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:
- The Wikipedia page about the series explains many things about the world it is set in, but it is also full of spoilers
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.