Friday, October 28, 2011

A Game of Thrones

by George R.R. Martin
(674 pgs  A Song of Ice and Fire series #1)

I hesitated when I went to the label of this post in order to identify this book's genre. Before beginning the book, I thought it would be pretty straight forward. It's the first in Martin's epic fantasy series: A Song of Ice and Fire, and not having watched any of HBO's new series based on the books, I assumed it would be similar to Lord of the Rings or one of the other fantasy series I've read. This one is different. Not to detract from anything else in the genre, but A Game of Thrones possesses a maturity that its counterparts and most books of any genre don't usually have. It's a maturity that I usually only read in classic literature.

While there are still elements of the fantasy genre in it, these elements are not the prevailing characteristics of the book. The book lacks orcs and elves, and while there is a dwarf, he's the type of dwarf you see on TLC these days and not the battle-axe-wielding type in a Tolkien book. (Although Martin does arm Tyrion with an axe during one battle scene, maybe as a tongue-in-cheek nod to Gimli?) 

It takes place in a time when things are out of balance. Summer has persisted over the past ten years, but an equally long winter is anticipated. And just as the warmth of the summer is ending, so too is the precarious peace that has existed under the reign of Robert Barathean, King of the Seven Kingdoms. A game is being played by some - the game of thrones. And as Martin mentions several times in the book, when you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die.

If you enjoy fantasy books, you can't do better than A Game of Thrones and you probably know that already so I'm preaching to the choir. If you don't typically enjoy or read fantasy, I am confident that you will enjoy this one. If you're going to read the series, and I strongly recommend you do, be prepared to make a significant commitment. So far there have been five books published with two more anticipated. Each of them is a doorstop - at least 700 pages long, and there is a phone-book-size list of important characters to keep track of. But it's worth it. Don't believe me? Take some other peoples' word on it. James Rollins, or this Deseret News Review

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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