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A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) Paperback – March 22, 2011
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"We have been invited to a grand feast and pageant: George R.R. Martin has unveiled for us an intensely realized, romantic but realistic world."—Chicago Sun-Times
"A Best Book of 1996: Martin makes a triumphant return to high fantasy . . . [with] superbly developed characters, accomplished prose, and sheer bloodymindedness."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A splendid saga . . . . Inventive and intricately plotted."—BookPage
"Magic . . . George R.R.Martin's first fantasy epic [is set] well above the norms of the genre."—Locus
"Such a splendid tale and such a fantasticorical! I read my eyes out and couldn't stop 'til I finished and it was dawn."—Anne McCaffrey
From the Inside Flap
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It is a big book, many people, have said many things about it. Here are some of mine:
• The characterization is really good. There are defined personalities and traits and Mr. Martin usually conveys them without a superfluous amount of words.
• The alternating points of view chapter by chapter. This device allows the reader to take in the massive scope of the story that is being told here in manageable chunks. I hope this style continues thru the series.
• The large arc of the story. Mr. Martin has created world here, with a complete and rich history.
• The novel is unapologetic. By that, I mean there is rampant sexism, violence, etc. Not pretty elements, but the author is not casting a modern eye on them apologizing for every undesirable trait. This is an ancient world, not like our own. He allows that story to happen without foisting modern sensibilities on it. I appreciate someone just telling a story and letting the actions speak for themselves. You are disgusted or titillated by what the characters are doing based on how you view the world.
That is a quick overview, but some of the highlights. I will say, the overlong descriptions of clothing and food I could do with a little less of, but it is a small quibble, and I have friends who love that aspect of the book, so there ya go.
I will be continuing this journey through the Seven Kingdoms, but I am not sure when. My “to read” pile is massive enough as it is.
Even though it is difficult not to imagine the faces of the actors when reading the book, it is still an awesome read. Much more detailed than the series, but also enhanced by it to a certain extent.
Of course they weren't wrong.
What George R.R. Martin has done here defies genre, period. It doesn't matter if you're like me and don't care for this sub-genre of fantasy... it doesn't matter if your like my spouse, and don't like fantasy at all. If you enjoy brilliant, incredibly-developed, thought-provoking stories... those with a strongly developed cast of characters who blissfully lack being "good vs. evil" and instead all display their shades of grey, good traits, evil traits, unique traits, all sorts of traits... then this book is for you. Buy it. Open it up. Start reading. You won't regret it.
Top international reviews
For me there wasn't much character development at all. I get there's A LOT of characters, but if I hadn't seen the series, then I would feel literally nothing for these people. Same goes for description of characters. There was too many names and important people to keep track off. I didn't feel any emotion from the characters. Especially when Drogo and Ned died. It was just like... Okay it's over now. Next chapter bye. There were times where I couldn't wait to read it, and times where I wasn't 100 percent sure I was going to finish it.
I made a promise to myself that if I was to write a book review id be honest. But I'm not denouncing this series. I'm actually going on to read the second book in the hopes that I do find I love it and hope that fans of the show (and people looking for an interesting read set in an incredible world) pick this up and give it a go. But it took me 3 attempts to finish this one. I
I gave it a three as for me, while I love the story and the world he had created, I couldn't get rid of the feeling that without the tv show, I wouldn't be able to put a face to a name or feel how the characters felt, which is something I've never had trouble with before.
I started this, then put it down and just didn't pick it back up. It remained like that for, what?, six-seven months before I picked it up again… and finished it in a week.
I loved this book so much. I think the reason it took me so long the first time 'round was because it was so freaking like the TV series (Gods, do I miss those days) but I pushed on and so glad I did, because there's just little things in the book that they didn't include in the show.
The characters in this series are just so… amazing. I love how well they are fleshed out, how pure their emotions come through the page until you're feeling it with them. I love that whilst reading a Stark chapter, you hate the Lannisters and everyone that sides with them, but then you read a Lannister chapter and you're like… wow, those Starks aren't exactly the best, are they?
You route for whoever you are reading. Sure, you attach yourselves to certain ones because it's still a piece of fiction and that's what you do with fiction - you mark your favourites. But there's no-one in here that's truly hate worthy… except Joffrey. He's just a little s***.
The magical elements are unlike most fantasy books I've read in the sense they're hidden deep down and haven't started stirring yet. I've already read the 2nd book and know that as the series goes on, the more magic comes out. And it's amazing that way.
There's not just one plot going on, there's a million different little ones, that somehow all steer towards the End Goal which I have no idea what it'll be because GRRM hasn't finished. But still! You can see plainly that whilst these little plots seem interesting in their own right, you reach a point in the book where you realise that because of that little plot, the entire story is blown open.
It's incredible. Simple incredible.
Although this is indeed a gripping story, it took a long time for me to gain momentum. In fact, twice I left the book alone for a couple of months and then started again, or backtracked through a few chapters. It was probably just past the halfway point in the book that I felt the pace developed and I was hooked.
The book's chapters are named after each of the key characters in the story, which I find adds an unusual sense of anticipation when you see which character's story is about to unfold. The curse of me coming to this book so long after it was written (would you believe the book is 20 years old already?!) is that all of the key plot-lines have been spilled through the TV show. I love the TV show, but I can't help but feel a sense of lost excitement, as I see the name of a character at the beginning of a chapter and think "I wonder if this is the part where he dies". Grrrr! Regardless of the self-inflicted spoilers, I've enjoyed this so much, I've already bought the rest of the books and look forward to ploughing through them as time allows.
The enhanced features in this version of the book are a pleasant addition but I wouldn't say they have been essential. There are audio narration clips scattered throughout the book, but after a while the novelty wore off, and I skipped many of them. The most useful feature, was the ability to click on a character name and to be taken to a summary in the book's appendix. This is particularly useful for this book, as it hosts a huge number of characters that are hard to keep track of. However, a more advanced version of this feature appears to be built into the Kindle's X-Ray feature, making the book's hyperlinks less essential.
After 30 minutes reading I wondered if some 1 star reviewers had been reading the same book as myself as it was galloping along at a great pace. To be fair I wasn’t put off by strange names (I’ve used enough in my own writing) or ‘nasty goings-on’ (again mea culpa). Furthermore, I’m very experienced in the study of Medieval History so well at home with the period. Indeed, the Lannisters are clearly based on the family of Elizabeth Woodville (c. 1440-92), the queen of Edward IV (1461-83); in King Robert (‘..Six and a half feet tall, he towered over lesser men..... ) the reader has Edward IV (as in the last 5 years of his life); surely in Joffrey (‘pouty lips... disdainful walk...’) there is Thomas Grey, Elizabeth’s son, who shocked the Court by marrying the dowager Duchess of Dorset (old enough to be his grandmother) in 1478. Perhaps I stray too far in linking the ‘mad king’ (killed by Jaime Lannister) with Henry VI (1422-61 – died 1471) or Ned Stark and family with that of Richard Neville, Earl of York. As for identifying Tyrion Lannester ‘The Imp’ with the SHAKESPEARIAN image of Richard III (1483-5) I’m at a loss.
For the critics of the ‘seamier’ episodes, may I point out History records murders on the battlefield, rushed beheadings, witchcraft and wholesale cruelty and spite as making up much of life in 15th century ‘Merry England’. The major HISTORICAL criticism I’d make is the absence of organised religion in the events: I’d excuse direwolves, Others and other supernatural features as but the imagination of a good writer at work.
There is no doubt R.R. Martin is a gifted writer. He’s far less elaborate than Tolkein but then he’s far less ambitious – no aim of providing a multiplicity of languages in a world of differently formed creatures (including talking tees) just aiming to produce a dramatic tale of human ambitions, rivalries and treacheries with an added spice of ‘wyrd’ (as the Anglo-Saxons would have understood it) and ‘weird’ as enjoyed by lovers of Gothic novels and ‘colourful’ films. The writing canters along through speech, thoughts, pen-portraits and dramatic encounters. It’s not so ‘down to earth’ as that of Terry Pratchett and yet surprisingly simpler than that of J.K. Rowling. Martin matches the pleasure given me by the other three authors over decades.
As always I’d read a selection of both 5 star & 1 star reviews. Here are some of the latter with my comments. ‘I don't think it helped that it jumps about from person to person/scene to scene.’- a standard way by thriller writers of maintaining tension. ‘So many pointless characters with so many stupid names’ – such may add atmosphere and also remove the reader into a different world; those that count will be repeated as so become familiar. ‘Why no resolution?’ - because it’s part of a SERIES; I must confess I dislike villains ‘surviving’ to reappear in an entirely separate work for another dose, but such is not true here. ‘A story that doesn't make sense and characters about whom I couldn't care less’ – I recommend reading a DETAILD history of English history 1455-85 (or even 1399-1499) to get the same effect.
In the book there are several engaging episodes such as the journey by Catelyn up to the Eyrie, the escape of Arya from the Lannister coup, the battle featuring Tyrion and the struggle of Jon with the ‘undead’ . Such are frequently described from the viewpoint of participants with some success.
My favourite character in the book is Tyrion Lannester (‘The Imp’) – much smarter than any of the other characters and with a macabre, self-deprecating sense of humour (perhaps based on the Shakespearian Richard III) - Petyr Baelish is a similar, if paler, character. Arya Stark, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are close behind, possibly because they make more of themselves than either the reader or the other characters expect. A couple of characters I found almost ‘nauseating’ - Joffrey Baratheon and Robyn Arryn, both spoilt and given power when grossly unfitted. Enigmatic characters, such as Sandor Clegane (‘The Hound’) and POTENTIALLY Sansa Stark intrigue me. Disappointing for me, because of plot potential, are Jaime Lannester (apart from ‘the things I do for love’ incident). My title is voiced by Queen Cersei to Eddard Stark in a scene when I was wondering if any man could be so stupid – he’s so disappointing that perhaps his termination proves welcome. I should stress here that I know nothing of what happens in the saga in subsequent books so my opinion may drastically change.
Any criticisms? The chapters are simply titled according to the key personality therein. Especially using a Kindle, this makes it more difficult to access the previous scene; adding numbers would help – e.g. Jon1, Jon2, Jon3 & the use of ‘Search’- deal with the confusion felt by some readers. AT THE MOMENT the episodes involving Daenerys Targaryen among the Dothraki are very detached but clearly there for future developments . Even so I must admit the appearance of a pair of dragons doesn’t offer an ‘attractive ‘ story line – direwolves are the limit for me.
Anyway I award the book 5 stars and look forward to reading the sequel.
The cover may have some limited signs of wear but the pages are clean, intact and the spine remains undamaged. This book has clearly been well maintained and looked after thus far.
When l got the book it was filthy. It had coffee stains and general grime spilled on the cover. The bottom of the book had a wedge torn out of about 50 pages, going the full length of the pages.
Delivery was slow to boot. First time lve used this seller, awful experience
King Robert Baratheon makes Ned Stark the kings hand, and commands him to travel South to Kings Landing to investigate the death of Ned's predecessor, Ned finds corruption and murder at every turn, not knowing who is friend and who is foe, he cannot trust anyone.
Set in a fictional land the books chapters are all from the point off view of one character.
Characters, action, settings and the feelings that the characters experience are all described in great detail. I have just finished reading it for the second time and it was just as exciting as the first time around. I have no hesitancy in recommending it to all who like the action fast and furious. I give it 5🌟.
I must say that I struggle with the writing. It isn't something I would usually read.
The story is good, the writing isn't so good.
I have to read a chapter at a time and I'm having to be patient. It isn't the type of book that I can pick up and struggle to put back down.
Characters: The ASOIAF saga is populated by a large cast of characters. This can be a bad thing if an author skims over them and doesn't give them enough detail to make them distinguishable, but equally a small cast can make a story feel very insular and self-contained and unrealistic. Martin creates a large cast, which gives his story epic scope, but also gives each of his characters care and attention. Superfluous characters aren't named, but described, thus sparing the reader from having to keep track of too many. Secondary and main characters are each rendered with unique traits and personalities and respond to the environment around them based on their prior experiences and current set of circumstances, just like real people do. This is absolutely key. As a reader do you care about what happens to a character who doesn't behave like a real human being, a character who seems too thinly drawn and sketched out to exist in the real world? I sure don't. But when a character is written as a real person, I start caring about them, and I give them and their world greater plausibility and believability. It's about immersion into the story, and George R R Martin hits the sweet spot with his characters.
Show, Don't Tell: At the same time, we are only shown glimpses into these characters. We don't know everything about them straight away, we don't know all their inner thoughts. Just like in real life, a character is revealed to us bit by bit through their actions, and we get to know them slowly as we do real people. Not only is this great showing over telling, but this keeps the story fresh and unexpected, even for characters who lead the story and we know well. Martin allows his characters to be organic; existing in their present moment, but responding to events as they unfold and growing as the story unfolds. Moreover, each character has agency. How they respond directly impacts on the other characters, and affects those characters' responses. Again, this is what happens in real life. This makes Martin's characters and plot feel realistic and natural.
World-Building: It's obvious that Martin has spent a great deal of time creating this world in his mind before writing it. This not only renders the environment in lavish detail for the senses, but allows him to plot out events well ahead of time, making sure the storyline is taut and well-constructed. As a result each scene directly contributes to advancing the plot and there's no filler or superfluous material. In addition, Martin can create twists in the plot that surprise and delight the reader even whilst at the same time having just enough hints to in hindsight see its inevitability. And through judicious writing, Martin makes sure that no event is too foreshadowed, ruining the surprise. I've seen authors foreshadow their novel's climax far too heavily, a mistake which means the plot becomes predictable and the writing too clunky. Martin avoids that pitfall. Knowing this world like the back of his hand means that Martin has tight control over where the plot is going, and presents us as readers with a world as realistic and fleshed out as the characters that inhabit it.
Epic Scope: Time to fess up; I love epics. The reason being that the vast world of an epic is true to the vast world in which we live in. Through the aforementioned factors - large character cast, character agency, thorough and carefully planned world-building - Martin is able to connect all his characters and places, and give his plot long-term coherency. This is what makes ASOIAF a true saga, and gives it a wide scope of sweeping grandeur. This also allows Martin to tell the story more slowly, giving us an epic tale of each character and their situation evolving, instead of the story feeling rushed and skimmed over. The way that Martin uses multiple character perspective for different chapters could go wrong, by feeling too jumpy or like we're spending too little time with too many characters. It doesn't go wrong because by developing each character properly, each character chapter has its own distinctive voice, and by developing the plot properly the story can develop at just the right pace, giving us exciting scenes that advance the plot just enough to keep us wanting more, without feeling either too hurried or too ponderous with unnecessary filler. This is how epic is done.
Master of Language: Finally, Martin has a great knowledge of language and what makes good creative writing, aside from all the story-telling expertise. Bad writing is, I've found, rather limited in scope, may feel pedestrian and prosaic or swing all the way to the other extreme and get overly flowery and pompous, perhaps be repetitive, and all in all simply fails to either evoke any emotion in me as a reader or interest me in the story. Good writing shows wide-ranging knowledge of language, enough to come up with writing of creative flair and inventiveness that keeps me interested, but is judicious enough to know to use it sparingly, weaving it seamlessly into the text, and avoiding glaring repetition. This keeps the writing fresh and interesting without becoming too flowery and overused.
Consistency: The real test is consistency. Can the author produce the aforementioned levels of quality again and again at the same consistently high standards? As my reading of the ASOIAF saga is ongoing, I can safely say that yes, George R R Martin can. And this is what gets an author on my auto-buy list, because with a consistently fantastic author I know I am guaranteed a great read every time without even having to see the latest book before I buy it. I'm hooked. George R R Martin is quite possibly the definitive fantasy author of our times, and his writing is cream of the crop across genres.
If only all novels could be as well written as this.