On the Cover: In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the North of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
Why I Chose It: I have seen the HBO series Game of Thrones and absolutely loved it! I was very excited when I got a chance to read the first book in the series.
Okay, so I’ve broken this review into two sections: one for those who have not seen the HBO series, and one for those who have. I wanted to do this because I’m going to be throwing out a lot of characters’ names and didn’t want to confuse anyone who’s not familiar with them. Of course, if you want to read the whole thing you can do that too ;)
For those who have not seen the HBO series:
So I have to admit that I was a little biased towards this book because I have seen the show and I love it. But I still think that if I hadn’t seen the show, I would have absolutely loved A Game of Thrones. Martin impressed me a lot. A lot, way more than I was expecting. I think he had a lot of skill because there was a lot of description, but it’s tucked away within the action or conversations so that while you’re getting the “big picture,” you don’t really notice how much description you’re actually reading. The book reads like a young adult in its speed and action, but has a lot more depth. The book is just smart. It’s not just a book about a couple of characters who happen to be in a kingdom, it’s a book about an entire world, one that has been very thorough in its creation, and has a ton of realistic characters interacting within it.
I liked the book a lot because there’s just so much in it. You have the kingdom and the king with the lords and the ladies, and the knights and the bastards, all of which were very interesting in their interactions. But you also have different settings within the book too. Winterfell and the Wall are both very far north, are much more involved in the coming of winter and are less concerned with the happenings of court in the far south. I loved this separation, as it felt much more realistic, as though it was a real kingdom spanning a large area. It also allowed me to see a lot more of each of the characters, as they were not confined to a single setting, and were able to move around and interact with different groups of people.
And the characters. The characters are awesome. You have characters of all different standings within the kingdom, and of all different ages. I really like the Stark family, who are kind of the main focus of the book, and it’s a family with 6 children. As the family spreads out you get to learn more about each member, and hearing each of their perspectives definitely helped to create a more round picture of this world. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and I was attached to each for different reasons. I absolutely love the different flavours of characters that are available within the book.
I have heard some feedback from friends that haven’t watched the show, and the one comment that gets repeated a lot is that because the book has so many characters, it’s a little hard to follow who is who. I can definitely see this being a factor, especially because there was a couple of moments when I mixed up characters myself. This partially happened because I was picturing the wrong actor from the tv series, but still got a little muddled while reading because some character names are similar. Still, there are family guides at the back of the book describing who each character is, and definitely as you get deeper into the book, the characters become much more familiar and clear.
For those who have seen the HBO series:
Holy crap. I can’t believe I haven’t read this book sooner! So the first book spans the first season, and I loved reading it after seeing the show. The book just elaborates on everything I loved from the show, and gives so much more depth and details to everything. There are some things I was not entirely clear about from watching the show (I’ve only watched the series once) so the book helped clarify things I wasn’t sure about.
The best part about the book was being able to see more of the characters that I love (mostly Arya and Daenerys). But the really cool part is that characters I absolutely hated in the show I actually started liking after reading the book. The most obvious example is Sansa. I’m sorry, but I really dislike her in the show, I think she’s a selfish brat. But in the book, she’s younger, more innocent and more naive, and I definitely understood the character a lot more. Being able to see the world through her eyes was so interesting, and I actually like the character in the book. Another example is Catelyn. I don’t particularly like her in the show, and to be honest, I didn’t really like her in the book either, but I understood her character way more after hearing her thoughts and seeing why she does some things.
I was disappointed with some characters in the book. I was looking forward to seeing more from Robb, because his character interests me but I feel like I don’t really get to see a lot of him. However, we don’t actually get a chapter from his perspective, we only see him through Catelyn’s perspective, which I obviously found frustrating because I don’t like Catelyn. But the biggest disappointment? I didn’t get Cersei’s perspective. I love to hate Cersei, I think she’s fabulous with how evil she is. But I wanted to see inside her head and see what’s going on up there. I wanted to see what kind of human side she has. While we do get glimpses of this through other characters like Ned, I was really disappointed that I didn’t get more.
Overall, I really liked reading the book. I loved the descriptions I got of the settings, and I felt like I understood the movement of characters way more in the book. It is an excellent addition to the show, and if you like the series, I really recommend reading the book.
A Game of Thrones is packed with interesting characters and beautiful and distinct settings. It’s a story from kings and knights and court, right down to young girls who want nothing more to gain their dreams – whether that’s marriage to a lord or fighting with a sword. I think anyone who likes court politics or fighting action (or touches of fantasy!) would be intrigued by this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and definitely recommend it!
Rating: 5 / 5