George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones is considered a classic in the epic fantasy genre, but I never read it until now. I shied away from it not because it was a rather large book (over 600 pages) or because it’s complicated (there are 8 different POV characters, lots of intrigue and politics and past historical events that shape the present and future). I love that sort of thing.
Mainly I didn’t want to read it because it was part of an unfinished series. I hate investing a great deal of time and emotion in a series and not knowing the ending. I had that experience with The Wheel of Time series and didn’t particularly like it. (And that, my friends, is a different post.) I didn’t want to start another never-ending series. However, it was a recommended read for a writing course I took (Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel) and I was curious. So, I read it.
And I really enjoyed it.
I’m not going to write a synopsis, since the novel was first published 14 years ago and you can read that anywhere. I will, though, explain what I liked and disliked about it. ** SPOILERS **
First of all, let me get a dislike out of the way. Thrones has, for the most part, a typical medieval setting. Lately, I’ve gotten pretty bored with this. However, there were at least enough differences to make it interesting: the unusual seasons (though that reminded me again of Jordan), The Wall, and The Eyrie has to be one of the more inaccessible and interesting castles in fantasy. But the nomadic Dothraki with their horse culture and “city” of Vaes Dothrak, made up for the rest of it.
The pace of Thrones is brisk, despite its size, and I didn’t feel that it bogged down at all. With several different POV characters, it certainly never got boring.
Characterization is superb. Each POV character has a unique voice and personality. I felt that, for the most part, the actions and thoughts were true to each character.
I like surprises when I read. I often play a game with myself to see if I can guess what will happen at crisis points in a novel and I get disappointed in the author when I can anticipate exactly what will happen. While there was the usual palace-type intrigue and Eddard in over his head and Daenerys as the virgin sacrifice to her brother’s ambition that I expected, I was pleasantly surprised quite a few times reading Thrones. When Bran was pushed out of the window. The particular punishment for Arya’s behavior and the gruesome end to Arya’s friend, the butcher’s boy. Catelyn’s accusation and it’s aftermath when Tyrion recognized her in the tavern. I didn’t expect Joffrey to be quite so erratic and order Eddard’s death (though that fits with his character once I thought about it) or that his mother would be unable to control him. Once Daenerys’ brother was killed, I didn’t expect much that happened to her, certainly not what happened to Khal Drogo. And, therefore, I didn’t see the end coming, either. Plenty of foreshadowing regarding those dragon eggs and I still missed it!
Overall, I enjoyed The Game of Thrones. But, I don’t feel the need to run right out and get the second in the series. Not yet, anyway. If I knew the series had an end, well, maybe I would.
What are your thoughts regarding The Game of Thrones?