Way back in June I did my review on the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. It wasn’t nice, or delicate. And though my feelings on the overall series have not changed. It is still long, drawn out, full of unnecessary elements, and will inevitably lead to a disappointing ending. I feel like I do owe book one, A Game of Thrones, a much better review as a stand alone. The ground-breaking novel deserves that much respect, and cannot be blamed for having four books after it that could have been one and a half, maybe two. Or that Mr. Martin seems to have forgotten what he was doing entirely. I stand by my assessment that 1.77 million words should get much more done, or… something done. Before I get going on the mess that is the Song of Ice and Fire series, I will focus on the book that started it all, and should be credited as one of the landmark fantasy novels of our time.
A Game of Thrones was published over twenty years ago, on August 1, 1996. Instantly gaining reception as one of the best fantasy novels in years. Earning awards across the fantasy board including, a Locus Award, and a Hugo for the novella collecting the Blood of the Dragon storyline. Many of todays biggest names in fantasy give the nod to George R.R. Martin for opening the doors and minds of what fantasy could be. Today, A Game of Thrones is one of the best selling books of all time, and has spawned a franchise that stretches TV, games, comic books, and plenty of merchandise.
The plot is massive. Considering the mass popularity of the books and TV series, it would be redundant of me to break it down. Essentially, A Game of Thrones introduces us to Westeros, a fictional, medieval land of delicate politics. With the fall of the countries long running, yet unstable, monarchy, the throne for Lord of the Seven Kingdoms is held in a delicate balance. After established leader Robert Baratheon is poisoned, politics and deception play a major role in who is the next rightful leader. Meanwhile, plenty of other side plots are unravelling. Like the fate of the last survivors of the former monarchy, and their efforts to regain power. And, the degenerating forces of a giant wall dedicated to keeping the undead in the frozen north.
There are many positives and negatives to this book, mostly positives each with a negative flaw. The characters, and multiple POV’s were well planned out, creating a rich world of individuals. Unfortunately, many of them are one dimensional and the author likes to put definitive lines between the good and the evil, with only rare glimpses of more natural personalities. The drawn out descriptions of… everything, from food, clothing, weapons, the colour of the drapes, the condition of the walls, etc., are surprisingly easy to read, and at times enjoyable. Although, in the long run, four books later, it all feels excessive. What makes this book so strong is the intellectual chess game you bare witness to. The pieces move flowingly, and naturally, with abrupt changes and major twists, keeping you intrigued from page one. The flaw to this however, is it doesn’t all fit together. Starting with zombies, ending with dragons and a whole slew of moving pieces in the middle, that fail to connect with each other, and never leading to an end. Like, never.
Somehow, the powerful writing of this story makes you ignore all of the drawl, and tropes. The historical political theories are captivating, propelling readers through the story for answers. That is what George R.R. Martin gave us. We no longer need fantastic imagery and magic to drive fantasy novels. Since the release in 1996, the genre has exploded with new and exciting worlds and politics, focusing on story, instead of the fantastic. For those of you eagerly awaiting the next installment from Mr. Martin, I would remember that this strong book took him five years to write. That was with half the characters involved now, and only four settings. He has built this series as big as his wall, and he has a lot of climbing to do to get out of it. As for Game of Thrones, I will stick to my initial rating of 3/5. This novel is an enjoyable read, and a landmark in the genre. But, for me, the talented writing does not mask the major flaws of the overall book. So, give it a read, but do yourself the favour of stopping there, or at most book three, there’s nothing substantial after that.
Thanks booknerds, I sure hope winter is ending soon…