“A Game of Thrones” is founded on a solid base with a medieval type kingdom in turmoil, and all the big players in royal politics end up duking it out when the ascension of the prince to the throne is questioned. As far as fantastic elements, this book does not go over the top, but rather has it layered in nicely with magic not being front in center, but hiding underground with only a couple people with access to it. This makes the book accessible to those who are usually turned off by the elves, dwarfs, and wizards in traditional high fantasy. Martin also paints a very complex and vivid world that includes seasons (like winter or summer) that can last for decades on end as well as tribes of horse-riding warlords with a rich culture.
It is also clear that Martin is a master of weaving a complex plot that twists and turns through the lives of a vast array of characters that range in age from about ten to fifty, male and female, and gives the point of view of all sides of the conflict. Further more, each character is well developed to the point where they all have traits that both make them strong and weak at the same time. It’s refreshing to see somebody in the fantasy take the time to so diligently flesh out his characters.
However, there are too many characters and far too many character viewpoints to really get the reader fully invested in the book. By page 50 of the first book, I had read eight different points of view from different characters scattered across the world without once having the same viewpoint twice. This made it very difficult to get invested in the book when I wasn’t sure who the main character was, even though it turns out this book has about eight main characters.
And this leads to another problem. With eight points of view and 704 pages, we only get on average 88 pagers per main character. This book was essentially the first quarter of eight separate novels. For most novels, it usually takes about 75 to 100 pages for the first major plot point to hit and the story begins, and each of these separate story lines is no exception. This makes the book then lack much of a (or any) story arc for many of the characters as the journey has just really begun.
As a result, most of the characters undergo little or no change, and the plot really becomes almost like a listening to a history lecture (This book is said to be loosely based on the War of the Roses.) from an eloquent professor. It has it’s entertaining moments and there are a couple times when I found myself wanting to read another couple pages before I went to sleep because the story drew me in, but for the most part I kept going only because I wanted to get to the point where the story became good enough for an HBO series, but that never came.
Perhaps in book 2 or 3 or 4 it gets good, but I will probably not read those. While each of the 8 separate stories started out fine, that’s about all they managed to do. Martin just proved to me he knows how to open a novel 8 times and not that he can finish one. I for one and not about to read another 2600 pages to find out if his epic is going anywhere, and I do not recommend you invest your time in this book.
“The Game of Thrones” receives 2 out of 5 stars.