Book Review--A Song of Ice and Fire Series (Book 1)


I wasn't sure what to think about George R.R. Martin's bestselling series, A Song of Ice and Fire. As a general rule, I'm not one to like the bandwagon; I usually prefer to be in a relatively empty wagon.

A friend from work cites Martin as her favorite author, and any time there's a fiction example needed, she pulls out Game of Thrones. Jordan's read it multiple times and owns all the books, and he spent a few months reading books 1-4 in preparation for number 5, so the series was on my radar. I just never cared to read it. It sounded weird. 

But in the end, the sway of peer pressure can be enough to push me onto the wagon. So when the latest installment in the series was released a few months ago, I decided to get started. Mostly because I was tired of not catching references and being left out of conversations (similar to how I feel about not having read Harry Potter, which I plan on reading through next year). 

So I dove in to book 1 (Game of Thrones) and soon realized that this book was actually nothing like I expected. (In a good way.) When I first opened to chapter one and saw that each chapter was written from a different character's point of view, I groaned. How could he do that? How would it work? It wouldn't, I decided. It was stupid.

I just knew I was going to be horribly confused.

However, after getting past the first few chapters, it started coming together, albeit slowly. It was confusing at times, mostly because one character could be called by three or four different names throughout the course of the story, depending on whose point of view I was reading. So in that respect it was handy to have a nerdy husband around who could explain everything to me should I have any questions (and correct me on pronunciation of names). But there's also a full list of characters in the back via an exhaustive appendix, to which I say, "Bravo, George."

And really, if I thought about it for two seconds it really wasn't all that confusing. I just got lazy, and sometimes it was easier to ask Jordan than to think about it for any length of time.

The thing that surprised me the most about the story was how real it was. Yes, there are beings called "Others" (much scarier and relevant than those in Lost), and there's some magical elements, but for a lot of it I felt like I was reading historical fiction, not fantasy. It was a much easier read than Lord of the Rings, because as much as I love those books, they're hard to follow what with all the orcs and wizards. Game of Thrones is about people; royal people, but people nonetheless, so for me it was a bit easier to imagine.

Something else I loved was how well George R.R. Martin embraced the world he'd created. It wasn't just your birthday; it was your Name Day. You didn't just have goose bumps; you had goose pimples. And characters said things like, "Would that I could." It was fabulous.

Considering how long the books are, it didn't take me much time at all to read book 1. And I was so happy to find out that it didn't end on a massive cliffhanger. I mean, obviously there is much more to the story, but for this book, being the beginning of an epic (ongoing) series, I was very satisfied.

I should note that there was some rape and sex scenes, and these were just slightly graphic for my taste. And there was some cursing. But that being said, it felt right in context of the story--things these characters would do and should be doing--so I was okay with it.

I'm taking a break before jumping into book 2, but I am definitely looking forward to reading it. Would that I could craft a story as well as George R.R. Martin.

At least now I know what Jordan is referring to when he says, "Winter is coming."
Bet you wish you did too.

Anonymous said...

I totally did not remember that you wrote this, but now that I've reread it, I remember reading it the first time. I also remember why I did not comment the first time. Extremely difficult to comment on something you haven't read. And, of course, I had no freaking clue what "winter is coming" meant when I read this the first time. And I do now.

I agree with you about Martin's embracing of the world. I love the "name day" thing too. A nice twist on birthday, and yet not trying too hard to be original (as some less talented authors we've both worked with used to do).

Until I read your paragraph mentioning the others, I had completely forgotten that my first thought when the book first mentions "the others" was also Lost. Bummer for GRRM, since his book came first. We obviously ingested the media out of order. Oh well.

I also remember now that your review did not compel me to want to read the book especially soon because you didn't say that you loved it, nor did you make it sound particularly easy to get through, with all the stuff that you said confused you. But now that I think about it, I think I know why that is the case.

All that stuff confused me too, but since I read the book in such large chunks at a time, and in such a short amount of time, my brain didn't have a chance to get confused. Because, as you note here, the further in you get, the more things unfold and become clear, and the less confusing they become, especially the number of characters and who everyone is and which House they belong to. If I had read at a slower pace, I would've been crazy confused too.

Anyway, thanks for reminding me that you wrote this. It was fun to reread!


Anonymous said...

PS I just realized it sounds like I said I was confused but I wasn't. Let me clarify. I WAS confused. But since I kept reading, things kept unfolding and becoming clear, meaning my confusion didn't last as long. I don't know if that makes any more sense. Whatever.

PPS I also noticed that I didn't capitalize "the others" in my first comment, and it's definitely capped in the book. Which reminds me that this book does the same thing as Harry Potter and LOTR: capitalizes EVERYTHING that is somewhat out of the ordinary. So annoying, and yet they must not allow writers to publish in the fantasy genre if they DON'T over-capitalize. Boo.