GAMES OF THRONES IS A GOOD READ, IF YOU HAVE THE TIME
I heard a lot about the A Game of Thrones series before I finally decided to give it a try. It was one of those things, like ‘Gangnam Style’, Once Upon a Time, and The Avengers, which popped up simultaneously in recommendations from friends, and although I put it on the to-read list, I wasn’t overly excited by the prospect. Epic fantasy is always a commitment. With thousand-page books, ridiculously large sets of characters, and entire world sagas worth chronicling, sitting down to read an epic fantasy series can take a month or more, so I begin them with caution. Until this winter break, A Game of Thrones was pretty low on my list.
Then the first novel showed up under the Christmas tree, so I figured, Why not? I had all of Christmas break to finish it; I assumed I’d be done with the series by the time school started again, burned out on epic fantasy for a while and ready for textbooks once again. How naive I was.
I’m on the fourth book now (there are five books in the series so far, with at least two forthcoming), and while I wasn’t wrong with any of my preconceptions—the series is horridly long, there are enough characters that I periodically forget who’s who, and the geography is almost a plot device in itself—A Game of Thrones has, over the course of the last few weeks, managed to catapult itself to the top of my list of worth-reading epic fantasies. From world- building to characters to simple narrative grace, this is a series to contend with the best.
The world is intriguing, a medieval-style kingdom with eight-hundred-foot-tall walls of ice, gods whose faces are in trees, and bizarre castles built in strange places (One is clinging to the upper spire of a mountain; the “Sky Door” is exactly what it sounds like, and “flying” is only slightly euphemistic). One of the most interesting differences between Martin’s world and ours is the fact that the seasons operate on a very long period, and it’s been summertime for years. Winter is coming, though, as the characters from the northern reaches of the realm are fond of saying. Winter is coming—and chances are, I’ll be there to see it when it comes. This series has me well and truly hooked.
The main reason for my interest lies not with the world, though, but with the characters. Every one of them is a real person, not narrative devices. The cast consistently denies the labels applied to it. While the stock characters of fantasy do appear in A Game of Thrones, none is quite what he seems. There are quite a few princesses, but only one of them is the demure, Rapunzel-esque child protecting her maidenhead of fairy tales and myth, and in what I’ve read so far, she’s been betrothed four times (and never for her superior needlework skills), married to one of the most universally-hated characters in the realm, spirited away by a jilted suitor of her mother, and held captive in a castle that’s almost literally a tower. Only in this tower is she beginning to realize that relying on princes to save her is a good way to get raped, abused, or married for birthright alone, depending on the prince. The beautiful queen could hold her own in a competition for the craziest character in the series, the strongest swordsman is also the most emotionally scarred, the ugliest is the most intelligent, and in the critical moment, the forces of good frequently fail. I’ve given up on predicting the twists and turns of Martin’s plots. Suffice to say that absolutely everyone is fair game for comedy and tragedy both, and a happy ending is not by any means guaranteed.
A Game of Thrones is one of the most masterful series I’ve read in a long time. It’s truly worth the time commitment involved in opening the first book...although I must admit, I’m still not done. Who knows—maybe, if I keep pushing through I’ll be done by finals. I’m not holding my breath, though.