I’d never heard of George R. R. Martin or his fantasy series ‘A Song Of Fire And Ice’ until I started reading about a new HBO series (showing over here on Sky) called A Game Of Thrones. The book of the same title is the first in the as yet incomplete series.
The show looked good, but I don’t have Sky so I couldn’t watch it. Here’s a compilation of clips from the series which will give you a feel for the show and the book – but be warned, it contains clips from right the way through the series (which covers the whole book) and therefore contains major spoilers):
I bought the book in a 3 for 2 promotion at Waterstones and read it whilst on holiday last week. It’s an epic fantasy told in just over 800 pages. Robert Baratheon sits on the throne of the Seven Kingdoms, having rebelled against the previous ruler, mad King Aerys Targaryen with the help of his friend, Lord Eddard Stark.
Stark is an honourable man who lives with his family in his northern castle, but he can’t refuse his old friend Robert when he asks him to serve as the Hand of the King (basically his most trusted advisor, the Hand is empowered to undertake some of the King’s duties). Stark quickly finds himself and his family embroiled in court intrigues which threaten the future of the kingdom.
Meanwhile, Stark’s bastard son Jon serves as a brother of the Night’s Watch, an organisation stationed on the Wall which divides the Seven Kingdoms from the frozen wastes of the north. There are dangers beyond the wall – wild men and ‘the Others’ , mysterious and dangerous creatures who have the power to reanimate the dead into moving corpses who will attack living men.
That’s not the only danger facing the Seven Kingdoms. The son of King Aerys has grown up across the Narrow Sea and is determined to win back his lands. To do this he weds his sister to the barbarian Khal Drogo who commands 40,000 vicious soldiers.
Despite the length of the book, it sometimes feels that there is a little too much going on. There are so many threats to the realm it is hard to know where to begin, but perhaps that is necessary to sustain the series through the planned seven books. Having only read the first, it’s hard to judge.
There are also a huge number of characters, which makes it a little difficult to keep track of who the more minor characters are. Each character has their own loyalites and family ties and this can make it difficult to remember who’s who and what their agenda is likely to be. Helpfully, though, there is an appendix which details the characters and their relationships to others.
Those are minor complaints. The fact that I easily read 800 pages in a week speaks partly of hours of free time at the beach and by the pool but also of how much I enjoyed this book. Suffice it to say, I will be reading the others.