In a world where summers and winters stretch years at a time, trees have faces, races of men have disappeared, while races of wolves thought dead have reappeared, the king is dead, and the men, women and children left in Westeros struggle to place the right man on the Iron Throne.
Game of Thrones opens with a sinister prologue, as members of the Night Watch are attacked in the haunted forest by the undead others, and soon after [note: in this sprawling epic, soon is about 150 pages later] King Robert’s death leaves the kingdom in shambles.
Ned Stark, his five true-born children and his bastard son are key players in this first volume of the fantasy saga: A Song of Ice and Fire. Also vying for power are the Lannisters, whose family are the first to claim the throne, the Targaryens, King and Princess overseas, plus a host of knights, soldiers and the wildlings from beyond the wall.
Game of Thrones is no chaste Lord-of-the-Rings-style fantasy. Sex abounds, and the more deviant, the better. Children as young as twelve are fair game. Rape is everywhere. Yes, rape and war go hand in hand, but in Martin’s mind, there’s barely a man who wouldn’t do it, and more than a few women who are OK with it, provided the women taken are not highborn, of course. [Oh, for the day there is a fantasy series written with lots of good sex in it! Perhaps I will have to write it myself.]
Those two complaints aside (and the fact that the writing is far to wordy, and the books could easily be half as long, and all the better for it) I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and am already on to the next in the series. Martin has created fascinating characters and an intricate storyline, and I will forgive many technical errors for this.
I was thrilled to find a new fantasy series with a reasonably unique setting and plot. There is no “dark one” and no epic battle between good and evil. No King Arthur or comparable patriarch. No Christian vs. pagan parallel (though old gods/new gods/god of light are close). Just men being men, women (where permitted) being women, and everyone despite their best intentions, drawing their world closer to destruction with every step. And the beasts. I do love the beasts. Krakens. Direwolves. Dragons. Even the eagles and the crows have a role to play.
While the humans play their game of thrones, the Others are waiting. Keep fighting over your castles, fools. They will take everything else.
Mass Market Paperback: 831 pages
Publisher: Bantam; REP edition (Aug 4 1997)