Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones is the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire book series written by author George R.R. Martin. This first book was nominated for multiple awards and the series has since gone on to inspire many adaptations the most famous being the beloved HBO television series.

Winter is Coming and the Kings hand Jon Arryn is dead, his Majesty Robert Baratheon is travelling to Winterfell to speak with his childhood best friend and Lord of the North Eddard Stark to ask if he would wed his Daughter Sansa to his Son Joffrey and at the same time become the new hand of the King.

Jon Arryn’s death is under speculation after his ex wife Lysa sends a raven to her sister Catelyn Stark with a theory that he was poisoned by the Queen Cersei Lannister this eventually turns out to be true after Eddard finds proof that the Queen has been having sexual relations with her brother the king slayer Sir Jaime Lannister a revelation which would soon trigger major events in the book and even more tragic deaths.

Jaime Lannister is named the king slayer after he murdered the previous king Aerys Targaryen aka the mad king.

Meanwhile outside of the walls of Pentos, the true heir to the iron throne Vicerys Targaryen is preparing to set up his sister Daenaerys with Khal Drogo of the Doth Rhaki in exchange that the Doth Rhaki army will help him take back the Iron Throne from Robert Baratheon when they storm Kings Landing.

During the wedding ceremony the Daenerys is gifted a set of authentic Dragon Eggs a tribute to her blood as a Targaryen who would tame and ride dragons thousands of years prior.

All of the characters are really interesting and have a great hook to keep you wanting to read more, the Stark family is particularly important in this novel as it is their characters that are used as chess pieces to set up the future events of the series, the young and elegant Sansa has her naivety used against her in the Game of Thrones, she is used as a piece for her father to follow eventually leading to one of the biggest twists in the series and a character death that goes to show that no one is truly safe in Georges universe.

Arya Stark is easily my favourite character in the book she is a 9 year old girl who wants to wield a sword but due to gender standards this is very much frowned upon until her father has a change of heart and pays for her to have “dancing” lessons with a master swordsman Syreo Forel, in later events in the book she ends up on her own after she escaped the guards in King Landing and now with just her sword needle in hand she needs to try and make her way to the knights watch to warn her bastard brother Jon Snow that her father has been taken prisoner.

Jon Snow is a great hero character and due to him being a bastard is unable to take the throne and gets a lot of flack from other characters in the book, he is a very talented sword fighter who is sent to the Knights Watch as it is the only place he will be accepted, the Knights Watch guards the wall that separates the Northern Kingdoms of Winterfell from the highly dangerous Wildlands. Being sent to the Watch is considered a punishment for criminals and outcasts so is nothing to be proud of, vows must be sworn of celibacy and to never leave the wall unless on official business, abandoning your brothers of the Knights Watch is punishable by death.

The only other character I feel had a really great hook in this was Daenerys Targaryen the daughter of the deceased mad king and another chess piece in the Game of Thrones this time set by her evil and manipulative brother Vicerys. Her story is particularly sad because she is only 12 when the book starts and is put through some pretty horrific moments including sexual assault and penetration, emotional abuse and having to follow Doth Rhaki traditions including eating the raw and still beating heart of a horse.

Her character becomes a lot stronger in the second half of the book and her gifted Dragon Eggs do eventually have a greater purpose in the series in an incredible sequence which ends this first part in the Song of Ice and Fire.

Other characters given a prominent role in this book are Eddard Stark, Catelyn Stark, Brandon Stark, Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister.

Brandon Stark a young and adventurous young man who loves to climb is eventually thrown from a tower after discovering Sir Jaime Lannister having sex with his sister the Queen Cersei Lannister, Brandon is left crippled and his dreams of becoming a knight are destroyed, after his fall he forgets who threw him from that tower and after waking from his coma tries to continue his life in the best way that he can.

Sansa is the most boring character in the book she is a very beautiful but na├»ve young girl who has dreams of becoming the Queen of the seven Kingdoms to her future husband Joffrey Baratheon, she is easily led and like a piece of clay is moulded by standards and behaviours she has had drilled into her by her scepters. The Queen uses this against Sansa to try and bring her over to the Lannister’s side to help bring more power to the king and their holding of the Iron Throne, apart from this nothing about her character particularly drew me in like the others but if the series continues in a similar manner to the show her character will grow to be a massive player in the game of thrones and an inspirational one too!

Eddard could probably be considered the main character he becomes the hand of the king and eventually discovers some very dark incest ridden secrets of the Lannister twins the Queen Cercei Lannister and her disgraced King Slaying brother Sir Jaime Lannister. It becomes clear that Lysa’s letter may have some truth to it and also there is a distinct possibility that his Son Brandon shared a similar fate.

Catelyn is great in this, she takes hostage the Imp Tyrion Lannister after it is revealed that his own dagger was used in an assassination attempt against the crippled Brandon Stark, it is of course later proven that Tyrion was innocent but who set him up is a mystery I am sure we will discover more of in future entries.

Finally Tyrion Lannister the shameful Imp of Casterly Rock and brother to both Cercei and Jaime plays an important role in this story. In the book he is described as having a head larger than is body with one eye of black and another of green an odd look they chose not to use in the show. In the book he is definitely one of the only decent Lannisters but is far from from a hero, he is a cunning and extremely clever person who can almost talk his way out of anything. After winning a trial in combat he is released from Catelyn Starks hold and makes his way back to his father Tywin Lannister with the help of his new sword wielding companion Bronn, he helps Tyrion get back to his father and even finds him a woman to love named Shae, both Bronn and Tyrion fight in the war between the Lannister’s and the Starks showing that even with his smaller stature Tyrion is far from cowardly.

It is really very clever how George manages to bring these characters together in such an expansive and lore ridden world without making it overly complicated. Since the series goes down the path of following multiple characters giving each their own segments makes a lot of sense and it allows readers to get a feel for Westeros without overwhelming them with too much coverage in this first part.

This first book is obviously very Stark heavy and only really gives us a perspective from the “Hero” characters, while I would have liked to have seen some chapters from Cersei’s point of view I feel that maybe it would have made her character motivations too obvious from the get go not to mention completely ruining the shock of a unforeseen character death, I hope that future entries in the series give us some more characters to follow but for now a higher focus on one house worked for the best. I have always considered Jon a Stark so in my eyes he counts too leaving only Tyrion of House Lannister and Daenerys of House Targaryen as the other houses we follow.

Tyrion’s story is fairly simple but Daenerys is a massively important player in the Game of Thrones and her segments are truly captivating, we see tremendous character growth with her becoming a leader throughout the book and slowly becoming more ruthless as she lets her inner Dragon grow, I really enjoyed her parts as it was a massive difference to the more controlled segments of the Lannister’s plots and Starks downfall. Daenerys was a shy and innocent young girl thrown into the deep end to become a Khaleesi or wife of the Khal a powerful figure who will birth the next leader of Khal Drogo’s army, she is truly destroyed inside and out by her twisted brother who only has selfish goals but overall by the end of the book the only person left standing in the fire is Daenerys and I cant wait to see her grow even more in the next part.

George took an approach too put more focus on his characters and world building than having deep descriptions of the lands, a lot of it is left to readers imagination and I think this was a wise choice considering how complex this story truly is, it doesn’t have a starting or end point and it doesn’t necessarily have an obvious path to follow, we don’t know what the outcome will be of this book or the next and as I have already stated anyone can die.

So many major important characters are introduced in this book to help tell the story of a Song of Ice and Fire but also to help direct the characters to set up future events. It is difficult to know who to trust at this point especially if you haven’t seen the show. A lot of players in the Game of Thrones are sly and will tend to give false persona’s in order to manipulate other players to make bad decisions and almost all of them have both good qualities and a dark streak, trust no one and be prepared to have someone you were rooting for die or maybe show intentions you may not have initially expected.

As someone who love the HBO series and has watched it numerous times from start to end I was a little disappointed to discover that the first season was a copy and paste of this first book so I already knew what was going to happen, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment at all but I hope that while reading the next books in the series I notice some major differences other than character ages and Tyrion’s eye colour.

A Game of Thrones has got to be the greatest first entry in a fantasy series of all time I was hooked from just a few pages, I feel what George achieved with his writing is phenomenal and without his hand to write it, this massive of a book project would have been almost impossible, you don’t need to have seen the show or read many of the chapters to feel a connection and full understanding of these characters and the world of Westeros.

Game of Thrones is what can only be considered a must read for any fan of the fantasy genre it is graphic, sexual and at times disturbing but even without those adult themes this is seriously one of the greatest books I have ever read, my copy was almost 800 pages long and it only took me a week since I was reading more than 100 pages a day, something that is very rare for me personally but honestly I was addicted to a story I know all too well at this point but a timeless tale that I cannot wait to continue with A Clash of Kings

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