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on September 27, 2002
In A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin has created a masterpiece in fantasy literature. Martin's epic tale is, without a doubt, the best fantasy series being produced today. The author has taken a fantastic world and added pure and gritty realism. He digs deeper into the lives of his characters than many authors ever do, revealing the human side of all of them. His use of point of view is remarkable as is the world that he paints for us. His work is monumental in the fact that it revolutionizes fantasy literature. Martin transforms us from the perfect fantasy world that Tolkien created, into a fresh, new, more real world where no one is really defined as good or evil. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys any sort of fantasy or historical type fiction. It is, put quite simply, amazing.
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on August 17, 2010
So many fantasy books depend on the setting -- a magical world filled with mythic monsters and powerful wizards. But A Game of Thrones is a fantasy book that focuses on its characters rather than its setting. In fact, I often forgot I was reading a fantasy novel. But that didn't matter because Martin's characters filled the pages with so much energy that it didn't feel like anything was lacking.

That's not to say that a fantasy world doesn't exist in the book. It broods in the background. There are references to important places and people and events, but these always seemed separate from the main plot. By the last chapters, however, Martin starts to push the world into the forefront, and you realize that the world is about to intrude itself into the lives of all of these great characters.
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on September 4, 2003
I would actually give this book 4.5 stars but rounded up. The writing is wonderful. I've rarely seen as well developed and thought out characters in any literature, let alone fantasy. His style of writing is phenomenal and doesn't bore you to death with descriptions like Jordan or meaningless hundreds of pages. Every chapter has action and a climax. Every word is meaningful. The only knock I have is lack of fantasy elements. No magic and very few fantasy/mythical creatures for an 800 page novel. This book is more a medieval mystery/intrigue. Every character has his own UNIQUE personality and even a different way to think. The bad guys aren't cliche black and white. The action continues with every chapter. What more can I say other than this is not just fantasy drivel but serious literary text.
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on June 5, 2011
While Martin has a knack for creating interesting characters, the Game of Thrones and the rest of the series aren't exactly what you might call action-packed. The problem with such an enormous cast of characters is that you're bound to find characters you love over characters you find boring, and it can be a long, long time before the narrative cycles around to whoever you're more interested in hearing about. As you might expect from its title, the series really is one massive fantasy conspiracy/political thriller, and at times the pages and pages of conversations detailing who is double-crossing whom or who is trying to suss who out as a traitor can really make your eyes glaze over.

An alternate title might also be The Game Where Nothing Nice Ever Happens to Anyone (And If It Does, Something Worse Happens Immediately Afterwards). To put it bluntly, for a lot of the cast the series almost comes across as psychological torture porn, particularly in the case of the young female leads who are consistently degraded and abused, but really nobody is safe from having multiple, emotionally scarring tragedies befall them in every book. It winds up getting tedious, and you can't help but wonder what the point of it all is. Who cares if this person is rescued? She's only going to get raped and murdered later. Who cares if this person wins a duel? They'll probably be forced to watch their kingdom burn next chapter.

Ultimately, this series requires a lot of commitment, and it wasn't one I was willing to give. After reading the first four books I had to call it quits. It didn't feel like the characters were getting anywhere, and the plot was moving like molasses in winter. While there were characters I enjoyed (and even loved a little), the whole thing is too plodding and gloomy to really feel like anything more than a chore, and I didn't feel like seeing what terrible thing was going to happen to Sansa next. As of book four, it didn't feel like any real headway had been made in the plot, unless the plot was "the world is a terrible place, and no matter what you do, it will take a big dump on you at the moment you're happiest". Make no mistake, if you enjoy meticulously detailed worlds and can keep up with its labyrinthine treacheries and ever-growing cast, the Song of Ice and Fire series is definitely worth a look. However, if you don't enjoy fantasy novels that leave you feeling depressed and cynical of the entire human race, you may want to download a sample or check this one out of the library before you shell out the cash.
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on February 12, 1998
This is the only fantasy book I have read that had me going to the book store and bugging the staff about the sequal. Although I am primarily a moralist and somewhat prudish, the gratuitous sex (some of its needed for plot development, but be reasonable) didn't even deter me from finishing the book in a week end. The characters are compelling and the plots are interesting. There is definite room for a sequal, and it seems as if the Tullocks will be caught between the hammer and anvil duo of Robb Stark and the Khaleesa and her dragons. My only disappointment is that the characters on the wall are left hanging like a broken, flapping appendage at the end of the novel. I do not have nearly as much suspense concerning what is occuring at the wall as I do concerning what is going on down south.
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on May 21, 2016
Changed my life. True story. This book series is as deep and real as any fantasy could possibly be. I love it.
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on August 11, 2003
I could not put this book down. In this book you will love some of the characters and hate many of them. You will be surprised often. You will turn pages long after you should have gone to bed. You will run right out and get the next book in the series when you have finished the Game of Thrones. This book has a complex plot and story line that is approached from several points of view. Every character has issues and you find that their issues are what really make the story come to life. The children really make this book wonderful. The children are all unique and it is through them that this story takes shape. If you love fantasy you love this book, if you don't love fantasy, this book might make you think again.
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on December 24, 2004
SPOILERS

Well, I haven't had an experience this bizarre for a while. All the positive customer and editorial reviews, as well as people I know and respect, tout this as breaking new ground in a tired genre. How's that? If you can't see that the entire backdrop of this book, not to mention most of the characters and events, are lifted from the work of other authors, then you can't have read many other fantasy books at all, let alone literature of any kind.

The Stark family and their locale is taken straight from Nordic legends. The Others are bog-standard undead (Ringwraiths, even), who live beyond Hadrian's wall; all the other noble families, if they are elaborated upon at all, are defined mostly by their heraldic devices. There are magical objects (dragon eggs), specially forged swords handed from father to son, you name it. Most unforgivably, the Targaryens, with their violet eyes, dragon fixation, and pale hair and skin, are Melniboneans lifted without alteration from Michael Moorcock's classic Elric series (they even lived on an isle). The secondary characters are all archetypal: from Robert Baratheon, who you will immediately visualise as being played by Brian Blessed, to Varys, the cunning eunuch, Cersei the beautiful-yet-heartless queen, etc, etc, etc.

That wouldn't matter if the structure of the story enabled it to find some originality in the telling, but George has failed to get round the problems created by his own experiment. To justify each and every chapter changing POV, it's necessary for each to work as dramatic event by itself. In practice this means most present us with some kind of life-or-death situation that actually has nothing to do with the main plot at all, but is there because otherwise we'd wonder why we'd changed to that character. It almost feels like a TV series - the priority is to ensure you hang on until the next chapter relating to your favorite character, whether or not the cliff-hanger helps the main story. The result is that the impact dwindles each time, until only the most melodramatic situations are capable of arousing much interest by the end of the book. Compare this to LOTR, which opens with two marvellous, adversity-free chapters to establish the plot and background, spends three whole chapters in Lothlorien after Gandalf's fall, and many more pages describing the character's travelling from place to place, and you'll see why this hurts the story - it makes good pacing impossible. However much of a page-turner this novel is, the characters (except Jon and maybe Daenerys) never have any time to breathe.

And it's repetitive. Already, we have two mad boy-kings controlled by overbearing mothers; two scenes where a character too young to do anything with the information overhears the Bad People discussing something crucial to the plot. Two morally shady characters relate a sob story from their past to a second character they hardly know. These scenes are not there because they help the story, but to ensure readers sympathise with the characters in question (Sandor and Tyrion). Martin doesn't seem to know how to create complexity without either making his characters inconsistent or weakening them: when Tyrion, who I already liked, related the story of what happened to his first and only love I wanted to scream. People like Tywin Lannister, who are of central importance to major events, remain offstage until they get round to bumping into a POV character, so we never get any insight into them. At the other end of the spectrum, Eddard Stark is supposedly a master stategist who unflinchingly faces How Things Are; but the main plot hinges on him freely informing his arch-enemy that, uh, he's got some dirt on her, so she better watch out - which gives her time to seize power, execute him and trigger a massive war. This is after he's been repeatedly told this will happen by impartial secondary characters. WTF?

In some respects reading this book is a mind-boggling experience. I read it quickly and with a certain degree of excitement, yet throughout it's entire length there are only two really 'big' plot developments, neither them exactly surprising in a book (the English edition) with a dragon on the cover called "Game Of Thrones". Namely: a throne changes hands, and some dragons come back. That's 800 pages. After finishing this installment I read the reviews for the next two - and was stunned to discover that it takes another 2000 pages for the throne to change hands again. And this is going to be a six-book series. No wonder George needs to kill his main characters off - how else is he going to hold anyone's attention through books 4 to 6? It seems that's what 'realism' means for many fans of modern fantasy writing.
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on May 14, 2014
This was a gift for someone and she loved it! She enjoyed the book and said it was much better than the show.
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on September 9, 2012
I am reading with a nagging feeling I know this. Nothing is new. The Gormeghast trilogy same feel same gloom.
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