I am reading some books these days, and plan to do even more of that once the AP Biology exam passes, so I figured that I would start reviewing them. Books will be reviewed in the order that they are consumed.
It doesn’t really need any explanation as to why I decided to read the first book in George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series (currently a tetrad, but planned to eventually stretch to seven books). HBO started running previews for the series they have created, and I did a bit of research, and voila. I imagine this is the typical route that most of the recent readers have taken to get to this novel.
If you like fantasy, than “A Game of Thrones” is probably for you. I say probably, because it is a kind of fantasy that dwells pretty heavily in the non-fantastical. There is precious little outright magic, or fantastical creature sightings taking place during the course of this novel. While the setting of the book is mostly on a massive, fictional continent divided among major and minor ruling houses and loosely amalgamated under the unity of a relatively week king, that seems to be the major fantastical aspect of this particular book. The castles and histories and various details of the land and the houses are really where the meat of this particular novel lies. To me, the most interesting race in the book were the Dothraki horse-people, who live a nomadic existence on a massive savannah that occupies a large portion of a continent separate from the one where most of the story takes place. What that says about the book, or about me, I don’t really know.
The novel is well paced and clearly plotted. Martin is obviously laying the groundwork for a massive story, and the amount of thought that went in to the construction of this world in all of its particular details and twisted familial histories, is evident, and appreciated. For those of us who can’t conceive of the effort needed to write something like this, the book stands as a great modern example of the more classic, staid, fantasy writing. Particularly interesting is the book’s narrative device of having every chapter told from the particular perspective of a specific character from the story. This might seem a little jarring at first, but the third-person perspective enables Martin to keep a pretty unified voice throughout the transitions between characters, and the reader falls in soon enough.
If there is any low point to the book, it is the ending, which came suddenly and left a lot of stuff unresolved. Clearly, given the planned scope of the work, this is not a major issue, as those of us who want more can just pick up book two. But there is something to be said for works in a series that read as if complete stories in and of themselves, without the need to reference the greater sum of all the parts. This is not the case in “A Game of Thrones”, and many of the plot lines are left firmly up in the air at the end of the work. I don’t really think that is a knock against the book, particularly given everything else that Martin accomplishes in the pages of the book, but it still left me somewhat non-plussed.
So, that’s my take on the first part of what is probably the “hottest” fantasy series currently going around. It is a good book, and worth your time if you enjoy political novels with an occasional nod to forces outside your understanding. I’ll be taking a crack at the second novel soon enough, but there are other books in my queue before that, and anyway I figure I have at least a year before the HBO series starts dealing with material in book #2.