What can be said that has not already been said about A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin’s opening volume of his A Song of Fire and Ice epic?
The books and the television series that it has spawned have permeated American pop culture. At least half the people I know have watched it. Most of the other half can catch a GOT reference or two.
Like so many others, I watched the show first. It’s rare that I do this because I nearly always feel that seeing the show first ruins the book for me. I’m happy to say that this wasn’t the case with A Game of Thrones. While I knew the plot and had well-formed images of the characters in my head, these things didn’t detract from my enjoyment of reading the book.
I enjoyed the book so much, that I purchased and began reading A Clash of Kings, the second volume, on the same night that I finished the first book. I typically like to read a shorter work as a break between epic reads.
The first book primarily follows Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn Stark and several of their children, the family who rules over Winterfell and the north in the name of the king. It also follows Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf brother of the queen, and Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled daughter of the former mad king. Each of their stories intertwine and tell of a much larger set of events that will forever reshape the Seven Kingdoms.
The scale of this world is massive and any wrong turn could mean a character’s death or the fall of a great house.
What I like most about Martin’s writing style is that he gives a unique voice to every character. Each chapter of the book is written from a third-person viewpoint that follows a specific person. What he does better than anyone is make you feel each story from a different viewpoint. Much of it is subtle, but there are stylistic changes with each character that only a well-seasoned writer can achieve without feeling like you’re being jerked all over the place.
A Game of Thrones is much different than other high fantasy, which is a fantasy set in a fictional world other than our own with its own rules. Whereas most high fantasy tends to lean toward a noble hero or group of heroes going about to do noble things, things aren’t so cut and dry here. There’s a gritty realism that sets this story apart from the field. The good guys sometimes die. The bad guys sometimes sit on the Iron Throne. And, many of our characters are little more than children who are having to learn the shitty reality of life long before they should.
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.
There are characters I love, such as Tyrion Lannister. I love him for his wittiness and how uniquely human all of his faults are. There are characters I abhor, such as Sansa Stark. She represents all the annoying qualities of any highborn lady, but I also feel the hard life lesson she must learn in this book more deeply than any other character.
In A Game of Thrones, battles are won behind closed doors as much as they are on the battlefield. The political maneuvering and deception kept me wanting more.
The world Martin has created is massive. The story is epic in scope. I can’t get enough of it.