A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

Ser Waymar had been a Sworn Brother of the Night’s Eatch for less than half a year, but no one could say he had not prepared for his vocation. At least insofar as his wardrobe was concerned.

I’ve gone all in. The last of the books from my book day was A Game of Thrones. I felt I wanted to watch the TV series, and I generally try to read a book before I see it’s moving picture equivalent. Half way through reading this I went out and bought the rest of the series altogether, I knew I would read them all and, this is the geek in me, I actually wanted a set of books with the same covers.

I’ve come to creating a scale for Fantasy books, that sits with J.R.R. Tolkien and his epic fantasy at one end, and Joe Abercrombie, with his brilliantly funny bone crunching realism at the other. In terms of preference I have slid across the scale from Tolkien to sit firmly in camp Abercrombie, but A Game of Thrones has started to pull me back across. I say that because while Martin does include a generous dollop of wit in his fantasy, particularly where Tyrion Lannister is concerned, it sits more comfortably down the epic, serious fantasy of Tolkien, in fact, to me, it is Tolkien-eque fantasy evolved.

Since there are seven books in the series so far I will probably review them in terms of storyline, removing all the spoilers (well that’s the plan, there will probably be several drafts of these posts) and generally highlighting my favourite bits. I’m also planning to read all of them one after the other, without wandering off and reading something completely different in between..not sure that will happen.

And so to book one. Martin creates a luxurious world, unbelievably as rich in detail as it is wide in scope, from the liveries and standards of the myriad of families,to the vengeful prince in exile to the fawning, and  the scheming courtiers to the King, who seemingly, is in more danger from within that without. Into this steps Eddard Stark, a Good Man. The trouble with putting a Good Man in the middle of a bad situation is that he will try to Do Good, and that’s what Eddard Stark struggles in vain to do. While he struggles people are plotting against the King, and out somewhere across the sea, a young Prince and his sister are heirs to the deposed King from before, and can you guess what the Prince wants back? It almost seems strange to say that a book going on eight hundred pages is setting the scene, but that’s what a Game of Thrones does, and does brilliantly. While there are some opening moves it is only towards the end of the book you realise just how epic Martin is going with this, I’m eight hundred pages in and some of the key people in this are about fourteen years old, but they have a Destiny, it’s written all over them, I need to make myself comfortable.

There is an incredibly large cast of characters in this, some of who fail to make it to the end of book one and some who you get the sense will be standing at the end of book 734. King Robert is a classic picture of what every man expects being a King to be like, while Tyrion is one of the most intriguing, loyal to his family yet with an unexpected heart underneath the scheming exterior. Aside from the men, it is the women that seem to wield the real power, particularly Cercei, Catelyn and Daenerys. Catelyn in particular is one of the most interesting characters, loving wife and mother turned kidnapper who has a cold streak in her that is hard as steel. As mentioned above there are also children here, as you would expect with loving wives and virile Kings about, and they are wonderfully depicted by Martin, who almost perfectly captures the nuances in character in their interactions with adults and their siblings in everyday situations.

So, I’m hooked. A Game of Thrones is sumptuous, violent and complex but thoroughly enjoyable. Fantasy books have a way of hooking into me, where I have to stop if one of my favourite character dies, or there seems to be no way out of the situation the characters find themselves in. While there are what you could traditionally call ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters in Thrones, I’ve a suspicion that division will be an extremely blurry one by the end of the series. I’ve already voiced a few ideas of what I think might happen to my brother, who has read the books and seen the TV series, these were promptly rubbished and I was sent off to continue reading.  Which is exactly what I’m doing.

“And this is Bronn, a sellsword of no particular allegiance. He has already changed sides twice in the short time I’ve known him, you and he ought to get on famously, Father.”

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