“Summer span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. It will stretch from the south, where heat breeds lust, plots and intrigues; to he vast north, where a 700-feet wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond. It’s the Game of Thrones. You win or you die.”
A Game of Thrones is book one of A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, which I believe is one of the greatest fantasy epic of the modern age.
George R. R. Martin is an American author of eight novels, a few accumulations of short stories and various screenplays for TV dramas and feature films. Martin has been an immensely prolific and successful writer of fantasy. Thanks to his novel series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ and, also thanks to the huge success of the HBO series, Game of Thrones, which took its title from book one of A Song of Ice and Fire series, ‘A Game of Thrones’. Yeah, right. They just removed the indefinite article ‘a’. By the way, Martin’s book hit the best sellers list and witnessed the roaring success many years after they were first published. This book came out in 1996. When I was born; wow.
Coming to the book now, A Game of Thrones. Various highborn families are battling for power on the Kingdom of Westeros, which is an island with a frosty north, warm south, varied topology, and savage brutes over the Narrow Sea (which is not so narrow by the way). The families are interlinked with marriages, alliances and politics yet remain emphatically particular in ethos.
The Starks are the heroes and heart of the story. They are northerners, hard individuals adjusted to hard life, engrossed by honour. The Lannisters are their enemies and inverse – rich, merciless, corrupt southerners. The owner of the Iron Throne is Robert Baratheon as the book starts, who, with the help of Starks deposed the previous king seventeen years before the story sets, the Mad King Aerys. The Targaryen dynasty rode dragons and ruled Westeros for over hundred of years, practised brother-sister incest, gradually went mad. But the dragons are long lost and no one has seen them for hundred years. The last two Targaryen, the only family members to survive Robert’s attempt to finish them all, near children, fled into exile over the seas.
The book recounts this story jumping from character to character over the wide geography of Westeros and beyond with the point-of-views of eight characters as the story follows. Well, actually nine if you consider the prologue as well.
Character development is perhaps Martin’s greatest strength. He is able to present such a wide range of distinct personalities. From Starks for whom the honor is vital, to the Lannisters who are driven by covetousness and ambition, to the Targaryens who are driven by vengeance. Martin abilities sparkle most prominently when his characters opt for choices where none of their decisions effectively fit their own moralities. Also, the author takes obvious delight in interaction between characters. The dialogues are strong and deep.
Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’ ‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.
And yes, of course, one liners and catchphrases steal the heart, such as, “A Lannisters always pays his debt” or ” Winter is coming”.
I think this story is what happens when Sparta meets Lord of the rings with a touch of 50 Shades. From a layman’s point of view, A Game of Thrones is violence and sex and more violence and more sex. And sex also not in almost never for the right romantic reasons. Much more common is violent rape that too in the most sickeningly descriptive sense. If Tolkien would go vulgar, he’d be Martin.
Also, nobody needs, I repeat, nobody needs to suggest Martin how to butcher his characters. Not even Arnab Goswami.
Talking about characters, yeah we know that Martin excels at character development but this book has hell amount of characters. C’mon! Give me a break! He simply hurls such a variety of identities in with the general mish-mash that the reader loses track about a percentage of the characters and sub-plots in that.
If I were to find the closest contemporary to Martin and his book, I’d name J. R. R. Tolkien. Both have amazing gift of creating believable surreal world where nothing seems unreal and everything is convincing. Though it can be said that there are no real heroes in Martin’s world- which seemed to be only stuffed with villains and survivors, while Tolkien’s Middle Earth has a balanced hero-villain ratio.
In Lord of the Rings, one feels that even in humanity’s darkest hours there is reason to hope. But in Martin’s Westeros, one does not feel that hope, that certainty that good will prevail or the truth will be out.
To be honest, I’m feeling like drug dealer, trying to sell this cocaine to you. This can hurt you, destroy your emotions and, is fatal to your senses. You’ll feel helpless after finishing this and existential crisis from which you’ll suffer from will make you crave for more and more and more. That’s exactly what it did to me.
By giving 4.5 rating (out of 5) I would say that A Game of Thrones is an incredible read filled with fantasy, supernatural, violence, obscenity, politics, plot twists, revelations, vengeance, emotion, love and every possible elements of a fiction.