Sunday, June 28, 2015

Book Review: A Game of Thrones puts the Epic in Epic Fantasy

Hi everyone. I’ve been reading a book that has been entertaining, but long. Now it is finished. That book is the story A Game of Thrones

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Enter the world of Westeros, a land with a heavy medieval culture and seven kingdoms are ruled by a monarch who sits on the Iron Throne. After years of not seeing each other Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark is visited by his old friend Robert Baratheon, the King of Westeros, and is made the new Hand of the King. Reluctantly Ned follows Robert to King’s Landing with his daughters Arya and Sansa. On the way Ned starts to uncover facts that led to the death of the past Hand, Jon Arryn. As he searches for answers he uncovers a secret that could plunge all Westeros into chaos and war.
Online friends have told me that George R. R. Martin is the new king of fantasy, and it’s easy to see why with A Game of Thrones. Significantly more toned down than the HBO series the book focuses more on the politics of the world than on magic and monsters. Martin is an imaginative writer who brings you into the wondrous, and oft times, violent world of Westeros. Westeros is not a place where gallant princes and fair maidens dance with each other at the ball until midnight, or legions of orcs are trying to wipe out the kingdoms of men. The real threat comes from within, from the people themselves. The characters are well rounded, there is some serious development for many characters and you don’t have to worry about the pages being filled with clichés. In other words, no elves, no centaurs, no guiding wizard companion and counsellor. Magic is in Westeros, but it's very subtle to the point where if you blink you'll miss it. Martin steps away from many of the stereotypes of fantasy and makes Westeros seem like a place that could exist in reality. A gritty yet engrossing tale of the food and fashion of the dark ages. Also has magic and dragons and sex (sadly) and stuff. If you want a serious upgrade in fantasy worldbuilding you should pick up this book. The multiple characters the story follows helps to show the epicness of this world and once you start reading you won’t want to put this book down.
Martin does an incredible job of developing his characters. Cersei is so evil she makes the Evil Queen seem as gentle as a lamb. Sansa starts out as a silly love-struck girl lost in ideas of what stories paint the world to be, but as the book progresses she gets a serious wake up call that the world is often cold and cruel, and doing the right thing can get you killed. The Dothraki people that Daenerys Targaryan ends up with are seen as animals by many people, but as she spends time with them she sees a human side to them. Martin has said that when it comes to doing his female characters he thinks of them as people, and his writing proves it. The characters feel fleshed out and real with shortcomings and faults that many people have. More impressive is the immense political system Martin has created for Westeros. Most people in fantasy just have the king do everything when it comes to politics. In Westeros the king has a council that helps him govern and rule the land. Each man has a certain job  that they do when it comes to ruling the land. One's in charge of the treasury, the other rumors that abound in the land, etc. This suggests the king doesn't hold absolute power in this world. It makes a nice and well needed change from the stereotypes that have engulfed modern fantasy.  
People swear, a couple of times f-bomb someone. Jaime and Cersei Lannister have incestuous sex with each other. Daenerys Targaryan's wedding night has too much detail. Characters are raped. Tyrion mentions sleeping with whores, and one instance has too much detail. Privates are mentioned. Sometimes it takes paragraphs, but other times you have to skip pages to avoid it. Not a book for younger readers. Battles break out and people die, sometimes in a gory way, more so than in The Lord of the Rings or The Inheritance Cycle. If this book were adapted into a movie the content could go beyond a PG-13 rating into NC 17. 

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Sometimes doing the right thing means going against the popular opinion. Family can be a source of strength and comfort. Our choices define who we are.

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