Series: A Song of Ice and Fire #1
Pub date: July 2011
Source: Personal copy
Narrator: Roy Dotrice
Length: 33 hrs and 53 mins
Not another review for A Game of Thrones, you say? I agree – this blockbuster success that has also seen great success on the small screen probably doesn’t need another review. But since this blog is about my reading experience and the books I read and liked, I’m going to say my 2 bits.
The Starks of Winterfell are preparing for a long winter. But King Robert of the Seven Kingdoms has other plans for Ned Stark. Ned has been asked to be the King’s Hand – in this role he will speak for the King and help him run the kingdom. Although all Ned wants is to stay in Winterfell with his family, he takes on the position and goes with King Robert and joins his court. There he is enmeshed in some twisted politics and has to be very nimble to keep him and his family safe.
This book and the series itself is rather intricate and epic in size, so summarizing it is very hard.
Narrated from the points of view of different characters, the story gets you right into the thick of things. I formed loyalties rather early on with some of the characters and this is one reason that I liked the book.
There are three main factions in the first book of the series: The Starks, Baratheon (the King), the Lannisters (the Queen and her family). There is also another faction – the original Kings of the land from whom Robert won (or stole) the throne.
While this is classified as fantasy, the first book of the series has a lot more court and political intrigue rather than magic. I was a little disappointed that all mention of fantasy and magic was in the past – as in stories about things and people that existed that have now become old wives’ tales. The characters are to an extent largely stereotypes, but with the huge canvas that Martin is playing with, this is rather to be expected. Some of the characters break the mold – they are not necessarily good or evil and the reader can’t tell what their motive could be. On the whole, the epic nature of the series and the characters make this worth a read/listen.
Martin has set up a lot intrigue and mystery – many questions need to be answered and some of the characters who became my favourites have a lot to do in order to resolve their lives.
In short, I really loved the first book of the series. The epic fantasy genre is one of my favourites. While the magic and adventure parts are always more interesting to me rather than political dealings and battles for thrones, the brilliantly large canvas of this story make this series (definitely the first book) a win for me.
I’m a big fan of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. (Still waiting for that last book, Sanderson.) So I know how the first book of the series can grab you and how subsequent volumes may not keep up. I’m hoping that the magic element becomes a bigger part of the series and that the characters show more shades of grey.
The audiobook: Roy Dotrice takes some getting used to. His style of reading with unexpected breaks and stops was a little annoying in the beginning, but I sort of got used to that. He does a brilliant job with the voices, though. I always find that an audiobook might be less intimidating when dealing with such a door-stopper of a book and a huge series. On the other hand, if like me, you like to know the spelling of names and see maps, you’d be better off reading it in print.
Definitely recommended. This is not a book for everyone, naturally and not even a book for all fans of fantasy. If you are planning to watch the series, though, I suggest you read/listen to the books before you watch the series. The audiobook is great fun to listen to and makes any long commute worth it. Starting this series means making a commitment (33 hours and 53 mins) – if you’re busy, it will take you a loooong time to complete it. I’m okay with that since that means there’s no waiting time between the books!
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