825 of 849 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2006
On my latest foray to buy some new fantasy, the till assistant suggested that I might like to try George R. R. Martin. I had seen his books before, but had never committed to reading them, but on this recommendation, I picked this book up for my summer holiday. Over 800 pages and less than 5 days later it was finished.
Although somewhat slow in starting, the storylines soon become engaging and you really do want to find out what happens next. The book also contains a large number of surprises and means that you're never really certain where each story will lead.
For me, the biggest surprise was in the unusual structure. As has been mentioned, each chapter is named after the character whose view it is written from. This is not something I have encountered before, but I enjoyed the format. It gave a nice insight into characters from all "sides" and allowed a good deal of depth to be included for them.
The book as a whole is almost three independent stories. Firstly, the "Game of Thrones" is the nickname of the power struggle between high-born families to influence or take the throne. As usual, we have the good (Starks, Tullys), the bad (Lannisters) and the undecided (Baratheon). This covers the majority of the book and has only an initial interaction to one of the other storylines,
The second storyline has minimal interaction with the first and follows a sworn brotherhood that forego all previous ties and become a new "family". They are sworn to defend the kingdom and man the vast wall that separates it from the wilds to the North.
The final storyline does not interact with the others and is only hinted at by the telling of rumours in the kingdom. It charts the progress of the barbarian race of the Dothraki and their uneasy alliance with the last of the Targaryens, the family that were all but destroyed in a battle with the current head of the kingdom.
As in most fantasy, there are apparent good and evil sides, but most of the characters have a certain ambiguity which results in them doing something that you would not normally expect. This ambiguity is a neat way to make you connect with characters from both sides in a way that you wouldn't usually do and although it may be a little uncomfortable, it also provides a better immersion for the reader.
Another surprise is that magic is scarcely involved. It is only hinted at in the first two storylines and is only fully in evidence at the end of the third; I suspect that this will become more prominent in the following books.
Non-human creatures are also in short supply, but again, I believe that they will play a larger part as the series progresses.
To close, I would like to mention that there are a couple of plot twists that left me open-mouthed, a fact that I found most satisfying (after I'd recovered:-). Also, there are a couple of particularly grisly deaths and this combined with some of the more mature language and themes, indicate that this has been targeted at an adult audience.
I have tried to avoid any plot details since the impact of the book comes from not knowing what is going to happen next. it has introduced all the storylines and got them to a point where they are all about to explode into action. If you fancy something a little more complex and with a definite adult bias, this could very well be the book for you.
144 of 149 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2012
I have just finally finished the last available book of A Song Of Ice And Fire and as this is one of the best series I have ever read, I thought I'd write a review and post it for potential future readers. Since I made the mistake of reading some of the reviews on here and unfortunately came across a massive spoiler which ruined a huge plot development for me at the end of A Dance With Dragons (book 5) pt2 I will try and make my review as succinct and spoiler-free as possible.
Book 1 - A Game Of Thrones
I would watch the television series to get yourself better acquainted with the characters. The book has been done more than justice in the TV series and at first read it's quite tedious to try and get to grips with the Houses of Westeros and all the political intricacies. A good book though, with the first of many OH MY GOD that didn't just happen moments at the end.
Book 2 - A Clash Of Kings
Read this on holiday and couldn't put it down. The "sh.. hit the fan" well and truly after book 1 and Westeros turns into a free for all. Epic writing by Martin and his disregard for characters continue. Expect the unexpected. Also, the TV series season 2 does not do the book justice in the same way as season 1. You'll want to read this book.
Book 3 - A Storm Of Swords
The first of Martin's books split into two in paperback (these are the versions I read). By far the best book of the series so far. I laughed, I cried, I threw my book on the floor of the bus cursing. Possibly one of my top 5 favourite books of all time simply because of the sheer brilliant writing and subsequent emotion it provoked.
Book 4 - A Feast For Crows
From one of the best books I've ever read to one of the worst. Be warned, this books makes for dreary reading and feels like another Book 1 in the middle of an already richly developed series. Tens of new characters and multiple new family lines get introduced and I found myself reading out loud in the manner of "blah blah blah get to the point" many times. However, these families end up playing a key role later, and there are a few gems in here as you will get the point of view of some characters which opens up a whole new dimension to the story. Stick through it, it will be worth it I promise.
Book 5 - A Dance with Dragons
Also split into two paperbacks, Martin returns to form with the 5th instalment and brings back the old characters we loved from books 1-3. Just remember not to love them too much; no one is safe under Martin's pen. No one. The book is not quite on the level of book 3, but absolutely brilliant compared to book 4 and actually a lot of the new stuff from 4 slots into the previously built storylines. The book builds up nicely towards the end where you'll have a few OH MY GOD moments yet again, but this time you will have no other book to order from Amazon to see what happens next. Not yet anyway.
On balance I would give the series 5 stars but because of book 4 I simply can't and it gets 4. Hopefully a review update after the 6th and 7th book it will all make sense and I will reconsider. That being said I realise and have made my peace with the fact that I will be much older by the time the 7th and final book is published and might not even remember how to write a review... Until such time I can only envy you, the person who is yet to embark on this journey. Enjoy!
250 of 264 people found the following review helpful
on 3 July 2002
Suffice to say, from the top marks I'm awarding this book (and the whole series thus far) I found it to be an excellent read. No, that's insufficient, this is not only the best written Fantasy series (by far surpassing Tolkien in my opinion) I've read, it's almost certainly the most enjoyable book of ANY kind.
The writing style is intelligent and treats the reader accordingly, which is a refreshing change in the Fantasy genre, and the sheer bloody-mindedness of the plot subverts every preconception the reader may have while maintaining the traditional escapist elements familiar from 'lesser' works. The world of Fire and Ice is so fully realised it's hard to keep track of the history and vast array of characters but Martin guides you through it effortlessly and seems to have known from the first line exactly what is going to happen in every subsequent paragraph. His attention to detail is almost scary. The series also (incredibly) manages to improve with subsequent readings as the reader gets to grips with the innumerable plot developments and realises that the most unexpected of events was probably sign-posted ten chapters back.
One note of caution to prospective buyers however is that despite it's Fantasy trappings this is NOT a series suitable for children. Mr Martin does not shy away from explicit descriptions of horrific violence and sex and the language is frequently of the four-letter variety. Equally disturbing is the brilliant realisation of the multitude of characters in these books where the 'Heroes' prove capable of horrendous atrocities and the 'Villains' sometimes act with compassion and honour. And these characters can DIE; If a situation looks likely to be fatal, chances are it will be, which is almost unique in an on-going series and means every violent encounter is almost excrutiatingly tense.
So, not for the faint-hearted but certainly a series that sets entirely new standards for fiction, Fantasy or otherwise.
243 of 257 people found the following review helpful
on 30 May 2011
As advertised, this is an incredibly good book - believe all the hype and purchase it immediately!
My one gripe is the format of the Kindle edition which is literally covered with typos e.g. 'Tf' for 'It', 'boh' for 'both' and quite frequently 'bum' or 'bumed' for 'burn' or 'burned'.
My suggestion, as this sort of poor quality production detracts from George Martin's text, is to purchase the hardcopy and forego the Kindle. You'll likely be pleased, as I imagine (in the hardcopy) that candles won't be 'buming' anything.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 1998
I picked this up in vain search of something to keep me entertained while travelling home for a weekend (I'm a college student). After almost putting the book down because Jordan reviewed it, I read the beginning and was hooked. I love middle-ages style fantasy, and almost died when I realized that that was what I was in for...it's been too long since I've found a book like this. Recently, I've been depressed over reading the supposed great "Wheel of Time" series, that I found boring and slow to the point of comatose...this book was a welcome reprieve. I haven't been this thrilled by a first novel since Feist's "Magician:Apprentice", Goodkind's "WFR", and Friedman's "Black Sun Rising".
The many characters and shifting viewpoints were wonderful, I got insights into the different characters and they seemed as human as possible, unlike some books. Nobody is perfect, and I can't wait to get my hands on the sequal to see what happens next. What is wonderful is that you don't know who is going to be the lead character, and I'm waiting anxiously to see who will survive.
88 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2006
I started reading these books on a recommendation from a friend. To be honest I hardly read books anymore, I never really found the time. But almost as soon as I started AGOT I was hooked and made time.
George R. R. Martin opens you up to a vast new world he has created with amazing characters that you will grow to love and hate (and even learn to love the ones you first hated). His in-depth analysis of the main characters is staggering and he takes you places other fantasy authors don't tread.
The next books in the story build upon the characters, and bring more into the fold. It's such an immense series that GRRM has needed 70 pages of appendix to mention just the major households (70 pages as of A Feast For Crows, it's a little shorter in A Game Of Thrones). It's a wonder how he keeps track of them all.
I throughly enjoyed reading this book and the others in the series so far. I would recommend them to anyone.
63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2004
Forget Jordan, give up on Goodkind. This series is absolutely amazing, everything you want from a fantasy series. The characters are so real, you laugh and cry with them. Martin isn't afraid to kill off central characters either, so you anxiously anticipate who is going to survive each plot turn, which gives an edge to the writing that Eddings, Goodkind and Jordan et al could well learn a lesson from. Bloody, sexual, uncompromising, and realistic, I've just read the first four books of the series back to back over the space of a week - I've done no housework, or shopping, my daily papers for the last week are sitting in an unread pile and the kids are unwashed and feeling neglected. Yes, it is that good. And the best thing of all about it is that the story is planned over six books, book 5 out in April, so there is an end in sight unlike some long-running series' I could mention, and I know when I've read the last book I will mourn for the end of the best fantasy world out there to date.
Buy the books, get in the Pot Noodles, take the phone off the hook and send the kids away for a week. Really.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2013
Was really looking forward to reading this, but I have to admit I stopped and started with it about 3 or 4 times... got approx. 50% of the way through and then finally called it quits. I just couldn't seem to get into the story, I think because there was just too many of them all going on at the same time, switching from here to there, one lot of characters to another - it was just too much for me to keep up with. So many long names of families and kings and quenns of here and there and children and cousins , I often couldn't remember who was who and would try skip back on my kindle to remind myself and couldnt find the page... It was an effort to read and not a very enjoyable story for me up to the point I got to anyway...
So many people have raved about how good a book it is I'm really dissapointed I got so bored with it and couldn't even read until the end... I never half reads books ever! Perhaps I'll try again sometime ..
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 2009
Its a little difficult to talk about this book on its own, its part of a series and so the series should be dealt with.
This is an excellent story, well written and nicely paced. For that George rr Martin deserves 5 stars. Now he's simply having a laugh. Let me explain, A game of thrones is book one of a projected, and I stress PROJECTED, series of seven books. So far we have a game of thrones, a clash of kings, a storm of swords (split into two books in Europe), and a feast for crows. A feast for crows, a book in which only half of the characters in the series were included, was released in 2005. At that time we were told by the author that he had alot of the following book (titled a dance with dragons) already written and it would be along he 'devoutly hoped', next year (2006). Here we are four years later and nothing....Zilch. It should be noted that this means it is almost ten years since we have read about half of the characters in the series up to a storm of swords. Yep ten years!!!! I sincerly hope the next installment is the classic we are all waiting for, will the book be given the status it will surely deserve? Heller spent seven to eight years writing Catch 22, that book gets the praise it deserves. Will a dance with dragons???
In short, its a great read, the entire series so far is. BUT.... be forewarned!!!!! If I had my time over I would not begin this series until the author has completed it. I recommended it to my other half recently, and I'm sorry I did, she is reading it in Polish language, which is excellent, nothing is lost in translation. I'm just sorry she will have to wait even longer for the next edition in Polish, although by the time 'dance' is in the shops she'll probably be well able for the english editoin. Completing the series seems like the last thing Mr Martin intends doing at the moment, thats a pity.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2012
I'm a twenty-something female and a fan of the twilight and hunger games books. I wanted to get stuck into a new series of fantasy books and none came more highly recommended than the song of ice and fire series. When starting game of thrones i expected to be hooked after reading the first few pages, as so many reviewers said they had been, but instead i found myself wanting to give up and move onto something else entirely. I really struggled with the first 100 or so pages. This was mainly because of the introduction of what seemed like at least 100 characters. I found it so hard to keep up with who was who and it wasn't helped by the fact that many of the characters had complex names that were hard to read, let alone remember. The index of characters at the back of the book did help but i was still often left confused.
The biggest tip i can give to anyone about to read this book is to watch the first one or two episodes of the HBO series. This greatly helped me to get to grips with who each character was, and helped me to better understand the story lines i had been confused about. Once the initial confusions of all the introductions was over, i really started to enjoy the book and it began to turn into the page turner i hoped it would be. I came so close to giving up this book and i'm so glad that i didn't. Persevere through the confusing and slightly dull beginning and you won't regret it.