Sunday, February 17, 2008


A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin.

As with many things, I am coming late to this series. Nevertheless, I came away extremely impressed by this tightly written epic of civil war, politics and (a little) magic.

Though set in the sort of generic Middle Ages familiar to most fantasy readers, Martin avoids many of the more annoying cliches. For one thing, magic is subtle and blessedly rare, and human beings (and there are only humans so far, though other races are hinted at) are far more evil than any demon lord in their lust for power and control. Villains are not all the very embodiment of everything wicked and heroes are not perfection personified. There is no long lost boy heir to the throne (at least so far) and the lawful king is a brutal, spoiled brat. There is actually quite a bit of cruelty here, some of it involving children, but the worst of it occurs "off screen" and is only referred to in the past tense. The novel's structure is divided into viewpoint chapters from each of the major characters, which provides a nice Kurosawa-like feel. On the negative side, there are many, many characters to keep track of and some of the descriptions venture close to purple, but on the whole it is smartly written and a decent page-turner. Game exists to introduce us to the major players and factions and the world itself, and set the stage for a brutal civil war that will likely consume the rest of the entries in this projected seven-volume series, A Song of Ice and Fire. I liked it enough to buy the second volume in the series, A Clash of Kings, before I had even finished this one. Recommended.

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