“A Game of Thrones” is the first book in George R. R. Martin’s series “A Song of Ice and Fire”. At the most basic level, “A Game of Thrones” is a Fantasy novel; it is about the lives of the rulers and the ruled of the people of the Seven Kingdoms. We travel from Winterfell to Riverrun to Eyrie to King’s Landing to the Wall to Pentos and back, as fascinating lives, questionable relationships, intricate game play and mysterious maegi change the course of history!
“A Game of Thrones” is a very well written novel – despite the fact that it is a little over 800 pages, not for a moment did the book seem like it was a daunting task that I had to finish. Right from the very first page, I was drawn inextricably into the story, and that fascination did not waver for even a moment.
To add to that, I liked that not everything falls into a pattern, not everything is predictable – you think you know how a character will act or how a scene will play out in the end – yet small little events will come out and pinprick you into a whole new consciousness!
The other thing that I really liked about this book was the fact that even though there are so many, many characters, each one has been given such distinctive characteristics, that each and every one is memorable. This is a quality that I find in all of Charles Dickens’ writing. No two characters are the same – for good or for bad, every one stands out, every one stays in your memory, long after you have finished the book.
That point brings me to my best and worst characters!!
The Best? Without question, Tyrion Lannister! I like characters that have shades of grey. Tyrion is neither saint nor sinner – or rather, he is a bit of both! Through wit alone, he can work his way out of the worst of situations (most memorably when he escapes certain death at the court of Lady Lysa!) – yet he can show amazing kindness and consideration (most memorably, his conversations with a disheartened Jon Snow, and an ailing Bran Stark). He reminds me of Quark (from the TV show “Deep Space Nine”)… that perfect combination of cunning and compassion! I also really like Jon Snow; he believes in following an honourable code of conduct, and tries to uphold his values, regardless of his situation. Amid a backdrop of treachery and betrayal, his brand of living is admirable. And I am truly, truly impressed by Arya Stark and Princess Daenerys Targaryen. I like characters that start out at a disadvantage, small and suppressed, but then rise to conquer extremely difficult situations. Both these characters grow to become a force to reckon with, and stand proudly and fearlessly in front of all those who had forced them to live their lives cowering in fear and humility.
And the characters I hate the most? – this one’s easy – Cersei Lannister and her eldest son Joffrey. The first, for being one of the wiliest women ever, completely devoid of any redeeming characteristic – moral or otherwise – yet full of schemes designed to set herself firmly in a position of authority. The second, for being someone who can only demand obedience by meting sheer cruelty, yet someone who really is a coward at heart. His decision about the fate of Eddard Stark… his treatment of Sansa Stark… Most despicable.
Somewhere in between these two categories lies Varys “the Spider”! I haven’t quite decided if I like him or not! He is an excellent spy and has his finger on every pulse, and because nothing happens without his knowing – or even orchestrating – it, he is as helpful and dependable a friend, as he is dangerous and unpredictable an enemy!
I like the genre of fantasy (I quite enjoyed “The Hobbit”), but what I especially liked about “A Game of Thrones”, is its fresh appeal to the genre; a treatment that is not bound by any formula, whereby an appropriate number of giants and goblins, dwarves and dragons are introduced into the story at just the right intervals. This is a world where there are dragons, but tales of their existence evoke strong cynicism as well as unwavering conviction. This is a world whose history goes back centuries, to the time of the Children of the Forest and the First Men, yet it is also a world very much rooted in the realities of today where political intrigue at the highest levels dictates the day-to-day lives at the lowest levels. And yet, lest you forget it, this is also the world where the mysterious Others strike suddenly, when you least expect it, leaving behind more than just dead victims!
I will end with a quote from Queen Cersei Lannister: “When you play the game of thrones, either you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” That fairly sums up this world of royals and rebels, kings and commoners, and the games they play.