Read Before You Watch: Dual Review of the Dark, Bewitching Book “A Game of Thrones”

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This is a perfect book for a dual review. Lauren isn’t as into High Fantasy as Hutch, who loves it. Here’s hoping these two opinions of this beloved story help you decide if you want to play the game of thrones yourself!

Lauren’s Review: I am in Awe

Amazing, amazing amazing. That could seriously be my review of A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. But, considering it was an 800-page monstrosity to get through, there is definitely more I have to say. First off, I have to preface this with the fact that I absolutely love fantasy, but have a hard time with so-called High Fantasy. Often-times there is so much back story, and journeying, and minute details of the texture of the stones of the castle walls that the plot gets lost, and so does my attention. Perhaps this is because I tend to read YA, which is usually more fast-paced. However, with this book being made into a television show by HBO, I knew I wanted to read the book first.

I’ll do my best to sum up the colossus-sized book. Robert is King after having usurped another, years prior. He journeys to the north to request that his companion from the war, Eddard (called Ned) be his Hand, his voice to the people. Ned does not want to go, but you can’t exactly refuse the king, so with a heavy heart and doubts in his soul, he travels to the king’s city to take up his position. He takes his two daughters with him, leaving a wife, three legit sons, and one bastard son behind in the northern keep of Winterfell. As usual, things are never as easy as they seem. The king’s wife is as devious as she is beautiful, and Ned suspects her of working to get her son on the throne—King Robert is blind to this, of course. And so begins the complicated dance that is the game of thrones.

We can’t forget the other two main story plots though. The only surviving heirs to the old throne are over the sea. The brother, Viserys, is marrying his sister Daenerys off to the leader of the rugged, primitive horse lords, to guarantee himself an army to fight with when he goes to reclaim the throne. But this is really Dany’s story, and we travel with her as she adjusts to this alien way of life, and what it means to her future and the future of her bloodline.

And then there is the Wall. A huge man-made wall of ice, not too far north of Winterfell, cutting the northern wild lands off completely from the civilized places below. Something strange is afoot, things stirring that haven’t been seen in ages, and all signs say it can’t be good.

There are a lot of typical fantasy themes, travelling, kings usurping each other, fights to the death, all that good stuff. The differences however are marked. Martin alternates the point of view in each chapter between the characters, including the children, and the story meanders through different cities viewed from different eyes. The author is amazing with the voices, and though it may be quite a few pages before you return to a certain character’s head, the descriptions and the way he writes the story was quick to remind me who was who and what was happening.

From the beginning I was impressed. There is an extremely creepy prologue that was well-written in a straight-forward, beautiful style. I was instantly there with the characters. I kept waiting to that typical High Fantasy voice, but it never came. Even when parts of the book seemed a bit slower to me, it wasn’t because of his language, it was because I wanted to get back to some of the other characters and see what was happening. Even simple details, like the fact that seasons lasted for years, not months, and that the kids had giant wolf puppies as pets, bumped up the caliber of the story. Things were foreign, but still familiar, often strange for a fantasy world. And there weren’t a lot of magical elements, not nearly as many as I was expecting anyway, though I did have to say the amount did increase as the story continued, which promises good things for the future books.

Two warnings, though. One warning is I’d say this is definitely not a series for kids, or even young teens. There is a lot of explicit sexual content, more than I would say is appropriate for a slightly younger audience. The other is watch out, because the author does some things with plot and character that I did NOT see coming, they are so unusual, and these surprises, combined with the plot, made it a powerful reading experience at times (I only got four hours of sleep last night; I had to keep reading to see what happened!).

I am in awe of this man. To write a story that is so complex, with so many layers and characters, and to do it so flawlessly and with seeming ease is amazing to me. This was an exceptional read, and I can’t wait to watch the HBO series and see if it lives up to the world in my head.

Hutch’s Review: Worth the Risk! 

The funny thing about A Game of Thrones?  It’s not like other fantasy books that you’ll read.  Sure there is magic, dragons, swords, kings and queens – but – there is also realism, something that is sorely lacking in most other epic fantasy books.

I am a fairly new convert to George R. R. Martins work – after The Wheel of Time and waiting decades for it to be concluded I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t start another fantasy series until I knew that the whole thing was done.  However a friend persuaded me to read A Game of Thrones and boy, am I glad he did!

The story starts in the frozen north in Winterfell where Lord Eddard Stark is in command.  Stark discovers some direwolf cubs – symbols of his house and he gifts the cubs to his five children.  Lord Eddard and the King of the land – Robert Baratheon – had overthrown the previous rulers and now King Robert had arrived in Winterfell to make Lord Eddard and offer he could not refuse!

If you want a story that has conspiracies, war and life and death decisions than I have to say that A Game of Thrones will not disappoint.  Similar to some of the better TV shows, in A Game of Thrones, NO ONE is safe.  There are surprises aplenty in this book and while the beginning is a little bit slow, it definitely picks up in pace as the book progresses.

I won’t give away any major hints about the characters or anything, but I will say this – be careful which characters you fall in love with.  What happens to and with them could surprise you to say the least!

A Game of Thrones however is not something that you should take lightly – if you are going to take the plunge into this universe, expect it to be dark and forbidding but also intensely interesting and bewitching.  How the characters grow and change from the early part of the book to the latter stages is excellent.  As a lover of epic high fantasy I really cannot recommend this book and series enough – I know that it is still not completed and if you are like me and frightened of starting a new series that doesn’t have a conclusion, I would simply say … it’s worth the risk!

 

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