With the HBO adaption coming up on TV in April, I thought it would be a good time to start re-reading George R.R. Martin‘s epic A Song of Ice and Fire. It didn’t take long to remind me why this is one of my favourite fantasy series.
The story in A Game of Thrones take place in the backdrop of a bloody rebellion fifteen years prior, when Robert Baratheon overthrew the mad Targaryen family and took the throne with the help of Eddard Stark and Jon Arryn. Now, when Jon Arryn–who has served as the King’s hand–dies under mysterious circumstances, Robert travels north to once again seek the help of Eddard Stark; this time not to win the throne, but to keep it.
Across the sea, Viserys–the last male member of the Targaryen family–marry off his sister Daenerys to barbarian horse people in the hope of raising an army to retake their homeland.
And in the north, Eddard Stark’s bastard son, Jon Snow, joins the Night Watch, a brotherhood charged with defending the realm of man against an ancient evil only spoken of in legends.
Although it is less noticeable at first, Martin’s books are quite different from what I used to read. A Song of Ice and Fire is a mature, brutal story which seems to revel in tragedy and despair. All of which are surprisingly refreshing in a genre that has become more and more stale over the years. Martin’s work turns the back on fantasy stereotypes and offer a more realistic tale. Knights are not chivalrous, kings are not wise, dragons are extinct, magic is so rare that it’s considered magic, and every second person want to stab you in the back.
Sometime that also make the story more realistic is that people die. And by people I don’t mean the typical kind of people whose sole reason is to stick along long enough to be killed, but major characters. Most authors seems to grow so attached to their characters that they will let them dodge certain death several times, but not Martin. I had grown so accustomed to heroes surviving grim situations that when the unthinkable actually happened I was so shocked I had to lay down the book and collect my whirlwind of thoughts.
This, more than anything, is why I love A Song of Ice and Fire. Life is not a song, as plenty of people remind young Sansa Stark during the series, and in life people die. The realism is what keeps me turning page after page of Martin’s work at ridiculous speed and at even more ridiculous late hours.
The characters in the book are very well done, they all feel very human. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, and the underlying reasoning for their actions prevents anyone from feeling overly stereotyped. The one weakness of the series could be that there are just too many characters, and with new ones introduced in each book it can get quite overwhelming by the fourth volume.
You get to follow characters on all sides of the conflict, and with the different perspectives you see that no one is truly good or evil. People just have different goals, different morals, and are generally being selfish. You know, just like in real life.
If you love intrigue, believable characters, and if the story and characters are more important to you than if there are dragons flying around, then this book is for you.Game, George, Martin, R.R., Review, Thrones