on 4 January 2011
There really isn't anything I can say about A Game of Thrones, that someone hasn't already said, no doubt with more eloquence than I can muster. But I feel compelled to write a review anyway. I have been reading fantasy on and off since I was in my early teens, more off than on of late, but recently I read a series of novels by Brent Weeks called the Night Angel trilogy, which I thoroughly enjoyed. They were a good, solid read, with some very interesting ideas regarding magic. Good characters and plot. Upon recommending them to a cousin he suggested I try George R. R. Martin's, A Song of Ice and Fire. This book being the first of that series. Immediately I was hooked, but more importantly I noticed the difference between a good book and a great one!
Martin is a cut above most people writing in this well worn genre today. It helped that it was something different to what I was used to. It's dark and gritty like David Gemmells books but with an infinitely more complex plot. Don't let the complexities concern you though, Martin has the rare gift of being able to spin a complex web of intrigue, lies, deceipt, murder and political machinations whithout allowing the reader to become lost or confused.
The world that Martin has created is as vast, as complex, as detailed and as captivating as any I have ever encountered. You just know that the author has written pages, most likely thousands of pages of back story, that we will never read, just to ensure that what we do read seem authentic.
As many others have commented in their own reviews, one of the most endearing things about this series of books is that while in the beginning you will most certainly side with the "good guys" it doesn't take long to realise that no one is neccessarily good or bad. The author is a master of character creation and development and more than once had me changing my mind about my feelings towards certain characters. I suppose what he does, with such skill, is to bring these characters to life. No one, after all is absolutely evil, nor indeed is anyone the embodiment of good.
To tell a story so vast, so complex, with characters that are so real and somehow for it all to make sense, to be able to put the readers through some sort of emotional wringer, keeping them on the edge of their seats all the way through this series so far, speaks volumes.
Considering I wasn't going to say much I seem to have done the opposite. Perhaps that in itself is an indication of the brilliance of this book and it's author.
on 21 October 2010
Wow what a fantastic book, I wonder how I missed it for so long. This is certainly not the standard fantasy book, whereby there is a hero that rushes in and saves the day. This is gritty and brutal with many of the characters, even the "good" ones being flawed and capable of underhand deeds. And this book is full of those.
It is not an easy read though. The opening chapters I found to be quite hard at times, with many characters introduced along with a lot of back ground very quickly. Getting to grips with the various individuals and their interaction with one another was quite difficult at first. The author addresses this in quite a novel way though, by simply starting each chapter with the name of the main characters in it. Once I got to grips with the main characters and their relationships with one another the story unfolds seamlessly.
There are moments of high tension, brutality, naivety and even moments of compassion. All parts are played out beautifully. This is not a story of heroes or villain's just men and women scheming for power.
There are hints at something beyond the boundaries, beyond "the wall" that is being unleashed, something dreadful and fearful. But all eyes are firmly focussed on the internal wars rather than the external threat not just from the North but from overseas also. The stirring evil in the north plays a very small role in this book. There are no trolls, elves or even wise old wizards at play here but there are hints at a growing force that could well take centre stage in later books.
All in all an excellent read and I look forward to starting the second book.
on 19 July 1998
As a fantasy reader of somewhat high standards, I have always had a proclivity for "epic" fantasy. Nothing else really satisfies my desire for an absorbing story. George R.R. Martin has, with this book, taken the field dominated by such giants as Jordan, Williams, and Kay and blown a great big gust of fresh air into it. Not only does this book have the complicated plot and intricate character development that is common to these three talented authors, but it has a certain brutal realism to it. Granted, we're talking about an invented realm, but never before in all the books that I have read has any author taken his portrayal of all the brutality of human nature to this level. Part of what makes Jordan, Williams, and Kay so brilliant is that they write *human* characters, and good and bad are rarely well delineated. What sets Martin apart is his sheer, brutal, mind-numbing honesty. He doesn't pull any punches, and neither do any of his characters. This ! is life, in all its pain and glory. Honor is not as important as we would like it to be, and things do not all go well as long as we wish for it hard enough. Here, there is no destructive force stronger than the power of men. There is no evil greather than that in the hearts of men. And there is no power, once man has decided to destroy, that can stop him. This novel is a masterpiece; beautifully crafted, shockingly realistic, and a joy to read. However, don't expect to come out of reading this with your ideals intact.
on 25 February 1999
I am a middle-aged woman of 46 who had never read any fantasy literature other than The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings many years ago, until I was introduced to the genre by my teenage son some 6 years ago or so.
Since then I have read many of the books in the genre as my son pushed them on me - Eddings, Feist, Jordan, Brooks, to name just a few, and overall I have enjoyed them.
This book, however, I picked out on my on back in the summer of 1997, and when I began reading it I could not put it down. I have enjoyed many fantasy books and series, especially Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, but they all seem like trivial kiddie literature compared to A Game of Thrones. I cannot remember the last time a book has gripped me so. I could not put it down. The book is certain dark and violent, but not gratuitously so - it was a dark and violent age and land. The characters are marvelous, the story line complex and fascinating. My only regret is how long I have had to wait for the sequel.
When I read the first book I thouht it was the first of 3, but now I hear it is to be the a 6-book series. I'll be old and white-haired by the time I finish! The only book I have read which has affected me like this is Frank Herbert's Dune which I first read at age 13 back in 1965, and have reread probably a dozen times since then. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, but it is not for the squeamish or prudish.
on 6 April 2003
Anyone who has read a lot of fantasy knows how each book tends to meld into another until, on looking back, you realise that you've lose track of exactly what characters are in which book, where they live, and what's going on. Every now and then though, you find an author who somehow manages to make you feel a closeness to the characters, and a geniune fascination in their lives. It's this that makes a fantasy novel or series stand out - and which means you may just remember it a few months after reading it! Despite having been reading fantasy for years, I neglected George R.R. Martin when A Game of Thrones first came out, and have continued to do so until a few days back. I now discover my mistake. The novel is superbly written, the characters diverse and original, and despite it's seemingly typical fantasy plot - political battles, a bit of magic here and there, honour, betrayal etc etc - Martin's approach leads me to believe I will not only remember, but come back to re-read his series when a few months have passed me by. Excuse me, must go buy the second book....
on 25 March 2016
Book arrived fast, but not i so "good" contidion as discribed. Has dirty spot, also scratches (looks like from dog). Book was a bit wet inside of the envelope and it has a spot from water on a last ~30 pages +curled pages
on 20 January 2004
I must admit I've never heard of this author before, I stumbled over this book at my local bookstore. When
I don't know anything about a book but the title somehow
catches my interest I usually read the first lines and see
if I'am caught or not and oh was I hooked from the very
beginning. After a few more chapters I ordered the rest
of the books thru amazon. Never before have I read such
mindboggling story with its twists and turns, I like the complexity of its characters, this is not the tolkienesque good guys versus evil guys but rather the not-so-bad guys
against or sometimes with the not-so-good guys.
Among all those rivaling factions you find people you like or hate, you develope certain emotional relationships toward
those characters as ambivalent and complex as the whole
story. You suffer with them, you hate with them, you love
I also like the language, you rarely encounter "Camelotian" babble like in so many Holywood productions
out of the fifties, it's all down to earth with just enough
medivial lingo to get you immersed in the world of noble
knights and fair maidens and evil villains as we know it and
sometimes it is downright vulgar which helps to get the
message thru and makes the charakters all the more
credible. I am halfway thru the books now and if there
ever was a page-turner, this is it.
on 11 December 2005
This book (and indeed, the books that follow in this series) easily rank as the best books I have read in the fantasy genre, even the best books I have read full stop.
The story is very complex, there are a multitude of characters which you can easily get lost in, but the core focus is on three groups of familys - The Starks, Lannisters and Targaryens, and their journeys to achieve what they desire. Each and every character is fleshed out masterfully, and you will find you opinion of them changing as you continue to read.
George R. R. Martin is an extremely accomplished writer. The action never gets bogged down with long-winded descriptive passages, and he manages to keep the plot flowing quickly while still delivering a huge amount of information to the reader. It becomes apparant there is a lot of backstory to events that we are unaware of, but much of this is told to us gradually through dialogue and character's inner monologues. It won't take long for readers to work out what "ser" or "taking the black" means.
The book is divided into chapters which are each written from a specific characters point of view, a technique which works very well.
The biggest praise I can give these books are the actual story itself - it never does what you would expect, and there are twists, turns and shocks galore. Characters get killed off with no warning, their dialogue is superb, many of them display cunning and evil like no other I've read of.
The book is full of swearing, graphic violence and sex that may put people off, but for me just established it as an adult story written for adults, which I enjoyed thoroughly and can't recommend enough.
on 29 September 1997
This is a wicked, wicked book. Not only does it leave you just ITCHING for the next installment, it makes whatever book you read directly afterwards seem shallow and unfulfilling. Martin's characterizations are profound, his plotlines are intricate, and he manages to somehow make plot twists both totally surprising and perfectly logical.
At first, I was somewhat hesitant about giving this book my highest marks; it appeared to be falling into fantasy's most common pitfall. You know what I'm talking about -- the 'good guys' in fantasy tend to be shining and pristine, and the 'bad guys' are evil in every way. That's how it honestly looked for a while, but Martin soon pulled out of that particular nosedive. In the end, the book was more a tale of people fighting for their conflicting goals than outright good versus outright evil. (Other books which are exceptional in this respect are Guy Gavriel Kay's _Tigana_, where you never know who to root for, and of course Tad Williams' "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn" series.)
I'm tempted to advise an interested reader to wait until the series is completed before they begin on the first book, but it's just so darn good you might as well just dive right in and subject yourself to a painful wait.
on 25 August 1999
This is the first 5 star review I have ever given on Amazon.com and it is one richly deserved. Martin, an excellent wordsmith, has crafted a book that borrows the best from the fantasy genre while not falling into all its traps and cliques. Above all, it is a grim and gritty tale that eschews the romanticism of a fairy tale. Magic is spare but profound when seen.
Creating a rich and textured world that breathes, lives, and snatches you up the author writes above most in his or other genres. The last time I read a fantasy book so grand it had "The Eye of the World" stamped across it. All the magic of those early Jordan books was invoked in this reading.
Great characters with all their flaws and quirks were presented and soon they become alive. Reviled or loved, you will come to know them and bless or curse their actions or want to fold them in your arms and brush away their tears. Often I was moved by what happened to them, honestly caring. Often I stared at disbelief at the page and at some twists.
This is a highly recommended book. Some may be offended by language, violence, and sexuality but it never seems gratitous. It is a world both fantastic and real and that makes for the best in this genre.