A Game of Thrones–George R.R. Martin

Book: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Publisher:  Bantam
720 pages
My Rating:
5 stars3

Winter is coming. Those foreboding words are something the Stark family lives by. As Lord of Winterfell, Ned Stark rules over much of the north and the cold is very much a part of their blood. When King Robert Baratheon comes to Winterfell and enlists Ned to become the King’s Hand after the previous Hand dies mysteriously, Ned feels obligated to accept his old friend’s offer. After arriving in King’s Landing, Ned finds out just how complicated the job of the Hand is and how corrupt men can be. Numerous families are vying for power, among them the Lannisters who are a force to be reckoned with. The Targaryens are also making a play for power and trying to reclaim the throne by joining with the nomadic warrior Dothrakis. The story that unfolds is nuanced and a true page turner.

This is the second time I’ve read A Game of Thrones. I desperately wanted to finish it before the HBO series came out, but I ended up finishing it about five episodes in to the series. I still loved the book the second time around. The story is so rich with nuanced characters. Almost all of them are neither truly good or evil. Most of them have traits that make you alternately like them and hate them. For instance, Tyrion Lannister is the brother of Cersei and Jamie Lannister. He is not necessarily a likeable person at first. He’s brash, arrogant, and seems to be completely out for himself. However, the reader finds out that his life is difficult because he was born a dwarf and therefore is less desirable to his family so a lot of his behavior is shaped by his life experiences of being treated poorly. There are also characters that in my mind were truly just good or evil. A few favorites of mine included some of the Stark children—Jon Snow and Arya Stark among them. Jon Snow is the bastard son of Ned Stark, but exhibits great character and courage despite growing up with no hope of land of title to inherit. Arya is a fiery young girl who wants nothing more than be able to play and fight like a boy which is very atypical of the time. Both characters were among my favorites and I found them to be in essence, good.

The story itself is also quite complicated. Because there are numerous families vying for power, strategy plays a major part in the book. To me, it was reminiscent of Shogun by James Clavell—there is so much plot and the characters can be so cunning that it leaves the reader guessing what is going to happen most of the time.  Despite the large number of characters/major players in the novel, I didn’t find it difficult to keep them straight. I think this is something that George R.R. Martin does quite well. He makes each character unique enough that you don’t really get confused. The story is also written so well that each story blends fairly seamlessly. There is a lot of history in the books and I do admit to kind of glazing over those parts. I know it’s important to some degree, but I just didn’t take the time to learn the family history of each character. To me, it was enough to know the immediate family members of each of the families and not worry about the lords and ladies of yesteryear.

What I may like most about the book is the world building. Each area has a unique setting, whether it’s King’s Landing, Winterfell, or Vaes Dothrak, the story is written with such detail that I felt immersed in the world and could imagine pretty much everything that I read. The one part of the book I found a little shocking the second time I read it was the way women were portrayed. There are a few strong women—Catelyn and Arya Stark are among these females. For the most part though, women were “furniture” in the book. There were numerous scenes where their only purpose was to be brutalized, fondled, or were for the express pleasure of men. I think I didn’t notice this the first time because I enjoyed the strong females that were in the book. The time period of the book while fantasy, also had a sort of Middle Ages feel to it and women of that time did not have much standing in society. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it misogynistic, but I definitely felt the book was a little lacking in the case of female characters.

Overall, I think the book was fantastic. Even though it’s a brick, I would read it again. Martin weaves an amazing story in with characters that have true depth which has become more rare in recent years. I will continue to reread the series in preparation for the July release of A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in the series. I also will continue to watch the HBO series which just got renewed for a second season. I highly recommend this book to any reader that enjoys epic fantasy or just likes a really in depth, well-thought out, and well-written story.

A Game of Thrones – HBO series

When I heard that HBO was making a series out of A Game of Thrones, I was ecstatic. I think that only HBO could pull off such an epic series (they did after all produce Band of Brothers and The Pacific which I have gushed over on my blog before). So far, five episodes have aired and they have been fantastic. The casting is perfect for the most part. The only issues that I have with it are that Jon Snow and Robb Stark are both far older than they were in the book as is Danaerys Targaryen. I understand why they did this though. There are some themes in the book that are far too adult in nature for them to cast teenagers to play the characters so I am forgiving on this point.

The cinematography and sets are also top notch. The Wall was simply amazing looking. It was far more impressive on the show than it was even in my head. King’s Landing also looked incredible as did the Eyrie where Lysa Arryn lived. I wondered what the Eyrie would look like because it was one of the more rugged and scary places in the book. The episode that takes place there still hasn’t aired, but they did show a far off view of it, and it was very cool!

The show itself has gotten better and better with each episode. I admit that it started out slower, but as some of the supporting characters like Littlefinger and Varys have come out, I’ve begun to enjoy the show more. I will admit that for people who haven’t read the books, it might be a little frustrating to follow the story at times. There are a lot of characters in the books and it doesn’t always necessarily translate well to the television. Still, I have several friends that are watching the show and they seem to be able to follow it. Two of my friends are loving the show and neither of them have read the series.

I will definitely be buying the series when it comes out on DVD. It’s something that I know I would enjoy watching again and would probably be even better watching them as a marathon. It’s definitely something that will become a staple in my collection. It has also been renewed for a second season which I am definitely looking forward to!

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