Title: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R. R. Martin
Page Count/Review Word Count: 806
Okay, okay – I admit it. I was late to Game of Thrones, and I didn’t pick up the first book in the series until after the fifth season had aired, although I hadn’t seen the show before I started reading. I’m a purist like that – I knew I wanted to watch the show, and I also knew that I wanted to read the books before I started watching it, and so I somehow ended up letting Game of Thrones pass me by, whilst everyone else was getting obsessed with it.
But now I’m catching up. I actually waited to start reading the series until I found this, the first book in the series, in a charity shop. I’m not sure why – so many copies have been printed that the price is pretty low in general, and so it’s not much more to snag a copy from Amazon. Either way, as soon as I started reading it, I was hooked.
That was a month ago. I started reading it because I was moving house, and I needed to finish off my packing – I thought this would be a good book to start reading because it’s ridiculously long, and so it kept me busy for the week leading up to the move and the week after it. To be honest, that’s the only thing that I can think of that could stop someone from reading this – it does take a large time commitment, a bit like Tolkien does. But where Martin is different to Tolkien is that Tolkien’s books read like a history textbook; Martin’s books are alive and vibrant with character and plot, and that’s what keeps you turning the pages.
It’s also interesting to note that he tells the story by alternating the perspective between different chapters. Here, we only hear from half a dozen or so different characters, but it’s fascinating to see how the stories intermingle and how Martin wove them together to form a complex fantasy world that some people have likened to the murky politics of the English Wars of the Roses. I disagree – Martin’s work is even more detailed than that, and yet despite the way that the history of the realm plays a key part in this book, it still never feels dull to turn the pages.
Now, I don’t want to talk about the plot too much, because there are too many spoilers that I could give away. That said, if you’ve seen the TV series then you should know what you’re in for – death, war, incest, rape, and that’s just in the first third of the novel. I was pretty impressed by how true to the books the series was, although Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion doesn’t really fit with how I imagined him. Some of the characters are older in the show than they are in the books, too.
In a way, Martin’s decision to tell parts of his story through the eyes of youngsters, like 10-year-old Arya Stark, is a bold one. Younger characters are pretty common in young adult novels, but not so much in high fantasy – bringing the two together could potentially have muddled the waters, but rest assured. As soon as you start reading A Game of Thrones, you realise that this isn’t the case at all – it’s definitely a piece of high fantasy, and it’s up there with the best on the market.
And the thing is, I’m not just saying that because of the show – the show is great and so are the books, and I’d say that the books have a slight edge over the show, although that might just be because I’ve been reading them first. I would say that, if you’re thinking about it, it’s better to read the books first because they take a large time commitment, and if you already know what’s going to happen then it’s going to be more difficult for you to stick with it.
Overall, though, I thought this was a fantastic start to the series, and it’s interesting how you can become so attached to a character in a single book, and so upset when they don’t make it into the second book of the series. It’s a testament to Martin’s ability as a writer that even some of the lesser characters have fully developed personalities. It’s also interesting to see how both plot and character play a part in his stories.
So go, go, go and buy A Game of Thrones – even if you pick it up and don’t finish it, at least you started it. Martin’s writing is so enjoyable to read that he might keep you powering through until the end. It worked for me!