Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R Martin
Some books you don’t just read.
The Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie is a high-fantasy series that pulls you in so you’re fighting alongside the characters, in the mud and the blood…
A Game of Thrones, the first book in George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire sequence is another series that pulls you in. You’re there, in Westeros, snow or rain in your face, sword in your hand…
But it pulls you into more than just battles. The world building is some of the most detailed I’ve ever read. Martin has created cultures and languages, countries and regions, all with their own histories and customs.
Just as detailed as the world building are the characters. A Game of Thrones is divided up between several characters. Jon Snow, Ned/Eddard Stark (Whose story this first book is) Catleyn Stark, Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, Bran Stark, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister. Martin divides the page space up pretty equally between the characters so they’re all developed well. Some of them you might like and some of them you won’t. But there are dozens more characters—the largest cast I’ve known in a book. But in this first book there’s never too many that you can’t remember who is who or what their agenda is.
And there are plenty of agendas. Everyone is vying for the right to the Iron Throne and to rule Westeros.
For a book that is over 800 pages long, there was never a moment where I wanted it to end. I tried reading slow, to make it last, but Martin’s writing style is addictive and it’s hard not to race through the book.
A Game of Thrones isn’t as action packed as Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy (worth checking out if you’re a Throne’s fan) but Martin still includes plenty of battles and set pieces to keep the pace moving pretty fast all the way to the end.
As well as epic world building, Martin builds good atmosphere. Whether it’s the suspicion and corruption in King’s Landing where Ned Stark tries to survive and uncover the truth, or far in the North where Jon Snow becomes a part of the Night’s Watch and learns of a plot unfolding beyond the Wall. Martin writes so that you can feel the heat of King’s Landing, smell the fires burning in Winterfell and feel the cold at Castle Black in the north.
Even though I’ve watched the TV show, know what’s going to happen, the books still seemed to be unpredictable, and Martin includes enough extra material that didn’t make it into the shows so that reading the books is still worth it.
If you haven’t started this series yet, check it out. If you think it won’t be as good because you’ve already seen the show, give A Game of Thrones a shot. I waited too long, and I regretted it.
Epic doesn’t cover it.