23 December 2013

George R.R. Martin - A Game of Thrones

" In the game of thrones, you win or you die" - Cersei Lannister

In the fantasy Kingdom of Westeros, Robert Baratheon the usurper sits on the Iron Throne. The children of the forest, the dragons and the white walkers are all long-dead, extinguished by the long summer. But the Hand of the King is dead, possibly murdered, and King Robert travels North to Winterfell to name his new Hand; Lord Eddard (Ned) Stark. But beyond the wall there are whispers of ghosts, and Ned Stark is not keen to leave his home defended by his young son.

Meanwhile Aerys Targaryen, the heir of the king deposed by Robert, is trying to amass an army in the east, and his first act is to marry off his only remaining relative, his sister Daenerys, to a Dothraki khal, the leader of a huge clan of barbarians. The Stark words have never been truer; 'Winter is Coming'.

There is a fair bit to say about this book, but first off I have to admit that the TV series has done an excellent job of adapting the book. Each character and each story is accurate, and some characters, such as Samwell Tarly, have come into their own in the TV series, where he didn't make too much of an impression in the book. This, however, is based on this first book alone, further reading needs to be done before judging it as a whole.

The best part of the books is that each character is meticulously made. They have separate strengths and weaknesses, multitudes of personality traits and a distinct voice. Even though the book is written in third person, when you start a chapter, you know exactly who it is about. The chapters alternate between a host of characters; the entire Stark family (minus the youngest member) has a voice, along with Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister. Favourites so far are Arya Stark, Ned's youngest daughter, and Tyrion, the dwarf. Having seen the second series, I have extremely high hopes for these two narratives as the story progresses and dearly hope they don't die.

The plot is well woven and builds up wonderfully at the end. There are some shocking, grotesque and sexual moments dotted throughout the book, so it is best recommended to adults. There is really nothing about life that is missed out; it is real life on a fantastical scale, with a fantasy setting, more intrigue, more death, more action and more plotting. Prepare yourselves, because the series is just getting started. 9.5 out of 10.