Review: “Game of Thrones”

by Billy

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Game of Thrones, written by George R. Martin, is the first novel in the highly esteemed series of fantasy novels called A Song of Fire and Ice. Game of Thrones, as well as its sequel Clash of Kings, has been transformed into a surprisingly successful HBO series.

Through my own life experiences, which in the grand scheme of things have been somewhat limited, I deduced that works of fantasy were usually ignored by the general public. Somewhere, my twisted logic forgot The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which captured the undivided attention of millions. If Tolkein can do it, why can’t Martin? I began to answer my own question in the days that followed my discovery of Martin’s series. Martin did do it, and did it so well that his work of fiction enticed not only faithful fantasy fans, but people who lived and died by the real life scenarios one would see in CSI or other hit dramas. When Game of Thrones is brought up in discussion, I usually find that one, if not more, of the discussion participants has religiously followed the series on HBO, and is eager to voice their own opinions about what the future will bring for the inhabitants of Martin’s world.

Being the young scholar and avid reader that I am, I find that my preference will unyieldingly reside with the textual format, rather than the visual. A Song of Fire and Ice followed the near unbreakable trend of book before movie, and therefore while all the visual fans waited for the third installment of the HBO version, I devoured the first two novels, and didn’t hesitate to proceed to third, which is as far as I have delved into the series so far. While the debate between books vs. movies will never be resolved due to ego and opinion, I urge those who think they prefer the HBO series to the novels to think again. If you haven’t read for pleasure because you don’t have time, you should make it. If you haven’t read for pleasure because you don’t like reading for pleasure, then Game of Thrones is one of the few books that I believe might change your mind.

The first installment of the series is called Game of Thrones, a title that perfectly describes the story that is about to be told. Martin introduces the main characters, who live in a world that more or less resembles the medieval times. When the story kicks off, the realm had just endured a long and bloody war for the iron throne. Two competing families had gathered massive armies and battered each other senseless until one prevailed. Out of the rubble emerged an environment that similarly resembles that of courtroom, only instead of two lawyers dropping the gloves, there are about five, and the lawyers all want their own form of justice carried out by their own people. The king would be the judge, but he is murdered, and therefore the most powerful families act as deranged lawyers without a judge. They bicker, backstab, and persuade until one family puts a king on the throne.

The aspect of the story that I most admire is the way that Martin describes the characters’ feeling and emotions in great detail, until you find you know the characters better than you know yourself. Once he accomplishes that, Martin devises countless plots and sub-plots that either pit characters against one another, or make them join forces in hopes that alliance will yield personal advancement. Somehow, Martin devises ways to constantly manipulate what might seem like separate plots, and join them together to create insane twists. The characters rarely act in a selfless manner, which enables twists and turns. Sometimes the reader knows something the main characters don’t, but usually the reader and characters are equally surprised at the turn of events.

Throughout the three novels I have read, Martin never fails to provide heroes with an ample supply of villains, and at times, it seems like the villains have the upper hand. The reader might not even be able to decipher hero from villain, and is forced to make an educated guess based upon previous character descriptions and actions. You can also be certain that when one main character dies, another emerges somewhere else to ensure that the story never loses its substance. With betrayal and murder supplied in vast quantities, new characters become paramount to the storyline’s survival, so don’t assume that Martin won’t hesitate to kill off your favorite hero. In a game for the throne, nobody is safe, and you have few friends.
Martin is an incredible writer who can bring a fictional world to life with astonishing clarity. Both the TV series and book series are captivating, and if you are hesitant about the label fantasy, it might ease your mind to know that dragons are only a small component of the story. If you heed my advice and at least read Game of Thrones, I promise that you will be left with no regrets.

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