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

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read for the 12 in 12 Reading Challenge.

This novel won the 1997 Locus Award and was nominated for the 1997 Nebula and World Fantasy Awards.

I’ve been meaning to read these for some time because I’m a fan of the series, and in the Long Night between Season 7 and Season 8, it seemed like a good way to get some of the joy I was missing. It was difficult to start because at first, the TV show follows its pattern almost exactly. But by about halfway through the book, there are enough differences that it’s well worth the time, even if you have watched every episode; although, amazingly, nothing contradicts the story being told on the small screen, either. And besides, the writing is just excellent, and there’s a special joy to watching genre fiction done so well.

I don’t think I’ll give anything away about the plot at all, because you already know everything you need to know to determine whether or not you want to read the book, and anything else would wreck things for you. But I will say that the special beauty of A Song of Ice and Fire is that characters never behave like you would expect from the classic tropes. I would like to emphasize, however, that Martin does not simply spit on and ignore the tropes; he’s a fan of classic epic fantasy, and that comes through clearly in his writing. Instead, he considers them as they apply to the real world, with real people making emotional decisions, as people do.

– What is the proper path of honour for a knight in the midst of real chaos and war?
– How would princesses really feel about being given away like prizes to the heroes of the hour? And what happens after they’ve lived together for twenty years?
– What do people really think of the trickster-hero?
– What would really happen to a girl who wanted to grow up to be a knight?
– What would really happen to a knight who was forced to choose between what was good, and what was honourable?

The only other work I can possibly compare to this in scope and scale, aside from the obvious, is Dune. It’s an equal contender for a great saga of power and the human costs of power. It’s space opera in a fantasy setting. There’s a reason Martin is being called “The American Tolkien.” Check it out for yourself.

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