Posts Tagged ‘A Song Of Ice And Fire’

SPOILER DISCLAIMER: Contains some heavy spoilers from A Game of Thrones, and some very minor ones from A Clash of Kings.

The second book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is a lot more darker than the first book. The prologue sets the tone for the rest of the book by portraying an old maester (their task is to help their lord in running the castle and offer sage advice), who can barely walk and already has his replacement following him around and helping with various tasks. In the end his fate is rather sorry. Like the prologue the whole book seems beset with failures, death and most importantly war. Each of the characters the book follows is in trouble most of the time and doesn’t seem to make slow, if any, progress towards their goals.

Perhaps the slowest is Daenerys, who at the end of A Game of Thrones, even though suffering an extremely large setback, still won a great victory. Now reality seems to set in. Then again she isn’t the biggest focus of the book, which is the fight for the kingdom between Stannis and Renly Baratheon, Joffrey of the Lannisters (a family known for its money and low sense morality) and Robb Stark, the King in the North. Four kings in all, each wanting the throne for himself. Naturally then the book concentrates on war and political battles. Tyrion Lannister, a.k.a the Imp, a dwarf, is perhaps the most interesting of the characters to follow as he is set in the maelstrom of the book, King’s Landing, a capital of sorts. In A Game of Thrones he was left with the job of being the King’s Hand for his nephew, King Joffrey. Tyrion’s battle for power from his position is very interesting to follow. The chapters with Jon Snow also caught my imagination, following him and the Night’s Watch on an excursion beyond the Wall.

The Stark daughters Arya and Sansa, the other a fugitive and the other a captive to the Lannisters, still make me wonder why they are a focus in the story, but I hope the books to come will make that clear. They are definitely growing into something, the brave girls, but just what remains to be seen. Entirely new narrating characters are Theon Greyjoy, who goes to meet his father after 10 years of being a political captive to the Starks and a smuggler, also known as the Onion Knight, now in the service of Stannis. They seem to be added mostly to portray the war from different points of view and as characters remain rather distant.

As I said earlier I found the mood of the book to be a lot more downcast than A Game of Thrones. Nearly all of the characters find their way barricaded by problems, setbacks and a sense of disillusionment, a case in point is Sansa Stark who has come to realize just how evil his betrothed King Joffrey is. In the first book she still believed all the tales of gallant knights she had heard, but now, with a lot of help from the King’s Hound, comes to realize that tales are merely tales and in reality knights aren’t all that noble, at least those of with Lannister blood in their veins, or Lannister gold in their pockets. The book is still a very enjoyable read, but the general darkness of the themes and story really started growing on me. Martin could have put some happier moments in to the book to make it easier on the reader. Perhaps in the next book, whose name (A Storm of Swords) doesn’t really evoke a lot of hope to say the least.

As a sidenote, A Game of Thrones the television series seems to be progressing well. Martin has been blogging about the casting for some time now and the choices are looking good. Watching the Wire side by side with Martin’s books has me thinking even more strongly that HBO and A Song of Ice and Fire are a perfect pairing. Lucky I found out about the book before the series came out.  Watch out for some heavy spoilers on the blog as well, at least if you haven’t read the first three books. I know a bit too much about the third book already, thanks to some careless writing by Martin.

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Now that I’ve read A Game of Thrones, the first book in George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, I can say that he more than fulfilled my high expectations, mostly formed after hearing a friend praise his books and of course seeing the author himself at Finncon. (picture is the Finnish book cover, because its a lot cooler in my opinion)

Perhaps what I most enjoy about A Game of Thrones is the unpredictability. Unlike most authors in the field of fantasy I’ve read Martin isn’t afraid to kill his characters or at least make them suffer greatly. This makes reading very exciting since you don’t know what’s going to happen in the next chapter. Usually in a book of fantasy you know that the main characters won’t die which takes a great amount of excitement away, for me at least. While reading A Game of Thrones I was holding my breath at the key moments in the book and gasping when something went horribly wrong. For me the book was quite an emotional exercise. Martin himself has said that this is exactly what he wants: the readers living the novel. When there’s a feast in the book he wants you to smell and taste the food, the same goes for sex scenes, of which there were a few. At this Martin succeeds superbly, I haven’t been this enthralled and held by a book since Harry Potter. Of course A Song of Ice and Fire is meant for a more mature audience and that makes reading him even more enjoyable.

Unlike Harry’s rather idealized fantasy world (if you erase Voldemort it seems to me that Potter’s world is quite without any problems, as the epilogue in the last of the Potter-books proves). In A Game of Thrones all of the main characters seem to walking on a knife’s edge most of the time. The main characters also have their own personal problems. One of them, Jon, is a bastard which isn’t a good thing in the Seven Kingdoms, a medieval-type kingdom with warring noble houses and another a dward, which is even worse of course. Certainly the book has its heroes but as in real life, nobody’s perfect. The good guys in the book are rather interesting but the catalogue of villains is rather more interesting. I won’t spoil anything so you can find out for yourselves. The characters and plot are wonderful and Martin certainly learned from his time in the television industry how to write cliffhangers, I can’t wait to read the second part. Luckily I found Martin so late so he’s written quite a few books into the series already.

Black and white, good and evil are such cliches in fantasy literature that they’ve become boring. Instead of telling an epic story about the battle between the aforementioned, A Game Of Thrones is a battle between selfish people working for an agenda of their own, be it revenge or love. The book does have a purely evil force, but it doesn’t play a very big role, at least this early in the series. If you enjoy fantasy and want to escape that happy and enjoyable life of yours, reading George R.R. Martin’s A Game Of Thrones is a fine way to do that.

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