A Song of Ice and Fire, book one
In a land where summers
can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold
is returning, and in the frozen wastes of the north of Winterfell,
sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom's
protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of
Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born
to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom
of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and
sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim
omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and
terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs
perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of
conflicts: the game of thrones.
MY RATING: 4 STARS
I've spent ages searching for my next epic fantasy fix when I'm on break from Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. I tried Paolini, Goodkind, Brooks, and Jordan, and none of them panned out. Then, then, I found Martin.
It doesn't seem right to call this "fantasy," though, as there is hardly any magic present at all. The prologue snagged me, but that seemed to be where the mystic stopped and the intrigues began. Plots, subplots, counterplots, and all the scheming, backstabbing, secrets and betrayal you can fit in over eight hundred pages (count 'em! Eight hundred!) The best part, it was all so swiftly executed, there was no way I was able to guess what would come next. I haven't made so many wrong predictions since Rebecca!
There are a LOT of perspectives used, but each is so interesting and distinct from the others I had no trouble keeping up with them. I admit to skimming a lot of the descriptions, though...GRRM seems to be as fond of describing things as Robin McKinley. I adored Arya and Dany and only wish there could have been more chapters with them. I began by disliking Sansa quite a bit, but my love for her evolved as the story progressed; I just couldn't help myself, and I can't explain without including spoilers! Tyrion Lannister didn't take long to become my favorite, sarcastic, clever underdog that he is (no pun intended, I promise), and he tied with Catelyn Stark as the most complex character of the piece. I'm still not sure about Jon, though...I could go either way with him, depending on how he evolves. As for Ned Stark, I liked him so much I knocked a star off my rating on his behalf. Confused? I'll leave it with this: Martin is a much better writer than Suzanne Collins, and that makes pulling a stunt like she did in Mockingjay that much more unforgivable.
I appreciated the book's human aspect most of all. It's not black-and-white, good versus evil. There's gray matter. We're a flawed species, and Martin sure as hell didn't neglect that detail. Honorable men sire bastards, good warriors make bad kings, the best intentions have the worst consequences. It's not that the lines between right and wrong are blurred, but that humans in general always tend to see themselves in the right, which leads to no end of trouble. One of my favorite quotes was from one of my least favorite characters, "The things I do for love..." Again, I can't say more without spoiling it, but it serves as a good example of what I'm talking about.
A Game of Thrones was gritty, brutal, intense, and occasionally offensive. It was true to life and preached nothing, but rather seemed to hold up a mirror and say "take a look at yourselves" while still providing an excellent escape. If the rest of the series is up to this standard, I'll be more than satisfied.
But I'm still not giving out that last star.
Your humble book nerd,