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Be warned! Winter is coming.......
A Game of Thrones: Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire - George R. R. Martin
Member Name: cha97mw
A Game of Thrones: Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire - George R. R. Martin
Advantages: a vivid world of Kings and Court are created, keeping me hooked from the start
Disadvantages: quite lengthy, hard to look back at maps
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.
Summary: The Game of Thrones is a matter of life or death - there is no inbetween.