A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
The amount of times I picked these books up off the shelves in waterstones and promptly replaced them was more than numerous. The blurb simply failed to capture me. Then, before the release of the new series, I noticed a poster advertising the new series – more than anything, it was Sean Bean’s ragged face, the sword in his hand, the chain mail and the heavy furs that caught my eye. I have always appreciated Sean Bean as an actor and there is just something about the medieval period I cannot get away from. I know it is far from being a romanticised period, but I love the clothing – the simple rough-spun dresses, chain mail, armour, swords, leather boots and all of the associated folklore and history. Its no wonder all my favourite books are fantasy-based and full to the brim with all of the stuff I just mentioned. Often, I dream of what it would be like to live like that, not as perfect as I’d like but I’d like the swords…anyway. After becoming somewhat addicted to the tv series, although occasionally put off by the seemingly needless bad language and pure silliness at some points, I thoroughly enjoyed it and decided to move on to the books at the end of the series (did you see that ending? Did you??) Whilst half the way through this novel, I found I just had to buy the next one…and the following two…just to be ready.
The novel is from the point of view of many different characters and thus introduces us to this new world on a much larger scale than other novels can accomplish. We are firstly introduced to the people of Winterfell, led by Lord Eddard Stark, a kind but winter-hardened man who thinks in terms of honour as much as he does with his heart. There are stirrings of change coming from the Wall in the North, a huge ice and stone structure built to keep the perils of the far north in the far north. News reaches Winterfell that King Robert is coming with his royal train to visit the town; on arriving, he asks Ned to become the Hand of the King – a man who will rule with the voice of the king in his absence from council. Ned reluctantly agrees even though he mistrusts the queen herself and her family and the ambitions they seem to hold in their hearts. In doing so, he opens up a whole new world exposing himself and his children to the fierce and merciless desire of many for power and the throne. As conspiracy’s and plots unfold, Ned finds himself wrapped into the web and unable to escape. He and his daughters move south to King’s Landing, his bastard son goes north to the Wall, his wife and the Imp become somewhat entangled and war seems ready on the horizon. ‘In the Game of thrones, you win or you die.’ And all the while ‘Winter is coming’.
In the meanwhile, we are also introduced to the views of others in Winterfell and across the world of this novel which allows us, as readers, to judge the overall situation as omniscient beings. These characters range from Ned’s wife, Catelyn, as well as his daughters and his son, Bran; it also includes Tyrion ‘The Imp’, a Lannister son and brother to the queen, and also Daenerys Targaryen. Daenery’s, of the blood of the dragon, is the daughter to the late mad king from whom Robert took the throne. She resides in the Free cities with her brother, a selfish and cruel boy who mistreats his sister and constantly threatens her and everyone around him with ‘The wrath of the Dragon’, believing himself to be the last. As they are an ocean away from the seven Kingdoms and the throne he believes he owns, he ‘sells’ his sister as a wife to the Dothraki Khal Drogo in the hopes that Drogo will use his Dothraki – fearsome people of the horse who are built for battle – to help him take back the Seven Kingdoms.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I enjoyed the use of numerous character perspectives as opposed to only one or a handful as it enables us, as readers, to have a much broader perspective of the events that are unfolding in the novel and the views of those concerned.
As well as this, the novel being presented in this way enables a greater amount of the world Martin has created to be exposed to us and allows a great level of omniscience for the reader as well as dramatic irony. The series stuck to book word for word in places which was refreshing although the book was somewhat more sophisticated. I noticed that the TV series actually added some stuff in and left other stuff out which made sense in some ways and not in others. What may have spoilt the book for me was knowing what was coming – I already knew what the big events were and thus wasn’t shocked or surprised when they came around the second time in the book, perhaps the book would have been more enjoyable if I hadn’t known the plot. All in all, a great read and though there are flaws to the series, I would recommend reading the novel and then watching the series.