4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Put in the effort and you'll reap the rewards,
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This review is from: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) (Hardcover)
My fantasy credentials are nothing beyond the `norm' - The Hobbit, Narnia, Harry Potter etc with a little humorous fantasy thrown in, such as Robert Rankin and Douglas Adams. The point is - I'm not a hardcore fantasy fan and would never have picked up A Game of Thrones, had it not been for all the superlative reviews it gets. After all, 862 five-star reviews can't be wrong! However, having now finished the first book, I also get why there are 32 one-star reviews. The thing is ... A Game of Thrones is, in novel terms, the start of what is supposed to be a long relationship. This, the reader knows, is never going to be a tale that's done and dusted in one sitting (or one book).
If you go into GOT with this in mind, and view this first (albeit long) book as the set up for what's to come, I think it helps. I've not read the others yet - but I do believe that this series is going to get better and better. Yes, there's a huge cast of characters and many different POVs, with chapters alternating each time (and often taking a long while to return to a particular character) - however, this is clearly an epic tale. It's not for a lazy reader or someone who wants a quick read. Dare I say it (without wishing to offend anyone who didn't like it) but it requires a certain level of intelligence to stay with it and `get' it. That's not to say people who didn't like it aren't intelligent - but the novel does take some thought and input. Yes, you may have to flick to the end and remind yourself who certain characters are (the X-ray feature on Kindle comes in very handy for this). Yes, you might have to concentrate on the history a little. But it does pay off. This isn't a book that you can read in a semi mindless fug. You have to buy into it, engage with it and give it a bit of time and effort.
You will NOT reach the end of the book and feel satisfied in any way. It is NOT a stand-alone book. But anyone coming to it surely knows that - there are 7 books so far in the series, they're all like doorstops, so this first novel is only going to touch on what's to come.
Turning to the fantasy element ... personally, I found this to be more like an historical novel. It could almost be true. As others have mentioned, the fantasy elements (at least in book one) are very vague and not in the forefront of the action. This reads more like a mediaeval tale of knights and kings and battles. There are hints of supernatural and dragons which are clearly going to become more present as the series progresses. However, don't be put off of this book if you think it's pure fantasy.
So, did I enjoy the book? Yes - to the extent that I think this is something you need to invest time in (on-going) to reap the rewards. I appreciate the sheer genius behind the plotting. To plot one novel must be hard enough - to plot seven with such a huge cast is the work of a literary giant. The writing itself is very good - excellent in parts. My slight criticism of the novel is that there's no real pace to it - it all sort of trundles along at the same speed. There are no cliff-hangers or sudden increases in pace. But, again, in the great scheme of things, this whole novel is sort of akin to chapter 3 of a regular book! The world GRRM has created is immense and, like real life, it takes time for things to unfold. Many people gripe that favourite characters are killed off - and, even though I knew it was coming somewhere (that someone of import would be given the heave-ho), I was still shocked when it happened. I was delighted too. It made the book more real. It takes a brave writer to kill of strong characters - people they've invested time in developing and who are actually liked by the reader. It rarely happens - and, for that alone, the author has to be applauded. As Cersi comments in the novel - `When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die'. GRRM stands by his own `rules'. The book is gritty, violent and, despite the fantasy element, utterly believable. He brings you passion, intrigue, humour, compassion, violence, cunning and so much more - he serves you life on a plate and, like life, what you get isn't always what you wanted!
The main question, when concluding a book that's 800-odd pages long, is `will I read the next one?' Yes, I most certainly will. I have given GOT four-stars simply because it's not a stand-alone read. It doesn't `work' fully as a single book. It's unresolved - and, due to that, I can't give it five stars. But it is worthy of five stars and I know many people are retrospectively rating this series - which makes me think that it will get even better. However, for me personally, I can't give full marks to a story whose conclusion is still hanging because I still don't have the full picture. I am definitely looking forward to the next `chapter' in GOT though!