Updated on October 10, 2016
6. ‘Game of Thrones’ by George RR Martin
[CONTAINS SPOILERS. SERIOUSLY, LOTS OF SPOILERS]
I think I get a touch of commitment phobia when it comes to book series. More so when the series is made up of lots of books. Even more so when those books are long. This is probably why I held off for so long on reading ‘Game of Thrones’, because I knew that once I started this beast I would have to finish it, and I’m not used to sticking with characters and settings for longer than it takes me to read one novel.
Still, I decided to read this one, the first book of seven (two of which are still unwritten), to test the water and see if I can handle a long-term relationship with George RR Martin. Happily, I loved this book, and so I’ve decided to read them all.
Martin’s writing style is fairly straightforward and this made the book quite quick to read, given its extravagant size. Of course, I have also seen the first two seasons of the TV show, which has probably helped me to get all the characters and their various interlocking relationships clear in my head. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Game of Thrones’ is complicated. There is a huge number of characters, each with their own motivations and flaws, and this very complexity is the major appeal of the book.
The story centres around the throne of the Seven Kingdoms and the various people who lay claim to it. They each face dangers from the other claimants as well as forgotten foes, like the mysterious wildlings and Others in the far north, and an exiled descendant of a usurped king who is plotting her return.
The story is told from several different viewpoints that change with the chapters. I’ve decided, for my future reviews and this one, I will write my opinions about each viewpoint character and my predictions for their future. Just remember one thing: nobody is safe.
Ned Stark: Lord of Winterfell in the North, and friend to King Robert who dies from a boar tusk to the belly. After the King’s death, Ned learns that the heir to the throne, Joffrey (fucking Joffrey, the most odious child to ever appear between the pages of a book), is a product of incest between Queen Cersei and her brother Jaime. Ned’s too honour-bound to keep his trap shut and ends up losing it, along with the rest of his head. I really like Ned and I think he makes a perfect character for book one: he symbolises the pinnacle of honour and morality that, I think, a lot of the characters aspire to but cannot achieve. Certainly not if they intend to live.
Catelyn Stark: Ned’s wife and mother of the Stark brood (except Ned’s bastard son, Jon Snow). She’s pretty badass, taking on a dagger-wielding attacker literally with her bare hands. Her son, Robb, is declared the King in the North and she has to watch him grow up very quickly. Catelyn’s also a bit of a schemer; it’s like she can see several steps ahead of everyone, knows what sort of folly they’re all getting themselves into, but can’t make herself heard to stop them.
Sansa Stark: One of the Stark children. Betrothed to Joffrey, she ends up stuck in King’s Landing (the ‘capital city’) as the rest of her family is scattered after Ned’s beheading. She’s essentially a hostage and she acts that way: timid and frightened. Still, there’s a strength to her that’s admirable. She says exactly what the Queen and Joffrey want her to say so that she doesn’t go the way of her father. Sansa is clever but not one of my favourites.
Arya Stark: Sansa’s younger sister. She’s wild, boyish and she doesn’t want to grow up into a lady like her sister. Unfortunately her wild streak gets her in some trouble, but she also manages to get the hell out of King’s Landing without being caught. Arya seems to trigger big events through small actions; definitely one to watch.
Bran Stark: One of the young Stark sons. Jaime pushes him from a tower early on, when Bran sees him getting it on with his sister, the Queen. Happily Bran lives, but he’s unable to walk again. I loved reading about such a young character dealing with his life-changing injuries, but his chapters aren’t really where the action is so I didn’t find them particularly exciting. Incidentally, Bran’s chapters include Rickon, his younger brother, who is scary. All the Stark children have pet wolves and Rickon’s is dangerous and a little feral. I think some bad stuff is going to happen with that kid.
Jon Snow: Ned’s bastard, sent north to the Wall, which stands between the Seven Kingdoms and the lands dominated by wildlings. He must renounce his family and ignore the turmoil happening to the south when he joins the Night’s Watch. An interesting, complex character who seemingly doesn’t fit in anywhere until he finds his calling at the Wall.
Tyrion Lannister: Brother of Cersei and Jamie, uncle to fucking Joffrey, and obviously a hugely popular character. He’s a dwarf and has to take a lot of flack from other characters about it. He’s incredibly intelligent, cunning and, essentially, he seems to know what’s best for the realm. If everyone would just let him be king, everything would be a lot easier.
Daenerys Targaryen: The exiled descendant of the usurped (admittedly mad) king of the Seven Kingdoms. She starts out as a fragile, frightened little girl, but after marrying a huge horselord called Khal Drogo and getting her hands on some dragon eggs she turns into all kinds of awesome. Within this book she has to deal with losing her husband, her unborn son, all her followers and her lovely hair… Dany has seen a lot of shit, but she’s going to create a whole lot more. Also, she has dragons.
“My mind is a weapon … and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” – Tyrion Lannister
Read my review of the second book, ‘A Clash of Kings‘.
If you enjoyed my review, why not buy the book and let me know what you think?