A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
A Song of Ice and Fire #1
Bantam, 835 pages
In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes of 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.
First off – I don’t think I’d go through the trouble of summarizing A Game of Thrones because I’m pretty sure practically everyone knows what this is about. In case you don’t …well, it’s about several families living in a land called Westeros, all of whom seem to be at war (or at least, are set to manipulating and wiping off other family lines) with each other to claim the power among the land. There are several story lines explored in the book that if I try to explain will either take too long, or spoil you, so let’s not get to that. But in case you’re not interested in reading the book (it is a doorstopper), there’s always the HBO TV series based on the book which will probably tell you everything you need to know.
So. I really had no plans of reading this, until I got this crazy idea last year to get a copy of the boxed set because…well, it looks cool. I don’t watch the TV series, though, so the interest in this was purely from a reading standpoint. I figured that I will probably watch the TV series at some point, but before that, I will read the book first. I am a purist, I told myself. Books before TV shows, or movies, yes?
But I was entirely unprepared at the length of these books. When I saw that the second book in the series was a 1000+ pages, I decided not to get the entire set. Too much investment, I thought. So I got the first book instead, thinking that if I end up liking it, I will probably get the next ones. Never mind if the boxed set is pretty.
Months passed, and I still haven’t cracked the book open. It stared at me from my shelf, daring me to read it. The only reason I was hesitant to read this was because it was so thick. YA books tend to be 400 pages max, and anything longer than that, I felt like it was already too long, and would require too much investment, especially with all the other books in my TBR. 800+ pages in just one book? How long will I finish that? But I was determined, and I picked it up several times only to get distracted by something else. Finally, some friends from the book club joined me in a Buddy Read for this book…and I was in it for real. Can I make it? Especially in the same month that our book club has Fellowship of the Ring as its book of the month?
Well friends, I made it. Without throwing the book away, or screaming in frustration. I shook my fist several times, I cringed, but I made it to the end and let out a loud whoop when I was done. To be perfectly honest, I feel like this was such a huge reading accomplishment that I can’t help but be proud of myself. (Also a confession: every time I bring the book outside to read it — on the gym, or while commuting — I can’t help but feel so cool. Like I have this cool, intellectual and geeky vibe because I’m reading this book. Is it just me? :P) And have you noticed how I haven’t really written anything about the book yet in this review?
But what else is there to say about this that hasn’t been said? A Game of Thrones is a very, very engaging book. The sheer number of characters and names can be intimidating and it can be hard to keep them straight sometimes, but honestly? You can dismiss some of the character names because they’re not so important. The real problem is how not to get attached to anyone because what other fans of the series said is true: characters die in this book. Wait, let me correct that: characters you don’t want to die will die in this book. By that I leave you to wonder, but really, get your heart ready because if you’re the type who gets attached to characters easily, then you would probably throw A Game of Thrones away from you several times while reading this.
That being said, though, I enjoyed the two weeks or so I spent reading this book, so much that it almost didn’t feel like it was two weeks. I was fascinated with the world of Westeros and the Wall and the Starks and Lannisters and the other Houses. It’s not just court politics or people killing each other for a throne or a crown. There’s family, there’s loyalty, and personal revelations about the characters’ identities as they go through their own challenges. Of course, there were those other things that my friends warned me about too, such as incest and rape and all that, but they weren’t really as graphic as I expected in this book. Mind you — I’m not comfortable about it so I tend to skim, but they’re not really as explicit as I thought they were. Wait, I think my friends were warning me about the TV series, not the book.
Anyway, I enjoyed reading A Game of Thrones. Honestly, I was kind of surprised that I did — not that I was expecting not to like it, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I understand why so many people are hooked on this series. Will I read the next book? Yes, most probably. Not anytime soon, though, because I’m still taking a breather with this. But maybe I’ll watch the second season of the TV series first before reading A Clash of Kings, just to change things a bit. :)
Also, I totally want my own direwolf.