Review: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin

Winter is coming.

The Stark family motto rings in the ears of all the people of Winterfell….but it is ringing loudest in the ears Lord Stark himself…..winter is coming.

A Game of Thrones is the first in George R. R. Martin’s epic high fantasy series , A Song of Ice and Fire. Let me just say, epic doesn’t begin to describe this series…..each book is roughly 800+ pages.

The story itself is intricate and tedious….you really need to pay attention to what is going on but once you get use to the prose, flow, and points of view….you are rewarded with a richly designed and beautifully written story.

Personally, I found the different ‘houses’ and genealogy hard to keep straight and I was extremely grateful for the last 25+ pages of the book which are devoted to the house genealogies, colors, sigil, and mottos….and thankfully a map of Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms which also helped my picture things more clearly in my mind….and yes I did reference both of these things often so I could keep up with all that was going on. I also highly recommend browsing the Ice and Fire Wiki page…it was extremely helpful to have a guide!!

Most of you know, I am a huge series fan…..and I’ve read lots of fantasy and epic fantasy series but I can tell this series is much more than that. Other epic fantasy series that I have read like Outlander were not quite as daunting for me as this, this is not a series where I would sit and read each book back-to-back–it is a series to be savored not devoured.

I found the book challenging (but in a good way)….the location, approach, and devices/characters were like no other book I have ever read. For example, Outlander is set in Scotland and focuses on time travel but with real people with familiar names and language…..

This series is set in the Medieval fictional land of Westeros….there are direwolves, mystical vampire like characters known as white walkers, dragons, wildings, grumkins, talking crows and ravens….some of the characters speak mythical languages, and there are mystical folktales told and retold….and many of the characters have unfamiliar names–in essence there is a lot to remember, it is a complete emersion into a fantasy world but one you will scaresly regret. My brain and imagination felt like they got a good workout which was exciting for me….I can see why people get into the whole fantasy book thing now….it is truly an escape from the mundane :).

There are eight different POV’s/narrations in the book: Lord Stark, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Jon, Catelyn, Daenerys Targaryen, and Tyrion Lannister which all offer unique perspectives to the over all story…..it is truly a carefully woven soap opera.

Lord Eddard (Ned) Stark is the lord of Winterfell, the kingdom in the north. Stark’s friend and mentor Lord Arryn has died…Arryn was the Hand of the King–the King of the Seven Kingdoms, Robert Baratheon, is also Ned’s best friend–practically his brother. The King has come to Winterfell to offer Ned the position of Hand and ask him to return to King’s Landing with him to help keep peace in the kingdom.

Lord Stark has six children….Robb, Jon (his bastard), Sansa, Arya, Brandon (Bran), and Rickon. Stark’s daughters are to accompany him to King’s Landing where Sansa will marry Robert’s son, Joffrey, and Arya will be welcome to court. Robb is to remain behind at Winterfell to rule (there must always be a Stark at Winterfell), and Bran and Rickon are to continue their training to become leaders and knights. As for Jon….Stark’s wife Lady Catelyn can’t stand the sight of him. Catelyn takes Jon’s presence in their lives as a personal insult and reminder of Ned’s infidelity so Jon is sent to the Wall where he will train to be a Brother of the Night Watch.

But when Catelyn receives a letter from her sister (widow to Lord Arryn) claiming the Queen and her family murdered her husband Lord Arryn….everything changes. Deception, lies, and betrayal follow and at the root of all is a deep dark secret that could change the face of the realm and its great families forever.

On the Wall, Jon learns the ways of the Brothers of the Night Watch. The Brothers protect the realm from supernatural forces that lie beyond the Wall….The Others (white walkers) and wildings. The Others have supposedly not been seen or heard from in thousands of years but when a group of Rangers go missing, some say the white walkers got them and turned them into Others–walking corpses that will destroy the Seven Kingdoms.

Meanwhile, Daenerys Targaryen is the last of the great Targaryen family, living in exile across the Narrow Sea….she is the last blood of the dragon. The Targaryen family considers themselves the rightful rulers of the Seven Kingdoms and if she hopes to restore their power she needs strong warriors. She marries Khal Drogo, a  Dothraki chieftain whose power and massive army will help restore the Iron Throne to the Targaryen family.

So begins the game of thrones….winter is coming.

What I liked most about this book was that you really got the feeling you were reading something different and special. Martin doesn’t focus on the traditional epic battle between good and evil as many fantasy books do….there are clearly good and evil characters, situations, and dilemmas in the story but that is not the ENTIRE focus. In many ways you are left to make up your own mind about the situation and characters.

I especially loved the prose…though it was complex, it was elegant and engaging. I loved how the language and tone of the book mimicked the cool romanticism of Winterfell and yet left you feeling warm….just like the cold, harsh landscape the reader is able to find warm within the tone of the book just as one finds warmth in the walls of Winterfell.

I found myself compulsively reading, unable to stop. Though the foundations of the story were lengthy and complicated and at times I found myself distracted–re-reading or referring back to the wiki to navigate the story–but that did not put me off to the book, in fact I HAD to keep reading because I HAD to know how everything was going to fit together.

That said, I don’t know that this is a series that I could sit down and read the books all back-to-back….which is good because then I can sit and enjoy them each individually :). I think this is one series you cannot pass up….though the length and complex story can be intimidating, it is completely worth it! A truly beautiful tale worthy of every page!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire Book I) by George R.R. Martin

  • Mass Market Paperback, 835 pages
  • Published March 22nd 2011 by Bantam (first published August 1st 1996)
  • ISBN: 978-0-553-57340-4

This book counts toward the following Reading Challenge: Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire) Reading Challenge 2012 

Recommendation: 4 out of 5 (uniquely different epic fantasy, worth every page!)

Genre: Fantasy, epic, epic fantasy, Medieval fantasy

Memorable lines/quotes:

Never forget what you are for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it and it will never be used to hurt you (57)

A true man does what he will not what he must (487)
The man that fears losing has already lost….never do what they expect (535)
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22 Comments

  1. I liked where you said you weren’t sure you’d be able to read the series back to back. Normally I don’t promote my own reviews, but I have to say, you should stop by and read my review of the book and my love/hate relationship with the series. It’s one of my favorites, I just wish I could finish it!

    Wonderful review by the way!!

    Reply
    • Thank you 🙂 I will do that! Yes, I loved it but then I agree it was hard to keep focused with so much going on and the complexity of the whole series. Do you watch the HBO series?? I haven’t seen it yet but I’m excited for it to come out on DVD, I have a feeling I’m going to LOVE the TV series :). It will be interesting to see how closely the HBO series follows the books!! Cheer and thanks for the lovely comments! 🙂

      Reply
  2. I can’t wait to start this series! One of my coworkers is rereading the first book again and she loves it and your review makes me even more eager to start it! But I have a few more things to get through on the pile first!

    Reply
    • LOL yes I had to make myself get through my other stuff just so I could clear the way to read this series :). I totally understand!! 🙂

      Reply
  3. I don’t usually read high fantasy (Lord of the Rings ruined me for all other fantasy), but I would totally give this one a go. My online book buddies have seriously been recommending this to me for 10 years. I feel bad admitting I’ve put it off this long.

    Reply
    • LOL I know neither do I! I have never read LOTR and I haven’t seen the movies either for the same reasons….I am not a huge fan of high fantasy but then I have heard such great things about Game of Thrones and then with the HBO series I couldn’t ignore the hype any more but I had to have a something to hold me ‘accountable’ for my reading so I don’t put it off anymore (hence the Game of Thrones Reading Challenge that I’m hosting LOL). It’s a very good book/series so far but it is a little overwhelming and I don’t know that I could read them all back-to-back. But that said, they are totally worth it 🙂

      Reply
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