A Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice #1) by George R. R. Martin, Harper Voyager, 2003, 836 pages.
Warning: this book contains violence and rape. Not suitable for younger readers.
I don’t usually read traditional fantasy, I find it too heavy, weighed down with too many unnecessary descriptions, but being a fan of the Game of Thrones TV series, I really wanted to read the book. I loved it.
I’m not going to write too much of a synopsis because unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you have a basic understanding of the story, at least enough to start. What I will say is that it has fighting, dragons and monsters, epic battles questionable heroes, as well as some you can get behind and characters so big you can’t believe they all fit into one story, if that sounds appealing, you need this book.
The descriptions are vivid and at times brutal. I flinched several times and some images stuck with me longer than I would have liked, be warned, this book does contain a fair amount of sexual violence and rape.
I loved the characters. The heroes are colourful and the villains toxic, just how they should be. I have favourites on both sides, I loved Deanarys, but then who doesn’t? She is brave and of all the characters, including the children, Deanarys is the one who grows the most, she starts out as a frightened young girl, but by the end she is a woman and a leader. She has this wonderful quote:
“If I look back I am lost.”
For all the “inspirational” quotes going around the internet I am surprised that one never made it; it is one I will try to remember.
I also liked Tyrion Lannister because he is funny, he provides humour that is much needed in a book so chaotic and harsh. It’s a real shame because I really don’t like the Lannisters and so I fear for Tyrion.
When I started to read the book I wandered if it was worth it because I had seen the TV program, I know what happens, but there was so much that was lost in the TV series. Don’t get me wrong, the series is a great adaptation, but there are small details like characters thoughts, that they don’t choose to share with other characters. One thing that struck me was how oblivious (for the most part) the “common people” were about the chaos among the royals who ruled them. In one part Ned Stark is mistaken by a peasant for the King and Ned wonders how one could not know what their King looks like, Ser Jorah Mormont echoes this when he explains to Deanarys that nobody is waiting for her brother:
“The common people pray for rain, healthy children and a summer that never ends,” Ser Jorah told her. “It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.”
There is a Communist belief that workers in one country have more in common with workers in other countries than they do with their own employers, while reading this book, I had a discussion with somebody about the class gap in the book, they quoted this idea and I agree that Game of Thrones reflects this belief but extends it to rulers; the high lords of Westeros are so far removed from the people they rule that neither know much about the other.
So even though I knew how the books ends, I still very much enjoyed it, in fact, I had started the next one before posting this. If you are in any doubt I recommend reading it anyway, you won’t be disappointed.