Thursday, 27 March 2014

'A Game of Thrones' by George R.R. Martin (1996)

Synopsis: A Game of Thrones is the first book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. The series is set in a world where summers and winters span decades. Winter is coming and the struggle for the Iron Throne is about to begin. Eddard "Ned" Stark is the Lord of Winterfell and the warden of the north. He's deeply troubled when his friend King Robert Baratheon bestows on him the office of the Hand. He discovers that the royal court is full of corruption and treachery - and that his keen sense of honour and duty has no place there. Meanwhile, Eddard's oldest son Jon Snow discovers that sinister, supernatural forces are massing behind the great Wall of the north. Finally Viserys Targaryren, the exiled prince of the deposed former king, has grown to maturity on the continent of Essos. He's now eager to invade his father's former kingdom in Westeros and to reclaim the Iron Throne.

Although I had heard of the A Song of Ice and Fire books it wasn't until I saw the HBO adaptation Game of Thrones that I finally got the urge to read them. I usually try very hard to read books before I see their adaptations but this is one of those occasions when I experienced the adaptation first - and I'm actually glad about that. Despite the fact that I'd already seen Game of Thrones I still found this book to be incredibly absorbing and compelling. I loved that I got to know the world of Westeros better. I loved that I got to find out more about its history and its different Houses. I loved getting more of an insight into the characters by finding out what they were actually thinking. I even loved to look at the maps. Overall I think I prefer this book to season one of Game of Thrones. This book is just so big and epic that even a 10 hour television season can't match its depth. There's less sexual content in this book. Nudity and sex scenes do crop up but they occur a lot less and don't feel as forced or gratuitous. Oh, and Tyrion Lannister makes a far cooler entrance in this book than he does in Game of Thrones! He somersaults out of a window and lands in a handstand! And I love that Jaime Lannister actually says the line "The things I do for love" loathingly in this book.

Having said that, season one of Game of Thrones is mostly quite a faithful adaptation of this book and I now love its cast even more. The actors do such an amazing job at bringing their characters to life and they all look like their book counterparts. It's just that some of the characters have been aged up. In this book Jon Snow and Robb Stark are only 14 and Daenerys Targaryren is only 13! Sansa, Arya and Bran are all aged up by a few years in GoT as well. The ageing up of these characters is one of the things that I do actually prefer about GoT. It made their roles more believable. Also, on a purely shallow note, Richard Madden and Kit Harington are quite attractive! :D There are a couple of other things that I prefer about GoT as well. Robb Stark is a much more interesting character in the TV show than he is in this book. Robb is one of my favourite characters in GoT and I do wish that George R.R. Martin could have given him some POV chapters in this book. I would have loved to have found out why Robb is so fond of Theon Greyjoy given that two of his brothers (Jon and Bran) can't stand him. I'd have loved to have known Robb's thoughts on adapting to his new position as the Lord of Winterfell. We never get to "see" Robb's reaction to his father's death either and that scene is one of my favourites in season one. Viserys Targaryren is a much more interesting character in GoT than he is in this book as well. I love Harry Lloyd's portrayal of his character in the TV show. His Viserys is still cruel, mad and emotionally abusive to his sister but Lloyd also brought a lot of humour and vulnerability to the role. I was highly entertained by his portrayal and was actually really disappointed when Viserys got killed off about halfway through the season. But in this book Viserys just seems so one-dimensionally unpleasant that I didn't find him entertaining at all and I was pleased when he died.

A Game of Thrones really is a brilliant book and I loved it. I love big, epic novels that I can become completely immersed in and this book definitely delivered on that. I feel that "epic" has become a very overused word these days but with this book that word truly fits. In terms of its scope and ambition this book is massive. After Tolkien's Middle-earth it features the most impressive world-building that I've ever read in a fantasy novel! This book is very different to Tolkien's works though. It's much darker and grittier and is more of a political thriller that just so happens to be set in a fantasy world. Dragons, monsters and magic exist in this world but only in the background.

A Game of Thrones is intricately-plotted but it's still a very character-focused read. The characters are so engaging and vividly described. I love Ned, Jon, Arya, Bran, Tyrion, Daenerys Targaryen. Some of George R.R. Martin's descriptions and battle scenes went on a little too long for my tastes but I did really enjoy his writing. I particularly enjoyed his descriptions of the Others in the prologue. I found them far more evil and scary than in GoT! Also, Martin has written quite a lot for television in the past and I could tell. The chapters are short and often end in cliffhangers. The book has quite an episodic feel.

I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the ASoIaF series and the future seasons of GoT. I'd really love a prequel to the series as well actually. I loved finding out more about Robert's Rebellion in this book and I'd love for there to be a prequel novel that would go into this even more. It would be fascinating to find out more about the Mad King's reign, the relationship between Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, Littlefinger's relationship with Catelyn and his duel with Brandon Stark, the deaths of Brandon and Rickard Stark, Jaime's life as a young knight and his murder of the king, Dany's birth... I think it would be awesome!

Rating: 5/5


Hamlette said...

One day, I will read these. Not in the near future, I fear, but they're on my more long-term reading list :-) I'm glad to hear you liked it so well!

samara said...

As you probably already know... I have a hard time just reading or watching something. I obsess far too easily. So I am reluctant to get into the world of Westeros. But I really do appreciate your review of it. It's tempting, actually. But I am going to try to keep from getting jumpy about it.

Also... if you enjoy epic fantasies and great world-building, I think you would really enjoy Patrick Rothfuss's Name of the Wind. It's brilliant :)

Hannah said...

Hamlette - Cool, I hope you'll enjoy it when you do eventually get round to it :)

Samara - I think I understand where you're coming from. There are lots of books/TV shows out there that I feel very confident I'd really like only I can't get into them right now because "now is not the right time". Also, I did some googling on that book you mentioned and it sounds really good! I don't think I'll read it soon but I am interested!