Thursday, June 26, 2014

"A Game of Thrones (ASoIaF #1)" by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones is the first book in an unfinished series (expected to be 7-8 books long, only 5 are published) called A Song of Ice and Fire, often shortened to ASoIaF, which I used for the header of my post.

If you do not want to read about any of the following: incest, murder, rape, discrimination, child abuse, gray morality, sex (of a wide variety), characters you love dying, injustice, swearing, arranged marriages (with men twice the age of their brides), and other such historical topics, feel free to click on another review (visit my Archive, I've worked hard on it). This book isn't for you, so don't bother reading my critique of it (this book contains material that may set off triggers for those of us with things we'd rather forget).

The story of how I came across A Game of Thrones is a bit murky. I may have picked it up before I watched the first episode on tv, or I may have picked it up out of curiosity at my neighborhood Walmart and subsequently watched the tv show. Either way, I ended up with it, and was very confused while first reading it.

The initial confusion resulted from a number of things- despite it clearly stating "fantasy" on the back cover, it also mentions "historical", leading me to read half the book trying to place it on our map, regardless of the book's provided one. For most of the book, it seems so like some of our medieval history that I filed it in my brain under "historical", but was glad when I finally puzzled out it was actually fantasy.

The (Bare Bones) Plot:
Eddard (Ned) Stark is fulfilling his duty as protector of the North admirably, along with raising his children (and bastard son), up until one day when he receives word that Jon Arryn, his father-figure and the King's Hand is dead. The King of the Seven Kingdoms (Robert) arrives in his region shortly after, proposing that he become the King's Hand, and betroth his daughter Sansa to the heir apparent Joffrey. But when a suspicious letter warns that the last King's Hand was murdered, can Ned afford to accept?

There are so many plots wandering in this book that it makes the head spin. The book is called A Game of Thrones because there are so many characters vying to fill the seat of King (or Queen) of Westeros, or trying to become more powerful, or simply trying to survive. You can pick from a wide variety of characters to cheer on, mostly because Mr. Martin is notorious for killing off main protagonists and main antagonists.

Characters To Watch (There Are Many): [Underlined Indicates My Faves]

The Stark Family (including Jon Snow, who knows nothing, and their ward):
  Eddard (Ned): the father, who does become the King's Hand, and is too just for his own good.
  Catelyn: the mother (to all but Jon Snow, who she loathes), one of the stronger females out there, who will do anything for her children.
    Jon Snow(/Stark) [14yrs]: the bastard, who is also too just for his own good and knows nothing, but more than Robb.
    Robb [14yrs]: the heir to Winterfell (the North), who is a bit dull (in my opinion).
    Sansa [11yrs]: gets a lot of crap from readers (and viewers) because she's naive and not a tomboy.
    Arya [9yrs]: the badass of the family. Also a girl, in case you were wondering.
    Bran (Brandon) [7yrs]: the curious one... who pays for it.
    Rickon [3yrs]: he is three, so he's not that impressive yet.
  Theon Greyjoy: the ward of Eddard Stark, with a rather gray view of morality, hangs with Robb.
All of the Stark children have direwolves, including Jon Snow. I also have a direwolf (the toy version):
Aww... Isn't she sweet? No pale skin was marred in the production of this photo.
The Last of the Targaryens, Previously Rulers of the Seven Kingdoms:
  Princess (only in title) Daenerys (Dany) Stormborn [13yrs]: is forced to wed a man twice her age, Khal Drogo, by her brother, who she expected to be wed to in the Targaryen tradition.
  The Beggar Prince Viserys: her brother, who is quite vile, and elder than her.

The Current Royal Family of the Seven Kingdoms (The Baratheons):
  King Robert: the King, a bear of a man who is now overweight.
  Queen Cersei (formerly a Lannister): twin to Jaime Lannister, will do anything to protect her children.
    The Heir Apparent, Prince Joffrey [12yrs]: a snobby little brat with a mean streak.
    Princess Myrcella [8yrs]: sweet, but rather unimportant in this book.
    Prince Tommen [7yrs]: isn't seen much in this book, but not as awful as his big bro.
  Stannis (Robert's brother): Lord of Dragonstone.

The Lannisters (as featured on Sunday Fun 5: Villains)
  Tywin: the father of Jaime, Cersei, and (grudgingly) Tyrion, and evil mastermind.
    Jaime: Known as the Kingkiller for killing the Targaryen king, the heir to Casterly Rock, also evil.
    Tyrion: the misfit, a dwarf (or little person), blamed by his father for killing his mother, not evil.

If you are a fan of realistic fantasy, history, and gray morality, this series is ideal for you. A lot of the plot points can be found in our real world history, leading to me mistaking it for a weird historical fiction. While there is magic and mythical creatures in this book, it isn't very prevalent. There isn't a lot of fantasy-speak or historical-speak either- many of the conversations feel like they could have taken place in our world.

A Game of Thrones is an epic fantasy that continues to shock legions of fans who have either read or watched the tv series. If you have only watched the tv series, do yourself a favor: read the books. I gave up on watching the tv series after my reading outpaced it (it only took me a month and a week to read all five books), and I must say I liked my reading experience much more than watching the show, despite all the actors being utterly perfect for their collective parts. If you are looking for a book that shuns the traditional elements of epic fantasy, this book is for you.

Rating: It's a masterpiece, but some of it (married at 13, anyone?) perturbed my delicate sensibilities. 4.5 stars.

Content: Ages 18+, I read it at 18, but recommend you read my list of vices at the top before reading.

Page Count: 807 pages in my edition, with page count rising in subsequent books

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