Perhaps I was feeling burned out by the amount of dense fiction that I had been attempting to devour. Perhaps it was the fact that for the first time this year I gave up on reading a book (Against the Day, this time Pynchon was just too much for me). Perhaps it was the fact that I couldn’t focus on anything because I simply wanted to see what the fuss was about. No matter the reason, George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones was a book I had been meaning to read for around three years at this point. Though I will obviously delve further into my thoughts, it suffices to say that there were things I loved about the novel, and things I absolutely despised.
A Game of Thrones is a book that is actually described extremely well by its title. It’s a story of feuding royalties, honor against treachery, and politics against morality. It tells the story of the Stark family: Lord Eddard (Ned), Lady Catelyn, Robb, Sansa, Bran, Arya, Rickon, and Ned’s bastard son, Jon Snow. Martin must absolutely be lauded for his character creation and development. Each one is unique beyond expectation. Beyond perhaps Lady Catelyn’s chapters, I was never upset to see a name. To clarify, if you are not aware, each of the chapters in the book is written from a different character’s perspective. I actually did enjoy Catelyn’s chapters early in the book, but near the end of the novel I was struggling to enjoy them at all.
This leads me into the biggest negative concerning the book: it simply lasts too long. The final four chapters are completely unnecessary. Nothing of importance happens that could not be said at the beginning of the next book, with the exception of the final chapter. If you want to avoid a spoiler, skip the rest of this paragraph and move onto the next one. I tend to worry about the remainder of the series simply due to the fact that the book flounders upon the death of Ned Stark. With the exception of Tyrion Lannister, Ned is the driving force of the book. Upon his death only Arya remains interesting enough to read. The problem with a novel that is totally sold-out on plot and story is that sometimes the story loses its life. When Ned died, the Starks’ storyline loses it’s framing character. Martin spent so much time with Ned that it’s difficult to really want to find out what happens to anyone other than Arya and Jon Snow. Robb didn’t have his own chapters, Sansa remains interesting only due to her connection to the Lannisters, and Catelyn became uninteresting when Tyrion escaped her custody. My feelings are just that: mine. They are totally subjective. I simply must be honest and say that I really only care about Jon Snow, Arya Stark, and Tyrion Lannister as I order book two of the series.
The plot of the book absolutely blew me away, and I can say that for the past two days I have not put the book down, covering the last five hundred pages as quick as my eyes could read. My problems with the novel do not outweigh how worthwhile the read is. In fact I would venture to guess that most people would not even notice the things that I take issue with. These things being that I think at times Martin is lazy with his writing. In a novel I simply can’t condone the use of the word “very.” When Martin wrote that “it was very cold” my eyes just glaze over for a moment and I’m totally thrown out of the story. If you want to call this nitpicking, I am fine with anyone feeling that way. Other moments Martin tells his readers how they are supposed to feel. To mention my above problem without using spoilers, the story loses much of it’s steam near the end of the book.
I enjoyed the novel and it’s easy to see why the series has taken the nation by storm. At times, though, I feel like it is simply a soap opera where the sex is seen and described, and the murders happen on-screen. The novel is at moments, a string of gossip. I’m not faulting it, I’m just pointing it out. It’s fun to read and its puts a reader in the room in every situation.
Recommended to: Those looking for a plot-driven series that has the potential to occupy a reader for multiple years, those who love a novel of politics and treachery, and those who just love a story of sex and swordplay.
Avoid as if it were the Spurs during the playoffs: Those who find themselves murmuring “Get to the point” while they are reading, those who can’t handle an immense pallet of characters, and those who can’t stand to lose their favorite characters.