Review: A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

a game of thrones book cover

A Song of Ice and Fire #1

Eddard “Ned” Stark, Lord of Winterfell, is approached by his oldest friend and the king, Robert Baratheon, to take up the role of Hand of the King after the previous Hand, Jon Arryn, dies. Ned is not keen on the position, his place is in Winterfell, with his family in the North. His wife, Catelyn, insists that he take the job, especially after her sister Lysa Arryn warns her to beware of the Lannisters, whom she suspects are involved with the death of her husband. Robert’s wife, Cersei, is a Lannister, as well as her twin brother Jaime, who is a member of Robert’s kingsguard and known as the Kingslayer, making it difficult for Ned to approach Robert and discuss his fears with him. Ned decides that he will go with Robert to investigate the suspected murder of Jon Arryn. Shortly before leaving Winterfell, Cat and Ned’s youngest son, Brandon, who loves to climb, witnesses Jaime and Cersei together in a way that is most incestuous, and Jaime pushes Bran from a window, damn near killing the boy in the fall. Ned is loathe to leave, but Robert will hear nothing of it, and so he sets off for the capital of Westeros, King’s Landing, with his youngest daughter Arya and Sansa, whom Robert has proposed should marry his son, Joffrey, to bind the families together.

Once Ned has left Winterfell, his eldest son Robb takes up his place to rule, with the younger brothers, Rickon and the comatose Bran, remaining behind. Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow, moves to take his place as a member of the Night’s Watch, though he is sad to do so, but eager to make something of himself. He leaves with his uncle Benjen Stark, but is disappointed when the Wall turns out to be a terrible place, and that Snow still does not fit in. Many people are terrified of the direwolves that the Stark children have, and the wolves protect each child in turn. Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryan is sold by her brother Viserys to Khal Drogo, a powerful warlord who is to help Viserys win back the Iron Throne from Robert. Daenerys initially starts unhappy, a young girl who was bartered for a crown, but soon takes up the Dothraki as her own people, falling deeply in love with her husband. In the khalasar, she makes the acquaintance of Ser Jorah Mormont, a banished knight from Westeros who swears to serve her brother. Daenerys receives beautiful gifts for her wedding, including three stone dragon eggs which are priceless. Daenerys dreams of the Targaryan dragons of old, reflecting that her and her brother are the last of that line, and that Viserys is the last dragon. Soon she discovers that she is pregnant, and is overjoyed by the news.

After Ned has left Winterfell, someone makes an attempt on Bran’s life, who wakes some time after the incident. Cat, meanwhile, has rode off to meet Ned in King’s Landing and discuss the rare dagger that the assassin had used. There they learn from Lord Petyr Baelish, a member of the king’s small council, that the blade belongs to the dwarf Tyrion Lannister, youngest brother of Cersei and Jaime. On the way back to Winterfell, Cat encounters Tyrion and captures him, taking him with her to the Vale, where her sister resides, to make him stand trial and answer for his wrongs. This, however, causes complications when Ned deals with Jaime in King’s Landing, who wishes for his brother’s safe return, and with Tywin Lannister rallying his men to go to war in order to retrieve Tyrion and show that they are not afraid to fight for their own. Arya and Sansa are at opposites with each other, Arya wanting to master the art of the sword, whereas Sansa is terribly embarrassed by her sister and wishes she was more ladylike. Ned investigates further, and his findings are very complicated and messy, meaning that there is no way that he can ignore the discovering Jon Arryn made and was slaughtered for. His news will have to wait, however, seeing as Robert is away on a hunting trip. Daenerys, on the other hand, has problems when Viserys starts pushing her husband to hurry up and complete his end of the bargain, saying that a deal is a deal. Jon Snow is dealing with life on the Wall, but is terribly lonely since Benjen Stark left and never returned. The Stark words of Winter is Coming are starting to ring true, as rumours and evidence of dark, evil things beyond the Wall are making their way to the ears of men.

What will Khal Drogo do about Viserys Targaryan and his anger? What will Ned to with the monstrous discovery that he has made in King’s Landing concerning the Lannisters? Will he be able to prove that Jon Arryn was murdered? What will happen with Tyrion at the hands of Lysa Arryn, who holds him responsible for her husband’s death and the attempt on her nephew’s life? What will Jon do at the Wall, and will Benjen Stark return?

GRADE 8.5So I had actually started these books a few  years ago, but stopped when someone asked me if I really wanted to ruin the show for myself by knowing what was going to come next (because so seldom do things get adapted correctly). At any rate, a friend of my of mine was kind enough to have let me borrow his books which he got for Christmas. So trusting, right? Well, I jumped at the opportunity. Physical books trump ebooks anytime, though reading wherever works anyway. Initially I was afraid (because of the range of characters and events) that these books would read like textbooks, overburdened with information, though still possess a great story (think The Lord of the Rings – wonderful but definitely not light reading). My fears were almost immediately allayed. Martin writes with a style and grace that simply flows, it reads easily, and you don’t get stuck and don’t stumble or anything like that. The layout and presentation is interesting, too, what with each chapter being told by a different character. Initially the chapters are all relatively close together, but as things start to happen, the characters drift apart, the scope of the story ever widening. It is far easier to keep up with the characters in the books as opposed to the series, and there is an awesome amount of history in here that is just so interesting. I found the story to be rich and presented well, with an abundance of characters both likable and hated. I also like how you get to see how each of them think and develops differently over the course of the  book. My other half calls Petyr Baelish “Petyrphile” because of the whole Sansa Stark thing. When I started reading this book I was horrified to feel that I was a Petyrphile when the knowledge was dropped on me that Robb Stark is only fourteen, for instance, and that Jon Snow is the same. WTF man?! Oh well, aside from that, if you are not a reader and you have watched the show, that should be enough for you, it has been very loyal to this one (and to where I have read in the next one). If you liked the show and love reading, these are well worth the read.

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53 thoughts on “Review: A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

    • Zoë says:

      Bwahahaha! Man, the internet is the WORST spoiler of all time! 😛

      Well, the show is rapidly running out of book material, I have been wondering what they are going to do when they have finished with that which they have, will they construct their own story or what exactly? :/

      Great to see you around again!

      Like

      • Tyson Carter says:

        I know, and the author is SLOW…….I think splitting each book into 2 show years gives him a bit of time though.

        And thanks, hopefully for good. Trying to get into the swing of it, visiting, commenting, liking etc. Will be posting more and more of my own too 🙂

        Like

      • Zoë says:

        Truly he is extremely slow. Meh. I suppose we will wait and see.

        🙂 Yay, I am very happy to hear that. I suppose it takes awhile to get back into it 🙂

        Like

  1. lukebbtt says:

    I like how Sansa is written. This whole gory world is written as if it was a fairy-tale. It is clever. It is also fun to watch her see Joffrey as an amazingly handsome prince and every other character describes him as a ‘malevolent fucking c***’ (yes, I repeat jokes – so what? lol).

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      You are right! Everything is all princess perfect and knights from the stories prevailing and what not. Yeah, it’s like she could see NO flaws in him, no matter what.

      Bwahahaha, well played!

      Like

  2. theipc says:

    Beloved JB,

    I actually really want to read these and I THANK you for telling me they’re not Terry Brooks style confusing with 700 characters per chapter.

    LOVE,

    SC

    Like

  3. Kim @ Tranquil Dreams says:

    Awesome! I didn’t read through the whole thing yet but I’ll come back after I finish the book, I promise! Its a long read though. My goodness! I just did the book survey and thought 750+pages was long, this one is over 800…I fainted a little.
    So I haven’t started watching Game of Thrones? Will it ruin it for me? I mean it didn’t for other shows…so..I don’t know.

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      I hope that you enjoy them Kim, the books are really good (so far).

      I don’t think that it will ruin it. They actually tie in relatively closely, but the read is still great, because there are some little changes and some AWESOME history. However, there are a few things that I saw in the show and was glad I saw there first, but I am one of those people that get that involved with books it is as good as seeing it, so it didn’t really detract for me!

      Like

      • Kim @ Tranquil Dreams says:

        Awesome! I take your word for it! I should start watching Game of Thrones soon 🙂 So far, although long, the read has been pretty great. I love the setup of having each character’s story extend with the chapter so its more organized 🙂

        Like

      • Zoë says:

        Yeah I liked the way that was done! He has a knack for stopping as it gets interesting then putting you in with someone else haha, and as you get interested there moves on to another character.

        Like

  4. Natasha says:

    Hey best friend

    Great review. I decided to start reading this – the TV series is currently being produced way too slow to feed my obsession. Actually can’t wait. It sounds epic and I know you enjoyed it.

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      YAY! That makes me so happy to hear! I hope that you start soon, we need to start discussing some things that are not in the show (like the thing you killed for yourself – meh – and I was so patiently waiting for you to get there hahaha).

      I think that you will thoroughly enjoy them, they are very good.

      Like

  5. melissa nacinovich says:

    I was afraid of these books initially too, I couldn’t get through the lord of the rings books because there was too much crap to remember and didn’t want to go through that again. But, you’re right, these books are so easy to read.
    : )
    awesome review!

    Like

  6. vampireplacebo says:

    I’ve read all these books and am SO impatient for the next part! They’re so amazing! When I found out they were adapting it, and that it was HBO doing it, I was happy and scared at the same time. HBO had already ruined one of my other favourites (The Southern Vampire Mysteries, aka, True Blood), so I was terrified to see what they were going to do with Song of Ice and Fire. I was so relived when I started watching, though, they’re doing an excellent job.

    The only thing I might say is that it kinda sucks that everyone is way older than they should be. Jon, Robb and Dany are all 14. Sansa is 12, I belive, Arya is 10, and Bran 8. All the adults were way too old too, except Cersei and Jaime. They were all roughly the same age during the userper’s war, and they weren’t that old. I think Ned said he was about 17. Fast forward 14 years (their oldest child’s age) and that would make them between 31 and 35 years old. As much as I love Sean Bean, he’s much too old. So is Cat.

    But, on the other hand, I kinda understand why they did it. Watching teenagers humping might be a little much for tv. Even HBO :-p

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      I must agree, from what I have read and all that I have seen, they are really doing a good job.

      Yeah, the ages were changed around, but I can also understand that in a sense. Imagine the uproar if they had pregnant 13 year olds and all those things, and I think a lot of people nowadays won’t associate that it is correct like that for the times, so it loses realism for the average viewer.

      Oh imagine, it would be like watching Killer Joe all the time… but in the past, with a lot of fantasy! 😛

      Like

      • vampireplacebo says:

        As there should be. I’m not saying they made a bad choice and they shouldn’t have done it. I was just saying that everyone is much older in the show then they are in the books. And I guess since the kids are all years older than they should be, I suppose it makes sense that they didn’t keep the adults as being in their early to mid-thirties either.

        Like

  7. Abbi says:

    I read all of them before the series started but so much happens that I can’t remember everything so I still keep getting surprised.

    Like

  8. caragale says:

    One day, I, too, will finish this. Bahaha. Great review, lady! I couldn’t agree more. It’s an excellent book. I’m actually really glad I watched the TV show first though. I feel like having faces for all of the names helps keep it all straight in the book. Lol Petyrphile!!! Hey, don’t be ashamed–those are MEN on the show–not 14-year-olds, and they are ATTRACTIVE. 😉 Obviously, HBO made an executive decision to up all the ages a bit. Lol.

    Like

  9. jjames36 says:

    Agreed that this book is terrific. In fact, I think books 2, 3 and 4 are all awesome. (Incidentally, he fanbase largely rebelled against book 4. And I have to admit I initially had the same reaction. But then I waited five years for book 5 and started to gain appreciation for what Martin was doing in it. Book 4 takes the story in a new direction, making it less about the Starks and more about events that tear apart an entire world. And it does it in some very subtle and careful ways. I now think book 4 arguably the best in the series.)

    But book 5 . . . Let’s just say the intervening three or four years (or however long it’s been) have no made me like it . . .

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      Hmmmm, I hope to get there soon. I started A Clash of Kings but have not had even a few minutes to spare to read for the last two weeks, and I am rather unhappy about that. I would love to see how this all unfolds and comes together.

      Book five is no winner then… uh oh…

      Like

      • jjames36 says:

        Like book four, book five is divisive. There are some fans who say we need to wait before hating it, that it is a transition from the start of the series to its end, that it might look brilliant in context, once the end of the series has been published.

        There are some fans who love it as is, though they’re probably the minority.

        And there are some fans, like me, who think it is a poor book that cannot stand on its own terms, and that it zaps a lot of energy from the series.

        Hopefully, you’ll be in one of the first two camps, when you finally get there.

        Like

      • Zoë says:

        To wait until the end? That’s another three books!

        Oh my, I must get cracking on my reading so I, too, can see what all this division is about!

        Like

  10. jjames36 says:

    Have they officially announced the series is going 8? Last I looked, Martin was still saying he’d finish it in 7. (But last I looked was the year Dance with Dragons was published, so it could have easily changed by now.)

    And you just stated my point. Given Martin’s pace, how long publishing a new novel takes him, waiting until the end means waiting 10-15 years. I am not willing to give him a decade plus to prove Dance is actually good. Instead, I”ll judge it on its own merits, as a standalone product.

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      Oh I thought it was going on until 8, just read now. Still just hinted.

      But either way, 7 or 8 books, waiting decades to make or break something is a little excessive. I agree with what you are saying, it should be good WITHOUT something else to decide that.

      Like

      • Zoë says:

        Well, on A Clash of Kings now, the books I am borrowing are the ones that split book 3 and 5 into 2 books each, so I still have a whole lot in between. 😀

        Like

      • jjames36 says:

        I didn’t know any published volumes had split books 3 and 5. Interesting decision, that.

        Especially given that 4 and 5 were originally supposed to be one book, and that they were already split, by the author himself. 🙂

        Like

      • Zoë says:

        Apparently the books were simply too big or something. Granted, reading the copy of A Clash of Kings I have, my little fingers can’t get a proper grip. Makes me wonder how huge those would be if not split!

        Oh my goodness! WOW! That would have made for one immense tome of a book!

        Like

      • jjames36 says:

        I guess the editions you have needed to use smaller font. 🙂

        And yeah. Between them 4 and 5 are near 2500 published pages. Kind of had to be split.

        Like

      • Zoë says:

        I won’t kid around, the font is minuscule in the ones that I am reading 😦 That isn’t always fun.

        I should find out how many are in this set’s 4 and 5 if you combine the 3 volumes. I would be interested to know.

        Like

  11. table9mutant says:

    I seriously considered reading these but just don’t have the time. :-/ At least I’m loving the show! When I get time to watch it… Lol. I’ve not read your review, though, in case there are spoilers on the show?

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      One step at a time, one step at a time. Work through those, get time one day, THEN read them 😀 Hmmmmmm… there is one piece that could be, but it has a strike-through. So skip from My other half says until the end of the strike-through. If you have watched season one then this one is fine to read.

      Like

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