Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Amazon Description: "Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones."

My Review: Confession time: I watched Game of Thrones before I started reading the books. Because even though I love this fantasy genre, I could never bring myself to read these types of books, because a lot of them seemed super cliched and formulaic. Was it biased of me? Yes. Do I regret it? Yes. But anyway, GoT was such a fantastic show that I felt like I needed to read the books right away, since people told me the books were way better. If that makes me a "fake" fan...who cares. Because I like the show AND I like the books (I'm on the second one currently). 
         But anyway. On to my review. To be completely honest, all I can say is that this was a FANTASTIC book. I know I'm only repeating what thousands of fans have said about his books for years now, but I'll say it again: fantastic. One of the reasons I tended to avoid adult fantasy books like the plague is because  they all seemed, like I said, formulaic: a golden hero who never seems to die, a somewhat dim-witted evil bad guy (always named something like the Dark One or the Cold One or the Lord of Night or something kind of dorky like that), a fair princess who fell in love with the hero, maybe some dragons or something to slay, some knights to fight... It all just feels so cheesy and weird to me. But AGOT was nothing like this. It was fresh, it was intriguing, it was filled with witty and clear prose and dialogue. It had a smattering of characters, good and bad, moral and immoral, young and old, men and women. The plot had that medieval-ish feel to it but it didn't use any of the cliches that I abhor. There was no Big Bad Evil Guy. There was no Lovely and Fair Maiden. There was no One True Hero. The reason I liked this book so much was mostly the fact that there were so many characters---and complex characters, on top of that! Rarely was anyone 100% good or 100% bad (although, okay, let's all agree that Joffrey is a vile loathsome little monkey beast with no redeeming qualities). GRRM wasn't afraid to kill multiple people off, even main characters, and that felt really realistic (and it seriously hurt me). And the fact that there were so many characters who we got to read about, and read from the points of view of, felt so realistic! It actually felt like we were in Westeros, traveling between Winterfell and King's Landing and everything between and beyond. 
        Not only did I love the use of multiple, complex characters and POVs, I loved the writing. I had feared that it might be kind of old-fashioned and stuffy and hard to decipher, and while it WAS a bit old-fashioned---to be more historically accurate---it was never hard to understand and was, in fact, perfectly clear. I have an odd habbit of picking up speech/accent/language patterns from people around me, or media around me, and I'm pretty sure I phrased a few things the Westerosi way while I read this book. And the descriptions that GRRM gave were fantastic. I could literally picture every castle, every feast, every scene he described perfectly. And sure, my knowledge from watching the show probably helped a little in that---but oddly enough, I conjured up a lot of my OWN images, even cancelling out some of the TV show ones, because that's how descriptive he was. But let me be clear: he was descriptive but not overly-flowery. I hate overly-flowery, descriptive, honeyed prose, and he didn't stray anywhere near that dangerous territory. 
         And can I express my admiration over how accurate the TV show seemed to follow the books? Or follow AGOT at the very least (who knows, it may stop following later books...). A lot of things were changed but I found that the main plots and points were mostly kept in tact, and that impressed me.
        Basically, this really was a tale of adventure and danger and mystery and intrigue. I totally got sucked in by the amazing writing and plethora of characters who really seemed to build a cast for me to root for (or root against). I was hooked the whole time and I am seriously looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series! I suppose the ONLY thing I didn't like..and this is only due to the fact that I've watched the show before...I feel like the first book moved a little slowly and not much actually happened in the first book, except for the MAJOR death at the end. But it was still a really great read.
        And who knows...I may even start giving other books in the adult fantasy genre a chance. 

Cover: This cover's alright, I guess. It's simple and nice to look at, so there's nothing really wrong with it, per se. But I actually do sort of like the TV show cover a little better, it just has a cooler, darker, more thrilling feel to it. 

Overall Grade: A-

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