Book Report: Game of Thrones (Fairly Spoiler Free)

a-game-of-thrones

A Game of Thrones – By George R. R. Martin

Book Report By Vincent

I’m actually excited to be finally doing a book report on Game of Thrones. I’d wanted to read it for some time and as the HBO television series came closer to reality and my favorite TV podcast Television Zombies kept talking about it more and more, my interested kept growing. I’m cheap though and since I hadn’t seen Game of Thrones at a used book store, I hadn’t picked it up. Then a miracle happened. At c2e2 Bantam Books set out a huge pile of paperbacks on the last day of the show and they were giving them away. How could I resist?   So in a way this review is sponsored by the fine folks at Bantam.

Now Game of Thrones is classified as fantasy for a good reason. It takes place on a world that’s similar to medieval Europe and there are basically two seasons, summer and winter. Both seasons can last for years. That’s right, imagine an winter that lasts for five years, in a world that doesn’t have advanced food storage methods, hydroponics, or central heating. That’s enough right there to stifle a civilization from advancing. One thing that might appeal to those who normally don’t read fantasy is that there’s not as much  fantastic stuff as in your average fantasy novel. Most of Game of Thrones centers on the human characters and there’s rarely mention of non-humans. There’s no Orcs, the only Dwarf is an actual littler person with dwarfisim, and the most elf like creature is believed to be long extinct. There’s rumors that there’s more fantastic elements beyond an enormous wall that men had built hundreds of years ago to keep it all out. In a certain way it’s like Game of Thrones is set in Middle Earth after all the elves run off to wherever the hell they go and the age of man kicks into full gear.

Game of Thrones structure takes a bit of getting used to. Chapters alternate between several characters and sorting them out takes a bit of time. It takes even more time to try to figure out who all the non-POV characters are. Game of Thrones has about as many characters (main and background) as all the Star Wars movies combined, but I found it a lot less confusing than Dune. If you need a bit of help, the back of the book contains a listing of the major houses and their players.

One thing I worried about in regards to this structure was that if I didn’t like some of the POV characters or their stories, then I’d be stuck with a dud every few chapters while I had to wait to get back to the “good stuff.” It turned out that I hadn’t have worried at all. I found their stories engrossing, even with the characters I didn’t much care for. In particular a young girl by the  name of Sansa goes from a spoiled girl with a naive view of the world to a figure to  sympathize with due to the horrendous events and things that happen around and to her.

One of the really great things about Game of Thrones is that there are threats on all fronts. First up there’s the threat of civil war within the kingdom. Then you have the threat posed by a deposed prince and princess. Then there’s what’s going on with the stuff beyond the wall, which is probably the real threat. The catch with that is that there’s never been a problem from the North. Those in charge of watching for danger are dwindling and many of their towers and such are crumbling, broken, or abandoned.  There’s a few that know about the oncoming problem, but nobody is taking them seriously.  Finally, you have the threat of winter itself which shouldn’t be a picnic, because everyone saying its going to be a very long one. It gives you a great sense of danger throughout the entire novel, because it just reinforces that nobody is safe in this world.

It takes awhile to get the plot going, but once you’re about a third of the way through, it drives you to keep on reading. It’s a strange sort of novel in that there’s no real main driving force and no one main protagonist. Hell, even the evil assholes are relatible. Well not all of them. I’m still hoping one will get his righteous comeuppance in a future novel. A lot of Game of Thrones plot is a mystery and political intrigue, but the it transforms to a tale of war with a lot happening in the final third of the book. It really ramped up into overdrive at that point and went from a good book to a page burner.

Since Game of Thrones is the first in a series of books called A Song of Ice and Fire, it ends on a pretty big cliff hanger. I figured it would and it was a satisfying enough conclusion for a first book, but all it did was make me want to read more. I’ve entered in super frenzy mode for this thing now.

My recommendation? If you like the HBO series, read the books. If you like fantasy a little bit or can tolerate it, read the books. Basically, Game of Thrones has lived up to the hype.

  • Chad B

    Glad to see you reviewed this one, it’s easily become my favorite series of fantasy books out there. As far as the multiple PoVs, it’s going to get more complicated with a lot more characters, but there’s always this balance that keeps it manageable. Definitely stick with the series, book 5 is coming out in a couple of months and I can’t wait for it. The worst thing about the series is waiting for the next book to get released.

  • Vincent, your experience was a lot like mine. People telling me it was good but me being reticent to buy into the hype. Then my friend Jeff found a free copy on a take it or leave it pile of books and gave it to me. And I got hooked. It’s become one of my favorite series of novels, period.

  • Pete

    I’m trying to find a way to ask this without spoiling the details (even though I’m pretty sure we’re outside the statute of limitations, given the age of the first book), but, how’d you feel about Ned’s big moment near the end there? Did you expect/hope it to turn out differently at all? One of the things I notice most with my friends is that’s the moment that blows them away; they’re expecting a neat wrap-up to the book, and instead they’re hit with this event that proves things are only just getting started.

  • SPOILERS!

    @pete well… because of the nature of the rest of the book, I wasn’t completely taken by surprise. Also, history has shown that when you confess to something terrible even if you’re innocent you are still punished even if you’re promised leniency. Oh yeah and Prince Joffery is such a d-bag that I figured he’d pull something like that.

    I also didn’t expect a wrap up considering I knew that there were a lot more books in the series. I had thought that maybe Robb would end up in a different position, either winning or losing the war for sure.

  • PresidentJuggernaut

    I had two different friends, from my personal life and at work, try to convince me to give theses books a shot for the longest time, but I didn’t believe their ravings and didn’t want to get involved in another big series. Once I caved and gave it I shot, I really got into it and never looked back. People used to typical, cliche fantasy will be surprised. Its more like a medieval political thriller, where the focus is on intricate human drama. The fantasy elements have a less-is-more type of feel. They are rare and special in the SOIAF world.

  • Lamar the Revenger

    I finally decided to read it. Damn, I’m not a big medieval fantasy reader, but it really grabs you. Now I can watch the show and compare. And from what I’m hearing it follows the book pretty tighGl