Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin


Yup.
GOT nerds you have successfully added another fan to your fandom.

This is going to be a review where I just prattle on and on about how I much I love the Stark boys, especially Jon Snow and Robb Stark, and how I want the Lannisters- barring Tyrion- to burn in Seven Hells, because let’s face it, there are so many reviews about this book out there, that I do not think mine is going to encourage/discourage you from reading this book. You will either read the read or you won’t. But you should: IT’S GOT DRAGONS AND DIREWOLVES. 🙂

Book cover for GOT-794-1213

Whenever I am about to watch a show or movie that has been adapted from a book, I always make it a point to read the print edition first. But, in this case, I am super glad I saw the show first; if nothing I had a basic idea of the premise and I knew how to pronounce the names of almost all the characters. Oh! you crazy medieval fiction fantasy names!

Now, coming back to GOT, what an exquisitely written novel, I don’t know where to start. The world building is so complex, imaginative and original. It is written with such amazing clarity that I feel the world Martin has created has to exist somewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that I am not living in such an age/time. With the ever looming fear of Winter, war, mad kings and lack of order, I am definitely not jealous of the inhabitants of this world. I do not think I can handle all that stress and chaos. But what a thrilling read this book makes and I am super eager to know more about the White Walkers, whether the Night’s watch can defend the realm and who will eventually sit on the Iron Throne. This is such an amazing series, that I cannot wait to start the next part of the book as soon as possible.

House Stark

Game of Thrones starts with a frightening prologue and then shifts to the castle of Winterfell, which is where the Starks rule the North for King Robert Baratheon, who is the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. One day, Eddard Stark, the Head of Winterfell executes a man who has deserted the Night Watch. On that same day, more dismal news comes in the form of the death of Jon Arryn, who is the childhood friend of Eddard Stark, as well as the Hand of the King for Robert Baratheon. Slowly and steadily, the history of Westeros is revealed and piece by piece we get a better glimpse into the lives of all the characters. What follows is chaos and trouble surrounded by the distant tremor of fear that comes mainly from the Stark motto, ‘Winter is coming’, a reminder that things are going to get worse in the coming time. From politics, murder, conspiracies to battles and tournaments to victory and defeat, this book is massive in scale and storyline. And that’s just half of it because there is a parallel but separate storyline that focuses on Daenerys Targaryen, the daughter of the Mad King who ruled the Seven Kingdoms for 300 years and who wants to avenge her family’s killings and take back the kingdom from Robert Baratheon.  Wed to a barbarian Khal who has an army of 40,000 nomadic warriors, she progresses from childhood to adulthood in an epic journey that pulls her away from her normal life and pushes her towards momentous events that impacts the entire storyline.

The writing style employed by George R.R. Martin is impeccable. I have rarely seen a style of writing that is not faulted in any manner. Not once was I confused about the storyline or annoyed with the language. I loved every aspect of the storyline. The writing was emotional, engaging, interesting and powerful, all at the same time. I could literally see Westeros with my own eyes. It had a great pace and I could connect to almost all the characters without any extra effort, even if I did not understand a few

of them. I loved the book’s quiet intrigues and betrayals. I loved the diplomacy and lack of hesitation when it was time to kill a character. Above all, I loved the fact that there are no ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’ just ‘effective’ and ‘ineffective’ characters who, willing or unwilling, were drawn into the Game of Thrones.

Also normally, I do not like it when a story engages with multiple characters and in this book each chapter deals with a different character. BUT I DO NOT SEE IT WORKING ANY OTHER WAY FOR GAME OF THRONES. It’s like watching individual storms all over the globe, all adding up to the global weather system. Martin’s ability to tell a story through multiple characters and still maintain the flow of the story is testimony of the fact that he is one of the most imaginative and innovative fantasy authors in the world today. Also, another added advantage of splitting the story into multiple characters is that it gave me enough time to know them individually and, therefore,  connect with each of their story line as well.

Tyrion

I have always maintained that characters are the soul of the story. The characters of GOT just won me over. And what adds to the beauty of the story is that even with such a large ensemble, Martin manages to develop each character in a way that makes you both love and hate them.  Game of Thrones is a tale of political intrigue and betrayal. Chivalry and honor are cloaks nobles use to cover their real intentions. The most interesting and engaging characters are those like Tyrion Lannister who recognize the inconsistencies of the world they live in and readily face its harsh realities. The sad part is that despite having shades of Grey, there is going to be that one character that you are going to fall in love with. Unfortunately, you may then feel cheated when not enough chapters are dedicated to your favorite character. Or even worse, you may become upset that your favorite character just died. KNOW THIS AND KNOW THIS SOON, THAT MARTIN IS FAMOUS FOR TWISTING KNIVES INTO THE HEARTS OF THE READERS. No character is safe on the series and this is why the author has the liberty of cranking up the tension to painful and excruciating levels. And trust me when I say that the release of this tension is rarely cathartic.

My favorite character in the book is Jon Snow. He is genuine, strong and emotional. Though he is a bastard, he does not let that defy himself or his life. Still that is not to say that he is perfect. But I still love him as a character and I am really curious to know what the future holds for him, including the mystery surrounding his mother. I also love his direwolf, Ghost. Two other favorites of mine are Arya Stark and Tyrion Lannister. So while Arya is the underdog, I love the Imp because he is super cool, intelligent, warm and caring, despite the fact that not everyone has treated him with the same warmth and concern. I also love the relationship between Jon Snow and Arya, though their scenes are limited. I loved how they relate to each other and Jon giving her Needle has to be one of my favorite moments, both in the books and the TV show. It is so sweet that they always think about each other.

Jon Snow and Arya

Game of Thrones is one of the best fantasies written for a very time, and it has truly redefined this genre. So while most fantasy fiction is inspired by legend and myths, this book is grounded in history and reality as we know it rather than an imaginary world created by the author. This is one book where you will find it hard to find villains whose sole aim is to be evil, because they do not exist, and while there are many heroes in this tale, they are all flawed to a particular point. Take for example Eddard Stark who despite being the epitome of honesty and dignity, acts in such a manner that it results in terrible consequences not just for himself but for his family, friends and the entire kingdom as well. So it goes without any kind of saying that in a world filled with so much Grey, expecting happy endings would be futile. Good and bad people die and victories are reserved equally for the wicked and the pure.

So, if you want something that is written in an effortless manner, without any kind of political intrigues and bloody battles or frank language and sexual encounters, with a small group of characters, spread over a specific age and time, then A Game of Thrones might not be your ideal choice. But if you are game for a book that will shock and surprise you, while leaving you hopeful, angry, elated then this book will surely not disappoint you. So if you have not read the book, go do yourself and the fantasy genre a favor and pick up this book as soon as possible. Besides that, keep these two pieces of advice in mind:

  1. Watch the show first and then read the book. You can watch season one and then read the book so that you will have less confusion about the characters and plot.
  2. DO NOT GET ATTACHED TO ANY CHARACTER. George R. R. Martin likes to play games with our favorite characters and that will in no way end well for you.

P.S. Could there possibly be anyone more perfect for the role of Tyrion Lannister than actor Peter Dinklage? Answer: Negative. The man is born for the part. In much the same way that Heath Ledger was born to play the Joker in The Dark Knight. A
no-brainer.

About George R.R. Martin

Episode 6 scene 20

Born on September 20, 1948, George R.R. Martin was born in Bayonne, New Jersey. Martin’s father, Raymond Collins Martin was half Italian while his mother, Margaret Brady Martin was half Irish. His family also contains German, English, and French ancestry. He has two sisters, Darleen Martin Lapinski, and Janet Martin Patten.

Martin attended Mary Jane Donohoe School and Marist High School. He began writing at a very young age, selling monster stories with dramatic readings to other neighborhood children for small amounts of money. Later, he became a comic book fan and collector in high school and began to write fiction for comic fanzines (amateur fan magazines). Martin’s first professional sale was made in 1970 at age 21: “The Hero,” sold to Galaxy, published in February, 1971 issue.

In 1970, Martin received a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, graduating summa cum laude. He went on to complete a M.S. in Journalism in 1971, also from the same university. As a conscientious objector, Martin did alternative service 1972-1974 with VISTA, attached to Cook County Legal Assistance Foundation. He also directed chess tournaments for the Continental Chess Association from 1973-1976 and was a Journalism instructor at Clarke College, Dubuque, Iowa, from 1976-1978. He wrote part-time throughout the 1970s while working as a VISTA Volunteer, chess director, and teacher.

In 1991, Martin briefly returned to writing novels and began what would eventually turn into his epic fantasy series: A Song of Ice and Fire, which was inspired by the Wars of the Roses and Ivanhoe. It is currently intended to comprise seven volumes, the first book in the series being, Game of Thrones, which was published in 1996.

Over the years, George RR Martin has received tremendous critical acclaim and awards for his books. Some of his awards include Hugo Award for Best Novella for A Song for Lya, Hugo Award for Best Novelette for Sandkings, Bram Stoker Award for Long Fiction for The Pear-Shaped Man, World Fantasy Award for Best Novella for The Skin Trade and Premio Ignotus for Best Foreign Novel for Game of Thrones among many others. As noted by the Guardian, Martin’s writing, especially in the Game of Thrones has captured the imaginations of millions for the same reason the archetypal dramas of Homer, Sophocles or Shakespeare have lasted for millennia. They show us the conflict between self-sacrifice and self-interest, between the human spirit and the human ego, between good and evil. And when we look up from the page we recognize those same conflicts exist in the world around us and in ourselves.

Martin married Gale Burnick in 1975 and they got divorced in 1979, with no children. Martin’s present home is Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (he was South-Central Regional Director 1977-1979, and Vice President 1996-1998), and of Writers’ Guild of America, West.

Favorite quotes

Too many to add in this post! It will make the post unnecessarily long. I will add another post with my favorite quotes from GOT later on, but for the time being here are some of my absolute favorites.

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”

“Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.”

“When you play a game of thrones you win or you die.”

“The things we love destroy us every time, lad. Remember that.”

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’ ‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”

“The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.”

“What is honor compared to a woman’s love? What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms . . . or the memory of a brother’s smile? Wind and words. Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.’’

“You are your mother’s true-born son of Lannister.”
“Am I?” the dwarf replied, sardonic. “Do tell my lord father. My mother died birthing me, and he’s never been sure.”
“I don’t even know who my mother was,” Jon said.
“Some woman, no doubt. Most of them are.” He favored Jon with a rueful grin. “Remember this, boy. All dwarfs may be bastards, yet not all bastards need be dwarfs.”
And with that he turned and sauntered back into the feast, whistling a tune.
When he opened the door, the light from within threw his shadow clear across the yard, and for just a moment Tyrion Lannister stood tall as a king.”

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Final Verdict

4/5

All said and done, Game of Thrones is one of those novels that have managed to set a new benchmark in the genre of epic fantasy literature. It’s been a while since I have read a story as intimidating and complete as this one. GRRM’s well-painted fantasy medieval setting gives the framework for a cracking story, but it is his characterization, shrewd human insight and refusal to sugar coat unpleasant realities that truly sweep readers along in an epic journey.

 Game of Thrones has rightfully earned the adoration that it has received. I would gladly recommend it to any fan of fantasy. It is really a fantastic novel that is bursting at the seams with excitement and chaos and danger. It’s a hodgepodge of great fantastical elements. Magic, dragons, strange lands, strange creatures, power hungry aristocratic families all wanting to up one against the other. I think even non-fantasy readers can easily get into this.

While the book may not be for everyone (mainly because of its immense length), and some people may find just watching the series is good enough for them, but personally I think George R.R. Martin’s writing is truly spectacular, so reading the book is really, really worth your time.

Will I read another? Oh hell yes, I’ll absolutely read the entire series. Also, I think I’m in love with Jon Snow, Ghost, and Tyrion Lannister.

When the first book in a series makes you hunger for more, the author has definitely delivered a good book. Go pick it up today.

Well done, Mr. Martin!

One thought on “Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

  1. I loved it, too! I didn’t know where to start with reviewing it (unusually, I just couldn’t get the words) but I loved the Stark boys and Tyrion’s character, too. And the Wall. and the dragons. And and and …. yep, addicted. Book 2 will be started very soon!

    Like

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