Book Review – A Game of Thrones

A Game of ThronesA Game of Thrones” is a medieval fantasy book that has the world talking lately.  It’s the first in the “A Song of Fire and Ice” series by George R. R. Martin, and has recently been adapted for TV.  As I always read the book before I see the movie or TV series, now was a good time to get this started.

The version I’m reviewing appears to be a special alternate cover, and while it is paperback, it’s the size of a hardcover book.  Not so easy to carry around, and it seemed that the pages took much longer to read than a normal book.  But anyway, that’s just the version I’d bought.

When you think of fantasy novels, you usually think of a naive, inexperienced farm boy going on a heroic quest for self discovery and to defeat evil.  Well, there’s none of that here.  Dragons and magic are a part of this story, but they’re quite minor in this book.  What’s important here is politics.  There’s plenty of it!  The main characters are all high society, lords, ladies, kings, queens, and highly respected knights.  No one is entirely good and no one is entirely bad.  Everyone is in a grey area.  In other words, they are human.  There are a lot of characters to hate, as there’s a lot of despicable behaviour, and some of them you just want dead.  There are characters you root for, but they have flaws, just like regular people.

The book is told from a third person point of view, centered on many of the main characters.  Each chapter has a different point of view character, and the narration is told in such a way that you can feel their personalities in the words.  I felt like I could get to know the characters better that way.  In some ways, I could sympathise with most of them, but others I just didn’t like as people.  But the characters that are supposed to be the bad guys have a certain amount of good in them.  The focus is mostly on the Stark family, including Lord Eddard Stark, his wife Catelyn, and children Bran, Sansa, Arya, and Jon.  The main antagonists are the Lannister family, though we only follow the imp, Tyrion.  We get to view the actions of the other Lannisters through the eyes of Tyrion and the Starks.  There’s one other main character, Daenerys, the daughter of the previous King.  I can’t say whether she’s a protagonist or antagonist in this series, though.  It’s not completely apparent.  Through these people, we get to see what their world and circumstances are like.

Fantasy usually has a central hero.  This does not.  It’s an ensemble cast, and none of them is a hero.  The story doesn’t show heroic deeds, but it does show incredible tragedy, and a lot of it.  For those of you who like tragic stories, this is a great one for you.  But there are some major victories to be had.  There is a lot of death, rape, injustice, and treachery.  It’s dark.  The deaths are often gruesome.  There’s also sex, but it’s not graphically described. It’s depicted as just a fact of life.  And it seems like death must always be accepted, since it seems to touch everyone’s lives.

I came into this book knowing that it’s popular, and that many people thoroughly enjoyed it.  So, my expectations were set quite high.  I wasn’t sure whether to expect a typical heroic fantasy or something completely different.  The story was not predictable.  I was surprised often, which is a very good thing.  I wanted to read more and more with what little time I had.  I was more than satisfied.  This book has made a new fan.  It was quite excellent, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves this kind of story.  It exceeded my expectations.

5/5 stars.  Outstanding.