A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE: A Game of Thrones by Fantasy Author George R.R. Martin
Forget everything you know or think you know about fantasy because Martin’s books in the Song of Ice and Fire series are like nothing I’ve ever read before. Sure there is fantasy: bold heroes, brave knights and beautiful princesses - but there are just as many non-heroes: scheming usurpers, devilish plotters, and evil wizards. All characters we have met before but what Martin does is take these archetypes and turn them on their heads. All the characters are neither totally good nor totally bad and all are drawn in shades of grey. Just when you get attached to a heroic character, Martin just might kill them off or just when you think one of the characters is irredeemable, they turn around and do something heroic. A caveat here, these books are filled with images and actions that would be deemed very adult in nature so they are definitely not for the young or easily upset by disturbing story points. You can find this book (hardcover or paperback) first published in hardcover by Bantam Books in 1996 easily from the library to bookstores so getting a copy to read and savor is fairly easy. One of the things Martin does in this book is layer the story with hints and clues to both the past and the future. Often, these might be missed as you devour the book but it is well worth your time to puzzle over the flashbacks and side excursions as each major character tells the tale from his or her point of view.
Stop reading now if you don’t like to read about a general idea of the story! Just go get the book and enjoy the writing of a fantasy Master.
Brief Synopsis: We follow the fortunes and rise and fall of several families in this ancient land that could be compared to Europe in climate and cultures. Three families are of particular interest: The Starks, the Baratheons and the old dynasty of Targaryens.
The Starks inhabit the North and are a proud and noble family. The focus is on the children, two daughters, three sons, and an orphaned nephew. This nephew is not what he seems at first glance and puzzling out the lineage of Jon Snow is one of the great mysteries of the saga. These children encounter orphaned dire-wolves in the snowy forest and each bonds with a specific wolf who is their constant companion and a wonderfully realized subplot. These characters are my favorites and believe me when I tell you that I ran the gamut of emotions from laughter to tears as they encounter one trial after another in their quest to stay together and alive.
The Baratheons are a darker shade of grey as they connive and usurp power in the kingdoms of this land. The adults feel superior and beyond reproach as they plot to rule the entire continent with lies and deceit and even murder when necessary.
The Targaryens are the deposed rulers of a land that their ancestors conquered in the distant past. Their downfall and the escape of their children, the rightful heirs, is compelling and exotic as they are force to flee to a land ruled by a group similar to the Mongols under Genghis Kahn where magic and women with witching powers can control destinies.
Over all of this great story lies the shadow of the long extinct dragons that the Targaryens controlled. Will the dragons rise again to regain their power as great weapons of war or will the savages beyond the great wall invade the south bringing with them the curse of vampires that can turn your blood to ice or will the religious fanatics who can raise zombies use their dead victims as assassins?
And what of the children from these great families -- children scattered by war and hunger for power? Who will survive, who will perish, and who will emerge victorious? We find out as the Song of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings continues this riveting tale.
*Paperback cover art by Stephan Youll