Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Game of Thrones

By George R.R. Martin
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Four Things I Liked About A Game of Thrones:
1. Richly developed and inventive fantasy world
2. Intrigue
3. Complicated, flawed characters
4. Epicness

So… it’s been a while. Five months, to be exact. The only excuse I can offer for my neglect of this blog is just that – an excuse. But I will offer it to you anyway! Basically, it boils down to falling out of the habit of posting. I spent the month of January in London, doing a Theater in London course for January term at school. I was so utterly busy that I barely had time to read, let alone write down my thoughts about it. And when I got back? Well, some habits are a lot easier to break than to form. Blogging is one of them, I discovered. Busy with schoolwork, book after book went by un-reviewed, despite my best intentions and several underlined and highlighted reminders in my planner to review!!! whatever book I had most recently finished. But now that it’s summer and I have hours upon hours of spare time on my hands, I thought that one of the many ways I can make my free time productive would be to start posting again. So here I am.

I find that after a demanding semester – and more especially, after a demanding end to a semester – all I want to read is something fast-paced, engrossing, and mentally unchallenging. The popularity of the Game of Thrones TV show this year has put these books on my radar (to be read before sampling the televised adaptation, as per unwritten bibliophilic law), and after seeing Snow White and the Huntsman put me in the mood for epic fantasy, A Game of Thrones seemed like the perfect choice for a Get Into Summer Reading! book. Verdict: it was.

Taking place in a land where seasons last for decades and the Long Winter has begun baring its teeth at the cowering summer, A Game of Thrones encompasses a wide host of characters, but primarily concerns power tensions between the Starks of Winterfell, the king’s bloodline, and his conniving family by marriage the Lannisters. The epic spans the southern summer kingdom (home to the king’s seat of power), the Wall protecting the Seven Kingdoms from the ominous northern lands beyond, and the foreign land of the East, home to the Dothraki and the grudge-holding progeny of the overthrown former king of the Seven Kingdoms. In A Game of Thrones, Martin spawns an epic series riddled with plotting and treachery and hidden motives, where the game of thrones is a deadly power play and even as a reader you can never be sure who deserves your trust.

One of the most compelling things about A Game of Thrones is how richly developed it is. Whenever I read fantasy, one of the first ways I judge a book’s merit is how original and how thoroughly and convincingly developed its world is. For example, Eragon’s world bears a few too many striking similarities to Tolkien to be token homage. Martin’s world, however, is creative and convincing; I loved the epic grandeur of the Wall and how he successfully created two wildly distinct cultures between the Seven Kingdoms and the East. His characters were as richly developed as his setting. I was talking with a friend about them, and we discussed how impossible it is to separate out the “good guys” from the “bad guys.” They’re all just so human. There are no heroes in A Game of Thrones. There’s no one who wouldn’t betray their honor for the right incentive. Nor is there anyone without a single shred of honor to their name. The characterization is endlessly complex – and extensive. The narrative switches points of view with each chapter, cycling through about eight different main characters and concerning a cast of dozens that can be hard to keep straight sometimes.  A Game of Thrones is a sprawling epic (and a series bulkier than you could carry all at once in your arms), to be sure, but the prospect of navigating my way through the rest of the series is an exciting one. I can’t wait to devour the remaining books this summer. And to get my hands on the Season 1 of the show, for comparison’s sake.

Conversation Starter: Have you jumped on the Game of Thrones fanwagon yet? If so, are you a fan of the show or the books? If both, which is better?

Books Read This Year: 45
Top 100 Progress: 48/100

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