Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Game Of Thrones Game Of Thrones
by George R. R. Martin

Supplied for review by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed By: June Young

Game of Thrones is a fast-moving fantasy story that grabs you in the first few chapters and makes you seriously want to read it, all 780 pages of it, not counting the maps and appendix. I very much enjoyed Game of Thrones as a book, and became very absorbed in the story and the details that make the story.

Game of Thrones is an introductory novel to the A Song of Ice and Fire series, currently with four books already out and a fifth coming out this year called A Dance with Dragons. The reader is introduced to Westeros, a land divided into seven kingdoms and united by one ruling house, the Baratheons. Previously Westeros was ruled by House Targaryens but an uprising and a civil war put an end to that. The story starts with House Stark, the primary noble house of the most northern kingdom and their home of Winterfell. The story is told in chapters with each chapter told from the point of view of a specific character. The character is identified at the start in the chapter header, so it is very clear whose viewpoint the reader is getting.

Most, but not all, of the story is told from the point of view of various members of the Stark family. There is one main story that completes its first phase at the end of Game of Thrones, and arguably three others that are introduced here to continue on in the following books. The main story is Eddard Stark’s journey from his northern home to become a very senior member of the King’s ruling council in the capital city where he finds murder, treachery and betrayal. There is one massive royal power struggle going on in Westeros, hence the title of the book. Nothing is as it seems and people change sides. Play the game of thrones to determine who sits and rules on the Iron Throne of Westeros.

On another continent we meet Daenerys Targaryen, exiled princess from the previous ruling house. It starts with her arranged marriage and ends with her becoming quite something else. She yearns to see Westeros, the land of her birth. There is Jon, who leaves his home in Winterfell to become a brother of the Night’s Watch. The prologue starts with members of the Night’s Watch on patrol in the far north and is an indication that far worse things are coming to Westeros than another civil war, as Jon discovers during the course of the book. The rest of the book is nowhere near as creepy as the prologue. Then there is the gifted Bran Stark of Winterfell.

The reader never gets the full story, only the version that the viewpoint character knows about. There is a back story about how House Targaryen fell, told in snippets, and something about the history of the land and its ruling families. A careful, analytical reader would love this book, as the details can hint at what is really going on. Not for skim reading as you would end up missing important information that have been obliquely or discreetly placed, and therefore miss out on what makes this story so intriguing and fascinating. There are plenty of details in this well-written book to support the story, giving a real depth to the characters, the historical back stories and the world it is taking place in.

I had to refer to the maps on a regular basis with a magnifying glass. I think two more maps would have helped. I also had to refer to the very useful Appendix to keep track of who was who, as there are many characters, some of which are only minor at this point. This is a fat fantasy book and it has many of the things that epic fantasy stories typically have – lots of characters and places to keep track of, many of whose names and deeds you need to remember. I also felt the need to re-read certain sections as information was revealed, so a Contents page listing the chapters would have helped.

The book’s size makes this the fattest book I have ever read but it is well worth reading as a book in itself OR in anticipation of the HBO TV Series of the same name OR after the HBO series to fill in the details and background. HarperVoyager have re-released Game of Thrones with a new cover to coincide with the HBO TV Series. I think Game of Thrones should adapt very well into a TV series so I am hoping we will get to see it in New Zealand. It is definitely within my TV viewing preferences, going by the book and the trailers on the Internet.

Game of Thrones, the book, is also very racy for a fantasy. In short, Game of Thrones is Dallas and Dynasty pumped up on fantasy. Dallas and Dynasty were prime-time American TV shows that screened in the 1980’s. Both were well-known for their storylines of power struggles, greed, money, back-stabbing, treachery, feuds, rivalry, family secrets, intrigue, scheming, sex, concealed off-spring and end of season cliff-hangers. Game of Thrones doesn’t quite end on a cliff-hanger, but it did end on a pivotal point. There is definitely more to come in the next book to continue on.

On a note of caution, Game of Thrones is for adult readers, even if some of the viewpoint characters are children. There is an aspect of reality in this book that is based on the real European Dark Ages or early Medieval Ages. Girls from the nobility did marry very young and boys did go off to war. Many of the characters come in shades of gray. It is definitely not romanticised fantasy.

Other books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series :

Book 2 : A Clash of Kings
Book 3 : A Storm of Swords (comes in two books, part 1 and 2)
Book 4 : A Feast for Crows
Book 5 : A Dance with Dragons – release date July 2011

Two further books are planned.

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