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A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

August 4, 2008

Talking about good books often makes me go back and read them again. So it is with A Game of Thrones, following the recent lists.

Martin has created a believable fantasy world, one without elves and goblins, ogres and trolls but with its own myths and history. What really brings this series alive is the characters who inhabit the world and their (and George’s) bloodthirsty mercilessness.

A Song of Ice and Fire (as the series is called) has no peer, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s been pleasing to introduce several friends to these books, and if you haven’t read them yet, now is a good time to start. You won’t regret it.

A Game of Thrones is a tale of political intrigue and family drama. The two principal families, the Lannisters and the Starks, are caught up in one another’s plans. Eddard Stark, a proud and honourable man, finds himself lost when he moves to the capital and has to deal with other people who are anything but.

The novel takes place through a number of point of view characters. Each chapter is named after the character whose point of view we are shown. So there are several chapters for young Arya Stark, the bastard Jon Snow, Eddard Stark, Tyrion Lannister, and so on. There are also chapters for Danaerys Targaryen, last scion of the deposed royal house, in exile in foreign lands.

Don’t relax though, having chapters named after you is no protection in this series, as you will find out. Prophecies exist only to be thwarted by the action of kings and crones, and signs from the gods will be interpreted however people wish.

Religion and more importantly faith are well represented in this series, another way in which it stands out from the rest of the genre. Other series leave religion as a conspicuous blank area, others have their characters be best friends with gods whose existence is not subject to doubt. Martin creates several religions here that rely on the faith of their believers. The wealthy may mouth words and use religion only to further their own ends, but to others religion and faith form a core part of who they are.

A Game of Thrones is the opening book in a grand series. Four have so far been published, with the fifth due… sometime. I’ve stopped checking the website. One day, I will walk into a bookshop, see A Dance with Dragons on the shelf, and be glad. I have no idea when that will be, sometime within the next three years, I hope.

edit: I’ve now completed re-reading the series, so here are the other reviews:
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
A Feast For Crows

  1. August 5, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    I still remember the day back in 1995 or 1996 when I was sitting in a waiting room at Cisco Systems waiting to get a live demo of their new IP telephony systems.

    I knew I was in for a long wait so I brought the 3rd book in the Wheel of Time series with me to read. A handful of suits were walking by the conference room and one of them saw the book and came in.

    For the next five minutes this guy talked 1000 miles an hour about how great Game of Thrones was, and how it was fantasy written for grown ups, etc etc.

    He wrote down Martin’s name and the name of the book on the back of his business card, which I kept. The guy was a Senior VP of Global Sales for Cisco, and probably in his early forties when I met him.

    I’m glad I took his advice. A Song of Ice & Fire is simply the BEST fantasy series I’ve ever read, period.

  2. davekay
    August 6, 2008 at 7:30 am

    That’s a great story Michael, thanks for sharing. Have you since passed on the recommendation to others yourself?

  3. kwitt
    August 6, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    I too have a similar story. I was in my early 40’s(now 46) when I asked a friend for a recommendation for a good book to read, maybe something along the fantasy genre of which I was unfamiliar with at the time. I knew he was a fantasy geek so I was asking the right person. Without hesitation, he said “Game of Thrones”.

    It was the greatest single recommendation that I have ever received in my life! I have read each of the four books 7 times each and still counting. One of the great things about Martin’s genius is that every time you re-read the books, you peel another layer and get an even greater story.

    It is single handedly the greatest work of fiction I have ever read in ANY genre and one of the finest pieces of literature ever written. Martin is the definition of a true genius. I have since turned dozens of my friends of all ages on to this series and almost to a man, they are as obsessed as I am.

    The only drawback that us fans suffer through is the length in which it takes him to complete the books. It was a 5 year wait for the last one, A Feast for Crows and we are going on four now waiting on “A Dance with Dragons”.

    These books are not yout typical, elves and pixies and unicorns. These works read more like historical fiction and you never know what is going to happen and even the “good guys” get killed from time to time!

    I feel truly sorry for anybody who loves to read, if you do not read this series. It is complex and you must commit many hours of re-reads but you will enjoy every moment of it!!

  4. davekay
    August 8, 2008 at 8:51 am

    I agree kwitt about the layers thing. It was only recently re-reading A Game of Thrones for the fourth time (I think) that Eddard’s musings about Jon struck me as … odd. Then I went to Tower of the Hand and read all about the theories as to Jon’s actual parentage. It all fell into place then.

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