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Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Game of Thrones. What a great book!

Part of the purpose of this blog is to share my opinions of things. I'm sure most of the reviews will be positive because I generally don't waste time with things I don't like. That said, I'm not exactly sure I can write good reviews, so bare with me as I get used to doing this sort of thing. I can't spell very well either, although I kill at grammar, so until this thing gets a spell-checker expect some mistakes. Yes, I know I could write this in Word, spell-check it, then paste it here, but I don't feel like it. So there. Deal.

In A Game of Thrones, part one of George R.R. Martin's epic, A Song of Ice and Fire, Martin creates a tale very different from the typical sword & sorcery fantasy. Normally, you have a young hero, usually inexperienced, who is destined to become some great hero, perhaps becoming a might wizard, warrior, or leader (or all three *ahem* Rand al'Thor *ahem*). Said hero must prepare himself to face some ultimate evil entity, usually known as the Dark Lord or some such nonsence. Hero goes through many trials, and ten or twelve books later fights the Dark Lord.

In A Game of Thrones, there is no young hero or Dark Lord. There are only people, all with varying degrees of nobility, selfishness, pettiness, kindness, greed, heroism... just like you and me! No one is entirely without fault, and no one... well, almost no one... is entirely evil.

The more noble of the bunch are the folk of House Stark. Lord Eddard Stark rules at Winterfell, in the north of the Seven Kingdoms. He resides with his lady wife, Catelyn; their sons Rob, Bran, and Rikkon; and their daughters Sansa and Arya. Jon Snow, Eddard's bastard son, also lives with them, much to the dismay of Catelyn. Eddard truly tries to do the right thing, even when it means putting himself in danger. He is friends with Robert Baratheon, King of the Seven Kingdoms, and eventually becomes the King's Hand, or right-hand man.

The more villainous characters are the people of House Lannister. Cersei Lannister is wife to Robert and Queen of the realm. Her brother Jaime is a knight of the kingsguard, and her brother Tyrion is a short dwarfish man disfigured since birth. Tyrion is a sympathetic character and not too evil, but Cersei and Jaime are schemeing murders obsessed with power. They are also incestuous lovers. They plan to off the King so young Joffrey, Robert's heir, can take the throne. Since Joff is only 13, Cersei and her father Lord Tywin will essentially rule the realm.

The plot thickens as Eddard becomes the King's Hand and investigates the mysteries surrounding the Lannisters and their plans to acheive greater power. Terrible events ensue. People get hurt. Heroes die or are crippled. This is not typical fantasy: the good guys do not always survive, and sometimes the bad guys win. You are drawn in and actually root for certain characters on each side (of course, you never root for Cersei... she's the Queen Bitch). No one is pure as snow, and only a few characters are entirely evil. If you're like me, you will root most for Jon Snow, Stark's bastard; young Dany, an exiled princess of the former king; and dwarfish Tyrion, the littlest Lannister.

A Game of Thrones is just that: a political struggle with several factions trying to take the Throne. It is fantasy, but it is not. Wizards are not around throwing spells, there are no "monsters" to be fought (yet). There is a supernatural threat to the north, powerful mysterious beings called the Others, but they do not really come into play in this book. This story is about betrayal, court politics, lords and ladies, knights in shining armor (which doesn't make them heroes, necessarily), and ultimately, war. There's lots of blood, chopped-off heads, rape, and other high jinks. It's extremely tight and well written, too. Martin keeps the story moving; each chapter furthers the story with minimal boring discriptive text, unlike a certain author with the initials R.J.

This book is utterly gripping. You really don't want to put it down, and the last two chapters end with amazing turns of events that will leave you salivating for the next book in the series. Martin takes fantasy to a new level, making it captivatingly real and wonderfully fantastic at the same time. Say goodbye to the Dark Lord and hello to Cercei Lannister... Sauron, you've met your match.

Til next time,


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