Chances are if you’ve had internet connection over the past couple of years, you will have heard of the ‘Game of Thrones’ series that so many rave about. Equally, you’ve probably realised that preceding this TV show full of gore, sex and about as many x-rated things as you could throw in there without sacrificing the storyline; there is a series of books it is based on! And oh boy, is it a series.
"The first book of the Song of Ice and Fire series, Game of Thrones, totals a whopping 835 pages and they’re packed so intensely that your mind will be reeling from all of the detail.
That’s the beauty and the beast of this book – it is so detailed that it’s both a pleasure and endurance test to read at the same time.
One great plus that this book offers is the chance to see each character’s perspective – you’ll fall in love with a couple of storylines and when they get stale, another couple will start to get interesting. It’s this that drives the book on and keeps drawing you back into the story just as you’re ready to put it down. Personally, unless you can offer it a great deal of time or are used to reading long, winding novels about fantasy worlds and complex relationships it might be better off to watch a few episodes of the series to at least get a feel for it first.
While Martin is known for his brutal technique of killing off every character you happen to like, personally I don’t think he’s that good at it. The deaths in the book are stated in such a way that they give you more of a shock than an emotional pull which dampens the affection you feel for the remaining characters as you anticipate their own grisly end. That being said, if you want grisly then this is a great book for you! It’s packed with violence and detailed descriptions of gory acts. It’s also packed with a lot of history, the kind of history that has you poring over the map and the list of houses going, “so who’s he again and why does it matter that he’s so-and-so’s friend from this place whose mother died 20 years ago and…wait, nevermind”. If you have the time, patience and commitment to read each book twice or set out a straight month of just reading then maybe the houses and the history become a lot clearer but otherwise…I’ve found you’re better off just pretending to understand all of the links and waiting until they figure themselves out.
One bone I do have to pick with A Game of Thrones (if you’ll excuse the pun) is the sex. Sex sex sex sex. The majority of it is rape and it mainly involves prostitutes and children which isn’t okay, even if the book is meant to be portrayed in medieval times. The whole Dany/Drogo storyline can get a little sickening when you bear in mind the fact that she’s meant to be only thirteen. Yes, I suppose you could argue that it’s trying to be realistic and that things like this did and still do actually happen but that still doesn’t make for enjoyable reading. Add onto the fact that the whole thing is just littered with sexism and again, it can really grate on you at times. It’s saving grace in regards to this is that when you read the female characters’ own POV, with the exception of Sansa, they’re not the dim-witted baby-making machines every male in the book seems to think of them as.
Now, for the amount of criticism I've given this book you wouldn't expect me to like the series right? If only! Without the television show I honestly wouldn't have bothered with it and I definitely wouldn't have read the second book but something about it is addictive and I can't wait to get my next fix. It's a pity I can't feel the same way about the books but perhaps that's my impatience for fantasy, revulsion of sexism and boredom of reading the same swear words used as shock tactics over and over again.
The television show compliments the book excellently and really is the best advert for it than the series could have ever hoped for. It may not go down as a classic amongst the mainstream culture but it certainly does have a hell of a lot of shelf-life left.
With two books still to be released, it seems the popularity of the television show will ultimately decide how much attention the books continue to receive and that certainly applies for myself. For all the work clearly put into this, I wish Martin the very best of luck pulling off the finale worthy of the build up!
Overall, the sheer history and detail in Game of Thrones is overwhelming and takes some getting used to but you can’t help but be impressed by just how much work has gone into it and how well thought out the whole thing is! It’s a world you can completely get immersed in or one you can get completely lost in depending on how much effort you give it. A fantasy world like no other, Game of Thrones is a great introduction to a very promising series."
(Read: September 22nd - October 29th 2013)