Thursday, January 20, 2011

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

There are writers and there are storytellers. George R.R Martin is a fantastic writer who excels at storytelling.

I recently completed reading A Game of Thrones, the first book from the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, by George R.R Martin (GRRM). I stumbled upon this book very late since this book was published in 1996. I guess I am still a newbie when it comes to fantasy books. Nevertheless, I would like to consider myself as a ‘maturing reader’. Yeah that sounds better!

A Game of Thrones (AGoT) is a fabulous and epic fantasy tale. It has all the ingredients that will make you keep reading, keep thinking and keep wondering about the stories and characters in the book. Keep in mind that it is a huge book. 800 pages in the first book itself. (There would be 7 books in the series, of which 4 are in the market and 5th is on its way.) However, each and every page is a pleasant read. (Pleasantness is highly subjective!)

Here are some of the things that make the book really really good:
  • Grey gritty characters – There are loads of these in the books. You keep wondering who are the good guys and who are the bad ones. You start trusting someone and suddenly an event happens that shatters this trust. Eventually you would know that you cannot trust anyone! As Cersei Lannister says, “In the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die.” And surely, the characters keep thrilling you with their antics, cunningness and dialogues. And yes, the bad guys are really bad and the not so bad ones need to work really hard to fight them.
(A warning for you – This book is not Harry Potter. In fact it is far far away from Harry Potter. It is dark, it is gory and the language used is crass at times. So as to say, it is a very realistic fantasy book!)
  • POV and Parallel story-lines – The story is in the form of Third person limited point of view. This makes the story even more interesting as we see the world from the character’s perspective. Though there are only 8 POV’s (Mainly Starks of Winterfell), each POV is very distinctive. Three Parallel story-lines take place, viz.
    • The fight for the control over the Iron Throne of Westeros and its Seven Kingdoms
    • The Night’s Watch and the Wall in the north of Westeros
    • The Dragon Princess in Exile somewhere on a land East of Westeros that is separated by a Sea.
  • Action – I don’t know how to describe this but GRRM describes the major events (and there are many of these throughout the book) in such a manner that you cannot help but stop, think and read the earlier passage again. It is brilliantly articulated. It’s fast and cuts like a knife. It also leaves you hungry for more.
Apart from these factors, many other factors make reading the book a pleasure. The old worlds, armoured Knights their tales of bravery, battles (some of the descriptions are ethereal), some stories that are told in the book (the story about how the Dragons came into the world, Dragons that were used in the war by the Targaryens, the children of the forests, the song about the King and the boar, and many more…). Surely, everyone will have his or her moments of reading-pleasure.

You will have your own favourite characters too. My favourite character from the book is Tyrion Lannister, who is truly unforgettable. His humour (sarcastic and cunning), his brilliant world play and his role in the story is splendid. There are several others who make a mark, but some will stay in your mind forever!

I was initially planning to take a break between the AGoT and the next of the series ‘A Clash of Kings’, but I am not sure after completing the book.

I really loved reading AGoT, and I hope the series turns out to be as good too.

Note: HBO is making an original TV series on AGoT that will be shown from April 2011. If you haven’t seen the videos yet, check them on the HBO Website. I sincerely hope they telecast it simultaneously in India.

Updates: I came across this post discussing GRRM's writing as compared to Steven Erikson's style. He has described GRRM's style in a very detailed and articulate manner that at times is too critical, but is pretty much right.

Another post about GRRM's writing.

A positive review in this post.

Read another well written (though long) critical post on AGoT. Gosh there are so many of them!

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