Book: Game of Thrones


The book: Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

The edition: Harper Collins paperback, 803 pages, movie tie-in edition (who is the character on the cover, anyway?)

The story: in a world where summer span decades and winter can last a lifetime, unrest is breeding in Westeros. After winning his throne, King Robert Baratheon is facing intrigue and plots; in the north, behind the 700-foot wall of ice that protects the kingdom, dark forces are awakening; and abroad, the exiled heirs of a previous dynasty are trying to win their way back. The Lord of the North Eddard Stark and his family cannot avoid to be in the middle of it all. (Whew, I think that’s it, but without spoilers it was hard!)

My experience with the book & my thoughts: where has this book been hiding for the past months, while I was limping my way through painful reads? That was my first reaction, while reading and after closing the book. It is good in many ways, most of all in that the plot is very structured and compelling. Not to be compared to Tolkien, not at all, but still very good, with a full cast of characters of all kinds and interesting fantasy touches.
But. But there are some things that disturbed me. The needless sex scenes, the portrayal of women… I am not usually very “feminist” in my reading, but I couldn’t help thinking that, while on the surface this society could seem similar to the one imagined by Tolkien, there was a big difference in terms of respect: Middle Earth society respected women, Westeros society does not.
And one more thing. I only realized this a few days after finishing the book, but it does wander a bit too much, and when you sum that with the fact that the series was supposed to be a trilogy but turned out an heptalogy (and growing)… I’m afraid the author doesn’t really know where the plot and the story are going. I had high hopes after reading this first novel, but I’m afraid it will not keep up.

The part with spoilers: does this really qualify as fantasy? Apart from the direwolves, there are only three scenes that really belong to fantasy, I was expecting more. In that, I was disappointed.
Also, I guess I was not the only one to be shocked when my favorite character dies at the end… I went on expecting to discover that the death was staged or something… And, can anyone explain how a daughter like Sansa could ever come from such good parents? Because all her siblings know right from wrong, but her, I kept wanting to scold her! I’m afraid it has to do with how women are seen in that society, she is educated to be decorative… but Catelyn should know better than that, as she herself is far from being merely decorative!

What I liked: a whole new world and an interesting, intricate plot.

What I didn’t like: too many almost-tapestry characters. Many characters are not a problem, but here the court was full of knights that looked and felt all the same, and still you were supposed to know exactly who each of them was. I had to page through the appendixes (with lists of characters) every so often — not a good sign.

Language & writing: I hated two habits of the authors: onomatopoeias (which should only belong in children books) and endless descriptions of how each character was dressed (is this a chivalry novel or an issue of Vogue?). Also, I had a look at the Italian page about the series on Wikipedia, and I am afraid I don’t agree with most of the translation choices they made for the Italian edition…

In the author’s own words: I’m afraid I don’t have much to share, despite the 800+ pages, I just didn’t mark the pages and now I’m not going to recover them, sorry.

Links to better understand this book:

Random thought: people in the publishing industry can be oh-so-careless. I know everywhere else this book is called A Game of Thrones, but there is no trace of the article in my edition. Is it the same book at all?

Random question: is the “R. R.” in the author’s name a pseudonym? The Tolkien reference is almost too handy for a fantasy writer.

Read this if: if you liked Pillars of the Earth and World Without End and don’t mind an imaginary setting.


9 comments on “Book: Game of Thrones

  1. “is this a chivalry novel or an issue of Vogue?” lol! You’re right, he is a bit obsessed with clothes 🙂 But I always thought he’s also trying to tell us something with the way he dresses his characters.

  2. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this more, but I think they’re love it or hate it kind of books. I did want to address those questions I could from your post, though. ^-^

    does this really qualify as fantasy?

    Yes, it does. Martin writes what’s known as ‘low fantasy’, which basically means that there’s very little actual magicking going on. There is more than the direwolves, but it’s still very, very light when compared to most fantasy novels. (Well, except for the dragons, I’d imagine.)

    Is it the same book at all?

    Yes, it’s the same book. You’ve got the series tie-in version and the series title loses the article for whatever reason. That’s why it’s missing from the tie-in version. I can only presume that the publishers don’t trust their readers to know that it’s the book the series is based on if it has the article restored, but I’d rather believe publishers think their readers are smarter than that…

    (who is the character on the cover, anyway?)

    Eddard Stark, I think. Don’t pin me on this, I haven’t seen the series yet, but I *think* it’s Sean Bean on the cover and he plays Ned, so I’m making an educated guess.

    I should probably put the series on my reread pile since the new book is out now… That way I might reread them close enough to the paperback release of the new book, but I probably won’t get to rereading them for a while. Ah, well. I’m not in a massive hurry. Maybe, by the time I get to them, the next book’ll be out as well. ^-~

  3. @ Alex: I was waiting for your comment ^_^ I know that clothes can tell you much about a character, but sometimes it was just over the top.

    @ Shanra: well, I did enjoy it probably more than it seems from my review :-/ and will continue through at least with the second. If you have read through all of the series, does it feel more to the point?
    Also, thank you for the answers. The first two were almost rhetorical, but I appreciated the input 🙂 . As for the cover image, I thought it must be either Stark or King Robert, but none seemed right (when did Eddard ever sit on the Iron Throne?). if you know the actor, you must be right.

  4. I think it’s that your review focuses more on the things you didn’t like so much that throws me there. And that’s a ridiculously hard question to answer. :/ *thinks how best to phrase it* I suppose I should start by saying that I never felt Martin didn’t know where his plot was going, but it does get rather buried underneath the scads of viewpoint characters. That, I’m afraid, only gets worse. (If you ask me, there’s such a thing as ‘too many viewpoint characters’ and Martin doesn’t so much push that rule aside as that he bulldozes over it, chops it up, throws it through a shredder and then tosses the pieces into a blender until there is nothing left of it but very fine dust.) On the plus side, a lot of the people I utterly despised in this book got a chance to show me a completely different side. It’ll be worth revisiting the books just to see how knowing more about them affects the read. Martin could easily have gone for a black/white divide, but he doesn’t. It’s one of the things that made me keep reading the books when I was too frustrated by the cliffhangers every single chapter. Honestly…

    Heh. With questions you never know. ^-^Especially the first one could have been a valid question rather than a rhetorical one. I’ve seen similar asked in earnest. Mind you, I’m not entirely sure on the cover image. I *think* it’s Sean Bean, but I could easily be wrong. Robert would make infinitely more sense, really.

  5. I think it’s that your review focuses more on the things you didn’t like so much that throws me there.

    I know, I know, I am always better at explaining things that I didn’t like. I have a *general positive opinion* about this book, but never stopped to focus on what was good. And then I blurt out all the little nagging things. That’s me, yes.

    I never felt Martin didn’t know where his plot was going

    Nor I. Except when I closed the book and thought that the three planned books have turned into seven…
    So I suppose that means the answer to my question is yes. Good. I’ll have to check for myself, definitely.

    Especially the first one could have been a valid question rather than a rhetorical one. I’ve seen similar asked in earnest.

    True. And I can see many people would be disappointed by how little fantasy there is. But in a way it feels just right. I didn’t realize it while reading, only after one of those fantasy scene would I stop and think about it missing from the rest of the story.

  6. *grins* Pretty much everyone is better at explaining what they didn’t like. ^-~ I’m not sure why that is, though. I wouldn’t worry about it overly much. ^-^

    I think the issue with Martin’s books getting as large as it is comes from the apparent desire to show the reader everything in Westeros from all sides and it’s just a sprawling jungle of motives and viewpoints. You could cut the series shorter, sure, but you’d lose a lot if you did that, which is important, to me at least. ^-^ (As opposed to, say, The Wheel of Time where you could easily and happily cut down half the books and lose, at most, very little of the story for doing it.)

    *nods* It’s a world that works with little to no magic in it. It’ll be interesting to get back to it and re-acquaint myself with that part of it. ^-^

  7. Thank you, really. After your comment I trust the series again 🙂 I’m off to see if book #2 is available here!
    PS. I was looking for your review, but couldn’t find it 😦

  8. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the next books more! (Or at least equally much. ^-~)

    Ah. *ruffles hair* You wouldn’t. I read these before I became a book blogger, so I don’t have reviews for any of them. It’s one of the reasons I’m considering rereading them. (The other being that I enjoyed them, gritty and bleak though they are.)

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