Preface: Spoiler Alert! This book review does contain spoilers. This is only my thoughts and feelings on this book and as such is open for disagreements. I highly advise you to read the book yourself and form your own opinion of the book. With that being said, I think this is the greatest fantasy written series ever! If you enjoyed this book review please like, share and follow!
So, A Game of Thrones! A highly interesting book series which has so many layers. What’s more, this book series by George RR Martin has generated one of the biggest television series of all time. The Game of Thrones series went on for 8 seasons for a period of 10 years. It featured some of the greatest actors on the planet now and served as a career starter for many of the other actors alive now who are the actors of the highest caliber. When season 8 of the Game of Thrones TV series was airing on HBO from the 8th April 2019 onwards, everyone I know was following each weekly episode. Discussions about each episode were all over different social media platforms (especially twitter, of course) and GOT was really the hot topic for a good few months.
I picked up the book series much earlier around the time period of late May 2018whilst I was in the thick of Ramadan. Around that time was when I also read the alchemist (I have mentioned this before in my book review of the alchemist, see the link below) and I decided to pick up and check out the GOT book series. The book was almost 700 pages long which meant that as soon I opened it up on my phone to read it on Ibooks, it translated as 1719 pages. Which was wild! After reading 700 pages I more or less stopped because I only had another thousand pages to go. So I just left it lingering around in my online library. 2 years later in the middle of lockdown in the year 2020 I was so bored and I had so much time that I thought now I can read the book. I did. It was worth it and one of the best decisions that I made that year.
What Attracted Me To This Book?
As I mentioned before, back in my younger days this was the ‘rave’. Everyone was talking about the TV series, it was trending everywhere, everybody wanted to check it out and it really did hit its height in the year 2019. Now, another TV show based on the prequel is being prepared now as well which will, no doubt, be trending everywhere as well. Especially with the fact that Matt Smith is acting in it. After watching the TV series I was amazed with the complexity of the story line, the attention to detail, the character depth of every single character and the amount of detail put into the book series by the author. I have never really come across a fantasy book series that has this much detail, it is easy to get lost in the world of the seven kingdoms. All of these factors pushed me towards reading the books.
The special thing about the presentation (aside from containing the title in caps like other books) was the hand of the sword on the front page of the book. Swords represent so many things and so does handles of swords. I wasn’t sure if the author was hinting at what swords represented or on what sword handles represented but I interpreted both of them. Swords represent power, authority, dominion, bravery, strength. Furthermore swords represent discrimination in some cases as well as penetrating the power of the intellect. Swords also represent knighthoods as well as chivalry. Perhaps (my thinking at the time) that this would be a story of all of those things mentioned above. Sure enough, it was. Throughout the story every single thing I listed above was within the story as well as mind battles.
In fact the different characters trying to penetrate each others minds (and outmaneuver) each other was more frightening to me than the actual battling. For example the mind games Cersei and Tyrion who were siblings was toxic to another indescribable level. A battle between both of them would have been less severe in my eyes. The sword handle or the hilt of the sword (which you can see in the cover of the book) represents safety, security and the process of guarding. These are all things (that I thought at the time) would be present in the book. This is because the hilt or handle of the sword is the first place that a soldier reaches to when they feel like they are in a moment of danger. Would this book contain love? Love between a parent and their child? Love between spouses? Love between friends? Love for someone’s country? Family values? Happy moments? Comedy? Sure enough, it did contain all of this.
The character depth was out of this world compared to other fantasy books that I have read. For example, lets take the main character of this book for example, Lord Eddard Stark whos also known as Ned. Ned Stark is the warden of the North, he is a proud man of the North as well as a father, husband and a loyal friend. He has love for the North, he has love for his wife, he has love for his children and he even loves his best friend the King. He also loves his values to the point that he has known for and has a reputation for being honorable. He loves his children more than anything else in the world and will do anything to defend his family. He would overthrow a kingdom to protect his family. He quite literally did that in the past. He overthrew the previous Targaryen dynasty when they killed his brother and father.
All of these aspects make him an incredibly complex person. All the different things that are in our lives as well as all of the different things we hold dear have a way of affecting our decisions and making us incredibly complex. Ned Stark might just appear from the outside like someone who is just trying to push the interests of his tribe. However, when you a different side of him when he is with his daughter we can see that he is more complex than someone who is “playing the game” but we can see that he someone who just loves his family, country and the values that he believes in. From his perspective, it is just that simple. The same can be said of Cersei. Most people might look at her and see a power hungry hateful person but power and weakness are opposite sides of the coin and love and hate are opposite sides of the same coin. Maybe, from Cersei’s perspective, she doesn’t want to be someone who wants power to protect all things she holds dear. In short, the hilt and sword represent so much.
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
When I read the first line of the blurb where it said “long ago” I was already interested because I love fantasy books that begin this way. This is because of the fact that it reminds me of ancient bed time tales that I was told as a child. The second line where it says “where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime” did confuse me. I imagined summers literally lasting decades and winters literally lasting a lifetime. In the third line the blurb says “sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdoms protective wall” I was definitely hooked. That’s because I imagined a typical kingdom protected by a wall followed by some sort of sinister evil forces gathering together against the kingdom.
The last line says (after describing the starks) that “this is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens” really made me start to imagine the life of the characters within the 7 kingdoms as well as the world that they are growing up. The blurb continues into a second paragraph which is important because most books have a small blurbs and sometimes the blurbs aren’t that spicy. Definitely not spicy enough for me to pick up. However, one the things that this author does well is that he extends this spicy interesting blurb and draws me in even more. The first line mentioned “an enigmatic band of warriors” who “bear swords of no human metal” as well as “a tribe of fierce wildlings” that “carry men off into madness”. What and who were these people? I’d have to read on to find out.
The second paragraph of the blurb continues to follow this mysterious way of describing the characters that are within the book. It goes on to mention “a cruel young dragon prince” who “barters his sister to win back his throne” as well as a “determined woman” who “undertakes the most treacherous of journeys”. These mysterious descriptions are so interesting that even now I want to re-read the book to find out what is going on despite the fact that I have already read the book. However, this interesting blurb doesn’t stop there. It continues. It mentions “Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.” By the time I was done reading the blurb I was heavily invested and ready to dive deep into this book.
It’s important to remember that the way the author has written this fantasy novel is unique. For every chapter is another character’s viewpoint of the current storyline. He chooses a select amount of characters and rotates constantly and as the story unfolds the readers get to see the same story line but from many different viewpoints. Eventually the characters do directly or indirectly cross paths but we can see the complexity of the story from this unique way of writing. Now I don’t know if the author is the first person to write a fantasy book in this way but I only know of this author writing in this specific way. I think this is ground breaking on its own because in life, we can all be going through the same events but those events can be effecting each of our lives in a specific way. We all have our own lives and our view points of the world.
For me the book can be split up into 4 different sections. The seven kingdoms under the reign of King Robert Baratheon, Lord Eddard Stark operating as hand of the king, Lord Eddard Stark getting involved in the Game of Thrones and finding out about John Arryn’s truth and Lord Eddard Starks arrest as well as the chaos that ensued. Obviously these aren’t the only aspects of the story which are important but this is what I see as a simplified break down of the main storyline and this is what I will break my book review down into. It is a condensed book review but it is important to note that the book is 694 pages long so giving a review of every single chapter is a difficult task for me. So I hope you enjoy this book review, once again, if you want to purchase this book, visit the amazon link at the bottom of the page.
Section 1 – The Seven Kingdoms Under King Robert
Suffice to say that the seven kingdoms has a huge history and I would write hundreds of blog posts on the history of the seven kingdoms. No exaggeration, quite literally hundreds of blog posts. In simple The seven kingdoms is a realm that is divided into nine administrative regions or nine provinces. These administrative regions or provinces are: The Crownlands, Dorne, The Iron Islands, The North, The Reach, The Riverlands, The Stormlands, The Vale of Arryn and the Westerlands. Each of these provinces has their own ruling house and history. Beyond the seven kingdoms, beyond the north there is wall which separates the seven kingdoms from whatever is beyond the wall. The wall is protected by an organization called The Nights Watch. There are also different religions in the seven kingdoms. There is the faith of the seven, the old gods, the drowned gods and another god that is worshipped called Rhollor.
Our main character, the protagonist of the first book, Ned Stark hails from the north. He comes from a long-line of Kings who were rulers of the North. Eventually, one of his ancestors, the last king of the North, Torrhen stark chose to submit and was known as the “king who knelt”. He chose to bend the knee instead of fighting to the death and having his men die in vain. He chose survival for his people instead of death and humiliation. He was confirmed as the warden of the North. A position that his people retained and the main character of the story, Ned Stark is the current warden of the north. After Roberts rebellion and from the start of the story, King Robert is the king of all the seven kingdoms and his best friend, Ned, is the warden of the north. This is the set up of the start of the book and section 1 of the story.
For the most part, and in the first section of the story, there is peace within the seven kingdoms. The seven kingdoms is stabilized under the rule of King Robert. The hand of the king, who serves as the prime minister, is a man called Jon Arryn. Up until this point, Jon Arryn has been the hand for seventeen years. In fact Ned Stark called it “seventeen good years” in the show. It is also interesting to note that Ned, Robert and Jon have all grown up together in the household of Jon Arryn. They are all incredibly close like brothers. Together they brought down the greatest dynasty the seven kingdoms has ever seen. Now (in section 1 of the story) they are all “locking down” the seven kingdoms with Ned serving as the warden of the largest kingdom, Jon serving as the hand (sort of like the prime minister) and Robert serving as the king. After seventeen good years of this stability, Jon suddenly dies.
No one is sure why and this sends a ripple of mystery and insecurity throughout the seven kingdoms. Ned is skeptical of his sudden death but mourns him silently. King Robert then pays a visit to Ned Stark in the north. For the most part, it is a formal event but there are moments where the close bond of Robert and Ned becomes evident. They spend some time and the ever so quiet and serious Ned is even seen laughing which is something that is not that common. King Robert then goes on to explain why he visited the north. He asks his old friend to become the new hand of the King. Ned stark agrees to help out his old friend and leaves his oldest son, Robb, in charge of all of his affairs in the north. His wife doesn’t want him to go down because the northerners have a superstition that any northerner who goes down south will always suffer a bad fate. A hint of foreshadowing occurs here.
Nevertheless, Ned insists on going there for two reasons. One, that he wants to help his old friend (king Robert) who isn’t interested in doing his job as a King. Instead he wants to just follow his desires and entertain himself. In his own words “drink and whore myself to an early grave”. So the first primary reason that he agrees is because King Robert needs someone who will rule in his stead which is the unofficial job of the hand of the king. Ned knows that his old friend is a fool and that if he doesn’t take this position, all sorts of corruption will spread far in wide during King Roberts rule. The second primary reason that he agrees is because Ned is skeptical of Jon Arryns death. Therefore, a job as the hand of the king, will allow him to undergo a full investigation of this sudden death of the previous hand of the king. With this, Ned prepares to go down and south and operate as the hand of the king. He takes his two daughters to accompany him and his wife agrees to pay him a visit.
Section 2: Ned as Hand of the King
I should mention that there are many different things that happen in all the other sides of the realm at the same time but I just can’t go into it. The second section of the story is incredibly interesting. Ned, with his two daughters, Sansa and Arya arrive in the south. Ned operates as the hand of the king. As hand he becomes incredibly shocked when he discovers the amount of corruption that is going down in the south around the king. The crown is 6 million in debt and the royal family is surrounded by all sorts of Machiavellian, practical politicians like Baelish and Cersei who are only seeking to increase themselves in power. Everyone in the south (or should I say the foxes of the south) don’t appear to have honor in the traditional sense as lying, spying on one another and playing political games against one another seem to be the norm. Ned stark can’t seem to understand or become one of these politically savvy people.
Ned doesn’t try to improve himself or change his behaviour and as a result this appears to be one of his major mistakes. He was too honorable to play the game because the game consisted doing nasty actions in order to retain power. Such is the nature of power and politics however Ned doesn’t seem to be interested in this. He just continues to do his job and think like the soldier he is. He continues to undergo his investigation of Jon Arryn until he discovers that Jon was poisoned. This greatly saddens him because Jon was like a brother. Ned wants to take it upon himself to avenge Jon Arryn or at least discover what happened to him. He is told by the master of whisperers, Varys, that Jon was the hand for seventeen years but after he “started asking questions” his fate changed and he was subsequently murdered.
Ned makes it his life mission to discover what these questions were. He finds out that Jon Arryn discovered some sort of truth and as a result he was murdered. From there, Ned visits the places Jon Arryn would visit and reads the books that he read all the while gluing together pieces of this great mystery that is before him. Eventually after reading a book, and making many discoveries he discovers that Jon discovered the truth behind the royal family. The Queen, Cersei, committed incest and was in love with her brother Jaime. Her children are all the result of incest and therefore the king’s children were not his children. In fact Jon Arryn’s dying words were “the seed is strong”. All of these evidences that Ned gathered confirmed his suspicions but he isn’t able to tell the king because the king was out hunting and before he could tell him the king suddenly is fatally injured whilst hunting.
When the king returns, he is in his last moments and Ned refrains from telling him because he wants his old friend who is in pain to die in peace. Telling his that his children that are bastards doesn’t seem to be the wisest decision to make. King Robert laments his wasted life, mentions how he wanted to marry and his love for Ned’s dead sister and proclaims Ned as protector of the realm so that at least his last decision in life would not be a wasted one. Ned writes this down and the king seals the letter. Shortly after, the king dies. The Lannister’s (the family of the queen) pounce at this opportunity and have Ned stark arrested as a traitor who wanted power for himself. Before his capture Ned offered Queen Cersei a chance to run away with her children and to never return. She pounces on him first. Ned stark is then (after a while) sent to the dungeons awaiting execution. In the mean time, his son, Robb, calls the banners and marches south fighting for his fathers freedom. Ned’s daughter, Arya, escapes but Robb doesn’t make it in time because Ned is executed. A mistake by the Lannisters.
Section 3: Ned Starks Death & The Chaos that followed
After Ned stark was executed the entire North was ready for war against the North. Arya stark got lost during her escape and Sansa stark was stuck in kings landing with the same family that killed her father. They kept her as a hostage and tormented her. Robb stark was leading as the general and engaged in a few battles against the leader of the Lannister family, Tywin Lannister. A man twice his age with a spectacular career in both military and politics. He was a ruthless man through and through. The seven kingdoms broke down and became chaotic. Rumors of multiple people coming out with a claim to the crown was spreading around as well. All hell broke loose and up north the The Night Watch discover that a greater war is on its way to affect all of them and that is the war of life and death. The Nights Watch (where Ned Stark’s bastard Jon was a apart of) made this discovery during those turbulent times. It was in the middle of this chaos that this great book finished.
My Concluding Thoughts on the Book
I honestly believe that the Game of Thrones book series is the best fantasy book series ever written. I have really only mentioned one part of the story there were so many other mini stories taking place within this big story which just goes to show the amount of detail the author has placed within the book. As I mentioned before, I loved the character depth, story line and the amount of detail within the story. The only thing that some viewers might dislike is the clear incest within the story. That is something that pop culture does seem to make jokes about. Nonetheless, incest did exist within some royal families of the past so I can see why it it present within the story. This book is clearly 18+ and shouldn’t be read by children no matter how good their reading level is. Overall, it was a well written book and there is a reason why it is so famous on the planet. It is very long which is why I have only read 2 of the books (as of now) but I hope to read the rest in due time. I suppose a highly detailed book like this must be long. For me it is a 5/5 and a book that everyone should give a read because of how amazingly the story was written.
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