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Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (4/5)

9 Jul

I always believe in ‘read it before you watch it.’ Sometimes it’s hard to keep true to that. This is one of those cases. My mom is a huge fan of Martin and has read the whole ASoIaF series and is a big fan of the series. A good friend of mine, Alex, has frequently talked about how good they are. So I wanted to read it. But…. long book. So we turn to my frequent answer to long books: audio!

Cover image via

Cover image via

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Summary from Goodreads:

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.

Epic fantasy seems to be an understatement. This book is so vast that some of the characters have never even talked about each other. I have to look up the Wikipedia page to help me remember all the people. But am I invested in their stories? You bet I am! Martin is a great story-teller and while the books are notably long, there’s nothing I would have taken out. I loved every twist and turn and betrayal and reveal.

I’d heard before I started reading that Martin writes strong female characters and I think it’s better to say he writes believable female characters. Catelyn is strong because she’s protecting her family. Dany is strong because she can’t trust anyone to have her best interest in mind. Arya is strong because she’s alone and has to be. They’re all great. Nothing against the men. I really enjoy a lot of the male characters, especially Jon Snow and Tyrion. (Side note, looking at family trees just ruined a surprise for me. Don’t do it!) All of the characters seemed to be really well motivated and realistic. I think this is going to be my favorite thing about Martin.

Dany’s story was my favorite because it confused me the least, but Jon was my favorite character. I think his life is a beautiful tragedy. He lives just on the edge of royalty and privileged yet recognizes he is entitled to nothing and has to work for every scrap he earns in life. And man, does he work hard. I have a lot of respect for him and I love how giving he is. He’s a more doting brother to Arya than Robb and the only friend Samwell has. He’s got a great heart.

I related to Tyrion more than I thought I would. I think he handles his condition with pride and grace and I think he’s a good example for anyone facing adversity of any kind. He’s short, but that doesn’t mean he can’t kill and ride and fight for his life. Scrappy doesn’t seem a good word for him because he’s trained, disciplined, and wickedly smart. It’s a good example of how you can use your brains to outsmart anything and come out on top. I might have bad knees, but I can still train my legs to be strong. Tyrion would appreciate that.

George RR Martin (Is that a turtle on his hat?!) Image via

George RR Martin
(Is that a turtle on his hat?!)
Image via

It’s hard to pick a favorite part of the book. There were scenes I enjoyed more than others, but I can’t say a particular one stands out as my favorite. I did like Martin’s descriptions of the landscapes. He’s created so many unique places and landscapes and his descriptions of them really helped pull me into the world in a way I wouldn’t have been without them. With something so fantastical, it’s good he’s able to use words so effectively.

OK, spoiler here for my least favorite part. So if you haven’t read the books, skip to the next. I was so shocked by Ned’s death that it made me angry. In a way, I saw it coming. But having a narrating character die that early in the story blew me away! I felt betrayed. Ned knew Cersei’s secret and now who is going to reveal the truth about that terrible woman? Ugh, so angry!

My audiobook was narrated by Roy Dotrice. I have never heard such a good narrator before. Dotrice immediately drew me into the story by adding laughs, coughs, and stammers to the characters, something I can’t recall in other narrators. He had distinct voices for the characters and it kept me interested the whole time. I can’t wait to hear him narrated the next book in the series (I looked it up to make sure he does them all!).

Are there positive themes in this book? The characters I thought tried to do the right thing were punished more than those who cheated and stole what they wanted. The Lannisters are on top for most of the book and the Starks are punished for trying to be noble. I will say, the characters are perseverant. No matter the things going on around them, most stick to their guns and continue to believe in what they believe is right and just. Even if I as the reader don’t think Jamie Lannister is worthy of praise, Tyrian does and stands up for him. So I guess the theme is standing up for what you believe is right?

Writer’s Takeaway: The first thing that sticks out to me is length. As a writer, we’re always told to cut things down, make them shorter so they’ll sell. Look at how successful this series is! (Side note, JK Rowling was told the same thing.) Some people want to hear a long story and that’s not bad. The other lesson I’d point out is character development and motivation. Martin gives us narrators from all parts of this web and all seem justified in their cause in their own way. Every villain is the hero of their own story and Martin doesn’t fail to follow this rule.

A really great story though a bit out of my comfort zone. Four out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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