This book, along with its two sequels, has been on my shelf for almost year now. I have tried my very best to ignore it for mainly 2 reasons: 1. I thought it was going to be another Tolkien clone and; 2. I hate character deaths. However, a new year means overcoming new challenges even if it’s only about reading. So, here I am writing this review.
I guess that a lot of you already know what A Game of Thrones is all about, what with the popularity of the TV show. But for the sake of those who haven’t had an inkling about this television phenomenon, A Game of Thrones is the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. Set in the medievalish world of Westeros and Essos, it spins around two major story lines: the battle for the Iron Throne; and the battle at a place in the North called, the Wall, where strange creatures are starting to emerge after their disappearance thousands of years ago.
I am not a master reader of Epic Fantasy but I do think that this book or the whole series is not for everyone. In my entire reading career, I’ve only read very few Epic Fantasy series and therefore, I couldn’t offer you a lot of explanations as to how A Song of Ice and Fire fared compared with other Epic Fantasy books. They say that George R.R. Martin opened a new door for the genre to expand. They say that George R.R. Martin is the new master of epic fantasy. They say that the series is epically fantastic for the lack of the right term. To all those claims, I say a big NOPE.
A Game of Thrones isn’t creative or unique. Before I dove into the book, I expected that I was going to be mindblown with wars that can surpass the beauty and the horrors of an MMORPG and Command and Conquer games with plenty of races and creatures as pawns. Instead, I got a well-worn tale of noble lords and their minions fighting for an Iron Throne. It’s like I am reading the events of a history book, only it was written in a manner that would be suitable for fun reading.
There’s so little “fantasy” in A Game of Thrones. Martin, however, was kind enough to embellish it with bits and pieces of sorcery, dragons, White Walkers and their servants, Wights (the servants of White Walkers and Martin’s version of zombies). For someone who re-reads Harry Potter every year, that’s kind of really OLD, won’t you agree? But I could have forgiven Martin if he just did the portrayal well. But alas, Martin does not know how to balance his priorities.
The world building was merely passable. If you are a sucker for something that would transport you to mesmerizing realms/universes, then I suggest for you to just pick up Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or Sanderson’s works or Pullman’s His Dark Materials. I was also not impressed with how Martin crafted the culture of the people in Westeros. It wasn’t well grounded and most were borrowed from the medieval period. Even the Dothraki’s way of life was unconvincing. It could really use some polishing. Thankfully, there were no info dumps.
Told from multi-POVs, A Game of Thrones also suffers from 1-dimensional characters except for one or two. I find it hard to sympathize with a lot of characters in this book. And to think that I was really worried about crying my heart out for them. But it turned out that my compassion can only be extended for Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow. I suppose that that can be entirely blamed for my crazy penchant for underdogs. Kidding aside, I would brave this monster of a series for the said two characters who really made my journey in Essos and Westeros tolerable.
It didn’t help that there were so many names in this book that need familiarizing. Makes me feel like I am reading an almanac of old medieval names and their genealogy.
So far, the only greatest selling point of this book was its plot. There are lots of twists and turns within it. Lots of political intrigue to be unravelled. Until the very end, the book will keep your mind busy with guessing on what will happen next. The only definite thing about the whole story is that “Winter Is Coming.” Who will betray who? Who will kill who? Who will be redeemed? Who will go to the dark side? And of course, there’s a lot of carnage here to satisfy your bloody appetite. Interspersed through the story are tales of incest, rape, homosexuality and other stuff that might make you cringe.
However, I am still plagued with this question: Is Martin a craven (coward) or a person pretending to have bigger balls than he actually have? You see, some people really liked the series because Martin killed a lot of characters, even MCs. Well, that is realistic considering the “grandness” of this novel. But in actuality, I find some of the deaths in GoT to be a coward’s way to end the story of a certain character. It certainly gave me an impression that Martin no longer knows how to continue the story of that character that’s why he just resort to killing that character. One concrete example would be that of Khal Drogo’s death. That was very convenient. That man is scarred from the many battles that he had won and suddenly, he was dying of a wound infection. How come he didn’t die during the previous wounds that he got? Come on.
Furthermore, if you are also looking for some bittersweet romance to make you giddy and your toes curl, please avoid this book. If you are looking for some steamy sex to make you warm, please avoid this book. If there’s one certain thing I can say about Martin, he doesn’t know how to write romance and sex scenes. Yes, I perfectly understand that such elements shouldn’t be made central in these types of books. But I believe that if you can vividly describe carnage, violence and a lot of those awful things, you should also do the same for romance and sex. But Martin’s notion about such elements was as bland as porridge. And the sex scenes, if not dull, are worthy of mockery and a bit inconceivable. I really want to fully expound on this, but I just leave it for you to figure out. Hell, I am not looking for fairy tale romance but I think Martin could learn a lesson or two from reading fairy tale books.
To conclude, A Game of Thrones is just another one of those books that didn’t justify the hype and greatly benefitted from the publicity generated by the television adaptation. Would I read the succeeding sequels? Of course. I still have hope for the succeeding installments to get better. And surprisingly, I actually enjoyed the show. The characters in the TV show were more fleshed out and it’s faster in terms of pacing. Although some people were disturbed about the amount of nudity in there, I actually didn’t mind at all.
It may take me some time to pick up the second book but yeah, I am going to finish the series.
A Game of Thrones is a book that is best suited to kill time. As a matter of fact, I actually finished a lot of house chores while reading it.