hangers or sudden increases in pace. But, again, in the great scheme of things, this whole novel is sort of akin to chapter 3 of a regular book! The world GRRM has created is immense and, like real life, it takes time for things to unfold. Many people gripe that favourite characters are killed off - and, even though I knew it was coming somewhere (that someone of import would be given the heave-ho), I was still shocked when it happened. I was delighted too. It made the book more real. It takes a brave writer to kill of strong characters - people they've invested time in developing and who are actually liked by the reader. It rarely happens - and, for that alone, the author has to be applauded. As Cersi comments in the novel - 'When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die'. GRRM stands by his own 'rules'. The book is gritty, violent and, despite the fantasy element, utterly believable. He brings you passion, intrigue, humour, compassion, violence, cunning and so much more - he serves you life on a plate and, like life, what you get isn't always what you wanted!
The main question, when concluding a book that's 800-odd pages long, is 'will I read the next one?' Yes, I most certainly will. I have given GOT four-stars simply because it's not a stand-alone read. It doesn't 'work' fully as a single book. It's unresolved - and, due to that, I can't give it five stars. But it is worthy of five stars and I know many people are retrospectively rating this series - which makes me think that it will get even better. However, for me personally, I can't give full marks to a story whose conclusion is still hanging because I still don't have the full picture. I am definitely looking forward to the next 'chapter' in GOT though!
A close friend spent years trying to get me to read George R.R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice. She knew and told me exhaustively that I would adore Tyrion, the smart, snarky but emotionally damaged dwarf son of the Lannister family. She told me how awesomecakes Dany, the exiled princess of the thrown out rulers, was. That Jon Snow would be catnip was also made clear.
Yet, I have a pending pile of To Be Read books in both dead tree and e-book format and so told her that I would think about it and get round to it.
Then it was made into a telly show. And the cast was amazing and that combined with me knowing that the story was also amazing meant I gave it chance.
I got hooked.
I watched the first couple of episodes and could not wait any longer to see the story play out. I headed to Amazon and ordered the four books of the series which were out and minutes later they arrived onto the Kindle app on my beloved Droid.
And despite having to go and visit family, I read all four books in just over a week. I might not have been great company, but I did have a great story to read.
My mate was right. I adore snarky, damaged Tyrion, brave but struggling Dany and Jon Snow is catnip.
I was comprehensively spoiled by my mate for most of the big OMG twists and turns in the story in the years of trying to get me to read this. This did ease the pain for what happens to Walking Spoiler in this book and the first series of the show and did add an evil frission of amusement to watching the reaction to it online. I am also looking forward to the sweet summer children's reaction to other events. /Evol.
I was also spoiled for the last big twist in this book. But pretty much anyone would be if they bought this book with the cover shown. If only on the, if you show Dragon Eggs in the first act, they must hatch by the last act factor.
I won't spoil you for anything the cover does not give away. This book and series is amazing spoiled and even better unspoiled - as I got to experience in the latest book, which popped onto my Kindle app before it even came out in the US and my American friends could spoil me.
Mind you, I do read so fast, they would have found it hard. I read the first four books in ten days. These are not small books - hence my e-book choice. In dead tree format, they are wrist-crackers.
The way the books are written, in close third person point of view which moves from one character to another before returning to one of the earlier POV characters means that you can follow one character's
journey by following his or her chapters. This works best with characters whose stories are more on their own rather than the more intertwined characters who are in the same place. However, to get the best effect and follow this complex and interweaving story it is best to at least read the whole in order at least once.
This is essential as this story has a cast which is even larger than the show. Martin does include a who is in which noble house, band of brothers defending a Hadrian's Wall on steroids, horde or other grouping and this is very necessary - and only becomes more so in the later books, which are even larger.
This mass of characters inhabit two continents, one of which looks a bit like Britannia if it were the size of South America. Their world sees the seasons last years or even decades. which resulting effects on economic and social development.
The story was broadly based on the Wars of the Roses, as is the level of technology. There were dragons in this world and monsters north of the Wall, but when we and this book open, they are long gone.
Martin gives us a real world, with dragon eggs. One character goes on a journey through Westeros' version of the Thirty Years War. This is Grim and Gritty Fantasy, which is why it feels real. Horrible things happen to nice and horrible people. Good people do bad things and vice-versa.
The rotating POV structure means that we don't just follow the Stark family south and follow them. We follow Dany's journey from frightened girl sold by her abusive brother to a barbarian she cannot understand. We follow Tyrion and grow to love him. And we get a complex story where we can understand most of the protaganists but they are all in the contest for The Game of Thrones and unless at least some of them can come to a Tudor type compromise, Stark and Lannister will destroy each other and the Queen over the Water will never come home.
Martin is not the fastest writer in the world for this series, as he has a huge number of other writing committments. His fandom, and now I, do live in fear that this series will not be finished. But even if the worst happens, I will never regret reading this series. It will live in my head forever.
Don't make the mistake I did and wait so long.
Read it. You will not regret it.
Amazon sells the Hardback (for those with wrists of steel) for £12.15. The paperback (still heavy) retails for £6.74. My choice, the Kindle version costs £3.68, which is great value for 864 pages.
May be cross-posted to Ciao.
I love a good Epic Fantasy novel and this book begins one of the great fantasy series of our time.
I think George RR Martin is a great writer. So much that after getting up to date with A Song of Fire and Ice I went to start a new fantasy series I hadn't read before, and a good series too at least from what I read online but I got around 12 pages in and stopped because it just wasn't as good as a Game of Thrones.
From interviews and such I have seen from George R.R Martin his staple is "grey characters" and they come by the wagonload in this series. He's got a great array of view point characters, struggling through or revelling in a world full of double dealing, manipulation, backstabbing and war. He sets a strong tone very early on in the book and never once looks back throughout. But it's also very involving book, there are characters in this series I avidly hate and hope very much they get what they deserve and I can't wait to find out. I would also say this isn't a series for the soft hearted, this is not an average Fantasy novel where the Hero will save you, not by a long shot.
A truly beautiful and epic series of books, full of character and smooth plot. I bought the 1st book and was enthralled-the narrative flows, the characters are so alive and the pace of the story flows beautifully along several strands. I highly recommend this book if you want to escape into another realm
Book Series: A Game of Thrones