REVIEW: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

REVIEW SUMMARY: A mesmerizing ride through thick deceit as Martin compels you through every incredible page.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The land of Westeros is held together by tenuous peace, while turmoil shifts and boils beneath the surface. The powerful houses of old plot and scheme, a threat rises across the ocean, and an old evil stirs from its icy domain.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Prose; characterization; gripping politics; a world that lives and breathes; heart wrenching.

CONS: Not for the faint of heart.

BOTTOM LINE: A must-read, you will be awed by the intrigue, gripped by the passion, and amazed at the realism in this magical, epic tome.


**Thar be minor spoilers aboard, so be watchful for you HBO TV watchers that have yet to sail this treacherous book.**

The land of Westeros is a land of old kings, of ancient magics, storied with many fables and gods; but this story is about lies and deceit, debauchery and a struggle for power that will leave you breathless. Nothing is sacred–no vow and no pledge.

Game of Thrones is incredible. A book that passionately explores what drives us and what we will do to achieve all that we desire. Some stop at nothing, and others will lose everything to try and stop them. Who will win? Who is right? And who is playing who?

One thing that stands out to me about Martin’s work is his prose. He pulls off brevity with beauty and almost never tells you more than you need to know. Many times he tells you less, but he does it wonderfully and it lends a certain confidence, that he trusts you to understand and does not feel the need to lead you by the hand down every turn of the plot or nuance of expression. In turn it becomes a rewarding experience. He always manages to lay out the necessary back story or foreshadowing so that when the reader reaches a juncture everything is apparent. No long and tedious infodump necessary. Thank you. Most importantly it makes the story read quickly and much is accomplished.

The perspective of each character is incredibly effective, making the narration come alive. You feel as if you are walking alongside each character, seeing their strengths and wincing at their weaknesses. Martin does a remarkable job capturing the perspective of the children–more noteworthy to me than the adults because of how well it was done, not because he did any less with the adults. When you read a Brand chapter, it sounds like a young boy, hoping to be more than he is now limited to be; intelligent, wistful of doing more. Sansa is given over to fancy; to being flighty and superficial. Once she realizes the fairy tale is over you can see, as you’ve always seen, that she is an intelligent girl that lets her expectations, her hopes and her dreams override her better sense. Eddard is of course the idealistic, honor bound, proper-to-a-tee lord that sees too late what is going on all around him and is powerless to save himself. Tyrion is brilliant, flawed and bound to his family no matter how much he has been wronged. So many beautifully wrought characters that live and breathe on these pages. This book is worthwhile to read for that fact alone.

I’ve read somewhere that Martin can accomplish more with his character development in two sentences than others can with pages. And I certainly agree.

This is a re-read for me, but I believe for a first reader the story is largely unpredictable. You can enjoy the book from beginning to end, feeling like the author is firmly in control, yet the story takes unexpected turns as Martin makes it feel unique. There is some basic knowledge: You know there is going to be trouble from the North and there will be a blood feud between houses, but besides that the unexpected is the only thing that can be expected.

This is a wonderful tale that is expertly told. It may be gory, sexual and wildly inappropriate with rape and more, but it all fits the story without being overly gratuitous and it meshes too well to call it foul. It lends to the story, and the setting nearly demands it, giving a level of realism that has you reeling at times in shock, and then grabbing the book again to continue.

Game of Thrones is about politics, it’s about human motivation, it’s about what drives us down deep and what will we do when pushed to the edge, and what will we do to achieve what we want.

There are no true cons. Losing wonderful characters may hurt, but each time it is with meaningful intent to drive the story forward and makes the whole that much stronger and more interesting.

Game of Thrones is fascinating, utterly engrossing and magical. Before I picked it up, I would have never guessed that I would have liked it. Fireballs may never fly, hands are never waived and willpower is never harnessed into magical energy to devastate or mystify, yet the character struggles are so riveting you can’t put it down, and you never know what’s going to happen as Martin shows you time and again that he pulls no punches. No one is safe, and every hero is at risk.

19 thoughts on “REVIEW: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin”

  1. Before the HBO series came out, I tried to read the book a few times and couldn’t get very far.  The pace is glacial.  Others have said the same thing.  However, a young history Ph. D once told me that it was the most accurate rendering of Medieval life that he had ever read.

  2. Anyone else get the feeling that the back story of Robert’s Rebellion is better then the actual story?

  3. I may read it someday, but I’m with Sam up there.

    If Martin wanted to write a historical then he should have set it on Earth, instead it’s on “Westeros” an alternative world that’s exactly like medieval Europe. Why?

    Could it have taken place in some European pre-history?

    I ask because I haven’t read it, but where is the fantasy element?

  4. Maybe the fact that the latest installment is titled A Dance with Dragons might give a clue as to one of the fantasy elements?

  5. I love how people who have never read the book always leave reviews about how they have not read the books. Of course it makes no sense to you, because you have not read the book. Your ignorance is not something you should wear with pride, nor should it be used as a  sword and shield with which to do battle with. Your comments are neither helpful, nor intelligent. This book series is one of the most popular of it’s genre for a reason. 

  6. Oh, how I loved it, and oh, how eagerly I’m waiting for Dance with Dragons

    What I’m writing about is to ask if any other readers have enjoyed, as I have, speculating about the “pre-history” of Westeros, that is, its history so far back that the characters in the novels know nothing of it.  I feel no need to pin any of this down, I just like to imagine the possibilities:

    – A very-far-distant-in-time post-apocalyptic (and geologically rearranged) Earth? 

    – A far away planet colonized by humans from Earth in some future time, which for whatever reason suffered a technological collapse and reverted to a medieval sort of society? 

    – A distant planet whose peoples at some point actually colonized Earth, but then suffered technological collapse on their home world? 

    All of these scenarios could result in societies that were other-worldly but still resembled our medieval European milieu.  And any magic in Westeros could surely be explained as remnants of lost advanced technologies, couldn’t it? 

    It’s certainly not necessary to believe there’s a connection between Westeros and our world, but it’s kind of neat to imagine what connections might exist.  Or am I the only one who gets carried away over this?

  7. Cayce: the Pern books.

    Dislike the idea about Westeros = Earth. It’s like Thundarr the Barbarian stuff.

     

  8. “If Martin wanted to write a historical then he should have set it on Earth, instead it’s on “Westeros” an alternative world that’s exactly like medieval Europe. Why?”

    Tolkien should have set Lord of the Rings in the UK and saved himself the effort.

    Dune should be set in the Middle East and then we could all ride camels instead of sandworms.

    Lets, see what magical elements are in Martin’s novels? Zombies. Fire magic. Dragons. Prophetic visions. Shadows that kill people. Gigantic wolves with a special bond to their owner. People who can enter the mind of animals or other people.

     

    Yeah. You haven’t read the books.

  9. If you think the pace of the book is glacial, then this type of book isn’t for you.   Perhaps you should try one of James Patterson’s novels.

    I found the book incredibly rich and exciting all the way through. 

  10. You guys are masters of sarcasm.

    Many of the Amazon reviews I’m read call the book in question historical fiction with some thin fantasy elements thrown in to qualify it. Having not read the book I decided to ask the clever posters here if it had more than the occasional large wolf and dragon or is the fantasy as strong an element as say science is in our world.

    That’s why I posted.

    Meanwhile. I psychically read George’s mind and found out that the last book will be about a mysterious power from the east that challenges all to rename the planet Easteros. It’s going to be epic!

    Sorry about the spoilers.

  11. – A very-far-distant-in-time post-apocalyptic (and geologically rearranged) Earth? 

    – A far away planet colonized by humans from Earth in some future time, which for whatever reason suffered a technological collapse and reverted to a medieval sort of society? 

    – A distant planet whose peoples at some point actually colonized Earth, but then suffered technological collapse on their home world?

     

    If you are going to pin this down to hard sci-fi why not simply say it is different universe of the infinite universe fame in which magic is real?

  12. Sorry, I’ll wait for one of the following to happen:

    1) Martin dies.

    2) The series is FINISHED (confirmed by publisher AND Martin…if he’s still alive).

    I’m NOT going to fall in the the Robert Jordan trap…again.

  13. To Sean’s point, a lot of people compare Martin’s series with Jordan’s. I started both series, gave up on Jordan’s but put myself firmly in the Martin fanboy camp. Jordan’s pace and writing was glacial, and the storyline continued to bring in new characters even after four or five books. By contrast, at least for me, Martin’s pacing is much better, though it does slow a bit in the later books and additional characters and (even worse) new points of view are added.

  14. The series is set in a world where magic died centuries ago. It is now returning slowly – and takes a central role by the third book.

    Martin plays this exactly right – not rushing the process, giving out pieces of the puzzle gradually, while the rich tapestry of book slowly expands.

    This is the only fantasy series I have ever read where you actually believe the world has a real history. There is a riot of different languages and customs, an accumulation of religions and belief systems and schools of magic. And it actually all slots together seamlessly.

    It is not possible to appreciate what Martin has done until maybe after the third book at the earliest.

  15. Bondirotta,

    That’s the kind of info I was looking for, so thanks. I like to read long sagas but only if something unique is going on rather than just standard intrigue. If you have both though, then it’s awesome.

  16. @Larry,

    My concern isn’t the writing pace (Martin v. Jordan)…it’s the telling of a story that gets away from the writer, years between books, decades between finishing said story/series, mortality (mine and the writer’s), etc.

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