Book Review: ‘A Game of Thrones’ by George R. R. Martin

Posted: 9 July 2015 in Book reviews
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Synopsis

In the land of Westeros, powerful families from the Seven Kingdoms will soon vie for the Iron Throne. Ned Stark, Warden of the North, is visited by friend and king Robert Baratheon and asked to be the King’s Hand. He initially refuses, but with some pressure he relents, much to the dismay of Catelyn, his wife. As he prepares to leave Winterfell in the capable hands of his wife and eldest son Robb, disaster strikes when his second youngest son Bran is left comatose from being pushed from a tower after witnessing the king’s wife Cersei and her brother Jamie together. Despite this tragedy, Ned is honour-bound to his king and leaves to King’s Landing with his daughters Arya and Sansa, who is betrothed to Prince Joffrey. Jon Snow, Ned’s bastard son, also leaves Winterfell to serve as a member of the Night’s Watch. There he is despised and openly mocked by many of his ‘Brothers’, but he quickly proves himself more than capable and better than most. This earns respect from some and further hate from others.

In King’s Landing, the intrigues of court are much worse than Ned expected. Robert spends most his time drinking and whoring, leaving the running of the Kingdoms in the hands of the Small Council, led by Ned. He also works to discover what actually happened to his predecessor Lord Arryn (whose widow believes was poisoned). He soon learns that Robert’s children are in fact not his at all, as Lord Arryn discovered. Turns out the incest rumours were true. Ned foolishly warns Cersei of his plan to tell Robert. Before he can, the king is wounded in a hunting accident and later dies. Ned is made Lord-Regent and attempts to challenge Joffrey’s claim to the throne. He is betrayed by Lord Baelish and imprisoned. Sansa is taken as a hostage while Arya escapes and is assumed dead. Joffrey then has Ned beheaded, breaking his promise to Sansa to show mercy. Ned’s death and the death of Robert start a war, dividing the Seven Kingdom’s to whom they feel is the rightful heir of the Iron Throne.

In the north, Bran awakes paraplegic with no memory of the accident. An assassin fails to kill him with a knife Catelyn discovers (from Lord Baelish, who has loved her for many years) belongs to Tyrion Lannister. As she returns from King’s Landing, she comes across Tyrion and takes him captive to stand trial at The Eyrie. He requests a trial by combat and enlists a man named Bronn to fight for him, who wins to Catelyn’s dismay. With Ned’s death, Robb rallies the men of the north to retaliate for his father’s wrongful death. He is deemed the ‘King of the North.’ And he is not the only candidate for the throne. Both Robert’s brothers, Stanis and Renly, squabble for it, which divides the people three ways between them and those who support the Lannisters/Joffrey.

Across the seas, the last remaining Targaryens work to reclaim their stolen throne. Viserys uses his sister Daenerys as a bargaining chip to amass an army large enough to destroy those who stole his throne by marrying her off to Khal Drogo, a Dothraki leader. Drogo kills Viserys, which reveals to Daenerys that he was not the dragon. Later, Drogo gets wounded and she attempt to save him using magic. Daenerys loses her unborn child and he ends up dead anyway. In the funeral pyre, she burns a witch and walks into the flames with the three dragon eggs gifted to her by Magister Illyrio. When the flames subside, she is unharmed surrounded by three baby dragons.

My Thoughts

I’ve said this before, I don’t typically give full synopses, but this isn’t a typical scenario. If you’ve seen the show then you already know the ending so in truth I’m not giving anything away. If you haven’t seen the show, well then surprise there’s dragons and death. Lots of death. So don’t get attached to anyone. It’ll just piss you off.

I didn’t climb onto the GoT bandwagon until just before the 3rd season. It is refreshing to see how mostly true to the book the first season was. The annoying thing was that I knew long before I considered watching the show that Ned died. Honestly, Sean Bean always seems to get the short end of the stick in his roles. It’s good though. The show gives you a good overview of the series, but the books will always be better than film/show. Usually.

While I have to stress how well written, researched, plotted out the book is, there is one thing that irks me: the chapter organisation. I have read many books where the chapters bounce around between characters giving their point of view for various scenes or time frames and it has never been an issue. This time it drove me crazy. The scenes, while moving forward, seemed to do so in no real coherent way. There seemed to be no connectivity in the separate stories arcs. Kinda frustrated me, but otherwise fine.

One big, and interesting, point in regards to the characters is how much younger in the books they are than in the show. Granted, there would be some major legal issues is they were the correct ages in the show so I make no qualms. But watching the show first and then reading the book makes it a bit of a surprise. But my favourite characters are Jon Snow and Daenerys. Both of them are kind of looked down on for various reasons, but each has a special inner strength that drives them forward. They are also very honourable characters in my opinion. It is definitely a sign of a good writer when you have strong feelings towards characters. I detest the Lannisters. Especially Joffrey, which is what I expect Martin expects. My only problem is that I’m already fairly biased towards character because of the show. Curses.

Naturally, you need to read the book. It is very complex and very detailed. The detail doesn’t bog you down thankfully. If you understand history, especially Medieval, the interactions, betrothals, etc, seemed natural. There is also not nearly as much graphic scenes as in the show, which is nice. It is entertaining and I am glad I finally gave in. Enjoy 😉

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Buy at Barnes and Noble

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