A Game of Thrones

George R. R. Martin
A Game of Thrones Cover

A Game of Thrones


This is not so much a fantasy story, but the creation of a whole, complex world, just as we see in Tolkien. Trying to pick out only the important points needed to give you a feel for the plot is a difficult task because this book is both epic and mundane in its scale. We see vast tracts of land and many cultures, with different languages, religions, traditions, attitudes, food, habits, rituals and costumes. We see the political ramifications of characters’ actions written on the battlefield and upon the lives of many thousands. The events that we follow are a turning point in history and will affect the future of every person in Westeros. However, we see it all through the eyes of a select few individuals, which allows us to see the minutiae of detail in their daily lives: the dirt under their fingernails. Each chapter is told from one point of view. These come mainly from House Stark, with Ned and Catelyn, plus their children Sansa, Arya and Bran and the bastard, Jon Snow. However, we also see through the eyes of Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen, so we do not get a Stark-biased view of all events.

The world we see is roughly based upon Medieval Europe, but includes aspects of North Africa and the Middle East as well. However, this is not Earth and we see subtle differences all the time. This presentation of the mostly familiar with a few touches of the unusual makes the world very believable, even when there are elements of magic and the supernatural. However, a wonderfully built world needs a believable cast of characters to draw us in and keep us turning those pages, and this is where Mr Martin excels. There are a great number of characters involved in the various plots that weave back and forth across the world, but they are all individuals and they all feel real. I do not intend to provide a detailed analysis of each of even the main characters because there are far too many, but I will speak about some of my favorites.

Ned Stark is a wonderfully tragic character, with so much earnest honor and loyalty. The HBO series cast Sean Bean to play him and he was absolutely perfect, bringing a weary dignity to the man. In many ways Ned is possibly the most annoying character that I have read for a long time, because he is blinded by his own goodness. However, he always acts in a way that makes perfect sense for his character, something that Mr Martin does with all of them: they make decisions that are perfectly natural for them, even if we are screaming at them to do something else.

Daenerys Targaryen begins the book as a thirteen year old who is bullied and belittled by her brother. However, by the end, she has become a Queen and has developed amazing strength of character, wisdom and leadership skills. She is a great example of a female becoming powerful in man’s world and she does it all with great poise and bravery.

Sam Tarly is a secondary character who joins the Night’s Watch and becomes great friends with Jon Snow. He is fat and readily admits to being a coward, but he is intelligent and a very staunch friend. His father has rejected him because he is not a manly man, but Jon’s wolf, Ghost, accepts him straightaway: it seems that Ghost can detect good people and has excellent taste.

The bastard, Jon Snow, is something of a puzzle because he is supposedly Ned’s. However, Ned displays such dedication to his family and his honor that it seems almost impossible to imagine him being unfaithful to Catelyn and there is a lot of speculation about Jon’s parentage amongst the book’s fans. Jon is only fifteen and so he can be a little immature at times, but he is brave and loyal to his family and friends. When he first reaches the Wall the other young recruits shun him, but he soon becomes their leader and even persuades them to be kind to Sam. He is accompanied by his wolf, the albino Ghost, who has a wonderful sense of humor and great perception. In many ways, Ghost is much wiser than Jon.

Arya Stark is nine years old and hates being a girly girl. She is much happier climbing trees and learning how to use a sword than sewing and learning how to be all nice and polite. She does not want to be a noblewoman or a lady because it is stupid and boring. She is incapable of sitting still or keeping her hair tidy or walking daintily and she hates her sister, Sansa. She is much closer to Jon Snow than to her full siblings and he presents her with her own sword, which she names “Needle”. Arya is spunky, intelligent, resourceful, stubborn and brave. She is unwilling to compromise and has great strength of character. Her wolf is called Nymeria and she is as willful as her mistress.

That leaves my most favorite character, perhaps my favorite of all the books I have ever read: Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion is a congenital dwarf, with a disproportionately large misshapen head and stunted limbs. He is often referred to as The Imp by his enemies. In the HBO series he is played by Peter Dinklage who won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance, which was outstanding. Tyrion is one of those rare disabled characters who is almost totally comfortable with himself. Being physically challenged, he has developed his mind and reads almost constantly. He is intelligent and very perceptive, being one of the most politically astute characters that we encounter. He uses peoples’ underestimation of him against them and is a good leader of men, using his own weakness to inspire them to greater courage. He is witty and clever, although sometimes his tongue gets him into trouble. He is unswervingly loyal to his family, especially Jaime, who seems to be the only one of them who treats him like a normal person. He is also one of the few honest people in the book: honest with others and, most importantly, with himself. Life keeps dealing him a dreadful hand, but he plays the game exceptionally well and with style. I am not the only person to have a fan-crush on Tyrion. Here is Justin writing about him at Staffer’s book Review:

Tyrion Lannister is the most iconic character in fantasy. Gandalf? Please. Drizzt? Pfft. Pug? Elric? Belgarath? Thomas? No. No. No. Tyrion is the cats pajamas, ok? He's tortured, and callous, but also tries to do the right thing. Or does he? Is he only doing what he does to pay back his shitty father? I have no idea! That's what makes him so amazing. That and he's a killer limbo player.

These are just a few of the memorable characters that I have grown to love and care about whilst reading this book. There are some that I have grown to hate, such as Queen Cersei and her obnoxious brat, Joffrey and others that I want to know more about, like the eunuch Varys, who is the spymaster in King’s Landing. However, I must warn you that this book is not a fluffy saga of heroic deeds and gallant knights. This is a bleak world where the good suffer and the evil win through by being... well, evil. If you cannot cope with the possibility of seeing characters you love die, then this might not be the book for you. However, if you want a world that comes to life as you read and characters that will make you love, laugh and despair, then you should get a copy and dive in: you will not regret it.

For my complete review, click the link below: