Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Release Date: August 6, 1996
Description: The first volume of A Song of Ice and Fire, the greatest fantasy epic of the modern age. GAME OF THRONES is now a major TV series from HBO, starring Sean Bean. Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must …and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty. The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.
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I consider fantasy to be my favorite genre to read from, and yet I have not read a number of the authors that define it. George R.R. Martin is one of ten people I recently named in a list of shame for authors that I haven’t had the opportunity to read yet. As of now, I have officially changed that by reading A Game of Thrones. It’s incredibly difficult to figure out how to even start reviewing an eight-hundred-page book, but I’m going to give it my best shot here.
When I first started A Game of Thrones, I honestly didn’t think that I was going to finish it. The reason for my initial hesitancy is due to the worldbuilding style that the author chooses to utilize. Every character in this book has lived in this world for their whole life, so they don’t need the world’s details explained to them. Therefore, as the reader, words, names, and locations are being dropped constantly without explanation as to what any of it means. It’s hard to get through the first hundred pages and makes for a frustrating reading experience.
Regardless of how irritated I was at the start of my reading experience, I don’t actually fault the author for deciding to introduce readers to the world in this manner. Being forced to connect the dots myself just made me all the more attached to the characters once I finally figured out who everyone was. I would advise against the digital version of this book if a physical copy is available, as there is an appendix that lists out all of the characters. This is an incredibly useful tool starting out, but I kept forgetting about it because it is a pain to access digitally.
Once I had a vague understanding of what was happening and who everyone was, I could start digging into the characters and plot. For the most part, everything here was enjoyable. The book follows a number of different characters spread all across the world, allowing readers to follow all kinds of stories that help shape the overall central conflict of brewing tensions to overtake the iron throne. I did find that there is some odd pacing at play here, with the majority of the plot events happening in the second half of the book. While I understand that a slow first half is somewhat necessary to build the tension adequately, the consequence of this choice is that it took me about four-hundred pages to be engaged enough with the plot and characters that I was convinced I was going to actually finish it.
Speaking of characters, they are really the highlight here. Whether I love them or hate them, everyone is memorable and complex. Thus far, my favorite characters are Tyrion and Jon Snow, as both they and their plot arcs are interesting. Daenerys is an interesting character that shows a lot of potential to be one of my favorites of subsequent books, but her plotline in this specific entry was probably my least favorite out of everyone. Don’t get me wrong, however. Often, the concern with the use of multiple storylines is that one character’s plotline will be more interesting than another, therefore undermining the pacing of the book as a whole. For the most part, this isn’t true here. No individual plotline feels like filler and every character has a role to play. While Daenerys’ plotline could get a little tedious at times, I never wanted to just skip over her chapters.
Since George R.R. Martin is on my list of unread authors, here is the real question for this review: Will I pick up another of his books in the future? Well, as it turns out, I already have! Almost immediately upon finishing the first book, I put the second on hold from the library and just got a copy. There are so many unresolved plotlines at the end of A Game of Thrones that I need answers as soon as possible. Overall, while there are some issues with the pacing of the first book due to some strange worldbuilding choices, I have every confidence that the second entry in this series will not have the same problems and that I am going to have a fun time. As an added bonus, I can finally start watching the TV show, which I have wanted to do for ages!
Final Score: 4/5
Have you read A Game of Thrones? Let me know in the comments below!