Book & TV Show Review: A Game of Thrones

Apr
18
5 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 3 stars, Fantasy

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Book: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R. R. Martin
Publisher: Bantam Spectra
Release date: August 6, 1996
Source: Bought for Kindle
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

First impressions: I love a good prologue – it sets the stage, gets you interested, and dives right into the action. Believe me, Martin gives good prologue here. It gave me important information about the northern area of the country, was full of suspense, and made me want to learn more. What else could you ask for?

Lasting impressions: This is undoubtedly an epic story. It covers lots of characters over a long period of time in a vast world. At times this was overwhelming, particularly to someone who doesn’t read a lot of epic fantasy, but ultimately the story was powerful and satisfying.

Conflicting impressions: Having spent so much time lately reading first person intimate narratives, the switch to a more distant third person point of view was a big change up. I was frustrated at times by how Martin seemed to power through difficult moments and present them so matter of factly. Where was all the angst and hand wringing I love? Oh, right. Not that kind of book, so no real points off from me.

Overall impressions: I have to emphasize again that I am not normally an epic fantasy reader. That, in and of itself, is a huge reason I did not rate this book higher. It’s just not my preferred genre. I love fantasy stories, I love swords and action and betrayal and lots of other fantasy elements, it’s just that slogging through 850 pages is not my idea of a good time. It takes me months to get through one of Diana Gabaldon’s behemoths, and I love them, but the process itself is a struggle. I have a short attention span.

That said, I struggled to get through this one. If it weren’t for the HBO premiere, I don’t think I would have had the motivation to finish. As much as I liked the characters and the story, it didn’t quite move fast enough to keep me engaged. It took me three weeks to read the first half of the book, and the second half I simply forced myself to sit down and read in a marathon 4 hour reading session on Friday night.

Am I glad I did? Absolutely. Like I said, it’s a great book. The characters were fantastic, and with the revolving POVs, you really get a chance to get to know them individually. My favorites by far were Arya, the 10 year old (I think) daughter of House Stark, and Tyrion Lannister, dwarf brother to the Queen. Arya is a tomboy who only wants to fight and be outside, though custom dictates she must learn sewing and act a lady. Tyrion is called “the Imp” by his countrymen, a nickname he despises, and because of his perceived deformity, is looked down upon by nearly everyone he encounters.

The beauty of the story is that all of the characters are deeply flawed, so as events quickly get out of their control, these flaws dictate devastating consequences. Martin is truly not afraid to show the darkest sides of people, nor is he afraid to take things from the characters we love so dearly. This book was frustrating often because I just wanted things to get better instead of get worse, and that is not usually the plan.

I highly recommend the book to fantasy fans, although most of them have probably already read it. Although it’s not my particular cup of tea, I still enjoyed the story and am glad it is getting a well deserved boost in publicity thanks to the HBO series. For my thoughts on the show, read on.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

First, I just have to say how much I love the posters and publicity materials circulating for the series. The production design of the entire show is exquisite, and the posters are equally amazing.

I was quickly swept up into the TV show hooplah around this premiere. After seeing a pre-movie ad for it months ago, I vowed to read the book. I followed the show’s Twitter feed, scoured the Wikipedia pages, and dove into the novel with a few weeks to spare.

Last night, it finally arrived.

I was impressed with the level of fidelity to the source material. Of course, having Martin as a consultant probably helped, but HBO really pulled out all the stops. The world was richly designed, down to the smallest details. The opening credit sequence was beautifully done, with House sigils next to the actors’ names designating their characters’ alliance, and an overview of the map of the world, giving us an idea of where we were. My husband, who hadn’t read the book, felt this was really helpful.

The casting was superb as well. I thought all of the characters looked the way I had pictured them, as if they had walked right off the page and onto the screen. The acting is great so far, and likely to only get better as the plot thickens. There are some opportunities to do some incredible work with this material, and I have no doubt that every actor on board is capable of really going there. I imagine they are all very excited to have the chance to dive into a story of this scale and depth.

In a way, knowing the story takes some of the fun out of the big reveals of treachery. The cliffhangers will likely be a bit muted, but that hasn’t taken away from my enjoyment so far. This series is definitely living up to the hype and I cannot wait to see all of the book’s incredible scenes come to fruition on my television.

I’ve already said it to one friend, but it bears repeating: the HBO subscription price for the duration of the show is definitely worth it.



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5 Responses to “Book & TV Show Review: A Game of Thrones”

  1. Pk Hrezo says:

    Hi, Logan! Cool name! Lovely review. Nice to meet you. I write YA / MG fantasy. Always nice to meet fellow writers. 🙂

    Cheers!

  2. Missie says:

    LOGAN! I made the same vow but sadly, I did not keep it. 🙁

    The fact that I'm not normally an epic fantasy reader either is to blame. BUT I LOVED THE PREMIERE! Do you know how many times I've watched it since the first ep last night. Well, I'm not embarassed to say, I watched every back to back ep. I'm so happy for Martin's involvement. I've been watching all the makings of and I'm thrilled to hear from you that the characters seems to just walk off the page and it book material matches the show. Also, thanks for that little tidbit on the house names. Maybe I will finally get the series read over the summer.

    Wasn't it just beautiful! The cinematography was just with you the whole time.

  3. DebraZ says:

    I must say that not all epic fantasy is as dense and dark as Martin's. In fact, his is more epic imagined history with some cool beasties. He has some short pieces in fantasy collections about the child "Egg" who is later one of the Kings named Eagon, forget which, and they are charming intimate stories.

  4. Alison says:

    My friend is obsessed with these books. I see him reading them every day at work, and I really want to try it. I am interested in how dark it is – my friend keeps emphasizing that.

    BTW…subject changer. Have you read Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith? I highly recommend it. Complex, more adult vampire fantasy but not as dark as this.

  5. Logan E. Turner says:

    @Pk Hrezo – Hi! Welcome! I always love to meet new writers as well. I'll be stopping by soon!

    @Missie – YES, the premiere was AMAZING. I loved it and can't wait for Sunday. The costumes, the sets, the cinematography, the acting – it was all just perfect.

    @DebraZ – I agree, there actually isn't a whole lot of magic or fantasy besides the ending. I liked the politics of it and the characters, but the action was just not as compelling for me.

    @Alison – I've been meaning to read that one! Everyone says it's amazing. I saw you posted a review of it today so I'm off to read it!


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