A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective wall. To the south, the King's powers are failing, and his enemies are emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the King's new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but also the kingdom itself. A heroic fantasy of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and evildoers who come together in a time of grim omens.
Where is the love?
We get the romance novels that are so over-the-top and unrealistic, with the swooning and ridiculous mouth-watering... And then we get the epic fantasy novels with no love at all.
Game of Thrones has a lot going on, and there's definitely political intrigue. We are drowning in political intrigue. It is interesting, sure, but only to a point. But there's a strong unbelievability to the story with the lack of love between characters. This really makes the novel less enjoyable because the characters come across as weak. There is something huge that's missing and, in the end, it makes them less real. (Also: Sex =/= Love.)
Adding to this is the lack of difference in character voice. True, the characters do have some distinct differences in their beliefs and... hobbies... but I don't get a sense that they're entirely different people. The character names as chapter titles was off-putting to start, but I can see the necessity. There would be awkward transition into the chapter as we try to identify the Point of View.
Two main characters have a lot more going for them, and I wish they would have had a lot more page-time. Arya Stark and Jon Snow (the bastard) are by far the strongest and most interesting characters in the series. Arya is curious, smart, and always up to some sort of fun. Jon (he's a bastard, by the way) is our key into the Night's Watch and the Wall. We are told Eddard is honourable, sure, but with the bastard son, Jon, we really see it in his character.
Sansa and Bran, on the other side of things, come across as the weakest - Sansa because she is a brainless parrot and Bran, no fault of his own, is not too good for much... yet. (Optimism?) He is always so sad, though, and to be totally honest - he's just not very interesting.
It's obvious but.. this is a long book, at 835 pages. It feels like a long book. It's long-winded and the author often takes us in circles with ideas and thoughts. Usually, this occurs right in the middle of some action - a fight scene, a chase, or a Grand Escape. The character starts reflecting, thinking about other things, their past, or admiring the scenery. This is not the time for that - it's awkward and really brings me out of the story that was hard enough to get "into" in the first place.
Worse, when certain chapters do start to get really interesting, especially the ones with Arya, it will end. Abruptly. And we'll get to spend some time in Sansa's head. That's not so much fun. Is this supposed to create tension? Suspense? Intrigue? Some other vaguely descriptive word? Whatever it is supposed to do, it's not working for me. As I near the end of the novel I skim more and more, picking out the more interesting points and trying to convince myself that finishing this book is not a complete waste of my time.
I started reading Game of Thrones in early July, after watching the series. The show, while amazing and beautiful, left much back-story to be desired and I wanted to fill in those gaps. Since I had just finished watching the series it was difficult to get into the novel. Plus, I kept picturing certain characters the way they were portrayed in the show, rather than how they were described in the book.
I lost interest in the book for some time, though that likely had more to do with how busy I was with work and how little time remained for reading. It was easier to get into the story later on, but it still wavered considerably in holding my interest. I finished it because it was the only book I brought with me to work in October. If I hadn't, I'd probably still have it sitting on my shelf waiting to be finished.
Jon is a Bastard.
George R.R. Martin will remind you of this every few pages that Jon, Eddard's bastard, is mentioned.
We should make a game of this.
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