Monday, 11 February 2013

"A Game of Thrones"

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Games of Thrones, Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones.

That's the buzz word lately.

I had heard about this series before I picked up the books. Multiple times co-workers and I would be discussing tv shows we watch and they would ask, "Do you watch Game of Thrones?"

When I always said no, they would inevitably reply (usually with a strange sigh), "Ohhhh you SHOULD. You would LOVE it."

So I started reading this series because of people who wanted me to watch the show. No one really talked about the books although one day I came into work and one of them had left the first two books for me to read.

I took my first step into the series and I was not disappointed.

The series starts out slowly. That's the greatest warning I will give to anyone interested in reading the series. I had to plow my way through the first third of the book before I became truly tangled in it.

There was a lot to learn and very quickly. Martin utilizes the genre of fantasy to it's greatest extent. He is unapologetic with the way he thrusts strange names and beliefs at us. The learning curve is steep; either you stumble through the beginning a bit confused and push through it, or you give up and put the book aside.

In that aspect this series is very unforgiving. You have to bend your mind around all the gods and legends discussed in the novel and I had to accept that I wasn't going to remember everything the first time around.

Not only is the history of this new world confusing...The narrative changes with every chapter! I found myself becoming comfortable and intrigued with one characters story only to find the voice switched over to another plot that I didn't care much for.

It was an effective way for Martin to write the novels though. I can see how he is creating different plots and schemes, all the while drawing the characters slowly yet inexorably towards each other. Their destinies seem to be bound together and that is becoming more and more apparent to me halfway through the Clash of Kings (second novel).

This is very different fantasy than any I have read; granted, I haven't read that much in the genre, but Martin is nowhere close to being similar to Tolkien or Lewis. Even though people criticize Tolkien's works as being too wordy or descriptive, I find that generally Lord of the Rings was easier to read with regards to the information slowly being fed to us.

Whereas in this series, Martin just shoves it all at you at once! I feel like I had been bludgeoned with a heavy first of fantasy.

So what exactly is this series all about?

Martin creates a huge fantasy world set in what appears to be medieval times. People are riding horses and mules, shooting arrows and fighting with swords.

The world he mainly writes about is known at the Seven Kingdoms, although it was of course originally something quite different. Men came and conquered, killing the children (indigenous people) of the land. It's the usual base of most fantasy worlds.

We are introduced to who I feel one of the most primary characters in the first novel is: Eddard Stark. He is sent to be the king's Hand (chief assistant of sorts) and he begins to see corruption in the government that the king governs.

Throughout the novel there refrains the phrase "winter is coming". Apparently there has been a summer that lasted ten years and we enter the story with the approach of a long and cruel winter imminently being predicted by different people.

That's when things get confusing. There are wolves and gods in trees. Martin tries to describe the godswood, which is perhaps an altar to their gods? There are seven gods with different purposes, rather like the saints Catholics pray to.

When I explain that the story is MAINLY about Eddard Stark, I'm dumbing down the entire novel. This first book basically lays the premise for a huge war approaching and...winter, as it states over and over again.

Sometimes Martin's writing seems great and sometimes it feels a bit forced. However, because it's a fantasy novel, it's easy to overlook the stilted conversation and descriptions.

Whatever the faults with the writing may be, the books will definitely pull a reader in. Switching the narrative back and forth to show the big picture was a wise tactic for Martin to take, especially with the many plots that he has endeavored to craft.

In long and short, I don't feel that I can fully describe this series.

I enjoyed the book and that is what it comes down to for me. I gave it four out of five stars because it is a strong introduction to his series.


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