A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin book review

I reviewed A Game of Thrones back in 2021 quite early on after I started this blog – since then I’ve done a reread and decided I want to give it another crack. I wrote my review based on memories of about two years after I’d read the book. This updated review is based on a reread I finished literally days ago.

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A Game of Thrones is the first book in the epic A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin – if you’ve not heard of it then I imagine you’ve been living under a rock. The book series has been turned into arguably the biggest television series ever made – pioneering the way of not only fantasy TV series but large-budget fantasy TV series.

A Game of Thrones introduces us to the land of Westeros and its families, cultures and political goings-on. It introduces us to the Lannisters, the Starks and the Targaryens and other families throughout Westeros.

Plot – 4.5/5

You can’t really describe what happens in A Game of Thrones as it’s so long that many things happen. Essentially everything starts off quite calm, controlled and peaceful, however, a large secret comes to light and things start to spiral out of control. Old friends become enemies and the peace is eventually broken, causing the land of Westeros to become as unbalanced as it has been for decades.

On top of this, there are whisperings of dark creatures and beings not seen for hundreds of years being seen by travellers, suggesting other things are at unrest beyond “the wall” too. it’s all very interesting and exciting to read. It’s a storyline with lots of twists and turns where Martin isn’t afraid to kill of the characters you like or keep those you dislike alive.

George R.R. Martin does an incredible job of throwing us around to different characters involved in different plot points but making us feel at the same time that they’re all connected. Despite being a book that focuses on different points of view, you feel like you’re following one continent move at the same time.

Characters – 5/5

When I first read A Game of Thrones, I had no perspective as to what makes well-written characters or not. George R.R. Martin has carved some truly fantastic characters in this book. He could have taken the easy fantasy option of having “a chosen one” and the main villain but instead, he’s developed families, genuine relationships, flawed heroes and detestable characters. There’ll be characters in this book who you can’t help but have respect for and others for who you spend your time hoping to meet an unfortunate end.

Tyrion is probably my favourite character – as he is many. He’s smart, witty, and sometimes rude but has a very strict moral compass. Tyrion is a dwarf and his life has seen his lack of height make him feel that he must make up for it with a sharp mind. There’s an argument here that because he’s the smartest, this makes him make some of the best and wisest decisions.

What I love about many of the characters is that nearly all of their actions are steeped in reason. Joffrey for example makes cruel and awful decisions because he is young, naive and has no idea how to rule. He believes ruling by force is the best way as it seems the easiest way to get people to obey you. However, I can see in the future how this might fail him.

There are copious amounts of other characters I’m looking forward to seeing the rise and fall of too. Yes, I’ve watched a couple of series of the TV series, but I’m still excited to read about them all as I imagine the books portray them differently. In fact, I know this to be even more true in the latter books.

Summary – 5/5

A Game of Thrones is the best opening book to a fantasy series you’ll find. It has become a sensation for a reason – the TV series is brilliant, yes. But the first book is probably better. You get such a great feeling of grandeur but also a really personal feeling from some of the characters. One moment you’re learning of great wars, deep histories and long legacies and the next you’re sitting by a campfire as Tyrion Lannister tells Jon Snow why he reads so many books. It’s an epic in every sense of the word and is, without a doubt, an absolute must for any fantasy fan and even those who don’t think fantasy is their bag.

One thought on “A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin book review

  • Grunchy

    I found the first 3 books in a “little neighborhood library” on the sidewalk yesterday, so I figured “why not” and grabbed them. So far I have read the prologue from the first book, in which there are 3 characters: Gared (in his 50s, 40 years of which serving in the Night’s Watch), Will (caught poaching and drafted 4 years prior to the Night’s Watch), and Ser Waymar Royce, 18 years old lordling heir and commander of this latest ranging in pursuit of some wildlings who are leading them further and further north. Will had just returned from tracking the wildlings 2 miles from their present location, seen they were all dead, and returned to the group. Gared figured they had died from the cold (he himself lost both ears and some fingers and toes from some previous exposure), but Royce asks Will about the Wall; Will says it had been “weeping” meaning it wasn’t possibly cold enough to kill the wildlings. So Royce demands they go to see, remarks that Gared had been “unmanned” by fear of the dark for his insistence on building a fire, and Gared barely holds himself back from murdering Royce then and there. Then Royce and Will go to see the dead wildlings, only now there are none left, just one weapon (a valuable war ax) and Royce instructs Will to climb up a tree to see what he can. Meanwhile some ghostly foe comes and approaches Royce with some kind of magic sword. Will sees more ghosts coming but fears to shout a warning since he is sure to die. Royce and the ghost have a duel, Royce gets hit by the ghostly sword and it cuts him through his mail armor, he charges and hits the ghost sword with all his might, but his own steel sword shatters into a zillion pieces. All the ghosts advance and chop him up and then they all disappear somewhere. Will eventually climbs down and recovers Royce’s broken hilt for evidence, but before he can leave Royce rises up and is towering over him, and strangles him dead, too.

    I have a few issues with this first scene, which are: why is Royce ignoring his more experienced companion’s better advice, and why are his companions daft enough to let Royce out-reason them about the cold, and how can Will climb up a tree and none of the ghosts can see him up there, and how can Royce shatter a steel broadsword at all, he must have superhuman strength to possibly do that, and why does he come back to life and strangle Will out?

    I’m reading this story and already I’m appalled at how sloppily it is written and how uninteresting it is. I think I’m like Gared, I have half a mind to throw these books out and find something better.

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