You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin, is an 800-page novel that tells a big story. Actually just a part of the big story, since there are several sequels. The story is too vast to cover in detail, so I’ll present just a brief overview.

The main conflict involves several houses in the Seven Kingdoms. King Robert calls on his friend Ned Stark, lord of the North, to be his Hand after his previous Hand dies mysteriously. Ned is a wise ruler who knows that a leader must stay in touch with his people, and must stay close to justice. He executes a condemned man personally, believing that otherwise he will forget how serious the sentence is. Ned is contrasted by the Lannisters, a family willing to do anything to get the throne. The king’s wife is a Lannister, and her twin brother is one of the kingsguard. Their little brother is a malformed dwarf called Tyrion, who has a smart mouth, rather like a court’s fool.

Much of the action centers on Ned’s wife, Catelyn, and her travel to the capital to tell Ned of the attempt on the life of their son Bran, who had fallen from a roof and ended up in a coma. There is much dramatic tension from the fact that we know Bran was pushed to the ground by the queen’s incestuous brother, Bran having discovered the two in a romantic liaison. There’s also the story of Jon Snow, Ned’s bastard son, who is sent to join the guard on the Wall, a huge wall of ice in the far north, to help guard against the Others and other dangers to the north. There’s Ned’s daughters, who travel with him to the capital, one of whom starts sword fighting lessons. Ned tries to figure out who killed the previous holder of his position (having been warned so by the man’s widow, his wife’s sister). And lastly there is a whole thread of the narrative that follows the last prince and princess of the house that King Robert dethroned to take the throne, and the prince’s attempts to gather an army to retake his place as king.

Such a synopsis barely scratches the surface of this vast story. There are dozens of main characters, and hundreds of other knights, ladies, lords, and others. The events cover most of the big houses of the kingdoms, as well as the lands where the prince and princess of the old dynasty go to find their armies. There’s a lot of intrigue, double-crosses, battles, kidnappings, killings, and traveling back and forth.

Being the first part of a larger story, it’s hard to rate the book on its own merits. One problem I often had was keeping track of the passage of time. When Catelyn travels to the capital, I expect her to be gone a month or so. But things drag on, and we find out that it’s been nearly a year since she left home. Perhaps there are more clues, but the best I found was the description of one of the character’s pregnancies.

There is a strong contrast between Ned, who is honorable to a fault, and the others who intrigue for the throne. He could avoid some of his problems if only he would take action that doesn’t meet his standard (and at some points I found myself yelling at him, “Listen to what they’re saying!” or “Don’t trust him!”). Making such characters, who we want to see live, and the drama that surrounds them, is a real gift. I would have to say that one of my favorite characters is Tyrion, despite his loyalty to his family and his drive for greed and revenge. Robb, Ned Stark’s son, takes over as lord of his house with his father gone, and gains in importance and maturity throughout the story.

I’ll give the book an A-. The final question is, do I want to read the sequel? That I do (in fact it’s already in the house). The characters and events are so compelling that I want to see what happens next. There are some series that I read where after reading the first book I decide I don’t need to read any more in the series, or perhaps will read them at some point in the future. There’s no question that the next book is already on my short list.


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