Winter is coming, and with it a fight for the Iron Throne that sits in King’s Landing. At stake are ruling powers over the seven kingdoms of Westeros, and in the running are the Starks, the Lannisters, the Baratheons, and the Targaryens. In a world where loyalties are bought with gold and people, allies and foes trade places upon whims, and seasons last for lifetimes a storm is brewing, bringing with it a game of thrones full of war and destruction. George R. R. Martin’s inaugural book in his Song of Ice and Fire series takes readers from Winterfell in the north, home to the Stark family, south to the royal court of the houses Baratheon and Lannister in King’s Landing, east across the Small Sea with the dragon princess Daenerys Targaryen and the Dothraki horse-lords, and to the far north where a monstrous wall guards the land against the impending winter and the wildlings living beyond. Dark, moody, ominous and suspenseful, this medieval epic is intricately plotted with elaborate subplots and a huge cast of both sinister and honorable characters (many of whom are both). In typical fantasy series form, A Game of Thrones follows heroic quests pitting good against evil, though that dichotomy is often challenged and its lines are frequently blurred. Told by many different characters’ perspectives (eight in all) and rife with flashbacks, foreboding, and internal monologues, this book will keep fans of dense fantasy epics entertained, and frustrate those seeking a straightforward, fast-paced series. The lack of overly fantastical elements, (with the exception of dragons and undead enemies), helps make A Game of Thrones appealing to a wide variety of readers, particularly those who are interested in the intricacies of politics and royal family feuds. This series is not recommended to those who become easily attached to characters, as no one seems to be safe in Martin’s world. As Queen Cersei Lannister puts it, “When you play the game of thrones you either win or die. There is no middle ground.”
I will certainly be continuing the series, of which five of the seven books have been completed. Fans of the HBO series of the same name will be pleased to know that the show does not deviate far from the series, though it is difficult to include all that happens in the novel’s 700+ pages.