A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin Review 5/5

Overall Impression: A bloody battle of wits, armour and cunning, but not everyone is playing fair.A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

I am desperately in love with all things A Game of Thrones. As an avid follower of the TV series and a big fan of fantasy novels, I couldn’t not read this book. I have been looking longingly towards its place on my bookshelf for months. (Well, actually it was on top of my bookshelf because there’s no shelf space left, oops.) I love what this series has done in terms of making high fantasy more mainstream. There are many discerning people who look down on the genre, so I think it’s great that so many people have gotten behind this series. With the summer months spiraling out before me, I finally felt like it was time to pick up the 803 page doorstop and get lost within its pages!

In the game of thrones, you win or you die.
As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must… and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty. The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, a vengeance-mad boy has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities beyond the sea. Heir of the mad Dragon King deposed by Robert, he claims the Iron Throne.

This is an intimidating book to review, its sheer length, complexity and endless characters make it difficult to summarise in a way that promotes its awesomeness but prevents giving away spoilers. Plus, I think the less you know the more intense the reading experience is. Essentially the one sentence version is that a bunch of power hungry people are fighting over the Iron Throne that rules over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, and some of them have more legitimate claims than others.

George R.R. Martin is a great writer who captures a fantastical medieval-esk world that is startlingly vivid. He has a keen eye for giving fantasy readers what they want. There are no overindulgent descriptions about the forging of swords or boring chapters where characters make long treks across desolate landscapes without propelling the story forward. Each chapter and paragraph has its purpose, and you need that with a book of this size. Martin doesn’t overwrite; he writes what is needed and does it with badass style. Every brutal scene is contrasted with something heart warming, and each idiotic character statement is contrasted with an unexpected piece of wisdom. Among the pure fun and escapism are intelligent observations of the human condition, sneaky foreshadowing for events yet to come and jaw dropping plot twists. It’s safe to say, I think he’s a mightily fine writer on all accounts.

The plot of this novel was brilliant, it drew me in from the first chapter and I found it difficult to physically detach myself from the book. I read it in 200 page chunks which is far more than I am usually capable of reading in one go! The story was always pushing forward at a fast pace, making an extremely long book feel not that long at all. While this is an intricate novel and there’s a lot going on I would say there are four main storylines at its heart. First there is the political intrigues going on in Kings Landing one of the richest, most prosperous places in the Seven Kingdoms where there are whispers of plots to get rid of King Robert and his new Hand, Ned Stark, who is unaccustomed to the political games and vicious Lannister family. Second, there is Daneyrs and Viserys, the remaining Targaryen decedents of the mad king who was usurped by Robert. Viserys is desperate to reclaim the throne he believes is rightly his, so he sells his sister to the leader of the primitive Dothraki for a wife, in the hopes of gaining an army. Third there is Ned Stark’s wife and three sons who remain to protect the North. Finally there is John Snow, Ned Stark’s illegitimate son who joins the Nights Watch, an order who protect an immense wall made of ice that bars the realm from unknown horrors that are not entirely human.

A Game of Thrones is a great book for those who are bored with the more traditional fantasy tropes, there is no obscure child destined to save the world, no dark lords or prophecies (well unless you count the repetition of the threat that winter is coming) and no aged wizards full of wisdom with an aversion to the barber. While I’m not saying that Martin’s kind of tale hasn’t been done before, it feels refreshing in midst of more recent fantasy releases. A book that focuses on the made up politics of a fantasy world may sound boring to some, but I promise you it’s not. For starters, fantasy politics is always far more interesting than real politics, second, the stakes are so high for the characters you have come to love that everything is intensified tenfold.

A Game of Thrones is gritty, uncomfortable and bloodthirsty at the best of times, there’s sadistic killers, rape scenes, incest, and that’s just for starters. One character may or may not have eaten a horse heart at one point, ick! Having said that, I wouldn’t call it gratuitous. I feel like these atrocities are in keeping with the brutal world the characters live in and are of benefit to the book. It wouldn’t be nearly as brilliant without it. Although the treatment of women had me raging at times, it was realistic and only made some of the other females more formidable and impressive in their ability to subvert their stereotypes and traverse the world of men just as well, if not better than them. Additionally, I love that Martin is not afraid to kill off his characters. Maybe it’s some weird masochistic thing but there is nothing that makes me feel more connected and invested in a book than when lives are on the line. It puts me on edge showing me that no one is safe, raising the stakes of every action and decision the characters make and I love that. In other words: FEEEELS.

The characters in this book were fantastic. A Game of Thrones is told from multiple third person viewpoints, I believe there were eight in total plus a random prologue dude who only appeared once. This technique worked well because each character was individual and interesting. You get to know and love those on opposite sides of the fight for the Iron Throne and consequently no one is simply ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and readers have to tread the murky waters of indecision when it comes to most of the characters; there is no sole hero, or at least there isn’t yet.

I love so many of the characters in this novel that it’s difficult to know where to start. They are all heavily flawed and therefore, wonderful. There are the despicable Lannisters who are proud and power hungry. Even though you hate them you kind of have to love them too and admire them for their brutal but effective ways of getting things done. Then there’s Tyrion, the black sheep of the Lannister clan. Born a dwarf and shunned from the rest of his family he uses others’ assumptions about him to his advantage, using his intelligence where others use their brawn. I loved pretty much every quip that came out of his mouth and I think he’s the best character I have come across in a long time. I can’t wait to see how his story progresses!
There’s the Stark family from the cold, harsh North who have strong ideas about morals and honour, especially Ned. At times I had trouble working out whether he was incredibly admirable or plain stupid for sticking to his beliefs. Is there such a thing as being too honourable in certain situations? His character did made me think. His children were just as interesting, they were so young and having to deal with a harsh world. There was Robert, the eldest son who had to learn how to be a man. Jon, Ned’s illegitimate son who has lived a life filled with passive aggressive remarks and rejection due to his status. Arya the youngest, a spirited girl who is only interested sword fighting and pushing against the female stereotypes of her world. Finally there’s Sansa, who I have a bit of a soft spot for. She’s vain and a total idiot on most accounts but she’s also a dreamer. Amongst the brutal deaths and vicious politics she dreams of princes and noble knights, fancy parties and pretty gowns. To me Sansa represents the last of the naivety in Westeros and she has a lot to learn.
Then there’s the brilliant Daneyrs Targaryen (although please never make me spell her name without the aid of Google because agghhhgdff) who is sold by her horrendous brother to a man who doesn’t even speak her language. Reading her story was magical, I got to see her go from a terrified young girl in a bad situation to someone who flipped the scales and took charge of her own destiny.
Even the minor characters were brilliant, King Robert and his turbulent personality, the elusive Littlefinger and Varys, cowardly Sam. I could go on forever! Everything about this book is fantastic guys, everything.

A Game of Thrones was a brilliant first book, and can’t wait to read the rest of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. It’s hard to determine whether my love for this book would have been the same without the TV series, but I expect it would have been. Both are equally brilliant although the book is slightly more intricate. My unofficial goal will be to try and catch up with the books before the next series is aired on TV. How realistic this is I’m not entirely sure, but I’m going to give it a go! (P.S. Does anyone know where we’re up to in the show in relation to the books? Help much appreciated!) I would recommend this story to males or females 16+ who love flawed and vicious characters, battles of wits and bloody swordfights. I think this novel is pretty accessible, so I would even recommended it to people who are not big fantasy fans, especially if they like the TV show! For now, I will stop gushing and leave you with this quote:

“The High Septon once told me that as we sin, so do we suffer. If that’s true, Lord Eddard, tell me… why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones?” –Pg636

Writing Style: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Entertainment: 5/5
Character Development: 5/5
Would I recommend this book? Hell to the yes!

Overall Impression: 5/5

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Book Cover.

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59 thoughts on “A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin Review 5/5

  1. Wow, 5/5 across the board, doesn’t get any better than that! Isn’t this one of like six parts or something?

    I love the name Littlefinger. That one has Bond villain written all over it!

    I saw a boxed copy of the whole lot for sale in The Works Bookshop on Saturday, btw. 🙂

    • It certainly doesn’t! Urmmm, I believe eventually it will be one of seven parts, seven books for the seven kingdoms of Westeros (ohh how poetic) but not all of the books have been written yet so that could change. In the countries like the UK however, some of the books have been split into two. Marketing technique or what?! Do you have any plans to read or watch the series? 🙂

      You’re right, that’s so true! Maybe Martin is a closet Bond fan.

      Oooh, that’s an awesome deal. The Works is brilliant with stuff like that.

  2. Wow Becky, you make me want to read it! I just loaned my copy out, but know I can find it at the used bookstore somewhere. Maybe it should be my chunkster summer read.
    Excellent review! 🙂

  3. I was interested to know what you would think of this as I remember you expressing scepticism about the elements of the story.

    Good review and I can’t say that I really disagree with anything… although I tried watching the TV series and thought it was a bit guff.

    And if Mr Beardy Fatty author just dropped Daneyrs completely, I’d be quite happy.

    • Did I? Gosh, it must of been a while ago because I don’t remember. I’ve had my eyes on this series for a long time, it’s taken me ages to start it!

      Thanks. 🙂 Since you read the books first I can totally understand that the TV version wouldn’t seem as good because I’m so fussy about book adaptations. Because I’ve done it the other way around and grown to love the series hopefully I will get the best of both worlds!

      Hahaha! I’ve heard a lot of Daneyrs angst. I love her story at this point, but if the books go a similar way to the TV series I could get annoyed by how much they drag out her storyline.

  4. The fact that we both made it through and managed to review such a hefty book surely means we deserve a prize? I vote for hugs from Kit Harrington please and thank you! I loved your thoughts on this, its nice to see that we both liked it, but for different reasons and picked out different favourite moments! Lets read the rest of the series together so we have moral support for all the feels!

    • Leah I think you’re right, we definitely deserve a prize! A hefty book followed by a hefty review. Phew. Kit Harrigton is pretty cool, but I was surprised by how much I preferred his character in the book actually! I feel like we got more insight into his thoughts.
      Thank you. 🙂 It’s so interesting when people pick out different aspects of a book to talk about.

      I would love that! This series is the kind where you need another person to rant to or cry on their shoulder, lol! Do you have any plans to pick up the next book yet?

  5. Ah I really need to start reading this series! My friends adore it but I supposed I’ve been putting it off because it seems so daunting due to its length (and considering I haven’t read much high fantasy outside of the YA realm). Was it hard to get into initially?

    • The length of this series is daunting so I can understand your hesitancy! It’s a big commitment. The book was really easy to get into, I was drawn in after the first couple of chapters, although it probably helped that I had seen the TV series. The only slight problem I had was the sheer number of character names I had to keep straight, but I’ve always been bad with names! I know that full on high fantasy intimidates a lot of people, but it’s not as difficult to get into as most people think.

      If it helps at all, I think this book could actually be read as a stand alone if you didn’t get on with it. It wraps up most of the main plot points pretty well. 🙂

    • Thanks, Rachel! That’s really helpful. I did notice that season 1 was in line with book 1 but I wasn’t sure if the rest of the series deviated from that.

      Thank you. 🙂

  6. A great review for such a hefty book! I’ve only read this one of the series & I’ve only seen the first episode of the TV series. Was really just to get my head around story & characters. My hubby has the 7 book boxed set & it’s taking him months to read book 2. They are definitely books you need to read in big chunks as opposed to a couple of chapters here & there. The story & characters are so grand & well written, or in your terms ‘badass’.

    • Thank you, Sharlene. 🙂
      I think with a book like this that has so many characters to keep straight, most of which have names that are difficult to pronounce, the TV series is really beneficial for getting everything in your head straight. It’s one of the rare occasions I’m pleased that I saw some of the show first.
      Agreed, reading in big chunks means you get fully immersed in the story.

      Good luck with reading the rest of the series!

  7. Interesting. I had no doubt that Martin was a brilliant writer but I’ve shied away from this series because of all the deaths. I can barely handle the ones in series I’m attached to!

    I kind of want to read it now, but at the same time I don’t know if I could deal with all of the deaths…

    Hmm, I have some thinking to do!

    • Ahh yes, I completely understand. We bookworms get so attached to our characters that it can be traumatizing when an author goes and kills them off! Oddly though, I often find that that my favourite books are ones that contain character deaths. I guess it’s a weird quirk?

      Hehee, decisions, decisions. If you’re at all unsure maybe it would help to watch the first few episodes of the series and see if you like it? And if it’s any help, I feel like A Game of Thrones could be read as a stand alone if you didn’t get on with it. It wraps up most of the main plot points pretty well. 🙂

      • I think it shows that the author is true to the story if they kill off characters. Like, not everyone can live all the time. In battles, people die. So, like, Braking Dawn was an awful ending because no one died. There was no battle It showed that Meyer, though she cared deeply for her characters, she had no real loyalty to the story if you get where I’m coming from.

        Hmmm,. maybe I should try the TV show. That way I might understand why everyone hates Joffrey so much. I swear, I don’t understand half the things on Tumblr anymore haha

      • That’s a great way of putting it, I completely agree and it’s exactly how I feel too. When you have these books where lives are constantly at stake and wars are fought it would be ridiculous and unrealistic if all the characters lived. I also find it unrealistic when only the characters you dislike are killed off because that’s not how life works. The good guys kick the bucket too, even when it’s not fair.
        Aha, oh yes Meyer. A lot of people hated the ‘non’ battle at the end. It didn’t bothered me at the time because all I cared about was Bella and Edward getting together but it would annoy me now! Even the film director realised he needed to change something.

        Joffrey is a vile little $£@#. He hasn’t been focused on that much in the book yet but if you give the show a go you will definitely be shaking your fist with the rest of us! 🙂

  8. Had to skim this post, as I’ve only gotten the first book recently, though it’s kind of too late to avoid Spoilers when I’m on season 4 of the TV show! “Gritty, uncomfortable and blood-thirsty” – just what I’d expect.

    • Oooh, you recently got the book? Exciting stuff! I look forward to seeing what you think of it and how it compares to your opinion of the TV show.
      I’m watching season 4 was well, I’m so sad that there’s only one more episode left!

  9. I love the TV series and I have two of the books so far. My favourite characters are Tyrion and Danerys. I look forward to watching and reading more. Good luck with reading until your up-to-date for the next series!

    • Yay, another Game of Thrones fan! Tyrion and Danerys are my favourites too, or at least they are so far. I think one of the reasons I like them is because to an extent they’re both the underdogs and are managing to defy other people’s expectations of them. 🙂

      Thanks, you too!

  10. Great review! I’ve also joined the GoT bandwagon pretty late, but I’m loving it! I chose to read the first book before I watched any of the TV series, and am now trying to find a big enough chunk of free time to read the second book before I start on series 2…

    • Thank you, I’m glad you liked it! I remember reading your review and I think you did such a great job of summarizing the plot. Good luck with starting the second book, I hope we both enjoy it as much as the first.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

  11. I desperately need to jump on the GoT bandwagon! I keep seeing this book in the shops but the sheer size just puts me off! I keep thinking, oh I’ll get round to it one day, but of course I never do! Fantastic review as always Becks! I admittedly skim read it a bit as I didn’t want to catch any spoilers, but when I eventually get round to reading it, I’ll come back and read it properly! x

    • You really do! This series is awesome. 🙂 I completely understand your hesitancy though because these books ARE huge which can make them a bit intimidating. I have a lot of books I do that with too, like Thirteen Reasons why and Jane Eyre for example, I’m so determined to read them but somehow it never happens!
      Thank you. 🙂

  12. You’ve completely sold it to me. I will give this a go! (Don’t know when, but I WILL). You’ve actually made me feel a bit better about the length of the book too. That was the main off-putting factor for me, but it seems like it was nice and straight-forward. As long as I can be swept along by the story then I’ll be OK!

    Also…SO. MANY. CHARACTERS! LOTS. OF. CONFUSING. NAMES. Whatever happened to good old Johns and Bobs and Dave?! Anyway, I’m pretty excited about this. It wouldn’t be my usual kind of read but I like being dragged out of my comfort zone every now and again.

    Fabulously detailed review as always!

    • YAY! I’m so glad. As someone who doesn’t normally go for high fantasy or long books I will consider this a huge success. 😀 I understand that the length is off putting even for tenacious readers but it’s not as bad as it seems. Maybe you should read it as an ebook to make it less distracting? As it turned out, I finished Game of Thrones in about the same amount of time it takes me to read the average 3-400 page book which I found surprising!

      I KNOW. EEP. That’s the one thing I always struggle with in fantasy, the confusing names which I don’t know how to pronounce. I’m one of those people who is totally guilty of going ‘Dhfdghfhff moved to the left and opened the can of tuna’ when I don’t know how to say a name. 😛 That’s one thing the TV series really helped with. There is a Jon! Jon Snow, but even that Martin felt the need to spell differently. Hmmph.

      Thank you! So glad your excited about this book. 🙂

  13. “sneaky foreshadowing for events yet to come” <- so true!! So the pull quote you posted the other day made me want to revisit Westeros so I'm rereading GOT now and noticing a lot of foreshadowing that I missed the first time I read the books (two years or so ago). Wonderful review. And yea, I think you would of liked the books without watching the shows first. I've yet to see them and am ambivalent about giving in and watching. I heard a few things were changed in the shows.

    • Hehee, thank you, glad you agree. 🙂 Ohh really? That’s great! I’m so happy it had that effect. The foreshadowing I was most impressed with was the first time we meet Ned Stark and the direwolf (puppies?).
      Thank you muchly. 🙂
      I think the first series is incredibly well done and almost exactly the same as the book if that helps (except the age of some of the younger characters is changed which is understandable with some of the scenes they had to do) I think it’s after that where the story may deviate more but I’m yet to find out!

  14. Great review! I haven’t watched the TV series yet, but I’m on book three in the series. I love how it’s told from so many different perspectives. Even if I don’t like how one person’s POV is written, he’ll be gone in ten pages, so it doesn’t matter. So far, I like the first book the best of the series.

    • Thank you! The TV series is great, there are so many wonderful characters and they do the books proud. They have tweaked certain aspects and added things in, but that’s usually the case with adaptations.
      I agree, I love how the multiple perspectives give you a rounded view of Martin’s world as a whole and like you say, if there’s one or two you don’t like it doesn’t matter to much because the chapters aren’t too long.
      I think it would take a lot to beat the first book!

      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

  15. Excellent review, Becky! GAHHH I can’t believe I wasn’t here on wordpress for when you finally released this, as I was literally *WAITING* for this bad boy to get pressed! Basically, you sum it up so well: “FEEEEELS”!!!!

    I’m not sure if someone answered it already but just so’s you know, in the show we’ve just wrapped up book 3 actually, because it was massive! I have no clue what season 4 will be because, yeah, they’ve started changing things that happen in the show since they don’t know when GRR Martin will finish the series! :O After being pressed by fans, at one point he said, “Well I could just have the red comet wipe out all of civilization.” He really is bloodthirsty! lol

    But yes, you know I’m oh-so-totes with you on all of this. And I am also not sure at all if Ned is admirable or stupid – it’s a fine line! A very Gryffindorish line, if I do say so. The political intrigues are da bomb and basically my favorite part of the show/books.

    Oh and this: “There are no overindulgent descriptions about the forging of swords or boring chapters where characters make long treks across desolate landscapes without propelling the story forward.” YES. YASSSSSSS. I haaate that. *Yeah Tolkien, I’m looking at YOU.*

    Great review, Becky! 😀

    • Thank you! As a fellow Thrones addict, I’m so glad to have your approval and it’s awesome that you were waiting with anticipation for this review, that’s always a great feeling for a blogger. 🙂

      You are officially the first to fully answer my question and that’s so helpful, thank you! I know where I stand now and how many pages I need to trek through. That makes sense because my version of the third book is split into two which is probably part marketing ploy and part trying to make sure readers aren’t scared off. It’s funny you say that because I just finished the second book tonight and I’ve already started to notice the deviations! I’m curious to see how it will play out in the subsequent books.
      Damn Martin and his slow writing *shakes fist.*

      Gryffindorish line, I love that and it’s so true. 😀 Aha yes! I always tell myself that if I found real politics as interesting as fantasy politics I could be a very successful individual, LOL.

      Ahh yes, Tolkien is a criminal offender on that topic, so are most fantasy writers though and I always wonder why the heck they do it, surely they must realise how boring it is!?

      Thank you, and it’s great to see you back on the Press!

  16. I’m glad you enjoyed the book! More people should really give it a shot. I think the page count scares people off. I have a feeling you’d love it just as much if you hadn’t seen the tv show. (I’ve never seen it. I’m too afraid they’ll mess up such good books! Though I’m told it’s pretty accurate.) Like breakfast said (sorry not sure what to call you) they’re one season behind. Seasons 3 and 4 split a Clash of Kings. (Which is my favorite book) The internet exploded after the season 3 finale, which is how I know how they split the books. As someone who read it years ago I got a chuckle out of everyone’s surprise. (The third book came out in like 2000.) I wish Martin would write a little faster! I want the books to be good, but 5-6 six years is too long! (Especially after the ending of book 5!)

    • Thank you, Molly. 🙂 I completely agree, the page count seems scary to a lot of people and I hate to think of them missing out for that reason alone. But then, I’ve never really been intimidated by big books.
      I think from what I’ve heard, the TV show does change quite a few things and it’s heavily sexed up. However, season 1 did stay very true to the book.
      Ahh brilliant, thank you. It’s always good to get a second opinion. That’s a relief to me because it means I don’t have to read so many books to catch up!
      Season three absolutely blew my mind, like, I knew SOMETHING was going to go wrong but I never imagined it happening to that extent. I remember staring at the TV with a look of shock and horror on my face! It’s got to be one of the best moments on TV to date.
      You read the series years ago? That so awesome, you love Martin before it was cool. 😛 As a huge fantasy fan I wish I had been aware of his books sooner but I’d never heard of them before the TV series. I hope you find that the ending was worth the wait.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  17. I still don’t know whether I should jump on the Game of Thrones bandwagon or not. More and more people are getting into the series by the day and I just… can’t muster the enthusiasm to do so. 😦 Your review makes it sound really awesome, then I remember the gritty parts I’ve heard so much about and I immediately take a step back.

    • To jump or not to jump, that is the ever frustrating question! Hype can be off-putting sometimes and this series is looooong so it’s a big commitment. If you’re not feeling the enthusiasm I would say go with your gut. I’m sure you know your tastes better than a reviewer who is begging everyone to read it. 😉 I do think these books are really awesome but they won’t be for everyone. Maybe you should give the TV series a go and see what you think? They’re a very accurate representation of the books so if you’re not sure that would be the less time consuming way of finding out. 🙂

  18. Pingback: “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin | Zezee with Books

  19. I love your enthusiasm for the book! So much, it almost makes me love the book too, haha. But I had an extreme difficulty with the amount of names and remembering who/who was (besides the obvious ones). It’s a great story and I love the tv series but the book felt…forever going. I had to force myself to finish it (took me months) and I love reading. So I don’t know. But reading your review makes me understand what’s good about it (because it’s brilliant!!) but still. I’m so confused with my own feelings about this one. However, amazing review!

    • I’m glad it made you want to love the book, that’s an awesome compliment to me because it means I must have done something right. 😛 I can completely understand your problem with the names, fantasy books always have so many and normally they’re difficult to pronounce as well.
      I’ve definitely had that experience a few times when I can recognise what everyone loves about a certain book but it hasn’t captured me personally, it’s a weird feeling. Do you think you will continue with the books or stick to the TV series?

      Thank you so much. 😀 And thanks for taking the time to comment and follow!

  20. Pingback: Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (4/5) | Taking on a World of Words

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