A Game of Thrones is a 1996 fantasy novel by George R.R. Martin and first in a seven parts series of A Song of Ice and Fire. The book has inspired the similarly titled HBO original series starring Sean Bean.
Martin has worked over a wide range of genres including science fiction, horror, fantasy and screen writing. His works include many short stories, novellas, screenplays and full-fledged novels. With the publishing of A Game of Thrones, he saw his first critical and commercial success. In 2011, Time listed him as one of the ‘100 most influential people in the world’.
A Game of Thrones follows the story of several viewpoint characters from Westeros, the Wall and the Free Cities. The exact period of the events has not been mentioned but by picking up instances throughout the novel (like the kind of weapons and armours), it can be guessed at around the medieval age.
Westeros is ruled by King Robert of House Baratheon, who had won the Iron Throne by usurping the last Targaryen king, Aerys the Mad. Up in the North is Winterfell, a place ruled by Eddard Stark of House Stark. The Starks were once Kings of North, but now Eddard rules it in the name of King Robert, both of whom are closer than brothers. While returning from an execution, Eddard’s sons discover six direwolf pups. The direwolf is the sigil of House Stark and they were long considered to be extinct. These pups are taken by each of his children and they turn out to be no ordinary beasts.
After the mysterious death of the King’s Hand (highest adviser and de facto ruler) Jon Arryn, Robert offers him the vacant office. Eddard, a noble and righteous man, reluctantly accepts his liege’s command and along with his two daughters Arya and Sansa, he leaves for South along with the King. Eddard soon finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy as he learns the truth for which Jon Arryn was murdered.
Night’s Watch is a brotherhood that has sworn to defend the Wall, a gigantic wall of ice in the North that separates the Seven Kingdoms from the dark forces of the World Beyond. Once proud and glorious, the Watch is now dwindling in numbers. To add to their woes, there have been disturbing stirrings beyond the Wall as Rangers fail to return from the expeditions and villages of wildlings simply vanish. On Benjamin Stark’s (Eddard’s brother) behest, Eddard’s bastard son Jon joins the Watch but soon Benjamin, one of the finest Rangers of the Watch, also goes missing from an expedition and the trouble for the Wall begins.
In the Free cities of East, Daenerys Targaryen is married off to a tribal Warlord by her brother Viserys. Viserys and Daenerys are the last of the House Targaryen and they plan to amass an army and win the Iron Throne back. But Viserys finds himself cheated by the Warlord who promised him an army.
Back in the Westeros, the Iron Throne falls vacant with the death of Robert and this kick starts a sequence of events that tears apart the whole Kingdom. Allegiances are made and destroyed, families fall apart, and grudges turn mortal as the game of throne begins.
Martin is considered to be the best fantasy writers of modern times. He has quite deftly sketched his characters from a mere child to an ageing King. Unlike Tolkien, who nearly perfected the Middle Earth with highly acclaimed topographical maps and languages, Martin excuses himself from these technicalities and instead focuses on the deep seeded aspirations and guilt of his characters, many of whom wear their sexuality blatantly on their sleeves.
Many may find reading the book an ordeal (A Game of Thrones is about 800 pages and the subsequent books in the series surpass 1000) but the language for a fantasy novel is very simple. Despite the sheer amount of characters and sub plots, the book is actually very well paced. You will immediately find yourself drawn to this world of Kings, Queens, Knights and Renegades.
If you are a fan of fantasy fiction and have ‘the more, the merrier’ attitude towards the volume of pages in a book, A Game of Thrones should be on your book shelf. It’s colossal, it’s staggering and it reeks of war and death.
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