Monday, 30 March 2015

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones
A Game of Thrones
George R.R. Martin
 "Kings and queens, Knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men. All will play the Game of Thrones.
Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. It will stretch from the south, where heat breeds plot, lusts and intrigues; to the vast and savage eastern lands; all the way to the frozen north, where an 800-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond.
The Game of Thrones. You win, or you die."

   I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m not much of a fantasy fan. I’ve been getting a little more into it in recent years but generally, it’s a genre whose appeal has alluded me. Taking that into consideration, plus this novel’s impressive length, legion of characters, heavy lore and several sequels making up the as-yet-unfinished series and it’s perhaps unsurprising that, while I’ve harboured intentions to read this for some time…I’ve never quite gotten round to it.
   It was to my surprise therefore that not only did I enjoy this book, I raced through it, all but unable to put it down.

   The first point I should make is about the style. This book is incredibly readable; no small task given the huge cast and richly imagined world Martin has created. I often struggle with this type of book, to fully understand the world the author is trying to create but here I had no problem conjuring Westeros in my head.
   This may have been helped somewhat by having seen the first series of the television show before hand, it certainly helped me keep track of all the characters because, while each character is memorable and interesting, they each have multiple names, their full name, nickname, official title…and this can cause confusion, especially toward the start of the novel while the reader is still trying to get the world straight in their head.

   The chapters switch perspectives to several different characters, on both sides of the conflict that breaks out throughout the novel. When the Starks and Lannisters finally go to war, there are still plenty of chapters from Tyrion and Sansa Stark whose allegiance fall more toward the side of the “baddies”, which stops the novel ever feeling two dimensional.
   In fact Martin does a great job of making sure no character falls into the category of pure good and evil. Each character has their good qualities and flaws. Ned Stark may be the hero of the story, but he still makes mistakes and can be harsh and prideful at times, Tyrion may be the voice of reason but he still ultimately fights for the Lannisters.
   The lesser characters are fantastic too, especially those who sit on the King’s council in the capital city. Their constant scheming and backstabbing creates a brilliant atmosphere where you can truly never tell who is friend or foe.

   Not all of the characters read well however. Both Jon Snow and Bran’s chapters are incredibly dull. This has more to do with the nature of the series as a whole. Jon and Bran’s story arcs feel insignificant here but presumably play out over the course of the next six novels. Whereas Ned’s storyline is more immediate and plays out much faster in this single volume.
   And therein lies the only major problem I had with this book. It’s not a novel, it’s a first chapter. There are really no conclusions to be found here. One or two subplots get wrapped up, but it’s clear that the main plot threads have only just started, this can leave the overall experience of reading the novel feeling a little…pointless…you’ll want to pick up the next book straight away, which is all very well if you have volume two to hand, but if you don’t, it can be a frustrating finale.

George R.R. Martin    But is that really the biggest complaint I can make about the book? It makes you want to read book two? …yeah…it is. I adored this novel and found myself sucked in completely from the get go. Having put it down I’m itching to get onto book two…in fact…why am I still here writing this? I need to get to the bookstore now!
   So yeah…Game of thrones…it’s good…read it…


I’d also like to leave a quick message to thank everyone who took part in the Game of Thrones readalong on GoodReads and Youtube. Reading all your comments, seeing all your videos and sharing in your discussions on the book was a lot of fun.
I had a blast, we should do it again sometime.

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