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on 31 August 2015
**4.5 Stars**

I started reading this after season 5 had finished, so I already knew what to expect but that didn't take anything away from the story. Although I'm already a GOT fan, this had me hooked from start to finish. It didn't matter that I knew what was going to happen or to whom, I still found myself shedding a tear at certain scenes, getting angry with certain characters, and falling in love with others.

George R.R. Martin's writing is fluid, and I found it very difficult to put the book down. I even ended up taking it to work with me, just so I could read a chapter during my coffee break! The only reason I haven't given it 5-stars is because of the list of names that gets reeled off from time-to-time, when I know that they're not going to make a reappearance. I found them unnecessary and on occasion I became confused as to who was who, despite having seen the series.

This is definitely one of those books that is better than the TV series - you learn a lot more about the characters, a lot more back story and history, and I found myself becoming more attached to them. I've now started reading Book 2, and would highly recommend any historical fantasy fan to pick this series up.
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on 7 October 2016
Like a good chunk of people, I started reading the ASoIaF series because of the TV show based on the books. When I started watching it, s3 was just released on DVD and yeah, I fell in love with it so much I needed to buy the books. They sat on my bookshelf for so damn long (the sheer length scaring me into not picking them up) before I decided to start the series.

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.
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on 14 July 2018
After falling in love with Game of Thrones Season 1 on the TV I had to rush out and buy the book, only to find that the book was even greater than the TV series. I then proceeded to read the entire published series. These are mighty works of fiction. Obviously there is more sub-plot in the books than you get on the TV show and you have to accept that both books and TV shows have lives of their own and so one is not an exact copy of the other. What you probably won't be ready for is the amount of emphasis that GRRM places on describing all the food the characters eat, from solitary breakfasts to the huge feasts. God, if Sansa ate what she is described as eating for breakfast then there is no way that she would be the slim girl she is in the TV show, lol! Also there is an obsession with heraldry as well, the shields and the mottos of all the retainers and the lords in the kingdom. If you loved the TV show, then you will love the book.
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on 30 March 2016
Wow! What a book. This was a bit of a gamble for me, as I don't tend to read fantasy-based books. Generally speaking, I like a good crime novel or thriller, but with all the hype surrounding the Game of Thrones TV show, I wanted to dip into the first book in the series and see if it was worth reading. It really took some time for me to adjust to the idea that the plot wouldn't be wrapped up within 300 pages like many novels. In fact, after 300 pages of this book, the plot was only just beginning to take shape. Another 500 pages later and I was ready for Book 2!

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.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 June 2015
There is absolutely no denying that A Game of Thrones has become an international phenomenon - its is a rich tale of fantasy inspired by historical events such as The War of the Roses which sees several powerful houses wrestling for control of the Iron Throne and the rule of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. And just when we think we know what is going on George R. R. Martin has a habit of pulling the rug from under us and killing of major characters in who we are deeply invested. The world they inhabit is not friendly, the good guys do not always win, and everyone is vulnerable and unsafe. This reflects real life rather than typical heroic fantasy, and the story is more credible for it.

As befits such a rich tale the audio book is immense - uncut - spanning 28 cds.That said, the narrator Roy Dotrice has tried to bring the many participants to life and given voices and accents to the various characters. In some cases this works such as obese and obsequious Illyrio Mapothis. In other cases he totally defies logic or common sense - Robert Baratheon sounds like a humbug sucking old grandad and Tyrion Lannister with a Yorkshire accent sounding like Compo from Last of the Summer Wine? And in a chapter at the wall I swear he becomes Welsh/Irish. All this despite the fact that neither his brother or sister have similar accents. If you have seen the fabulous performance from Peter Dinklage in the television series this will grate and irritate and most probably make you cringe throughout the Tyrion passages where he talks of reading "booooooks" and oggling after Nora Batty's stockings. For me it is an absolute blight on the box set after hearing the definitive delivery of dialogue in the tv series.

Had he just given a straight reading this would have been a 5 star review. As it is the ridiculous voices detract from the listeners enjoyment and it deserves only 3 at best.
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on 27 July 2013
Where do I even begin in a review of A Game of Thrones, the first book in George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga? Thousands upon thousands of reviews have been written of these books, and my review probably echoes a lot of what has already been said. George R R Martin is, in my opinion, one of those rare authors who gets everything right.

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.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 July 2018
I am obsessed with the Game Of Thrones TV series. Since there was no series this year, I was heartbroken. I thought I would start the books! I brought this and immediately I was hooked, now I don’t normally like reading a book after I’ve watched the series or film. But, I know the book does differ from the series a bit. The book I’m finding more better! Although I’ve only finished the first one; I’m hooked instantly, where I wasn’t when watching the first TV series. The book is beautifully and cleverly written. It is an intense page turner, and you literally struggle to put it down! This has filled the void that the TV series left. 10/10, can’t wait to start the second book.
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on 29 June 2016
Liked the show and wanted to read the book to see the writing style of the author and the different layers of the story, as the book is always richer than a show. So if you wish to learn more than what has developed through the show's story-line,then definitely have a read. However, if you watched the show the book obviously can get a bit dull. On the upside you get better understanding of each individual character, their thoughts, backgrounds and motivations so it can definetely enrich your show viewing experience.
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on 8 March 2017
The first TV series followed the book quite closely so to an extent I've had spoilers. However if anything it helped. In normal circumstance I would have had to make notes on who is who so I could follow it, but the TV series made it a lot easier.

The style flows smoothly, adding a fair bit of depth to the story. I am surprised just how much I enjoyed reading it.
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on 14 September 2017
This is reading pleasure on a grand scale, about 800 pages of it. The variety of characters, lands and exploits is staggering. In fact the most difficulty for a reader is keeping track of all the varied personalities and their interrelationship to the general scheme, but fear not for at the back of the book there is a large section where such matters are detailed. No wonder this inventive fictional writing spawned the blockbuster TV series. In fact it is a good companion to that series.
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