4 Stars, out of 5.
I’m so happy that I’ve finally addressed the terrible shortcoming of being one of the few fantasy fans who had not read any of George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.
I wasn’t drawn immediately in, truth be told. The mysterious prologue (no spoilers here, so that’s all I’ll say) didn’t strike me as particularly absorbing. It wasn’t bad, but since I’d heard Martin’s work referred to as “literary crack” in the past, I expected to be sucked into the story immediately. Having said that, it wasn’t long before I realized that I cared for the characters soon after their introduction. The Stark clan is an intriguing group of people, particularly Eddard and his wife Catelyn. .
The story unwinds masterfully, as intrigue and mystery begin to pull the Starks into the game of thrones that they would prefer to avoid altogether. It’s not long before honor is set against vice and ambition, and I couldn’t help but be drawn in. All the while, another threat is developing as “winter is coming”, and a looming threat grows in the North. The story is told though the perspectives of a number of characters, some at odds with each other. I love the fact that you get to see adversaries striving against each other, but nobody has the full picture. The lack of omniscience of any of the actors enhances the tension as the story unfolds.
I’ve heard Martin called an American Tolkien. But since I’ve seen that comparison made to any number of writers (none of whom measure up to it, I might add), all that did was make me a more skeptical reader. Having finished A Game of Thrones now, I still don’t think it’s valid. In all honesty, with the political intrigue and varied points of view, I find Thrones more similar to Frank Herbert’s Dune.
My greatest criticism of Thrones, and it’s one that I’m sure will not be shared with many, is the sex. I felt the many sex scenes in this novel were more often gratuitous and pointless. Yes, it was done skillfully, and perhaps it added a layer of realism over the characters, but rarely did it advance the story. I’m not sure when such explicit scenes became important to heroic fantasy, but I tend to think such cheapens the literary quality of a novel.
A Game of Thrones has rightfully earned the adoration that fans have given it. I would gladly recommend it to any fan of fantasy, and I plan on continuing with the series. And now that I’ve finished this first installment, I’ll let myself check out the HBO series as well.