I've been reading A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin for the first time and thought it warranted a blog post. The book was recommended to me by one of my guild mates from Age of Conan (thanks Ealian!) after I had recommended that she pick up some of David Gemmell's novels. Like Gemmell's books (and also like the Conan books by RE Howard), A Game of Thrones is set in a fantasy setting that is low on magic and high on character.
The book starts off much like any other fantasy novel, with this one having a medieval setting. However, it soon becomes apparent why this book has won numerous awards. What sets the novel apart from other fantasy works is the characters. Every one leaps off the page with a vivid realism, their motivations and loyalties hidden in a world where no-one says what they mean or means what they say.
I'm only halfway through the book, but already Martin has surprised me with twists and turns, and the loyalty of one major character remains a mystery to me, despite several chapters being told from his point of view. I can't make my mind up whether this character is one of the good guys or not and the need to find out keeps me turning the pages. Of course, for most of the characters things aren't a matter of black and white, just grey and greyer.
This is an adult book, and despite containing incest, rape, extreme violence, a great deal of swearing and a very complex plot concerning a six-sided conflict, it is all handled with a subtlety that is rare in the genre. The story, so far, is more than living up to the high standard of the characters. The plot is truly gripping and I've already learned not to try and guess where it is headed as my success rate at anticipating what will happen so far is not good! I just hope that the pay off lives up to the early quality.
A Game of Thrones is the first part of A Song of Ice and Fire, a planned series of seven books (I believe five have so far been published). Based on my early enjoyment I'll definitely be reading the rest of the books in the series.
It's recently been announced that HBO are making a television series of the first book, starring Sean Bean. If they can match the book for plot, character and surprises it will be a great success.
I know I've come to A Game of Thrones a bit late (it was first published in 1996). Even so, I'm really surprised at how much I'm enjoying this book; the best fantasy novel I've read for years. If you like realistic and gritty fantasy such as the novels of David Gemmell, or even historical fiction like Bernard Cromwell's books, please give this one a look too!
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