A Game of Thrones
Written By: George R.R. Martin
Published By: Spectra
Reviewed by Ismael Manzano
A friend of mine tipped me off to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy book, A Game of Thrones, a mixed blessing in my reading experience. A Game of Thrones is the first part of Martin’s ongoing series A Song of Ice and Fire, and it sweeps across the Seven Kingdoms, focusing on dozens of characters throughout their battle for the crown. It’s hard to say who the main character is, since there are so many and each are well layered. However, it’s safe to say that whatever type of person you are, you’ll find a character to relate to and empathize with.
In general, however, this first installment of the series focuses on the Stark family of Winterfell, who, through Lord Ned Stark’s relationship with the King (Robert), are thrust into a conspiracy by assailants unknown to usurp the throne. Ned is asked to leave his family and join the King in his home of King’s Landing as his right hand and protector, while Ned’s daughter Sansa is offered to the King’s son Joffrey as a bride.
Ned’s staunch idealism and his influence over the King forces the hidden conspirators, members of the King’s own family and friends, to reveal themselves and hurry their plans. In the wake of treason, characters, both beloved and hatred, wind up dead and the Stark family is divided by politics as well as distance.
Martin constructs a well textured story that has many facets and has a rich history. What I like about it is that Martin plays down the magical aspect of the world in which he creates, infusing little dabs of it slowly as the series unfolds, teasing the diehard fantasy lovers with promises of what’s to come and easing everyone else into the magical side of his world without shoving it down anyone’s throat. Also, with so many characters, there are no safe bets; anyone can die, and Martin carries that message across wonderfully.
Now for the downside. As the title of the series would suggest, A Song of Ice and Fire is an epic and as such, at times reads like the Bible. Sometimes the history aspect of the story can get weighty and feels unnecessary, taking a little away from plot. And while Martin does not do this so much in the first book, in the next two installments, he develops a habit of focusing on uninteresting characters while skipping over what I at least believe to be more important and more interesting plotlines. Also he tends to jump time periods from one character to the next, overlapping scenes and making it difficult to understand the chronology.
Overall, Martin’s A Game of Thrones and the subsequent books in the ongoing A Song of Ice and Fire series, is a brutally realistic, richly engrossing, and more often than not, interesting portray of the struggle of Kings and would-be Kings in their efforts to bring their own—and sometimes slanted—version of peace to the Seven Kingdoms. The prose can be, at times, overly flowery, but the pay off is there and almost always worth the wait.