Book of the Month Review I: George R.R. Martin’s “A Game of Thrones”
I’m not really a fantasy person. Or maybe I should say I’m only into fantasy if it’s a young adult book, and even then only if the book comes from an author I have been loyal to for years. But a fantasy book, the first in a long series might I add, thrust at me by an author I’ve never heard of? It took me a while to pick it up and even longer to actually get into it, but once I had given A Game of Thrones a fair chance (I think 200 pages is more than fair), I was surprised at how much I took to certain characters and how complex the storyline became.
George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones has three major plots that take place in three different locations, with each chapter rotating between eight main characters. Set in a medieval world, Booklist describes this book as “combining intrigue, action, romance, and mystery in a family saga” but I would hardly call this fun for the whole family. With plenty of violence, political intrigue, jealousy, and incest to go around, Martin clearly had too much on his mind when he wrote this book. There are some great characters and the plots are clearly well thought out, taking shocking twists I never saw coming. But on the whole, I would have rather read a book focusing on one of these plots with two of the main characters, rather than three main plots with eight characters, all with their own tormented drama.
I found it difficult getting into this book, mainly because the storyline comes with so much historical background. The reader only gets a vague sense of the world’s history through other character interaction. The appendices in the back help, but there are so many different noble families, all with very unique but confusing names, and their own claim to the throne, that I still only have the very basic understanding of family ties, friendly rivals, and bitter enemies. The characters themselves have promise, my favorites being young Arya for her anti-noble woman, pro-warrior tendencies (Tamora Pierce, anyone?) and Jon as the bastard son of Lord Eddard determined to make something of himself in the cold north.
What I loved about this book was how easy it was to skip over what I didn’t like. After about 100 pages, I had figured out which storylines and characters I was interested in. Since the chapter titles dictate which character perspective they’re following, it was simple to skip over the chapter following characters I hated to the ones I had grown interested in. it turned an 800 page novel into a 500 page read.
I can see how die-hard fantasy lovers would fall in love with this series. I, unfortunately, am only a friend of the fantasy world, there for the genre when it needs support, but I’m not about to go abandoning my beloved classics. Sorry Martin, but you’re no Bronte.
On a final note, Martin’s series “A Song of Ice and Fire” is in the process of being made into television series, with HBO giving the go-ahead to begin filming the pilot episode. For the details, check out Variety.