Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Review: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: August 6th, 1996
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
When the King, Robert, leaves King’s Landing to visit his old friend Ned Stark in the North, a chain of events are set into motion that will forever alter the fate of the Seven Kingdoms. When the King offers Ned the newly available position of the King’s Hand, Ned will have to seriously consider leaving Winterfell to run the kingdom. A man of honour, Ned has five children with his wife Catelyn and one illegitimate son, Jon Snow. Although it is highly irregular, Jon lives with the Starks and has never met his mother. While Jon, who has never completely belonged with the Starks, decides to become one of the Night’s Watch, Ned will have to leave Winterfell to become the King’s most trusted advisor. Just as Ned and three of his children are to leave Winterfell with the King, something happens that makes his wife distrust the Queen. Meanwhile, in the East, the son of the former King is conspiring to gain back his throne from Robert, the Usurper, by marrying his thirteen-year-old sister, Daenerys, to Khal Drogo, a Dothraki warlord. With the Dothraki army approaching and a conspiracy discovered by Ned Stark, it is clear that the long summer is over and winter is coming.
I was rather intimidated by the hefty epic fantasy novel, even though it is quite popular, especially since the HBO show just started its second season. I was expecting something more like The Lord of the Rings, but A Game of Thrones has little in common with Tolkien’s works. The world in this book is reminiscent of England in the middle ages, and magic didn’t play as large a role as it does in The Lord of the Rings. A political fantasy, this book is told from the third person point of view of various different characters, altering each chapter. From Ned Stark of Winterfell, his wife Catelyn, his bastard son Jon, his daughters Arya, Sansa and son Brann, as well as from the point of view of Daenerys and Tyrion, the Queen’s dwarf brother. Seeing different characters' point of view worked well, as we get to see different parts of the Seven Kingdoms, from The Wall to the East. I loved Arya Stark, who was my favourite character by far. After finishing one of her sections I would flip ahead to see how long till the next one. Arya is only nine, but I loved her strength and bravery. All the characters, whether I hated them or loved them, were well developed and realistic. While this book is 800 pages, I was surprised by how it never felt like it was dragging on, and by how easy to plot was to follow. The pacing was also well done, which is important with a book as long as this one. Choosing one quote for this book was difficult, since there were so many great ones. I liked the writing style, but I didn’t like the way sexuality was portrayed in this book. While this will make me sound very uptight, I hated the sex scenes, which I found to be distasteful, to put it mildly. With rape, incest and violence, I’d say this book isn’t for the faint of heart. I guessed this going in, since the adaptation is from HBO, which just makes me think of graphic violence and nudity. That aside, A Game of Thrones was a compelling story about the fight for the throne. It’s greatest strength is that it’s a gripping story with strong characters. In A Game of Thrones, the stakes are high and the characters must decide which side they’re on, with their lives on the line.
“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”