14 April 2011

Review: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones is the first book in George R. R. Martin's epic Song of Ice and Fire cycle. The world of the Seven Kingdoms is affected by ancient tales, clashing religions, longstanding powerful families, and shifting loyalties. Ruling over all is Robert Baratheon, who won the iron throne through the might of his armies and the help of his friend Eddard Stark.

This complex novel, told from the alternating points of view of a handful of characters, takes us deep into this world. We get to know the principal families, their seats of power, their lands, and their people. We learn of the Night's Watch, who guard the northern borders against the Wildlings and the Old Ones. We hear the old tales of dragons and direwolves.

Martin has created a world so real, it's difficult to convey how quickly you find yourself making your own alliances. Are you with upstanding Eddard Stark or the clever Tyrion Lannister? Maybe your heart goes out to Princess Daenerys, who is misused by her brother, or Arya, who wishes she could be a knight.

The setting is vaguely British or European (but there is a hint of the Moguls) and definitely medieval. There is ancient magic in the Seven Kingdoms, and strange creatures and beings can be seen their woods. Don't be misled, however; Martin's world is unique. It's not the land of The Lord of the Rings; we don't find elves and dwarfs and ents. It's not the fantasy of Harry Potter; there are no magic wands and wizard schools. The Seven Kingdoms have a kind of intimacy that makes you feel as if the story could have happened in our own world, a millennium or two ago.

A Game of Thrones is a solidly written saga of political intrigue, war, and families that would appeal to readers who like multilayered stories with realistic characters. This is an adult book that doesn't flinch from the harsher realities of a world divided between lords and peasants.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Random House; 33 h 53 min) read by Roy Dotrice. Dotrice well handles the difficult task of differentiating among dozens of characters from different socioeconomic classes and different kingdoms. He brings tension, drama, and emotion to the reading, enhancing the listener's connection with the story.

Published by Bantam, 2002 (originally published 1996)
ISBN-13: 9780553573404
YTD: 38
Source: Bought (print & audio) (see review policy)
Rating: A-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Zibilee 4/14/11, 7:53 AM  

I tried to get into this series a few years ago after having someone recommend it to me, but alas, it just didn't work for me, I think I was just too prejudiced against fantasy at that time. I wonder what I would think of it now, and am thinking of trying again, since I still have the books.

Swapna 4/14/11, 9:37 AM  

33 hours, whew! I don't think I could do it. But I would love to read this book before I watch the series if possible, so maybe in print?

Beth F 4/14/11, 9:50 AM  

There are definite advantages to the print version: maps of the country so you can see where people are traveling to and from and genealogies so you can remember who belongs to which family.

It is a long book, but I suspect a fast read.

Anonymous,  4/14/11, 9:51 AM  

I'm with Swapna and the 33 hours, whew! I know I couldn't do it, but I am re-reading it on my Nook. I can't remember where I left off, with the second or third, so thought it'd be good to start over and really am enjoying it. As for your review, I thought it was right on target, especially about this book being an adult book.

Anonymous,  4/14/11, 9:51 AM  

I'm with Swapna and the 33 hours, whew! I know I couldn't do it, but I am re-reading it on my Nook. I can't remember where I left off, with the second or third, so thought it'd be good to start over and really am enjoying it. As for your review, I thought it was right on target, especially about this book being an adult book.

Martha@Hey, I want to read that 4/14/11, 9:59 AM  

This is not my favorite genre but my second daughter (actually my daughter's best friend) had been talking my ear off about this one. She's practically vibrating about the upcoming HBO series.

Audra 4/14/11, 10:15 AM  

I know people who live and die for Martin but I've never been exactly a fantasy girl -- still -- I really ought to give this series a try!

Anonymous,  4/14/11, 10:39 AM  

My husband has been reading this series for years. He's a big fantasy fan and I asked if I should read it. He kind of mulled it over and said maybe not. I had a tough time with the Lord of the Rings. I will be watching the televised version when it comes to Netflix or somewhere (we don't have HBO).

Chris (@book_dads) 4/14/11, 1:32 PM  

In my opinion, this is the best fantasy series I've ever read and can't wait for the show. The only negative about it for me was trying to keep track of all the characters. You're also right on target about it being a book for adults.

Great review Beth!

Julie P. 4/14/11, 2:48 PM  

I'm sure this is good but 33 hours? I couldn't ever finish it!

bermudaonion 4/14/11, 2:53 PM  

The last time we visited Vance, he and a friend of his were talking about this series. They're enjoying it, but I don't think it's for me.

Sorilla 4/14/11, 3:47 PM  

Obviously, Audio format is not for everyone, but if you do it right you become an addict like me :). Not to waist my time while cooking, cleaning, walking, waiting etc. I started to listen to the books few years ago (including the audio editions of some magazines!)and can not stop. I can not even imagine how people can waist so much time idling doing all those necessities! I will give this book a try via Audible download :), thanks to your review, Beth F. Oh, yea, narrators voice is so crucial in picking the audio book!

~ Sorilla

Meghan 4/14/11, 4:20 PM  

As I've mentioned to you before, I adore this series! I completely agree with everything you've said as well. The world is incredible and the characters are immediately compelling. You can probably already see why everyone complained when book 4 didn't have their favorite characters in it! It doesn't hurt that it's so close to medieval England for me - there is a definite vibe there that seems to appeal for me no matter what.

Your review has basically just made me want to go reread the series now! I was waiting until closer to when I could watch the show, but I'm not sure I can resist ...

Sandy Nawrot 4/14/11, 5:12 PM  

Well Lord knows you and I have listened to longer audios, right? So that doesn't intimidate me, but the depth of the saga does. The worlds, the characters, the politics...I'm afraid it would swallow me whole.

Nari @ The Novel World 4/14/11, 5:28 PM  

I didn't feel the fantasy elements in this book were that overpowering. I felt it was more written about the characters and their individual journeys throughout the Seven Kingdoms. Each character and their subsequent storyline could rightfully be a book on its own. Its a very complex read, but very enjoyable, b/c of Martin's wit with dialog.

Jenners 4/14/11, 8:39 PM  

Is this the one that the new TV show is about?

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick 4/15/11, 7:47 AM  

I have this book and am ready to read it! I can't wait for the HBO show to start, but I'll have to DVR it so I can read the book first!

Anonymous,  4/15/11, 11:34 AM  

I have this book sitting on my shelf, but haven't gotten around to it yet. I don't think it's one I could listen to though, too long and complex for me.

Aisle B 4/17/11, 9:24 AM  

You have stamina to listen to 33 plus hours! I think I'd be too tempted to fast Forward!

Great review and will put it in the Daunting reads pile :)

Michelle (my books. my life.) 4/17/11, 10:36 AM  

Oh my - 34 hours?!

My husband really wants to watch this series and read this book. I think I will stick to the television series. ;)

Athira 4/17/11, 3:19 PM  

I'm so excited about this show today. I think I will read the books only after the show winds up. I love reading epic sagas set in their own unique worlds like the LOTR series. So this is one on my wishlist.

Michelle 4/18/11, 5:18 PM  

I don't know that I could wade through the book. I'm so thankful that you mentioned that the show has thus far stayed close to the book!

Ruth 4/18/11, 11:45 PM  

This sounds like a book that would be a nice change of pace for me to read. I added it to my list for future reading. I never did get into listening to books. I suppose I will always prefer reading the hard copy of books.

SuziQoregon 4/21/11, 12:06 AM  

You already know I bought this book because of you. I have no idea when I'll get around to actually reading it, but this review makes me excited for it.

BookGeek 4/21/11, 1:13 PM  

This book (actually series) has been recommended to be numerous times. I need to get to it!

Unknown 4/21/11, 1:37 PM  

Glad you enjoyed this one! I have roughly 30 pages left to go. My plan to finish it before the series started didn't work. I did, however, watch the first episode and I think they did pretty good with the adaption.

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