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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones is book one of six (or possibly seven) in George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.

One of the benchmarks for me is whether I am savoring the book too long because I don't want it to end: possibly because the characters are adorable/admirable, or the plot is intricate and I want to take it all in slowly, or because I want to linger in the world in which the characters live as it satisfies my need for escapism.

This book was first published over a decade ago. I accidentally came upon it, thanks to a kind reader who left a comment suggesting it to me.

After reading this Book 1 over the last few weeks, I am inclined to give it a reluctant 3.5 stars even though I am leaning towards a 3.0.


a game of thrones george martin book song of ice and fire

The extra 0.5 is because I do want to read the rest of the books in this series as the story seems interesting enough. Plus the fact that most of the books in this series have won awards including a Hugo; else, I'm not as sure I'd bother.

Creating a fantasy world is easy; but to keep it unique, to keep it refreshing and worth-reading is not. Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy was a good read a few years back. I absolutely loved Bartimaeus Trilogy. I started longing for fantasy again... and I think this fantasy epic could be something that I can hope to enjoy.

Synopsis:
Targaryen dynasty is overthrown in a civil war years before, and Robert Baratheon is crowned the King. Targaryen line, however, is not entirely destroyed - Daenerys and Viserys survive and escape with some help.

The Starks of Winterfell man the north of the kingdom. Lord Eddard Stark is fair and just, as far as one can hope to be.

King Robert's wife Queen Cersei Lannister of the House of Lannisters has visions of power and glory for herself and her own.

King Robert doesn't prove to be a strong king. When the Hand of the King, Lord Arryn is found dead, there is rumor of murder and treachery. King Robert asks Lord Stark to become the new hand of the King. Lord Stark agrees reluctantly at least so he can find the truth about Lord Arryn's death.

Queen Cersei has a few kids of her own, and so does Lady Stark, the oldest of them still a teen.

Meanwhile, Jon Snow, one of Lord Stark's children, whose mother is not Lady Stark, joins the Night's Watch at The Wall. There is rumor of sightings of The Others, which used to be Old Nan's tales, but, not anymore... The Night's Watch is not an easy job - one renounces one's family, vows never to procreate and spends life guarding the Wall alongside his black Night's Watch brothers.

Targaryen Viserys is aching for revenge on The Usurper King Robert and is seeking to amass an army to get back his rightful throne. He sells his sister Daenerys to Dothraki horse lord Khal Drogo in marriage, expecting an army in return. Things don't quite go as he planned.
What I liked in this book:
  • the characters are allowed to developed well: through the storyline and how they act under the given circumstances, the author lets the characters shape up beautifully; no tedious narration to describe each character
  • the plot thickens. and thickens some more... although not in any unexpected way
  • the author's writing style is simple, easy to read, not aggravating at all like I found the Dragonlance books
  • no magic per se; magic seemed to have become a requirement for fantasy novels, but, this book has not relied on it to keep it interesting; perhaps the next few books in the series will bring in the magic element, and that would be fine too, i am sure
  • the story is set in a land where Summer can last for decades at times, and Winter can last even longer - not the usual four seasons every year
  • three discernible and distinct lines of the story meet and mingle on occasion, but, not linearly - so, an event that seems incidental in one line is tied in with the event either preceding or following it in another, perhaps at different points in the book
What I did not like in the book:
  • 674 pages, hardcover; needlessly long
  • many passages could have been rewritten to be crisp - repetition does not always elaborate the point
  • double standards: Lady Stark is not a "farmer's daughter or tavern wench" to warm the lords' beds; i suppose it is just a fantasy novel, so I should just read it and let go; but, why are women used and abused so blatantly in many fantasy novels? Only the protofeminist strong types are allowed to survive many atrocities and come out noble and superior; other women are just portrayed as worthless somehow
  • not an easy world to escape into; my main attraction to fantasy novels is escapism; this book does not provide a world where i willingly want to step into and explore freely
  • story doesn't advance much, but, i suppose being book one in the series of possibly six, it simply serves to establish the characters and backdrop...
  • villains are predictable: more than one incestuous couple plotting to usurp the throne, scheming sly lords favoring whichever side of the toast is buttered...
  • even the heroes are not particularly admirable: the bastard Jon Snow, who is more like a trueborn than the trueborns, sort of stands out, but, even Lord and Lady Stark while seemingly well-intentioned are flawed... nobody i really want to root for - not Arya Stark, not Daenerys Stormborn... but maybe i need to read book 2, A Clash of Kings, soon to see how things develop

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