Book Review: A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones

It’s a new year so it’s time to expand from the scope of the sports world (sort of, as I’m sure half of the books I read will be sports related).  I’ve got this shiny new Kindle Fire to read books on so I figured why not review them all on here.  So I’ll read a book and then review.  We’ll see how many books I get done by the end of the year.

1st book – A Game Of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 1)

Written by George R.R. Martin

This was the first book in George R.R. Martin’s seven part series called A Song Of Ice And Fire.  So far 5 of the 7 books have been published.  This was the first one, released in 1998.  Obviously the popularity of this book sky-rocketed when HBO developed a series based on Martin’s fantasy series called Game of Thrones.  I watched the series and then decided to read the book to compare and contrast.  I’ll probably just do that for every book since I like to not know what’s going to happen while I watch the TV show and the books are also long as hell so I wouldn’t want to read them all in a row anyway.  The first book ends exactly where the first series of the show ended.

This is a fantasy series but what I like about how Martin wrote this book is that he focused less on the fantasy part of things and more on the characters.  I’m not a huge fan of fantasy myself but he draws you in with the strong characters that he develops.  Eventually you are invested in the characters and you don’t really care all that much about what’s going on around them, be it crazy and far-fetched or not, as you find yourself just caring about the fates of the characters regardless.  The other interesting thing he does is present an otherwise normal world at the beginning where the fantasy things like sorcery, dragons, and giants are now seen as a myth passed along through the generations and the characters are only introduced to these things as the reader is as well.  So when you are shocked to see the weird things appear the characters are too, so you don’t feel so bad.  Another thing that I like is how he laid out this world he created.  He sort of put a modern political twist in a medieval setting.  Basically there are 7 “kingdoms”.  The kingdoms are basically states when it boils down to everything.  The family that runs the capital is the biggest and most influential and all other establishments in the kingdom are loyal to the capital.  The capitals will mix and match, marry into another one of the kingdoms to form alliances, etc. and those are easily broken when the bound is broken (death, et. al).  That would be convenient if everyone is normal and trustworthy but then one guy cheats on another lord’s daughter and war breaks out.

Martin breaks down chapters by accounting events from a certain characters point of view.  There are 8 different characters that have points of view in the first book.  That is fine because characters will come and go and meet up with other characters in different view points.  It’s actually an interesting way to tell a story because it keeps things organized but you learn different things about all of the other characters by how they interact in certain view points.

As I said this is a very character based book.  The chapters are as much about the characters and the decisions that they make and the alliances that they forge and the people that they love or hate and why as it is about the wars and the beasts and the ghosts that they come across.  My favorite characters are Tyrion Lannister and his trusty sidekick Bronn, King Robert Baratheon, Arya Stark, and Lord Varys.  I’m sure people all have their different favorites but you can tell who Martin is pushing you to like in his writing.  Tyrion Lannister is the midget son of Lord Tywin Lannister who is the father of the Queen, Cersei Lannister and the her twin brother, Jaime Lannister, a knight known as the Kingslayer (guess why?).  One of my favorite parts of the book is towards the end in Tyrion’s final view point chapter when he is talking to his father after their battle.  You can tell, as can Tyrion, that his father is finally realizing that while he may have a beatiful and cunningly sinister Queen for a daughter and a dashing and brave Knight for a son, his dwarf is probably the one who is most similar to him.

The thing I am most looking forward to learn more about in future books is a thing called “The Wall”.  The Wall is a huge ice wall that separates the 7 kingdoms, uniformly called Westeros, from whatever is north.  All those fantasy things I talked about earlier supposedly live up north.  The Wall is supposed to protect them from those things but as I said, those things are just myths even to the people in the story so The Wall is not taken seriously in other parts of Westeros.  Which is a little silly when you think about it because why would your ancestors build a big ass wall of ice if there was nothing to protect the kingdom from.  Anyhow you get the feeling that you are going to find out more about the things beyond The Wall in books to come.  Another thing that I like about the book, that you don’t totally get in the TV series, is the description of past events.  In the show they will talk about things that happened in passing but in the book Martin actually describes some things in detail that explains things a lot better, things you wouldn’t otherwise totally understand if you just watched the show.

I’d give a strong recommendation to this book whether you are a fan of fantasy or not.  A strong recommendation to those who like strong character based books, which I see this as more than a fantasy novel.  Even if you hate fantasy but love character books give this one a shot because as I said before, the fantasy stuff is kept to a minimum in this one.

My next book is “When The Game Was Ours” by Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Jackie MacMullan

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Here are some additional thoughts to compare the book to the HBO show:

I know that I’m probably in the minority but I am glad that they kept the battle scenes to a minimum in the show.  Those were some of my least favorite parts of the book.  The description of the battles seemed mundane and I felt that Martin started to struggle for different ways to describe a sword or an axe duel.

That being said after they showed the aftermath of Robb Stark’s big battle victory they could have at least mentioned that he had just liberated Riverrun (birthplace of his mother), which was taken by the Lannisters, or that he freed his mother’s brother from captivity.

Ser Brynden Tully, “the Blackfish”, was in at least half of Catelyn Stark’s point of view in the book yet he wasn’t even mentioned in the series.  He stuck out like a sore thumb because almost every major or semi-major character from the book was represented in the show save for him.  I heard that neither he or any of the other Tullys are in the second season either.  It’s kind of weird that that they cut out almost all of Catelyn’s family.

The chapter with Walder Frey was even better in the book than in the show, and his scene was bad ass in the show.  He went on for almost the full chapter, it was just paragraphs and paragraphs of the guy talking.  I hope that we get more of him in future books/episodes.

I’m not sure if I’m totally wrong in this but I thought that they made it painfully obvious in the book as to who Jon Snow’s mother really is.

The Daenarys stuff in the book bored me, maybe it’s because I knew where it was headed, that everything that came before the end was just filler and build up for the last chapter/scene.  Hopefully there is more intrigue in her story in the next book.

The reason that I like Varys so much more than Littlefinger is because with Littlefinger you know what he is in it for – himself and whatever benefits him the most.  Varys is a far more ambiguous character.  You truly don’t know, at least after the first book, what he true intentions are.  I think I might believe him when he says that he just has the true interests of Westeros at heart but maybe that’s what he wants me to think.

I’m pretty sure Stannis Baratheon is going to be awesome.

The one thing I am amazed at is a lot of the dialogue is taken almost word for word from the book.  A lot of times people create a TV show and try to make it there own.  With a few exceptions the show runners by and large keep Martin’s original vision in tact.


About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

One Response to Book Review: A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones

  1. Pingback: Book Review: When The Game Was Ours « evonsports

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