Week 34–A Game of Thrones

Ok, I didn’t actually finish this book in Week 34, but we’re going to pretend like I did.  Cut me some slack, I wrote you three reviews in Week 32.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=Bibliograph07-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0553386794&fc1=F3EDED&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=040404&f=ifrFrom the moment I saw the first trailer for HBO’s adaptation of Game of Thrones I’d wanted to watch the show and read the book.  Being the scatterbrained bibliophile that I am, however, I often forget what books I want to buy as soon as I step into a bookstore.  But when I realized that I risked running out of reading material in Canada and having nothing to do on the plane home, I resolved to go straight to A Game of Thrones and get it. I’m so proud of my self-control 🙂

Two things I must disclaim about the book before I go on to gush about how brilliant it is. The first is that it requires enormous amounts of perseverance to get through it.  With its mass-market version being 800+ pages, it’s a long read.  Please disregard the intimidating size and read through to its fantastic and not-at-all conclusive conclusion.

The second is that, as I was warned, the book is dark and bloody.  This appeals to me probably more than it should, but I understand that the tastes of others may vary from mine a great deal.  Still, what good would epic fantasy be without little girls eating fresh, raw, bloody horse hearts?  There seem to be no limits to the cruelty of some of the characters, and plenty of things happen that may cause the reader to hate the author.  He has no qualms about treachery, murder of the innocent or other such delights.

Unfortunately, giving a synopsis would make this post entirely too long.  There are multiple story lines twisting around each other to form one grand plot, but because the omniscient narrator follows a different character with each new chapter, it gets a little tangled at times.  It is this, among other things, that divides the mind of the reader about who is good and who is evil. There is the obvious choice between the honorable Starks and the wicked, scheming Lannisters (a name that now makes me shudder every time I think, hear, or speak it).  But there are other stories that are a little more challenging, such as Dany’s exile among the Dothraki or Jon Snow’s struggle to honor his oaths to the Night’s Watch.  With such an intricate plot, the book is inevitable drawn out past what some would consider acceptable, but Martin does not leave the reader bored.  In fact, there is so much going on that it seems a little overwhelming at times.

Character is another thing that Martin does quite well.  In a manner reminiscent of Tolkien, Martin has invented a great deal of history to back up his world and make his story more believable.  Because of this, most of the characters and their family history are very well developed.  In the back of the novel he includes an appendix detailing the history of the major houses of the Seven Kingdoms and the recent family trees for each.    The extent to which he has gone to make his readers understand the roots of the struggle taking place in the novel is admirable, and I recommend reading the appendix first. It will make the novel itself a lot easier to understand.

It’s difficult to explain what it is about the novel that captivated me.  I can say that the plot is gripping, the characters vivid, the setting wild and dangerous and exciting, but it’s not simply those elements that cause this novel to be so enthralling.  What struck me most is the confident voice with which he tells the story. It is the voice of a novelist who knows every corner and cranny of his creation and who tells his story boldly.  He does not shy away from the grotesque, the violent, the explicit.  He gives every detail that he feels is necessary, and doesn’t indicate a need to rush the story, despite its length.  Because of this confidence with which he writes, the Seven Kingdoms and all the people therein and surrounding spring to life and drag the reader into the story with them.

There’s a reason that everyone is falling in love with A Game of Thrones.  It’s full of suspense, splendor, intrigue, valor, betrayal, lust, imagination.  At some point or another, it touches on everything with which the human heart can identify and inspires the reader with its beauty.  Needless to say, I recommend it to all and sundry.  And then go watch the show.

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