Home > book reviews > Book Review: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire)

Book Review: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire)

If you haven’t read A Game of Thrones or you haven’t watched the HBO series and you don’t want it spoiled for you, then I suggest you don’t keep reading after the jump. If you haven’t done either of those and you don’t care about OMG SPOILERS, feel free. You have been warned.

For those of you just tuning in who are thinking, “A Game of Thrones? What is this nonsense? I wish to read ALL THE SPOILERS,” congratulations, you’ve been under a rock since 1996. I’ll give you a brief summary anyway: A Game of Thrones is the first book in an epic fantasy series by George R.R. Martin called A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s set in a fictional land where the seasons don’t cycle through the year, but last for arbitrary amounts of time–currently the world is experiencing a very long, seven year summer, but signs are pointing to the fact that Winter Is Coming. This is a touch problematic because after a very long summer there is usually a very long, very harsh winter and as I am about sick of winter myself at this point, I can’t imagine this nonsense lasting more than the three months it takes in the real world.

The kingdom of Westeros is led by King Robert Baratheon, First of His Name, whose second hand man (the Hand of the King) has died under mysterious circumstances that no one really wants to investigate, so he travels from the capital, appropriately named King’s Landing, to the north of the Seven Kingdoms, to enlist his best childhood friend Eddard “Ned” Stark of Winterfell as the new Hand.

As fans of the genre are well aware, this is generally where all hell will break loose and this is no exception. Where this novel takes a deviation from the norm is that in most epic fantasy, very few named people actually die. Sure, there’s bound to be a war, so obviously there’s casualties, but it’s all mostly the nameless masses who fall on the enemies’ swords. Sometimes someone important will die (won’t lie–still mad at Tolkien over Kili and Fili), but generally everyone shows up for the big feast at the end.

This is your last SPOILER ALERT. Turn back now if you don’t want to know.

Everyone you love will die. And probably horribly. You liked Winterfell’s Captain of the Guards? Guess what, he’s dead. You liked Khal Drogo’s fantastic hair? Guess what, he’s dead. You actually wanted Viserys to become king? Too bad, my mentally damaged friend, he’s dead.

Oh, and you thought Sean Bean had finally landed an acting role that would garner him a stable role for a few years? Too bad, Ned dies after confessing to be a traitor (which he isn’t, but whatcha gonna do?) because Joffrey’s a little bitch.

And, really, that was the problem with reading the book after watching the show. As much as I was enjoying the world that Martin had created, I kept putting the book down as though my stopping reading would stop Ned from getting killed. The closer and closer it crept, the longer it took for me to read. I felt like his certain death was around every page.

Once I got past that part, it was mostly smooth sailing. Sure, other people died and other bad things happened, but none of them made me want to throw something at the television screen the way I had felt when Joffrey offhandedly ordered Ned’s death. If I had read the book before seeing the show, I probably would have thrown the book across the room, so at least seeing the show first saved myself a walk to pick it back up.

I honestly can’t decide which is better–having seen the show first or reading the book first. Normally, I’m in favor of the latter, but as the show was so well done, having a face to put to a name wasn’t as jarring as it could have been. I also enjoyed getting more background story for the characters after reading the book, so reading the book after you’ve watched the show definitely isn’t a waste of time. There’s so much packed in there that they couldn’t possibly stuff it all into a television show.

Plus, now I can finally understand the heartwrenching reality behind this song:

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