A Game of Thrones, George RR Martin, Book 1

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin is the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire Series, I read recently.

However, before I purchased the books, I watched the entire HBO Original Series of the same name i.e. Game of Thrones. It is one of the most famous TV shows of all time and has recently been concluded. The finale, however left the fans a bit disappointed and I personally felt that the directors did a botched up hurried job of ending the series, while reaching the pinnacle of success with earlier seasons. Anyhow, written world is always more engrossing and intriguing than the visual medium. So the book reader in me gave a high five to the visual critic and I decided to bite the bullet by purchasing the entire series!

As of now, five parts of A Song of Ice and Fire have been published in seven volumes, and only the first book bears the name similar to the TV Series, A Game of Thrones. It is the most apt name for the first book, as the entire story revolves around the strategy, play and politics required for winning, grabbing and retaining the Iron Throne, the high seat of Seven Kingdoms, situated in King’s Landing. And as gory as it may look, as the House Baratheons, Lannisters, Starks and a dozen other Lords fight with each other, verbally, physically, emotionally and financially, I couldn’t shake off the feeling, that all these battles, skirmishes, alliances and deceit are nothing but a game for the players, and the common folk are the dispensable mute, dumb lifeless pawns!

However, this game is played so intently and superbly that I couldn’t help but admire the writer’s imagination and thinking prowess.

Be it the characters, ranging from stern Eddard Stark to gluttonous Robert Baratheon to nimble footed foul thinking Queen Cersei to witty dwarf Tyrion Lannister to hot headed brave Jamie Lannister to cruel but courageous Dothraki and foolhardy Viserys Targaryen; there is no dearth of variety in the valor, values and traits of these characters.

Also, there are many parallel stories that run in the Game of Thrones, in different settings, at the same time, and yet the transition between them is so smooth that I could hardly put down the book. The lands range from frozen walls to hot geysers to river plains to red waste of Dothraki lands. And their residents are as numerous and colorful as the lands. And, to the credit of George RR Martin, he is still able to do justice to almost all of them.

While these variegated lands, people, kings, lords and wildlings jostle with each other, the genius writer sticks to the basics of presenting an engaging story in a lucid manner. And, to add complexity to the novel, some peculiar notions are also followed to a tee by the author. I can’t help but admire his ingenuity in adopting a numerical pattern in the story. Seven is the magical number here. There are Seven kingdoms, Seven important Houses, Seven New Gods, the church called Septon is a building of seven corners. Even the family members of Stark, Baratheon and Lannister are seven! I haven’t counted the seas yet, but probably they will be seven too and of course, so far five books have been released, two more are to come in future. And, most probably the entire series will be rounded off in Seven books, though volumes are going to be definitely more.

Closer home, I have noticed Chetan Bhagat, sticking to numbers too, though it is mostly related to titles than anything else, Five Point Someone, Revolution 2020, Three Mistakes of My Life, Two States, A Night at Call Centre with Half Girlfriend, completing the circle!!

Though, the planning plotting of A Game of Thrones runs much deeper than numbers. Each House has a sigil, prominently featuring their natural inhabitant and in line with their ideology, Direwolf for Starks, Stag for Baratheon, Lion for Lannisters, Fishes for River and Dragons for Targareyns, are a few cases in point. In addition, all of them have a motto that well explains their intentions and beliefs.

Their respective castles are also built focused on their natural strengths. Winterfall is cold and arid, and the castle is made above hot geysers, with hot water circulating within its walls for comfort. The Riverrun makes full use of the rivers, moats and boats for its power, whereas Dothraki draw strength from their vast wild grass plains, to feed their horses and live a plundering yet comfortable life. All this may sound logical and easy, but I would like to draw your attention to the writer’s striking ability to think and create such diversity.

Even the languages spoken are different though here George RR Martin slightly falters. He makes them communicate in plain English, only indicating the language, while not using actual words. On this point, the TV series scored. They made the characters especially Dothrakis and Daenerys use the language emphatically. Of course, it is easier done in a visual medium than in written world but is not impossible. And I would have loved Martin use different languages more efficiently.

While dwelling on the shortcomings, Martin is not really good in describing emotions, expressions and feelings of the characters. Also, his description of Nature is limited to a few choice phrases. Metaphors and similes are few and oft repeated, a finger being most prominent, a finger of sunrays, a finger of sweat, a finger of muddy waters etc etc. However, as the story is intriguing, keeping reader’s mind in momentum, these limitations do not spoil the reading experience.

All in all, A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin has more positive points and makes for an impressive read. Go for it if you have watched the TV show and loved it and definitely read this if you haven’t watched but would love to grab a fantasy fiction.. Anupama Sarkar

You can click this link to buy complete set of Song of Ice and Fire on Amazon

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