A GAME OF THRONES (A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, Book 1) By George R. R. Martin [Review]

A Game of Thrones book cover

Winter is coming. This is Westeros, and when winter comes, it lasts for years. Powers are rising, allegiances are shifting. Across the sea, the dethroned prince and princess plot to avenge their legacy. In the Seven Kingdoms a king’s reign is drawing to a close and civil war threatens. And a force beyond the Wall threatens the land with evil. This is A Game of Thrones, one of the best fantasy novels of all time.

Several years ago a friend advised me to read the first book in a series called A Song of Ice and Fire. It sounded very grand, and I love my fantasy novels to be of the epic ‘save the world’ brand. My friend described the series to me: a bunch of people on a mission to save the world. Sounded like my cup of tea.

“A bunch of people on a mission to save the world” is probably the only way my friend could describe the book to me. Aptly trying to articulate the mass of sprawling storylines, the vast array of characters, the very history and setting of the world of Westeros would be a more complex feat than studying calculus and watching Jersey Shore simultaneously. But this is not a bunch of people on a mission to save the world. This is a bunch of people on a mission to save themselves. There is no Fellowship in the book. People do not collaborate. They decapitate.

There are some books that are so good they haunt you. There are the books that you re-read again and again, until the binding is utterly destroyed and the pages have curled in on themselves in defence. There are books which have moments of such awesome majesty that you (or at least I) stop reading mid-sentence to literally punch the air and muffle a whoop of pure delight.
This is one of those books.

The world is phenomenally rich and complex. It is a fantasy book but it reads like a historical novel with all of the boring bits left out. Bloodshed, magic, greed, cruelty, death, danger, incest, lust, jealously, power struggles of epic proportions feature in this amazing book. Being of the fantasy genre, magic is obviously a key player, but whilst magic permeates the book, it does not overtake it. In fact, there is merely a smattering of magic used. Where The Lord of the Rings, Eragon and other fantasy novels used magic as a safety net to get out of a tight squeeze or to impossibly solve a pesky situation, A Game of Thrones relies on its characters to get themselves out of a jam-or die. Martin has no mercy for his characters.

I almost wish he would. Usually, I feel like a sadistic pig reading a book. I moan about the lack of motives the characters endure, I find myself whining about the characters’ faux angst and pseudo pain. With A Game of Thrones, Martin’s sheer lack of compassion for any of his characters, regardless of age, is just brutal. It’s not just his delightful lack of compassion, but the characters themselves. He has drawn such complex and wonderful characters and I consistently find myself wishing they would not meet the bloody and tragic end-which they often inevitably do.

If you are tired of fantasy novels with archetypal characters, dull protagonists, frustrating patriarchy, simple worlds, chastity and morally righteous characters, pick up A Game of Thrones, and enjoy!

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars | Source: Purchased | Buy on Amazon

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